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Perfect Circle Paperback – 17 Jun 2004

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I woke up sweaty and shaking. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 28 reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Seeing Ghosts 14 Sept. 2004
By Rich Stoehr - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Ghosts don't do things to you. Ghosts make you do unspeakable things to yourself."

Here's what Sean Stewart's newest novel is not: it is not predictable, it is not trite, and it is most definitely not boring. It is also, quite frankly, not quite like anything else I have ever read, from Sean Stewart's hand or anyone else's.

On the other hand, "Perfect Circle" is one of the most remarkable and original novels I've read in some time, and of the three Stewart novels I have read, it is easily my favorite (which is saying something -- I enjoyed "Galveston" and "The Night Watch" quite a bit as well). "Perfect Circle" is clever, spooky, funny, sad, sharp, observant, honest, thoroughly modern yet somehow timeless, and very, VERY well-written.

In the pages of this short novel, clocking in at fewer than 250 pages in total length, Sean Stewart accomplishes what most writers can't seem to do in a work twice as long. He tells an emotionally honest, unique, and gripping story, featuring characters that are accessible and full-bodied, expressing themes and ideas that resonate long after the reader has turned the last page and closed the book.

"Perfect Circle" is a book about ghosts, about loss, about grief, about responsibility, about family, and about coming to terms with one's lot in life. It is a fantasy novel of sorts, in that it expresses ideas that fall outside the "natural" laws we accept today, but it is a fantasy novel bearing the dark edge of reality. This is no escapist fantasy, but rather a strange sort of realist fantasy. It is a combination which Stewart had always danced with in his other work, but never more effectively than in this book.

As always, Stewart's prose is a marvel in itself. In his other work I could always see the flair of a poet in his words, and it's here too, but more balanced than before by a succinct, efficient use of words and dialogue. Stewart tells us just enough, never too much, and lets the reader fill in many of the blanks. His use of dialogue is witty and very real, on a par with Quentin Tarantino's handling of dialogue in his films, or Nick Hornby's novels.

Comparisons to other authors (Nick Hornby and Stephen King come to mind most readily) are somewhat apt but do not provide a whole picture. What Sean Stewart has really done in "Perfect Circle" is to establish himself as his own voice, mostly unlike anyone else's. The book could be applied to several genres but not firmly pegged in any of them, and the author is in a class all his own.

To put it simply, this is one of the best books I've read in quite a while. Sean Stewart was already an excellent author in my eyes, but with "Perfect Circle" he has outdone himself. He has written that rarest of things: a truly unique story told in a truly unique way. It is not the story itself which stands out so much as how he tells it, and what it does to the reader. Like a great movie or a really effective piece of music, this little book will echo in your mind and in your heart long after you've put it down, and it will stay with you.

"Perfect Circle" is, in the best sense of the word, haunting.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
East Texas Meets Ghostbusters 14 Sept. 2004
By R. Kyle - Published on
Format: Paperback
Will "Dead" Kennedy can't quite seem to get a break in this life. Ghosts, clad in black and white, haunt him. He can't drive a car, keep a spouse, or a job....

A distant cousin, Tom Hanlon, calls him desperate to have a ghost removed from his garage. When Will gets there, he discovers Hanlon is a "Tell Tale Heart." He murdered the girl and to cover up will kill Cousin Will as well.

Though shot, Will manages to escape. He then has to cope with the police believing he's murdered Cousin Tom, the sudden notriety of being a 'ghost talker', some interesting business offers, and Cousin Tom's revenge.

I read this book in one sitting. Couldn't have put it down if I wanted. Have read most of Stewart's work---next to Galveston this is the best.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Perfect Circle 4 Jan. 2006
By Jonathan Zabe; - Published on
Format: Paperback
I came across Sean Stewart after his striking work writing the Halo 2 ARG (Alternate Reality Game), ILovebees. Stewart's latest offering shares little in common with the virtuoso science fiction setting he crafted for the world of Halo, but his main asset as a writer remains well intact: his stories focus on the human aspect of the events they depict, and they're quite believable.

