In the world of Ackroyd's The Plato Papers there are four ages: In the Age of Orpheus (3,000 B.C.

- 300 B.C.) myth reigned. It was "the springtime of the world", an age when "flowers sprang from the blood of wounded heroes" and "the gods themselves took the shape of swans or bulls from the simple delight in transformation". But then along came the much more grim Age of the Apostles. "The Apostles propagated a doctrine that the human race had committed some terrible offense, of unknown origin, which could only be expiated by prayer and penance; it was not long, in fact, before pain was valued for its own sake." This was why the angels rarely touched down for a visit: There was no chance for intelligent conversation. But this superstitious and psychically dark age ended c. 1500 A.D. and the Age of Mouldwarp began, a time of the dimming of the stars and the burning of the machines. And after the "Collapsophe" that ends the Age of Mouldwarp, Ackroyd takes us into the curiously medieval Age of Witspell--an age in which the scientists discover that the real world is not a material world but a tremendous world of inner beauty and light, the world of Witspellian London c. 2300 A.D. 3400 A.D. The setting is London, where a —great orator” named Plato dispenses wisdom, eons after his namesake flourished in Athens (during “The Age of Orpheus”). In 55 brief chapters, Ackroyd juxtaposes brief conversations between Plato and his (feminine) soul and with his several admiring disciples (who discuss him, in separate chapters), with the great man’s “exequies” on evidence of earlier civilizations’ mistakes (an exhumed copy of Poe’s stories is believed to be “the unique record of a lost race” sunk in paranoia and depression; surviving fragmentary texts reveal the existence of a prophetic black singer named George Eliot and “a clown or buffoon who was billed as Sigmund Freud”), and excerpts from Plato’s “glossary” of antiquities (“rock music” is presumed to denote “the sound of old stones”). in A.D. 3700, London's greatest orator, Plato, regularly delivers bravura public lectures on the long and tumultuous history of what is now a peaceful, tranquil city, secure in the certainty of its own relationship to the past. Particularly fascinated with the dark and confused epoch known as the Age of Mouldwarp, stretching from A.D. 1500 to A.D. 2300, Plato discourses on its extraordinary figures and customs from what evidence remains. These include orations on the clown Sigmund Freud and his comic masterpiece, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious; the African singer George Eliot, apparently author of The Waste Land; and Charles Dickens's greatest novel, The Origin of Species. And then there's E.A. Poe--or rather, Poet: The eminence and status of the author are not in doubt. The name, for example, was not difficult to interpret. Poe is an abbreviation of Poet, and by common consent the rest was deciphered: E. A. Poe = Eminent American Poet. It seems clear enough that the writers of America enjoyed a blessed anonymity, even in the Age of Mouldwarp. The word 'poet' is known to all of us, but as there are no chants or hymns in 'Tales and Histories' we believe the term was applied indiscriminately to all writers of that civilisation. Plato also elaborates on the era's strange rites and rituals, including "the cult of webs and nets" that apparently covered and enslaved the population. But then in the midst of these brilliant, precise public performances, he begins a dialogue with his soul. Doubt begins to creep in (Is the past really past? And are the rituals of the present so superior?), leading him on a fateful journey. The Plato Papers is an extraordinary novel. As with the best of Peter Ackroyd's fiction, it treads a thin line between fantasy and biography, the genre he so elegantly mastered in his now classic studies Dickens, T.S. Eliot, and The Life of Thomas More. Wise and salutary, it is a wonderfully observed satire of misprision and the arrogance of philosophical certainty. --Jerry BrottonFrom the imagination of one of the most brilliant writers of our time and bestselling author of The Life of Thomas More, a novel that playfully imagines how the "modern" era might appear to a thinker seventeen centuries hence.At the turn of the 38th century, London's greatest orator, Plato, is known for his lectures on the long, tumultuous history of his now tranquil city. Plato focuses on the obscure and confusing era that began in A.D. 1500, the Age of Mouldwarp. His subjects include Sigmund Freud's comic masterpiece "Jokes and Their Relation to the Subconscious," and Charles D.'s greatest novel, "The Origin of Species." He explores the rituals of Mouldwarp, and the later cult of webs and nets that enslaved the population. By the end of his lecture series, however, Plato has been drawn closer to the subject of his fascination than he could ever have anticipated. At once funny and erudite, The Plato Papers is a smart and entertaining look at how the future is imagined, the present absorbed, and the past misrepresented.