Having just completed reading this book (it was hard work, have no doubt about that !), and read the reviews below, I am undecided as to which camp I fall into. On the one hand, this book came across as a self-indulgent, chaotic, stream-of-conscience, prosaic ramble, with little regard for storyline, continuity, character development or reader empathy. On the other, the book kept me intrigued with a fabulous basic premise, rich language and cultural references, loads of hidden connections, metaphors and parodies, historic cameos and the constant promise that, at some point, all these chaotic elements would be drawn together and explained. In the end (of this book anyway) this did NOT happen and plenty was left unexplained. Much reader interpretation, imagination and presumption must be applied to carry out the task of tying these threads together and working out who ended up doing what to/with who and why. This could be considered either artistic genius on the author's part, appealing to an intellectual elite, or sheer laziness. Again, I can't quite decide which (though I hope it's the former and maybe I'm just a little too dense to fully realise).
A minor grumble - The relationship storylines that run throughout the novel (one involving Thomas/Puck and the various Jacks, and the other between Phreedom and Seamus) seem unnecessary. They are never really relevant to any of the other events (not alone in this aspect I suppose). A couple of times, and more so near the end of this volume, the Thomas/Jack relationship appeared about to be used as an element in a morality and persecution exercise (as judged by the contemporary societies described), but the author then always leaves this unfinished. The Phreedom/Seamus relationship seemed completely redundant (and the Phreedom/Jack/Seamus triangle was a real curve ball that didn't go anywhere either). Maybe it will all become apparent in the follow up novel.
The most challenging aspect of this book for me was the way that the characters' personalities seemed to be randomly interchangeable completely blurring the boundaries between good and evil (I strongly suspect that this WAS deliberate). This, combined with almost constant changing of the first-person viewpoint, (IMHO the least forgivable trait of this book), made for a confusing read at times.
However, I have high hopes for the follow up, Ink, and am secretly keeping my fingers crossed that the author panders to some of his less intellectual readers and provides for slightly more structure approach and summary (I'm sure others will disagree).
If I was asked to recommend this book to anyone it would come attached with a solemn warning; be prepared for the unconventional, confusion, a hard slog at times, and just maybe, depending upon your prediliction, disappointment. And most definitely not for the cerebrally challenged!!
I feel that volume 2 will be the ultimate decider for me.