The Evolutionary Revolution is a strange piece, which, rather than having any kind of concrete presence, occupies itself by investigating various margins (aesthetic, conceptual, linguistic). Surprisingly, this isn’t an experimental novel, but Lily Hoang’s subversion of structure (if we were to diagram this plot, it would look, unsurprisingly, like a large spiral, cycling in and out of connectivity), and even her treatment of single sentences certainly emerges from an experimental mindset. The result is a work born from the late stages of fusion, continually reinventing not just itself but the tradition it emerges from.
The Evolutionary Revolution is about an Earth made entirely of water, with a fertile moon: a landscape more mental than physical, mirroring the psychology of its occupants while simultaneously being changed by it. This vision of the world bears no similarity to our own, but is simultaneously its continuation and origin, the foundation and end result of the western mindset. Our familiar words—“man”, “storyteller”, “prophet”, “merman”—no longer mean what we presume them to mean; or rather, our definitions don’t exist yet.
Hoang’s language is permeated with a subtle sense of irony, a deliberate lightness. Her control is so deft that on occasion, it’s difficult even to recognize the strangeness of the narrative at hand. Impossible images and ideas ricochet across the page, juxtaposing a series of complexly connected narratives. Their intersection (alternating between the aquatic earth and a contemporary version vaguely similar to our own, complete with ipods and word “dude”) forms the foundation of this essentially understated epic.
Though at times it feels like one, and all the familiar parts are in place, The Evolutionary Revolution is not a fairy tale. Rather, Lily Hoang explores the late stages of myth in a society where it no longer exists—one that has destroyed language, come disconnected from narrative. The result is distantly familiar but quintessentially new. The loose spiral winds outwards an elaborate mesh of textures and sensations, invigorating contemporary mythology, or maybe creating a new one.
This new novel shows Lily Hoang’s work continuing to grow. Each progressive piece offers something new and fresh, but here, she might even have evolved. The prose is polished to the point it seems almost to gleam, but the material is also especially interesting as fantasy; the degree of invention on display is staggering in itself. The Evolutionary Revolution is sure to be one of the most interesting things published this year—or any year, for that matter.