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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The first mystery of Q that needs to be solved is who really is the author. While Luther Blissett is listed as the author, the novel was is fact written by four young Italian men (Roberto Bui, Giovanni Cattabriga, Federico Guglielmi, and Luca di Meo) from Bologna. Q was first published in 1999 in Italy, and the novel went on to be a bestseller in many countries. In reality, Luther Blissett was a soccer player who had the misfortune of having a lackluster season playing for AC Milan in 1983. While the story behind the mischievous use of Blissett’s name is intriguing in itself, one should not lose focus on how extraordinary it is that Q actually got written in the first place. Set in Europe during the sixteenth century, the novel details the bloody religious wars that were an outgrowth of the Reformation.

The main character and narrator of the novel does not reveal his true identity in order to protect himself from the turmoil around him. He is forced to use many pseudonyms. During the course of the novel, he serves as a soldier, a missionary, a spy, and even an owner of a brothel. He must stay one step ahead of a secret agent known as Q. This secret agent takes his orders from those who are behind the Inquisition.

The novel is full of acts of heroism and betrayal. Q is divided into three sections. The first section opens in Germany during the 1520’s. The political machinations that attempt to take advantage of the religious fervor of the time are described by the narrator with agonizing detail. In the second section, the narrator is now in Antwerp. He attempts to subvert the banking system. Capitalism is looked upon as a corrupt system that needs to be derailed at every turn. In the last section, the reader finds the narrator in Italy spreading unrest through the use of the printing press.

Q is a novel of big ideas such as justice, freedom, and equality. It also is a thrilling adventure story. While it may have taken on more than any one novel can rightfully hope to hold together, Q remains a fascinating read for anyone who likes his or her historical fiction to be both educational and exciting.