In his playful yet deeply serious third novel Jaspreet Singh links a fossil fraud in India, an ice core archive in Canada, and a climate change laboratory in Germany.
Jaspreet Singh’s much anticipated third novel traces a past crime that suddenly becomes confrontable on another continent. Lila, a brilliant Indian-born science journalist, and Lucia, an aspiring European-born writer, meet at a creative writing workshop in Calgary. Both try to use fiction to work through real-life trauma, but their entangled paths may reach all the way back to Lila’s time as a geology student in the foothills of the Himalayas.
How best to tell Lila’s story and follow the links between a fossil fraud in India, an ice core archive in Canada, the Burgess Shale quarry, and a climate change laboratory in Germany? As their detective work unfolds, the two women encounter some of today’s most urgent and fascinating science, as well as the many shapes of internal criticism in the sciences. They also come face to face with ecological grief and human-non-human entanglements. With this playful and deeply serious genre-blurring work, Singh gives a new direction to the novel in the Anthropocene.
About the author
Jaspreet Singh's non-fiction has appeared in Granta, Brick: A Literary Journal, and the New York Times. He is the author of two novels, Chef (Véhicule Press, 2008; Bloomsbury, 2010) and Helium (Bloomsbury, 2014); a story collection, Seventeen Tomatoes (Vehicule Press, 2004); and a poetry collection, November (Bayeux Arts, 2017). His work has been published internationally and has been translated into several languages. He lives in Calgary.
Excerpt: Face: A Novel of the Anthropocene (by (author) Jaspreet Singh)
When I see a child playing with plastic dinosaurs these days the tape of memory starts rolling. Our kitchen window had a little hole slightly bigger than three swollen fingers, and through that hole a squirrel would make its way in. My parents asked a carpenter to block the hole with a piece of plastic, and from that day on the one-eyed squirrel and I would look at each other’s faces for long periods of time through plastic.
The squirrel was trying to say something to me. I understood completely. It needed my help. But I could not help, not even in a small way.
I have never looked at a human face from so close and for so long. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that it only happened once. Only once did I look at a human face the way I had looked at the squirrel and there was no glass partition or plastic between us. I don’t know about you, but for me things that only happen once feel as if they simply did not happen.
The lights turned red again and a few random people in a downtown street—the ones who got clogged on one side, the ones who made a slight effort—might have witnessed something strange going on inside the second floor of a building. Their eyes might have rested on two women inside. Perhaps for a brief unhurried second.
The women were sitting anomalously close to each other, not saying a word, not gesturing, simply staring at each other’s faces. Both were at once the observer and the observed. Two strangers who had just met.
They did not even know each other’s names; so far neither one of them was aware that within the next fifty-one days one of them was going to die.
"Face is riotous with erudition—a heady mix of global climate warnings, earth sciences, fossil discoveries and hoaxes, and speculative fiction (Liu Cixin and Octavia Butler get nods), all amalgamated into gorgeous prose. Lucky readers who choose this one can expect temporal shifts, compounding mysteries and irresistibly unreliable—and even otherworldly—narration." —Shelf Awareness
"Dense with observation, this scalpel-sharp narrative flinches from nothing. It approaches memory, family, history, and the great oncoming disaster of the Anthropocene with courage bordering on fury." —Premee Mohamed, author of The Annual Migration of Clouds
"Face is a mesmerizing novel about science and climate research in the Anthropocene . . . [that] manages to convey some of the most wonderful aspects of doing science, and at the same time (via the character of a ruthless palaeontologist) the dark, criminal side all scientists must remain vigilant about." —Helmut Weissert, professor Earth Sciences, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
“Face sweeps us up in a science journalist’s struggle to forge meaning from her own, and the earth’s, fractured memories. Murder mystery, ghost story, science novel? Singh gives us an unsettling novel of ideas that questions the power of the stories we tell—about science, history, and our own lives—even as it employs that power to probe climate guilt and anxiety.” —Susan M. Gaines, author of Accidentals and Carbon Dreams