• The Paradise Engine

The Paradise Engine


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978-1-927063-25-5 | 2013 May | 272 Pages


While working to restore an historic theatre in a seedy part of the city, a graduate student named Anthea searches to find her best friend, lost to the rhetoric of an itinerant preacher and street mystic. Almost a century earlier, Liam, a tenth-rate tenor, visits the same theatre in its heyday while eking out a career on the dying Vaudeville circuits of the time.

In both eras, an apocalyptic strain of utopian mysticism threatens their existence: Anthea contends with a nascent New Age movement in the heart of the city while Liam encounters a radical theosophical commune in the deep country along the coast of British Columbia, who appear to be building … something.

Rebecca Campbell’s mesmerizing debut novel unfolds across a strange and colourful backdrop of labour organizers, immaculately-attired cultists, ambitious socialites, doomed teenage love affairs, dank basement offices and innumerable coffee shops, charting the spiritual end of two worlds.

“An exquisite tale of mystery and mystics, abundant with satisfying wit and insight.”
~ Pearl Luke, author of Madame Zee and Burning Ground

“Richly textured and unpretentious prose, with seamlessly crafted flashbacks from contemporary life to intriguing early 20th Century characters and events. Campbell has the potential to become a prominent figure in the Canadian literary world.”
~ Ted Ferguson, author of Strange Days and Blue Cuban Nights

“Dizzying its way from long-dead B.C. music halls to the present-day halls of academia, Anthea’s quest threads its ghostlike way through the narrative until we’re dizzy ourselves, wondering what is real, what is imagined, and where the line dividing past and present truly lies.”
~ Kimmy Beach, author of Cars and fake Paul

“On top of excellent writing and character development, Campbell has put in some serious groundwork to set the scene—no easy feat when you’re dealing with two worlds, maybe more if you consider the paranormal aspects.”
~ Laura Frey, Reading in Bed

“... flawlessly weaves together multiple narratives ... the suspense it creates, as well as the mysteries it sets up and the clues it so meticulously lays out, make this novel well worth the read.”
~ Kyla Neufeld, The Winnipeg Review

“[a] mystifying story that melds the Vaudeville era of Vancouver history with contemporary Vancouver.”
~ BC Bookworld

“Rebecca Campbell brings intelligence and mystery to this strange indie tale.”
~ Thomas Hodd, Telegraph-Journal

“As a first novel, this effort is impressive, with intimations of great things to come. Rebecca Campbell is definitely a young Canadian author to watch.”
~ Kerry on Can Lit

“What The Paradise Engine invites us to consider is the form, the meaning, and the price of going on. Immortality, the story warns us, always demands a sacrifice.”
~ Jennifer Quist, The Rusty Toque

The Paradise Engine is an original, well-written, complicated novel recommended for historians and other patient thinkers.”
~ Jeanne Greene, Historical Novel Society

A Ghost Story

The first ghost appeared at the end of August, when Jasmine had already been gone for months. That was too bad because she was the only person Anthea knew who would recognize a ghost when she saw one, or know what to do about it.

Anthea didn’t know a ghost when she saw one, though she was the one haunted. She also didn’t know what had happened to Jasmine, but whatever it was, it was probably over. She knew only this: Jasmine was last seen just northwest of the city, on a highway that curled uphill along the coast and the mountains. She was last seen early in June, in the company of a bearded Caucasian male apprx. 30 yrs of age, who carried an army surplus backpack and was otherwise without distinguishing characteristics. Anthea could determine, then, that Jasmine was last seen facing southeast, hitching northwest along a highway that grew pineapple weed on its shoulders. Pineapple weed smelled like chamomile tea when it bruised, as it would do under Jas’s runners when she stood for long stretches, one thin arm reaching out into the traffic and the other propped on her hip. Given how hot June had been, Anthea also knew Jasmine was kneecapped by heat waves that rose from the highway, so she seemed to float above the asphalt. To the drivers who did not pick them up, they might have been a mirage, or ghosts from the early ’70s.

Jasmine would have enjoyed being mistaken for a ghost, especially one that smelled of chamomile. She and the man walked northwest all day. Sometimes where the shoulder was narrow, she slithered halfway down the ditch and he’d turn around to help her to her feet. They were still walking when the sky turned purple and rusty orange over the mountains. Jas’s arms crossed over her chest. She shivered with dehydration and the sun-ache in her temples, the tight wrinkle of a burn on her nose and forehead. After that night no one saw anything, and so Anthea is unable to determine how much longer they walked north and west. This little film plays out in her head sometimes, unresolved.