Mysterion, August 2020
Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia
In “What Comes Before” by John Nadas, psychologist Dr. Brosz attempts to refuse the implementation of new magic-tech that claims to photograph the condition of a person’s soul, showing halos around those destined for heaven. When his patients, all violent criminals in prison, are photographed against his wishes, his superiors then expect to condemn the supposedly lost souls to a solitary confinement where there will be no rehabilitation, and therefore no danger to the public. While Dr. Bosz and his colleagues question who—or what—can possibly be trusted to sort irredeemable criminals from those who might yet be saved, the narrative poses a question of determinism, from subtle details like Dr. Bosz’ inability to quit smoking, to an inmate’s claim of undeniable impulses, to the government forcing Dr. Bosz to use the thaumatic cameras he declined. Nada’s voice is both efficient and compelling, balancing a philosophic exploration of Calvinism with a passionate, earnest character surrounded by high stakes. A haunting tale that reveals even more on the second read.
Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration and motivation. You can find out more about her other writing projects and geeky obsessions by visiting her Facebook page.