The author of several historical mysteries and a wild reworking of Jane Eyre (the Edgar Award-nominated Jane Steele), Lyndsay Faye brings considerable skills and irreverent humor to The King of Infinite Space, a contemporary reimagining of Hamlet set in and around a New York City theater.
Benjamin Dane is both fabulously wealthy and kept on just this side of sanity by a slew of medications. He is the son of Jackson and Trudy, owners of the prestigious New World’s Stage. After Jackson dies under mysterious circumstances, Trudy immediately marries her brother-in-law, Claude. In mourning and struggling with his suicidal impulses, Benjamin uncovers a videotape from a paranoid-seeming Jackson, who names Claude as his murderer.
Distraught, Benjamin reaches out to Horatio Patel, a friend from graduate school who left New York after the two men had a one-night stand. Horatio returns from England to console his friend and aid in Benjamin’s plan to denounce his mother and uncle at the theater’s annual fundraising gala. Benjamin’s ex-girlfriend, Lia Brahms, wants to help, but her job as a florist’s assistant keeps her too busy.
Faye’s knowledge of Shakespeare extends well past Hamlet, as The King of Infinite Space name-checks characters from several of the Bard’s plays, from Ariel, the all-knowing doorman at the New World; to the meddling event coordinator Robin Goodfellow; to the three weird sisters who manage the flower shop where Lia is employed and who specialize in bouquets that heal, cure and maybe even alter the future.
Lush and magical, thoughtful and provocative, The King of Infinite Space is a remarkable achievement, staying true to Shakespeare’s tragic play in ways that will surprise and delight while reveling in neurodivergence, queer attraction and quantum physics. Though the buildup is slow and Benjamin’s philosophical meanderings occasionally digressive, this is a novel to stick with for its rewards of a surprising plot and Faye’s delightful storytelling.