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Lost Empress

ebook / ISBN-13: 9780857058072

Price: £20

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“Ambitious, affecting, intelligent, plangent, comic, kooky and impassioned. I’ve read a lot of novels this year, between judging the Man Booker prize and the Granta Best of Young British Novelists, and I’ve yearned for this kind of exuberant, precise fiction” Stuart Kelly, Guardian on A Naked Singularity

It would take something huge to put Paterson, New Jersey on the map.

But Nina Gill is determined to do just that. She is the daughter of the ageing owner of the Dallas Cowboys and the well-kept secret to their success. Shocked when her brother inherits the team, leaving her with the Paterson Pork, New Jersey’s only Indoor Football League franchise, she vows to take on the N.F.L. and make her new team the pigskin kings of America.

Meanwhile, Nuno DeAngeles – a brilliant criminal mastermind – contrives to be thrown into Rikers Island prison to commit one of the most audacious crimes of all time. Now he’s on the inside, he has two good reasons to get out. But how does a person of culture go about breaking out of the penal system when the whole of the land of the free is addicted to keeping him in it?

Without knowing it, or ever having met, Nina and Nuno have already had a profound effect on each other’s lives. As his bid for freedom and her bid for sporting immortality reach crisis point, their stories converge in the countdown to an epic conclusion.

Thrilling, touching, insightful and shockingly hilarious, De La Pava’s extraordinary novel gets under the skin and into the minds of a vast cast of characters from the fringes of society – immigrants, exiles and outsiders.


In Lost Empress, de la Pava's words drip from the pages like melting clocks, simultaneously expressing the best and worst of humanity's eternal struggle against an uncaring universe. From physics to football, Dali to Descartes, this book is a heady look at life, Art, and the power and love of language.
Chris Kluwe, author of Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies and former Minnesota Viking
A hilarious, smart, and madcap novel that occupies the porous border between comedy and drama, science and philosophy, story and dream, grim reality and pure imagination. A singular achievement. I've never read anything like it.
Nathan Hill, author of The Nix.
Lost Empress is a vast galaxy of a book, a searing, frequently hilarious indictment of the absurdity of modern American life told through the lens of this country's two most violent pastimes-professional football and criminal justice. To spend time inside the unfiltered mind of a writer like Sergio de la Pava is a rare, dizzying treat.
Omar El Akkad, author of American War.
I don't know how to do this book justice. It is so bold and so rich and so funny and so filled with pure pleasure for the reader. More than once I've had to stop and get up and walk around the room to process the sheer awesomeness. I feel like I'm in the presence of a major writer-someone of a singular intelligence that is at once alien yet comforting.
Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and Sorry Please Thank You.
If Thomas Pynchon and Elmore Leonard had conspired to write North Dallas Forty, this might be the result: a madcap, football-obsessed tale of crossed destinies and criminal plots gone awry . . . A whirling vortex of a novel, confusing, misdirecting, and surprising-and a lot of fun.
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews.
De La Pava is a maximalist worldbuilder, and the incredible multiverse he constructs in this book establishes him as one of the most fearsomely talented American novelists working today.
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly.
De la Pava himself can seem like an avenging angel, at least for those with a certain view of what ails contemporary American literature
Jonathan Dee, The New Yorker
Sergio de la Pava's expansive new novel, Lost Empress, a 600-page melting pot of criminal-justice policy, American football and metaphysics . . . The book oscillates between hilarious surrealism and shocking reality . . . With messianic fervour, he conjures up marginalised voices and the horrors of mass incarceration, against a backbeat of sporting thrills and that apocalyptic crescendo.
A tour de force that puts De La Pava in rarified company, like Tom Robbins meets Thomas Pynchon . . . Think screwball comedy with a Stephen Hawking twist . . The method behind the madness is, well, brilliant.
William J Cobb, Dallas News.
Impressive in its vigour and virtuosity, pleasing in its exuberant fancy, admirable doubtless in its commitment to questions of social justice and its indictment of the reality of the American criminal justice system with its mass incarceration . . . There are echoes also of Joseph Heller's Catch 22, a novel which employed the absurd in order to expose absurdity.
Allan Massie, Scotsman.
It is impossible not to admire the novel's denouncement of injustice and its flood of human empathy . . . If De La Pava commands courtrooms like he does fictional worlds, then the prosecution doesn't stand a chance.
Financial Times.
A formally ambitious, loopy, freewheeling, angry, expansive patchwork of intertwined voices . . . By the time we reach the dizzying, desperate final act (featuring a prison break, romance, one of the most gripping David and Goliath matches in fiction and the possible end of time) we are exhausted - but entertained.
Francesca Carington, Daily Telegraph.
Lost Empress is zealous and unruly, jolting and uproarious . . . a brawler, a spoiler, a broad societal farce . . . Reading it is a little like being accosted by a brilliant conspiracy theorist on the night bus home.
Xan Brooks, Guardian.
The great achievement of Lost Empress is that its impressive feats of literary-cultural allusion, formal experiment, philosophical musing and canny satire are often balanced by, and eventually become secondary to, old-fashioned, flat-out, suspenseful story-telling.
Randy Boyagoda, New Statesman.