Caris O’Malley must be clairvoyant, because in writing The Egg Said Nothing, he has clearly been channeling the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut. This is not a bad thing, however, as Vonnegut is one of this reviewer’s favorite writers of all time.
Manny is a shut-in and a loner. He sits in his dark apartment, up all night watching late night television. He pays his bills by stealing change from local fountains (he justifies this by saying that they are no longer people’s wishes once they hit corporate waters and become extra income for those who don’t need it). He has a somewhat sketchy relationship with his senile mother. Until he wakes up one morning to find that he has laid an egg. Or he thinks he’s laid an egg. All he knows is that he woke up with an egg sitting between his legs. Where else could it have come from? So you start to wonder if this is going to be more Kafkaesque and if Manny is going to turn into a chicken.
Thus begins Manny breaking from his routine has he tries to nurture the egg like any loving parent would do. Well, a loving parent from another species, maybe, but a loving parent nonetheless. He meets and starts a relationship with Ashley, a waitress at a local diner. And then thing really take off and his life takes a turn for the weird as he discovers the true contents of the egg an begins receiving messages and visitations from himself in the future.
“Listen: Manny has come unstuck in time.” Or that’s what I expected to read at some point. The second half of the novel is heavily steeped in time travel and determinism. Like I said, O’Malley would probably make Vonnegut proud. As he starts to play with time very heavily, it can get a bit confusing, especially in keeping track of Manny’s different selves as they appear and disappear, not to mention the true nature of the egg. Early on, you start to wonder why this title would be part of the Bizarro fiction line of books as it seems unusually normal during the first half or so (aside from the protagonist laying an egg), but about halfway through the weirdness is ramped up big time.
This becomes a problem. The heavy weirdness starts so fast after a somewhat leisurely pace that the reader could feel like they’re getting literary whiplash. As such, uneven pacing contributes to some of the confusion I felt during the second half of the book. The reader might actually feel the need to start keeping a flowchart just to keep things straight in their head. I’ll admit that I was trying to mentally do so. Then again, with novels that play with time, this isn’t always unusual. On the other hand, the author kicks it up a few notches, making it feel like you need to be a Timelord to figure out who, what, and when people are from.
Despite this gripe, The Egg Said Nothing is still an excellent story that deserves your attention. At its heart, when you strip away the science fiction elements and the weirdness, it becomes a novel about the ultimate loser trying to break out of his own shell and not be such a loser anymore, to be someone and do something that matters, and how the most insignificant person could change the world simply by existing.
The Egg Said Nothing gets a solid 4 out of 5 stars. I hope this is not the last we’ll see of Caris O’Malley, as I would really like to read more from him. My only suggestion is that he works on his pacing a little bit.