Posted on January 2, 2014, by Sasha Weiss, The New Yorker picks Orfeo as one to watch out for in January.

The critic A. O. Scott has written of Powers that no American novelist makes a stronger case “that the writing of novels is a heroic enterprise, and perhaps even a matter of life and death… The opening pages of the book give a taste of the book’s grand-scale ambition and thrill….”

Bruce Jacobs reviews Orfeo in Shelf Awareness, January 2, 2014, in which he describes it as one of Powers’s “more accessible and satisfying novels.”

It’s hard to beat Richard Powers when he brings his A-game; his reputation as an esoteric intellectual novelist belies his storytelling skills.

In a virtuoso performance, Powers roams as easily through modern technology as he does through arcane opera. His language, humor and sheer exuberance make this modern tale of Orpheus as fresh as the latest Al Jazeera cellphone video. With Powers’s history of winning awards, it would be no surprise to see Orfeo on the 2014 National Book Award shortlist. It’s a stunning novel.

Toronto’s newspaper The Star listed Orfeo among the “Things that thrill us in 2014.” (January 1, 2014)

“With Homeland’s TV success and ongoing news stories about privacy and security breaches, there couldn’t be better timing for Orfeo, the new intrigue from National Book Award winner Richard Powers.

Due out Jan. 21, it begins with avant-garde composer Peter Els learning his microbiology lab has come to the attention of Homeland Security. He is forced into hiding until his name can be cleared.

Sound familiar? Sounds fascinating.”



Orfeo in the top ten list of books published in January 2014 that librarians across the country love,  LibraryReads, January 2014.

“Experimental music and genetic engineering? Heady stuff indeed, but what is most remarkable about this thought-provoking journey is how intensely it makes you feel about human creativity, experience, and the enigmatic fugitive Peter Els, whose flight from an uncomprehending world anchors the narrative. A perfect introduction to this brilliant but sometimes forbidding author.”—David Wright, Seattle Public Library, Seattle, WA

Orfeo is one of the titles recommended in “Doctorow, Rowling, Murakami, and More: Books to Read in 2014,” in The Atlantic, December 30, 2013.

When 70-year-old Peter Els’s dog dies, 911 responders arrive at his home and discover a room converted into an amateur biochemical engineering lab. Orfeo, National Book Award winner Powers’s novel inspired by the Greek myth of Orpheus, follows Els, a onetime adjunct professor, as he flees from the ensuing federal investigation and along the way visits his estranged family members; in flashbacks, Powers tells the story of a man so entranced by the act of creation—first of music, then of biochemical processes—that it has isolated him from much of the world.