He came of a family of cranks, in which all the oldest people had all the newest notions. One of his uncles always walked about without a hat, and another had made an unsuccessful attempt to walk about with a hat and nothing else. His father cultivated art and self-realisation; his mother went in for simplicity and hygiene. Hence the child, during his tenderer years, was wholly unacquainted with any drink between the extremes of absinthe and cocoa, of both of which he had a healthy dislike. The more his mother preached a more than Puritan abstinence the more did his father expand into a more than pagan latitude; and by the time the former had come to enforcing vegetarianism, the latter had pretty well reached the point of defending cannibalism.-loc536 of 2666
Syme, the protagonist, is a poet and secret spy to a counsel of anarchists. He has both agreed to be a spy and also not to tell the police about the anarchists. When trying to prevent a bombing, things start to unravel and twist, getting stranger and stranger until it all makes a sort of sense.
The book was another strange choice from the Guardian List of Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels. It isn't exactly fantasy but it isn't exactly not-fantasy. It was madcap, twisty, fun, and contained some profound thoughts about life, chaos, humanity, and Christianity. Regarding the latter, some familiarity with Christian creation mythology and other Christian doctrine makes the latter part of this book much more comprehensible, though I think the whole thing would still be enjoyable to someone without that familiarity.
What makes this book five stars, despite my normal inclination to avoid Christian allegories, was G K Chesterton's masterful writing. He has a way of making everything hilarious and absurd while also being beautiful and poetic.