Breathtaking coincidences, magical occurrences, dramatic confrontations, mystical beliefs, the influence of astronomical phenomenon and the intriguing confluence of fate and chance are plot elements that bubble like champagne in Christopher's (Veronica) brilliantly labyrinthine new novel. The theme of lost and found--people, opportunities, knowledge, cultures--permeates the two stories that run parallel in a buoyant, suspenseful narrative that spans 15 tumultuous years. In 1965, an orphan named Loren is celebrating his 10th birthday by visiting a New York planetarium with his adoptive aunt, Alma Verell, when he is kidnapped. He is taken to meet his wealthy, benevolent great-uncle, Junius Samax, who whisks him off to his home in the opulent Hotel Canopus in Las Vegas, where Loren learns his true name, Enzo, and some clues about his maternal parentage. Under Samax's genial protection and tutelage, Enzo enjoys a privileged life and a rich education, as he meets the distinguished scholars who come to stay with Samax, a patron of the arts and an indefatigable searcher after arcane knowledge. But Enzo remains tensely aware that another resident of the hotel, Samax's niece, Ivy, is determined to destroy him. Meanwhile, 20-year-old college classics major Alma, an orphan herself, is frantic at Loren's disappearance. After a police investigation reaches a dead end, she flees to New Orleans, changes her name to Mala Revell, and allows herself to be bitten by a rare Stellarum spider, whose venom endows her with psychic ability. Enlisting in the navy, Mala goes to Vietnam as a nurse, where she falls in love with Geza Cassiel, a wounded airman. After an idyllic few days together, Cassiel is given a new, secret assignment--and disappears. Having now lost two people in her life, Mala begins years of island-hopping in the South Pacific, throwing herself into the '70s counterculture of drugs, booze and promiscuous sex. A tragic accident halts her downward spiral, and her spirit is ready for renewal when fate sends radiant proof of cosmic inevitability, closing one of the concentric circles that gird this complex story. Enzo's quest, which has been a mirror image of Mala's, as the same people have entered both their lives over the years, comes full circle a short time later, in a series of shocking revelations and a regenerating reunion. As background to this intricate narrative, Christopher interweaves erudite details of such subjects as arachnology, vampire lore, quincunxes, architecture, celestial navigation and space exploration, Zuni legends, Greek philosophy--to touch on only a few; despite a few didactic lapses, this material proves intriguingly relevant. Fans of Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale will discover a kindred spirit in Christopher's literate prose and exuberant storytelling techniques. Author tour. (Feb.) FYI: Harcourt Brace will publish Christopher's seventh book of poetry in April.
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000 Release date: 02/01/2000 Genre: Fiction