Published in 2015, Garth Risk Hallberg's buzzy debut, "City on Fire," heralded the arrival of a literary "It Boy," a magician whose sleights of hand included lyrical language, panoramic storytelling and intricate characters. A bestseller, "City on Fire" landed on many critics' best lists; Granta magazine elevated his profile, naming him a Best Young American Novelist.

In "The Second Coming," his bloated if flickeringly brilliant new work, Hallberg aims, Jonathan Franzen-like, at intimate drama that illuminates broad arcs cobbled together by politics, technology and pop culture. (Hallberg borrows the title from a Prince bootleg, while nodding to Yeats' "The Second Coming" and the Book of Revelation.)

Manhattan, early 2011: 13-year-old Jolie Aspern— a child of divorce who lives uptown with her mother, Sarah Kupferberg, a Barnard professor — is standing on a subway platform when she drops her iPhone. It skids onto the tracks; inexplicably, she jumps down to retrieve it but is rescued by a good Samaritan.

Her brief hospitalization prompts her estranged father, Ethan, to book a red-eye ticket from California, where he's resided after rampant alcoholism and fragile recovery wedged him away. Once back on the east coast, Ethan recognizes tell-tale signs of a girl wrestling her own addictions and demons.

Jolie's caught in the vortex between her parents, whose charged history Hallberg gradually discloses. Jolie calls Sarah "the queen of denial" and says she feels "a little ambushed" by Ethan's indefinite stay. But it's the emotional odyssey of father and daughter that resonates.

Hallberg reimagines Joyce's Dublin and Greek myths as an escape: "He is Daedalus, the puzzler, maker of mazes, to her Icarus, prone to overexcitement and melting." The author skips around chronologically — there are flashbacks to the '90s and Ethan's sorrow-drenched past, along with future dispatches from the COVID pandemic — but mostly traces the Asperns during 2011.

When Jolie's relationship with Sarah unravels, Ethan brings his daughter to a family Thanksgiving on the Maryland shore, where he was raised, son of the rector at an Episcopal boys' school. They're meant to bond, but Hallberg draws a stark contrast between their upbringings, WASP-proper versus city-sophisticated. "Though her New York childhood had comprised whole syllabaries of urban noise," he writes, "the acoustics here felt off, somehow: rustle of vegetation, fake crake of crows. Or were those gulls?"

Hallberg's a born wordsmith, his sentences limning his characters' vulnerabilities, with visuals that tick a reader's pulse: "Then morning was on him, like a jaguar from a tree." Despite the muscular prose, there's flab on his story — a lot.

He detours into sub-plots and technical tricks, braking his momentum, blurring our focus. He packages nostalgia in dated details — Friendster, Skype, Occupy Wall Street — that don't quite hit. An off-stage narrator intrudes, adding a dash of mystery. And Hallberg's preoccupation with "Ulysses"-style virtuosity, from roving perspectives to typographical experiments, gums his flow. "The Second Coming" could have slimmed down 150 pages and delivered more oomph.

As the novel twists and turns toward an unsatisfying conclusion, Hallberg reverts to a soundtrack structure, preening his knowledge of indie rock as well as radio-friendly tunes. This formal device falters, but serves as a metaphor for a major talent hindered by self-indulgence.

Hamilton Cain, who reviews for the New York Times Book Review and Washington Post, lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The Second Coming

By: Garth Risk Hallberg.

Publisher: Knopf, 586 pages $32.