John Crowley, Author Bantam Books $24.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-553-10004-4
Combining brilliant storytelling with mind-catching philosophical musings, Crowley's (Little, Big) latest novel pushes fantasy fiction toward its most thrilling, intelligent heights. Set in a time and place that are both invented and naggingly familiar, this tale tells of a collection of average people who begin to think their world's out of whack. From the small (misplaced keys that somehow turn up), to the mid-sized (a child who claims with chilling plausibility to have lived previously) and the large (the way causes seem to be following effects, not vice versa), things are just getting weird. At the outset, Pierce Moffett, 35, a failed history professor, has departed New York for LittlevilleDwhere he's living on a book advance, writing the manuscript of a speculative history. Meanwhile, he's casually falling in love with Rose Ryder, a 28-year-old who's having an early midlife crisis. Right there the plot gets skillfully complicated. Ryder, who's also sleeping with one Mike Mucho, gets entangled with a cult of coercive Christian ""healers"" led by Ray Honeybeare. Mucho, who's also a Honeybeare follower, is trying to wrest his young, epileptic daughter from his estranged wife, Rosie Rasmussen. And Rasmussen is planning a Halloween party that might bring about Honeybeare's doomsday plans. Crowley intersperses this set of stories with accounts of 17th-century heretics, like the Dominican monk Bruno, a wandering philosopher who believed each man's view of the world was relative to his positionDwhich is the philosophy structuring Crowley's layered narrative, making it uncommonly reflective. Bruno's ""Picatrix"" manuscript, supposedly discovered by Moffett while writing his book, loosely ties Crowley's various story lines together as Rasmussen tries to save her daughter from Honeybeare, and Ryder runs off to find herself. Told in absorbing if occasionally dense, even difficult, prose, this novel is a satisfyingly long, intricate and unusually meditative offering from one of the field's finest. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-553-37823-8
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