Maxwell's Demon

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Pub Date 4 Feb 2021 | Archive Date 4 Feb 2021

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This autumn, life is catching up with struggling novelist Thomas Quinn.

Five years ago, his sometimes friend Andrew Black wrote a single, million copy-selling mystery novel and then disappeared. Now could it be that Quinn is being stalked by the hero of Black’s book? His wife Imogen usually has the answers but she’s working on the other side of the world and talking to her on webcam just isn’t the same.

Quinn finds himself in a world that might well be coming apart at the seams. If he can find Black, he might start finding answers.

Maxwell’s Demon forges an entirely new blend of mystery – somewhere between detective fiction, ghost story and philosophical quest. With the same white-knuckle thrills as Hall’s first novel, The Raw Shark Texts, this new book is also a freewheeling investigation into the magic power locked inside the alphabet, love through the looking glass, the bond between parents and children, and, at its heart, the quest for meaning in a world that, with each passing season, seems to become more chaotic and untidy.

This autumn, life is catching up with struggling novelist Thomas Quinn.

Five years ago, his sometimes friend Andrew Black wrote a single, million copy-selling mystery novel and then disappeared. Now...

Advance Praise

'Labyrinthine, mind-twisting and deliciously diabolical, yet also unexpectedly warm-hearted. Maxwell’s Demon is fantastic'

'Dazzlingly clever, wickedly playful, devastatingly poignant'

'A cracking detective story that seems to be investigating its own existence'

'Anyone who enjoyed The Raw Shark Texts will be delighted'


'Inventive, funny and extremely smart . . . I nearly fell off my chair with admiration'

'A cult in the making'
Time Out

'A pychological thriller with shades of Memento and The Matrix and the fiction of Mark Danielewski; page-turning, playful and chilling by turns'

'Clever, exciting, funny and moving'
Sunday Times

'Very entertaining. The bastard love-child of The Matrix, Jaws and The Da Vinci Code'

'Genuinely isn't like anything you've ever read before'

'No novel with a cat called Ian in it can fail to win a place in my heart'
Daily Telegraph

'Fast, sexy, intriguing, intelligent – The Raw Shark Texts is all these and more: a cult waiting to happen, a blockbuster begging to be made. Steven Hall is a truly fantastic storyteller. Investigate, now!'

'An absurdly confident and intriguing debut. Move over Damien Hirst'

'Utterly thrilling . . . leaves your heart pounding'
Marie Claire

'A thriller with elements of sci-fi, romance and memoir . . . A cracking read . . . but it's the outrageous inventiveness that marks it out as really special'
Irish Independent

'Dizzyingly good . . . clever, fun, gripping and shot through with melancholy'
Scotland on Sunday

'Labyrinthine, mind-twisting and deliciously diabolical, yet also unexpectedly warm-hearted. Maxwell’s Demon is fantastic'

'Dazzlingly clever, wickedly playful, devastatingly...

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781847672469
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 28 members

Featured Reviews

Maxwell's Demon is a kind of weird literary mystery crossed with philosophical questioning, as struggling writer Thomas Quinn tries to work out if the world really is falling apart thanks to hypertext. Five years ago, Andrew Black wrote a bestselling book, a perfectly crafted mystery, and then disappeared. Now, Thomas thinks he might be being stalked by the hero of Black's book whilst his wife Imogen is away. Black is tied up with Thomas's past, both from their acquaintance and through Thomas' father, and Thomas might have to look deeper than expected to find out what Black's been doing and whether he can be followed by a literary creation. Hall mixes metafiction, Biblical scholarship, Don Quixote, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics in this unusual novel about finding order in the world and making sense of what is happening (having not read Hall's debut The Raw Shark Texts, I can only imagine that it probably contains a similar postmodern distinctiveness). The pictorial elements in the text feel quite House of Leaves, though less embedded in the narrative, but it is the questioning over the characters and narrative that occurs later in the novel that really brings out an unnerving sense as you read it. The focus on entropy is intriguing and the Biblical parts are perhaps best for the occasional jibes at Dan Brown (there's a lovely sense that the book is very aware that at the beginning it could go down the direction of a Dan Brown novel instead of the much weirder narrative it takes). The self-consciousness, not even in terms of the narration but in terms of the book itself and the focus on writers only having one novel and whether they'll create another, is enjoyable and it feels like a clever way to engage with ideas about authorial creation and looking for meaning. Maxwell's Demon is a novel for people who like to occasionally have no idea what just happened, but recognise that literary reference on the way. It is a philosophical mystery about family, writers, and narrative that some people will devour and probably others will wonder what the point was (and maybe that's the point).

