Paul Park’s latest novel, All Those Vanished Engines, is nothing if not ambitious. Part family history, part science fiction, the whole thing weaves together into one surreal metafiction.
The novel is separated into three parts. The first part, “Bracelets,” is set in an alternate version of post-Civil War Virginia where North and South are still divided and the Yankee forces are led by a Queen of the North. We start out seeing the world through the eyes of Paulina, a young woman who is writing a story about the future, about a war with Martian forces and a boy named Matthew. As the chapters progress, alternating between Paulina’s time and her fictions, the lines begin to blur and suddenly it seems maybe Paulina is the fiction as both stories bleed into each other. The result is something surreal and dreamlike and sets up the tone for the rest of the novel.