Chaos is holed up in the projection booth in an abandoned theater in Hatfork, Wyoming. He’s become a bit of a de facto public enemy in the aftermath oChaos is holed up in the projection booth in an abandoned theater in Hatfork, Wyoming. He’s become a bit of a de facto public enemy in the aftermath of whatever happened—nuclear fallout, plague, civil war, who knows—but his position is all Kellogg’s fault. Kellogg runs the supply trucks but he also runs the dreams. When every citizen, be they human or slightly unhuman, closes their eyes, they all dream the same dream, in which Kellogg is often a mythical hero and Chaos an archetypal villain. Though Kellogg insists that Chaos is critical to the balance of their fragile post-apocalyptic existence, Chaos decides to press west, hoping to discover who or what else is out there and finally dream his own dreams (literally). With Melinda, a girl covered in fur, Chaos sets off on a road trip across the country, discovering that Kellogg isn’t the only one dreaming realities. Everywhere he goes he finds alternative societies and versions of “what happened,” but no one seems to be able to pinpoint when or how the change occured. Dreams seem to envelope the nation and Chaos (if that is his real name) just wants to find the lakeside house he remembers from before it all, where he was once happy and in love.
Dreams have always fascinated me, so Lethem’s take on the theme along with the post-apocalypse element immediately peaked my interest. He creates fascinating insular worlds and the mystery of Chaos’s background permeates the novel. The book was engaging and intriguing, and I easily became immersed. Chaos is also a fascinating character, in some ways at odds with his own mind. His journey works on both a personal and societal level—he’s not just trying to find out what happened to the world, he’s trying to find out what happened to himself.
My one complaint would be that though Lethem presents many visions of the future, we don’t ever truly arrive at explanations and the conclusion of the novel is open-ended, many earlier threads never carried to their conclusion. I thought the last quarter of the book was the weakest, a sort of digression from the earlier setups in the novel and also a kind of anti-resolution. Still, I wouldn’t let that deter anyone from picking up Amnesia Moon. I think some people would be perfectly satisfied with the ending, because it does come with a build-up in dramatic tension and leads to an important decision and future course for our main character. I just felt we didn’t get the payoff of earlier questions in the novel and I was left wishing that the problems Chaos had explored from the beginning came to a deeper resolution.
Would I recommend? Yes. I really enjoyed Lethem’ style and I would read more of his books. He touched on two themes that intrigue me—the apocalypse and dreams—and treated both in a way I hadn’t seen quite done before.
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Fresh off the excitement of The Night Circus, which I just couldn’t get out of my mind, I decided to embark on another circus-themed book and was direFresh off the excitement of The Night Circus, which I just couldn’t get out of my mind, I decided to embark on another circus-themed book and was directed to Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician, written by Daniel Wallace, most known to me as the author of the wildly imaginative tall tale, Big Fish. Henry Wallace uses his novelty as a black magician to find a job with Jeremiah Musgrove’s Chinese Circus. His race is his greatest selling point in the 1950s rural South. His act…is a disaster.
To hear Henry tell it, he was once an outstanding magician, a man who could make anything happen just by thinking it. But his power and his fortune have declined as he’s travelled the world with a singular purpose: to find Mr. Sebastian aka the devil, the man who taught him to make things disappear and then disappeared with the thing that was most precious to Henry. One night in Alabama, Henry finds himself bound and gagged in the backseat of a pick-up with three white boys with a dangerous agenda. The boys are about to discover something astonishing about Henry, which catapults the reader into a history of Henry’s life, told through the voices of his friends in the circus and finally, though Henry’s own green eyes.
Henry’s story is compelling, but it’s not what you expect. Early in the novel you learn something that changes the entire framework of the novel. I actually saw it coming a bit, and Wallace gets it out in the open fairly early so you won’t build up too many pretenses about what you’re reading, but I still felt a little let down, like I’d signed up to read one story and built expectations around that, only to be told a significantly less original story. In defense of the book, I will say that it had a difficult act to follow in The Night Circus. And though I enjoyed the overall feeling of this book, I never really became fully immersed in another world or drawn in by the voices of the circus freak narrators.
Wallace’s story is a slow build, dipping us in and out of Henry’s life—his relationship with his impoverished father, his development as a magician, his love for an ethereal girl halfway between life and death, and always his quest to confront and destroy the devil. My favorite portion of the story came early on as we witness Henry’s childhood and close relationship with his younger sister. But to me, Mr. Sebastian was one of those in-between books, something I didn’t mind reading but probably wouldn’t pick up again.
Would I recommend? Maybe. I think the book just wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but it could be just the thing for someone with a different set of expectations. Don’t expect any sort of deep commentary on race, because you’ll be let down. But if you’re just looking for a good story, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
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In many ways, Nick Twisp is your typical 14-year-old. He hates his parents, is covered in pimples, and is obsessed with sex. In other ways, Nick TwispIn many ways, Nick Twisp is your typical 14-year-old. He hates his parents, is covered in pimples, and is obsessed with sex. In other ways, Nick Twisp is an extraordinary 14-year-old. He is capable of unheard of levels of rebellion, all in the name of love. His One and Only is Sheeni Saunders: beautiful, academic, with plans to one day live in Paris with her darling husband Francois and their little dog Albert. Nick will do anything to win Sheeni’s love, going so far as to burn down the gourmet district of Berkley, slip sleeping pills to Sheeni’s interfering roommate, frame a rumored ex-boyfriend for car theft, and dress as a woman for several weeks to avoid the FBI’s detection. Granted, Nick has a lot to deal with. His rebellion is understandable. His over-the-hill mother is inexplicably pregnant by her married boyfriend Jerry, who has the nerve to die after leaving a car in their living room. His deadbeat father uses their court-mandated visits to get some free labor out of Nick and flaunt his latest live-in bimbette. His One and Only Love lives 200 miles away and just when Nick gets himself kicked out of his mother’s house and is able to move closer to his love, she transfers to a French-speaking private school in Santa Cruz! Sexually frustrated much?
Youth in Revolt is hilarious and irreverent. Nick is capable of being extremely crass, but also endearingly sweet. His love for Sheeni, whose fidelity is somewhat questionable, reminds us all of our own first love/obsession/lust/infatuation. His greatest desire is to get laid, something his suave alter ego Francois Dillinger is working towards with great concentration. I have no idea if 14-year-old boys are really like this. I’d love to know. If so, it’s amazing any of them grow to be normal functioning adults. But Nick’s journey, while almost certainly not autobiographical, is immensely funny. Author C. D. Payne perfectly captures the affected writing of an over-achieving, emotional teenager.
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