I'd never heard of Joey Comeau or his latest book, Malagash. Generally, I don't go for small books—I like 'em thick. But one look at the premise and I knew this was a story I wanted to read: Sunday's father is dying of cancer … She's started recording everything her father says … Because Sunday is writing a computer virus. A computer virus that will live secretly on the hard drives of millions … A computer virus that will think her father's thoughts and say her father's words … Her father is going to live forever.
BAM! I was sold.
Malagash is a strong novel (it may border on being novella length). It has an original premise, is full of believable characters, and is such a quick read. Despite my inclination to favor larger books, I think the brevity works for this story. Could I have spent more time with Sunday's family? Yes, they were enjoyable company, but I think we get to know enough of them to understand their abundant intrigues and quirks. This understanding of the characters comes from an experienced handling of the family's interactions with one another—each filled with meaning and subtlety.
At one point during the story, we are treated to a magic trick and, whether it was Comeau's intention or not, I believe Malagash is in itself a bit of a magic trick. An illusion. Look here at this thing in my right hand, the author seems to be saying, while I manipulate reality with my left. The magic is in the premise—a dying father's voice living forever through a computer virus—anyone reading this story is probably doing so for the promised magic of that description. But while you weren't looking, something more significant happened in the life of Sunday, our protagonist, particularly in regards to her relationship with her brother. The magic of this story isn't in Sunday's computer virus or even in the life and death of her father, but in the burgeoning interactions of those left behind.
Malagash is a story about death, but it is more so a snapshot of life in motion. It is concise, but never abrupt. It is heartbreaking, but never for a second does it lose its spirit, the tremendous spirit of an inspirational and exceptional family.