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In my role as English Teacher, I love being able to spend time reviewing books for our school library which I use to help the students make great picks when they visit us as well as running a library junior and senior book group where we meet every week and share the books we love and talk about what makes a great read. This is certainly a book that I'd be happy to display at the front as one of my monthly 'top picks' which often transform into 'most borrowed' between students and staff. It's a great read and ties in with my ethos of wishing to assemble a diverse, modern and thought-provoking range of books that will inspire and deepen a love of reading in our students of all ages. This book answers this brief in spade! It has s fresh and original voice and asks the readers to think whilst hooking them with a compelling storyline and strong characters It is certainly a book that I've thought about a lot after finishing it and I've also considered how we could use some of its paragraphs in supporting and inspiring creative writing in the school through the writers' circle that we run. This is a book that I shall certainly recommend we purchase and look forward to hearing how much the staff and students enjoy this memorable and thought-provoking read.

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Thomas Quinn is a failed novelist. His one original novel, The Qwerty Machine, failed to set the world alight. He now makes a living writing new Doctor Who, Sapphire and Steel, Thunderbirds stories. His father – Dr Stanley Quinn, one of the greatest poets, and journalists of his generation - is dead and his wife Imogen has gone to other side of the world to a small Island with a research team and his contact with her is watching her on a live 24 webcam and talking on the phone. Add to this is also haunted by the fact that his father assistant - Andrew Black - wrote a single, million copy-selling mystery novel - Cupid's Engine - five years ago and then disappeared. Life is not what he'd imagined. But then one day his phone rings and it seems to be a message form his dead father saying "why knocks an angel in Bethlehem"? Soon after, he hears from Black, at which point his life is flipped turned upside down, as the Fresh Prince would have said. There are twists and reveals – I guessed the main one of these early on – and lots of bonkers fun. What begin with you thinking it could all Dan Brown instead playfully creates its own philosophical mysteries. This is a book about failure; a book about wanting parental validation; a book about the pressures of delivering a follow up novel to a debut novel that has been stratospherically successful; a book about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the gospels, the nativity (really fascinating stuff!), the history of language and letters, and much more. On the negative side , the pictorial leaf elements of the book don’t really work (often unreadable) in the ebook format, but that is a very minor gripe, from another sure fired cult classic. Hall proves his first novel, The Raw Shark Texts, was no one-hit-wonder, and already has me waiting, anticipating, where he'll go for novel three.

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Maxwell's Demon is a very unusual novel, it's hard to slot it into a specific genre but it's beautifully written and pressed all the right buttons for me. Thomas Quinn is struggling as a writer, his only published work some years ago was panned by his mentor, Andrew Black who had written one fantastically successful (1,000,000 plus copies sold) and then disappeared. Black had also usurped Thomas' place in his father's life. Things become decidedly Kafkaesque as the novel progresses. This is only Stephen Hall's second novel and it deserves to be a huge success. Very highly recommended.

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I'm a sucker for a book about writing and, though perhaps not overwhelmingly original, this was an enjoyable read that I romped through in now time. A great book about ambition as well as so much else.

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This novel is intriguing and captivating from page one, and I couldn't put it down. It's a mix of biblical references, mystery, and dealing with past trauma.

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Thomas Quinn is a fairly unsuccessful writer for years intimidated by the success of his estranged and now dead father's protegee Andrew Black. His life is falling apart, red bills mount up, his wife has gone to America for a year when an intriguing letter arrives from Andrew Black. He begins to be drawn into an adventure that promises to make him a lot of money. This is a most unusual book using themes from physics, philosophy and religious writings to pose questions about the nature of reality. That doesn't stop it from being a readable and compelling story..

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I have been waiting a long time for a second novel from Steven Hall. I’m happy to report that fans of The Raw Shark Texts will dig this just as much. It’s playful, imaginative and oh so twisty, springing about all over the place from father-son relationships to entropy, angels and the real nature of the alphabet. There’s a strong narrative throughline alongside the philosophical enquiry and physics lessons, and I kept turning the (virtual) pages in a classic ‘one more bit before I turn out the light’ style. A very good read, and I hope his next book comes along a little quicker.

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Whoah, this was one hell of a novel! Books, writing, mystery. The Bible, the ox, the angel. The world, chaos, entropy. Hall imaginatively and cleverly mixes narratives in a surreal and wonderful way. Some people may find it too messy and too much of a struggle (it can be at times) but I absolutely loved it! So much fun :-). Thank you Canongate and Netgalley for the ARC.

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