Enter William "Dead" Kennedy (DK for short), stage left. He's seen ghosts his entire life, black and white specters that are easy to mistake for the living at night. Though I'm no English major, Stewart seems to draw heavily from magical realism, a genre in which magical elements appear in an otherwise realistic setting.

DK is one of those thirty-somethings who has slowed down so much life is starting to pass him by. He can't even keep a job steady enough to pay his air conditioning bill, leaving him to roast in the Houston heat. (Regionalism permeates the novel with great lines like "East Texas has four great natural resources: heat, oil, mosquitos, and cousins.")

Though vengeful spirits abound, this is no mere campfire horror story. Poor DK realizes that to his ex-wife and the rest of the Kennedys he's nothing more than a ghost everyone can see, and his subsequent struggle to reconcile with his daughter Megan is alternatively touching and heartbreaking. Neal Stephenson's seemingly outlandish claim on the cover that Perfect Circle is "Stephen King meets Ibsen" might not be so far off after all...
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A haunting tale of a haunted man 16 July 2004
By Rachel Manija Brown - Published on
Format: Paperback
PERFECT CIRCLE is a remarkable book.
Will "Dead" Kennedy has the sort of life you wish you could wake up from. He's a Texas punk who shaved off his Mohawk when it started to recede. His wife left him when she was pregnant and married an ex-Marine. He just got fired from his latest dead-end job, this time for eating cat food at Petco. And he sees dead people: his cousin AJ, murdered at 22 by her ex-boyfriend. His uncle Billy, vaporized in an accident at the petroleum plant. A dead girl tied up under the sink.
Ghosts come back because they want something, or because living people want something from them: murder victims looking for revenge, or accident victims pulled back by someone's guilty conscience. Will can't tell if his life has been a long slow slide downhill because he didn't want anything enough, or he didn't get to keep the one thing he wanted.
He sees AJ reflected in mirrors and windows and CD cases, and regrets that he never loved a woman enough to kill her.
Will sees ghost roads as well as the ghosts of people, pathways into the black and white world of the dead. He walked down one once, and almost didn't make it back. PERFECT CIRCLE is a ghost road into territory that most books don't explore at all, or at least not from the angle that Sean Stewart takes. It's scary, though not because of the ghosts; disturbing on all sorts of different levels; and written like a song, with images and phrases which recur as refrains, changing with the context and gathering emotional weight as they go. The colors of the living world shine bright against the monochrome of death.
Neal Stephenson's "Stephen King meets Ibsen" blurb is weirdly appropriate. Especially when you recall that Stephen King is often quite funny. But that's not what you remember about his books when you put them down.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Like air 18 July 2004
By Bryant Durrell - Published on
Format: Paperback
I tracked down a copy of the new Sean Stewart novel, Perfect Circle, and it's good enough to be worth waiting eight years for, let alone the four years it's been since Galveston. So no complaints here.
A little about the milieu, first. It's the modern world, akin to Mockingbird, with that touch of elemental unexplained strangeness. Like Mockingbird, it's set in Texas; like many of Stewart's novels, it's about family. In the author's notes for Mockingbird, he says that "I had in mind something that would `fit' with Resurrection Man, but with the quantities of light and dark reversed; a scary comedy, as it were, rather than a brooding novel with occasional jokes." I think that Perfect Circle is a better match for those words; it echoes the relationship between death and family described in Resurrection Man through a lens crafted of punk music and Texas.
If I was going to write a cover blurb, on the other hand, I'd say something like "Perfect Circle establishes Sean Stewart as the American Nick Hornby," which would make all the High Fidelity fans happy until they read any of his books besides Perfect Circle. This is why I'm not in marketing.
And come to think of it, Perfect Circle isn't a comedy, either. So never mind the whole thing and just read it already.
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