Luminarium by Alex Shakar is the most intelligent, thought-provoking work of contemporary fiction I have read in a long, long time. It was not just another book read, but an experience. And it sort of defied genre categorization: kind of like science fiction, but not just. It was set in 2006, around the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attack in New York. I wouldn’t call it 9/11 literature, though that was mentioned and somewhat woven into certain elements of the storyline (the author is native to New York, and I think 9/11 affected New Yorkers, I don’t want to say more profoundly, but perhaps more acutely than some of the rest of us. More personally.)
To just recap the storyline, though that was interesting, wouldn’t do the book justice. It touched on a lot of themes that were very personally significant to me right now, including:
- technology, especially computer technology, the internet, and virtual reality;
There were also comas and magic. A real mixed bag, but it made for a unique and compelling reading experience.
Not wanting to spoil anything, but just to give you a taste of the tone and thinking you will be dealing with when, on my glowing recommendation, you go out and snag a copy of this exceptional work as quickly as you can find it, in one section, he is describing this girl that the main character, Fred, once dated:
She’s flirty, earthy, unrepentantly material, things Fred isn’t but he approves of and wants to be. She avoids deep thought like an empty restaurant, not out of stupidity, but a canny resolve to be happy.
I don’t know how much there is to appreciate there out of context, but it is exceptional.
Deeper, he talks a lot in the story about how theology and science interact. On one point they agree:
the self is a conditioned reflex; a needy, greedy concentration of impulses; a position, ultimately, of ignorance.
That can’t make total sense, coming out of nowhere. But seriously, seriously, check it out. And let’s discuss theology, psychology, consumerism, self. And what is “luminarium”?
I have promised my copy to D1, and it will be on its way before this posts. After that, as far as I’m concerned, it’s up for grabs. Then let the mad discussions begin! Do it!