cover image The Tesseract

The Tesseract

Alex Garland. Riverhead Books, $24.95 (273pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-109-2

The tesseract of Garland's title refers to the reduction of a four-dimensional cube to a three-dimensional one: ""We can see the thing unraveled, but not the thing itself."" In an attempt at similar dimensionality, Garland (The Beach) has written a novel that operates on two levels. His characters intersect in a metaphysical web and also in a violent series of coincidences. A sailor named Sean waits to rendezvous with a crime boss named Don Pepe in a seedy hotel in Manila. Sean kills Don Pepe in ambush, but the dead man's henchmen chase Sean through the streets of Manila. This is action-movie stuff, but the story soon moves through a whole new cast of characters. Sean runs past two street boys and ends up cornered in a family's home in an upper-class neighborhood. Garland now takes up these secondary characters and tells their stories, deconstructing the exoticism of his premise. We read of a woman named Rosa's romantic history and her father's death; and we learn of the street waifs' desperate lives. The boys sell their dreams to a psychologist named Alfredo, who is writing a thesis about the unconscious lives of Filipino street kids. Although Garland's allusions to super-symmetry and tesseracts are far-fetched, the reader will come away impressed by his sense of place and his unique storytelling, which combines a brisk, complex plot with an ability to get into the souls and skins of people. BOMC and QPB alternate; author tour. (Feb.) FYI: Leonardo DiCaprio will star in the movie version of The Beach.