Cameron Stewart’s Sin Titulo is worthy of its title, which literally means “without a title.” You can’t give this neo-noir a name because you can’t quite put your finger on the connections: a mysterious woman, teleportation, a very trippy beach, a creepy laboratory, and the boogeyman. But there ARE connections, and that’s the fun part. Trying to piece the thing together will inevitably bring you to the absolute truth about perception: everyone lives a different reality. No two worlds are the same.
Alex, our hero, occupies the black, white, and tans of his world, unassuming, living today in order to move on to tomorrow. To the outside world, there isn’t anything special about Alex, who is a lowly fact checker at a magazine. His boss hates him, his girlfriend doesn’t understand him, and no one will help him mourn his recently-deceased grandfather, who spends his last days in a nursing home full of terrible orderlies. No one cares about the mysterious young woman in the picture he finds among his granddad’s belongings. But as soon as he starts searching for the answers behind his grandfather’s death, trying to make the connections, things get weird.
Piecing together this bizarre mystery allows the reader to arrive at another basic truth: logic is also subjective. There are so many disjointed pieces trying to force themselves together into a coherent puzzle, yet no clear picture once you have arranged everything in the “correct” order.
Sin Titulois an anti-mystery, more interested in showing you each piece and letting you figure out its shape, its order, and if it should fit with the other pieces at all. The very Lynchian beaches and boogeymen of this story set in stone the main mind****ing rule in the narrative thread: the things that Alex perceives to be real might not be real at all.
It’s a cool trick. You spend so much time in Alex’s head that you can’t really question his narrative authority. We hear one voice in our heads and we have no other choice but to follow it.
When Alex has visions of a dead tree on a beach, or is being chased by a monster that haunted him as a child, or being experimented on, or chasing after the femme fatale “D,” should we question what is going on? Or should we accept that some things in our everyday lives are beyond explanation?
His personal history is revealed throughout the main yarn. We witness his failed relationship with his father and less-than-stellar love life. Slowly, we watch Alex transform as a person as he comes to terms with his past and tries to connect it to his present.
But in the end, is there a reason behind the lives we have lived? A final answer?
Alex wants us to believe in the conspiracy behind his grandfather’s death, his visions, and his past. But even this very Pynchonian mystery provides us with the greatest doubt: are we making something out of nothing?
That’s the scariest part of the story in the end—that life can be so incredibly disjointed and that we’re the ones wrapping our own realities around it.