Luminarium by Alex Shakar
Soho Press, 2011
What do Hacky Sack, Zulu shamans, Gandalf, Jedi knights, Ginko baloba, Pac Man, La-Z-Boy and the Czech Republic have in common? They are all referenced in this novel — along with every other political and popular culture element since the early 70’s. When merged with the plot-relevant references to 9-11, the dot com bust and Hindu mythology, the read was heavy. This unbelievably engaging plot was bogged down with clutter — I was sprinting to the finish wearing a fully loaded flak jacket. For the last hundred pages, I wasn’t sure if I would make it.
Fred Brounian can’t sink much lower into his depression. His twin brother is dying, and he makes a string of terrible life-altering decisions in his grief. Like the depressed, philosophising college freshman in college, Fred wanders aimlessly through what is left of his New York city life and enrolls in a clinical trial. He is haunted by strange electronic messages and cyber-visitations. Are they real or are they part of his mental state?
While this novel is definitely not a light pool-side read, it is not lacking in interest. Boring it is not. Every day I pined to discover: what does the brain stimulation experiment do, does the Reiki work, and what is the significance of the gripping hand tattoo. There were a thousand more questions, all which were answered in a modern, artful crescendo. Despite the burdens of clutter, Luminarium goes in my stack of novels to re-read.