Liminal States, published in 2012, is the first novel by Zack Parsons, who was previously known as the author of two non-fiction books and as one of the leading columnists on Something Awful. The book is four hundred pages, and is written as three connected parts, all in different genres.
The book starts as a Western, where a typical Western sheriff must foil a train robbery, engineered by the the monomaniacal scion of a mining family. During the botched train robbery, both men, who are already romantic rivals, end up entangled in a mysterious pit that causes them both to regenerate, fully formed, after dying. This is the beginning of a hundred year mystery.
The second part of the book is a crime noir, set in early 1950's Los Angeles. The resurrection pit has been sending up multiple copies of both men, and they are now required to keep their origins a secret. The task of policing this falls on a hard boiled private investigator, who finds himself entangled in a mystery deeper than he can imagine.
The final part of the book takes place in 2006, in a cyberpunk dystopia inhabited by hundreds of thousands of "dupes" of the two men, as well as the woman they fought over. But now, the "resurrection pit" isn't just sending up copies of them, but also flora and fauna that are getting progressively weirder and more dangerous. The mystery soon will reach its climax.
I apologize that the last three paragraphs did little justice to the labyrinthine nature of the book's plot. Just how the mystery of the three characters and the strange object that connects them is developed is the great strength of the book.
This book was not quite what I thought it would be. I had only known of Zack Parsons as a writer of short comedy pieces, and when I read that it was a combination of various different genres, I thought it would be a simple, humorous pastiche. Although Parsons does adroitly nail down the tropes of the Western, Detective and Cyberpunk genres, it brings out, instead of distracts from, the strength of his story.
Although it might be too early to tell, I do believe that this book is a sign that Zack Parsons is more than just an internet celebrity, but is a serious and skilled science fiction author.