USEREVIEW 060 (Capsule): In Veritas
In Veritas (NeWest Press, 2020)
ISBN 978-1-98873-283-1 | 344 pp | $21.95 CAD — BUY Here
Like many works of speculative fiction, C.J. Lavigne‘s debut novel In Veritas is interested in examining the lives and significance of characters who are outsiders. The narrative primarily follows the protagonist Verity, a lifelong synaesthete who has previously been hospitalized for so-called hallucinations, but which are in fact glimpses into another world that exists within our own world, hidden in plain sight. This other world is populated by ageless immortals who look, to ordinary folk, like teenage girls, and small dragons, who look. to the uninitiated, like pigeons. It is not until Verity is led by her synaesthesia into the inner circle of Ottawa’s local denizens of ‘The Between’ — pockets of safe space where the strange and fantastical can still flourish — that she learns that her hallucinations are actually the ability to see more of the world than most people can. The Between is not a space for magic (though a magician does live there); rather, it is a space where alternative belief systems can persist, instead of being streamrollered by science, religion or other dominant ideologies. Those belief systems of The Between are crucial, because when belief disappears, so too can the thing one believes in. The dragons, for instance, will often really turn to pigeons and die if they are mistaken for pigeons by people who are stubbornly unwilling to confront the fact that dragons exist. The narrative of In Veritas thus forms a complex allegory — perhaps it is a study in ableism and mental illness, or perhaps a tale of the imperial epistemological agenda that followed from the European Enlightenment. In either case, the question the story takes up wholeheartedly is this: how do you proceed if the only way to save your people is through violence against your oppressors? Without giving away the ending, what I can say that is that, truthfully, In Veritas offers no easy answers.
Chapter 14 (pp. 173–193) offers a sample of several of the formal approaches Lavigne takes: it opens with a (fictional) newspaper article, proceeds with standard, third-person, over-the-shoulder narrative prose that follows Verity’s partner Jacob and ends with a metatextual dialogue between Verity, acting as editor, and the unnamed writer of the story.