cover image Empire of Light

Empire of Light

Michael Bible. Melville House (PRH, dist.), $15.99 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-61219-644-2

Bible revisits the teenage years of the visionary Reverend Alvis Maloney, first introduced in the novella Sophia, in this equally brief but less antic work. Maloney is an orphan from rural North Carolina who’s happiest when riding the rails in search of the “vast openness where there was no electric light for miles.” He eventually settles into a foster home in a small town, where he; his next door neighbor, Molly; and the high school’s charismatic football star, Miles, form a special bond: “We talked feverishly in the afternoons about how hard the world was and how we’d like to soften it a bit on the strength of our strangeness.” As Alvis contends with his abusive foster parent and falls in love with Molly, the local golden boy, Miles, chafes against pressure to live up to expectations, dropping out of school and running away from home to crash and self-medicate in the school janitor’s trailer. Interspersed throughout the drug-and-alcohol-fueled narrative are fragments of a poetic fairy tale written by Maloney in which a knight errant and his inamorata, Princess Hypochondria, traverse a desert landscape toward a pulsating “city of electricity beyond the dunes” to combat its ruler, Zorn. In these sections, the young Maloney develops his mythic imagination, translating his adolescent struggles and gnawing guilt for a childhood prank gone wrong into an elemental saga. Bible bathes the dark story of teenage rebellion in an otherworldly light, deepening Maloney’s intriguing mythology. [em](Apr.) [/em]