At the heart of Andrew Miller's first novel, Ingenious Pain
lies the question "What does the world need most--a good, ordinary man, or one who is outstanding, albeit with a heart of ice?" The outstanding man in question is James Dyer, an English freak of nature who, since his birth during the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, has been impervious to physical pain. Not only does he feel no pain, but he also recovers from all injuries in record time. By turns a foil for a quack doctor at county fairs and an object of study by a wealthy collector of human oddities, the protagonist, James Dyer, eventually becomes a surgeon. As such he gains exposure to a panoply of 18th-century philosophical thought, medical practice, historic events and larger-than-life rogues and heroes, both fictional and real.
As a surgeon, James Dyer excels, and his inability to feel--whether physical pain himself or empathy for others--seems only to enhance his skill with a knife. James slices and dices and cures without a scintilla of compassion while his reputation grows, until at last he arrives in Russia and the mystery of his unusual quality is resolved. Miller navigates his complicated story and exotic locales with unswerving confidence, bolstered no doubt by thorough research. James Dyer is not a character who invites love, but his adventures make for intelligent, deeply pleasurable reading. --Alex Freeman
'A wild adventure through 18th-century England and Russia, medicine, madness, landscape and weather, rendered in prose of consummate beauty.' -- Independent Books of the Year 'Dazzling ... Miller tackles notions of mortality and humanity to brilliant effect ... truly wonderful' -- Evening Standard 'Astoundingly good ... it shines like a beacon among the grey dross of much contemporary fiction' -- The Times 'A really remarkable first novel, original, powerfully written ... Miller's narrative is gripping and his imagination extraordinary.' -- Sunday Telegraph 'A timeless and thought-provoking fable about human nature ... It is something very rare in modern fiction, a true work of art.' -- Spectator 'Strange, unsettling, sad, beautiful, and profound' -- Literary Review