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Summary and book reviews of The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier

The Anomaly

A Novel

by Hervé Le Tellier

The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier X
The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Nov 2021, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Chloe Pfeiffer
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About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the Goncourt Prize and now an international phenomenon, this dizzying, whip-smart novel blends crime, fantasy, sci-fi, and thriller as it plumbs the mysteries surrounding a Paris-New York flight.

Who would we be if we had made different choices? Told that secret, left that relationship, written that book? We all wonder—the passengers of Air France 006 will find out.

In their own way, they were all living double lives when they boarded the plane:

  • Blake, a respectable family man who works as a contract killer.
  • Slimboy, a Nigerian pop star who uses his womanizing image to hide that he's gay.
  • Joanna, a Black American lawyer pressured to play the good old boys' game to succeed with her Big Pharma client.

Victor Miesel, a critically acclaimed yet largely obscure writer suddenly on the precipice of global fame.

About to start their descent to JFK, they hit a shockingly violent patch of turbulence, emerging on the other side to a reality both perfectly familiar and utterly strange. As it charts the fallout of this logic-defying event, The Anomaly takes us on a journey from Lagos and Mumbai to the White House and a top-secret hangar.

In Hervé Le Tellier's most ambitious work yet, high literature follows the lead of a bingeable Netflix series, drawing on the best of genre fiction from "chick lit" to mystery, while also playfully critiquing their hallmarks. An ingenious, timely variation on the doppelgänger theme, it taps into the parts of ourselves that elude us most.


As Black as the Sky


It's not the killing, that's not the thing. Gotta watch, monitor, think, a lot, and—come the time—carve into the void. That's it. Carve into the void. Find a way to make the universe shrink, to make it shrink till it's condensed into the barrel of the gun or the point of the knife. That's all. Don't ask any questions, don't be driven by anger, choose the protocol, and proceed methodically. Blake can do all that, and he's been doing it so long he can't remember when he started. Once you have it, the rest just falls into place.

Blake builds his life on other people's deaths. No moralizing, please. If anyone wants to talk ethics, he's happy to reply with statistics. Because—and Blake apologizes—when a health minister makes cuts in the budget, culling a scanner here, a doctor there, and an ICU bed somewhere else, that minister knows that he or she's appreciably shortening the lives of thousands of ...

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BookBrowse Review


The Anomaly is a fun book, if not a hilarious one; it's playful in its self-referentiality (there's a book within the book, also called The Anomaly) and its engagement with different fiction genres and tropes (political satire, family man who's secretly an assassin). Le Tellier pokes fun at the more risible aspects of contemporary Western society—late night talk shows, Saturday Night Live, action and alien movies, teenage vampire books, political leaders—but also takes them seriously as forces that affect and have a place in people's lives. The political satire comes in the second half of the book; after the Anomaly is revealed, Le Tellier mostly ignores the passengers and turns his focus to the American government's response, featuring a useless, unnamed president. The strength of The Anomaly lies in its science-fictional bent, this striking new world that Le Tellier creates, halfway through, with its myriad philosophical and psychological ramifications.

Media Reviews

Times Literary Supplement (UK)
A striking thought experiment…Le Tellier delivers some sharp social comedy here…But behind the comedy are more profound psychological questions about individual freedom…[The Anomaly] is priceless.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Hunter's brilliant translation from the French—her fifth collaboration with Le Tellier—transforms Le Tellier's distinct French voice into a distinct English one. More importantly, Hunter captures the playful exhilaration with which Le Tellier marries his audacious plot to a deep concern for existentialist philosophy...Humorous, captivating, thoughtful—existentialism has never been so thrilling.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A]n extraordinary mix of existential thriller and speculative fiction...Questions of philosophy, mathematics, and astrophysics bend this novel far from the typical mold, and Le Tellier's characters must confront the deepest questions of existence. This thought-provoking literary work deserves a wide readership.

Author Blurb Leila Slimani, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Nanny
Buckle your seat belts, as Hervé Le Tellier takes you on an extraordinary ride. You won't want to put this book down until the very last page!

Author Blurb Nicolas Mathieu, Goncourt Prize–winning author of And Their Children After Them
A witty, erudite novel, teeming and minutely detailed, a treat throughout, with—at its center—that head-spinning conceit that will leave you deep in thought for a long time after reading the final page.

Author Blurb Sam J. Miller, Nebula Award-winning author of Blackfish City
A uniquely, gloriously, provocatively French contribution to the sci-fi thriller genre—it will keep you guessing, get your heart pounding, and make you feel and wonder and—above all—think.

Elle (France)
Fantastic…The Anomaly wears its name well: it's rare in France that a work combines the best of American TV series with an impeccable mastery of the French psychological novel.

Reader Reviews

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