I sensed there was some element of The Odyssey beneath the surface of The Amadeus Net- or maybe The Iliad. I'm not well versed in Homer, but the backgrounds of a few Amadeus characters evoke those classic Greek myths. Regardless of whether I imagined that influence, Amadeus is a fantastic story told very well. The time and labour author Mark Rayner put into creating the characters within these pages is quickly apparent, and their eclectic richness pays off handsomely as the reader becomes deeply concerned with their individual and collective fates.
The story itself concerns Mozart (yes, that Mozart) who, in this fictional world, has a peculiar habit of not dying. As a result, he's alive and well in the near future, living on an isolated (though thriving) South Pacific island named Ipolis. His identity is, as you would expect, a long kept secret, and he would prefer it remained so. However, some are aware of his gift and view it as a grand opportunity for their own enrichment, and from there the trouble commences.
The story is simultaneously light, deep, silly and poignant. In the hands of a lesser author, an attempt like this could very well become a dispassionate dog's breakfast. But in Rayner's deft hands and mind, it leads the reader deep into the city which serves as the setting (and the city itself is actually a character in its own right!), and into the minds, hearts and souls of the characters. It seems a great many novels I read aren't able to focus on creating more than a couple of full, rich characters surrounded by cardboard plot devices. Not so with Amadeus, and there within, I believe, lies the book's greatest strength.
These well-constructed characters each become integral to the story's grand climax, all the while faced with the somber specter of global destruction. Personally, I found myself concerned with the fates of his characters more than the actual planet, and for that I blame Rayner for making me care about them so deeply.
As mentioned, the city itself is in the mix as one of the main characters, observing and occasionally manipulating events, using subtle and not-so-subtle methods to help create a harmonious outcome. Ipolis provides a big-picture perspective that the human characters cannot. It comes across like a Shakespearian muse or benevolent god, though not a fully omnipotent one that could assure its own wishes will come to fruition. It's very nearly mortal in this regard, thus allowing the reader to sympathize with its plight and feel concern for its frustrations and even its "being."
If a parallel can be drawn with another Rayner book I have read (and reviewed), Marvellous Hairy, I think it would be that beneath the hectic, comedic surface is a solemn message about man's inhumanity to man and the horrific results that can occur when callous (or zealously misguided) beings are left to run rampant and hold the rest of mankind at their twisted mercy.
But Amadeus is a thoroughly different book than Hairy (though no less compelling) and this illustrates Rayner's ability to create completely different yet believable worlds from one novel to the next. Some may take comfort in continuity of tone in an author's collective works; I tend to admire an author more when he can show me radically different places, persons, and depths. That's not to say Rayner's style doesn't remain consistent; it certainly does.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone seeking a fresh and talented author who unabashedly departs from traditional storytelling for more experimental prose, much to the delight and satisfaction of his audience. Congratulations, Mr. Rayner; besides creating another very enjoyable novel, you've created a genuine fan in me.