book review

Midsummer nightmare: A review of The Great Night, by Chris Adrian

The human aspects of the story are as important as the chaotic faerie framework. Each of the three singular characters comes from a very different background, but each intersects with the others in wonderful and unexpected ways.

She raised her arms, and shrugged her shoulders, and opened her mouth as if to laugh, but didn’t laugh. The difference, she decided, was that now there was something to be done. Hell would be raised, and Oberon would come or not, but at least there would be no more idle tears.

Something is gloriously, tragically amiss in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park. In fact, to mix my Shakespeare quotes, something wicked this way comes. It’s also something strange and chaotic and deeply human.

In Chris Adrian’s The Great Night, the faerie court of Titania and Oberon are celebrating another Midsummer Night, many moons after the events of Shakespeare’s play—though “celebrating” is not exactly the right word. After the cancer death of their changeling son, Titania has spurned Oberon, who has subsequently disappeared, and her unchecked grief rules the night. Unable to manage or even comprehend her sadness fully, Titania does the unthinkable: she removes the magic that binds the trickster Puck to the royal will, unleashing him upon the court, the park, and eventually the city. Into this world wander three heartbroken humans whose own histories are rife with the kind of tragedy Titania is languishing in, as well as the requisite rude mechanicals (in this case five homeless people who want to put on a musical version of Soylent Green to bring to light a Swiftian cannibalistic conspiracy they believe the mayor is perpetrating).

All of which is to say, a lot is going on here. This book is billed as a reimagining of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which isn’t quite right. This is far closer to a sequel or at least a jumping-off point. Continue reading “Midsummer nightmare: A review of The Great Night, by Chris Adrian”