I started reading this over the inevitable 26-hour journey from Chicago to the UK in February. It's a fantastic book, and I had to stop reading it two chapters from the end. It's clear that GK Chesterton had some agenda when writing it; I only wish I knew what it was. I won't spoil, but it goes exponentially from being undeniably slow to heart-pounding and utterly surreal. The subtitle is "A Nightmare" and there are a lot of indications that by no means are you to take this book seriously. Only you want to. The main character is just a straight-up awesome dude and it spins such an enticing world.
The premise is Gabriel Syme, a member of the secret police, finds himself elected into a top rank in an international terrorist organization. Sound very topical for today? It was published in 1908.
So the plot is insane, brilliant too, and will have you smiling like a Cheshire Cat as you turn each page. If I gave it away here I'd be the world's biggest bastard, but it's fair to say that it's unique in the world of literature. To put it bluntly, Chesterton has written a book about the pursuit of God.
There's something enticingly movie-like about the novel, what with all the chases around London, special effects (including a memorable elephant), sword fights, dreamscape countryside and constant mortal peril. But like all that's good about Chesterton, it also has a devil-may-care, winsome, romantic streak a mile wide. If it was going to be a film, it should have been directed by Hitchcock; this really is like the 39 steps as written by Kafka.