‘Luminarium’ by Alex Shakar is an expansive, modern azz novel about technology, mysticism, identity, and ultimately, the quest to derive any sort of meaning from the clusterfuck that is human existence. It’s the kind of novel that could not have been written by Ben Franklin. No offense to Ben Franklin, but he was born before computers and Lord of the Rings and all that shit.
The protagonist, Fred Brounian, is the following:
(1) the grown brother of a man – who also happens to be his identical twin – in a cancer-related coma
(2) broke, unemployed, living with his mildly insane parents &
(3) disillusioned with a world that would let (1) and (2) occur in a rush of inexplicably bad fortune.
Then he starts receiving emails from his comatose brother. Which is strange.
And then, for the next 400 pages or so, more strange things happen.
There are many elements within the narrative, all of which imply – directly or indirectly – a conflation of reality and perception, of meaning and delusion. Magic, video games, planned communities, neuroscience, religion, political subterfuge. And within that tension lies another: where is the distinction between self and other? Is the separation we feel from other matter – whether sentient or not – merely some neurological sleight of hand? Are we actually connected to the world in ways our senses prevent us from knowing?
Throughout the book, Fred grapples with the concept of a “faith without ignorance,” continually searching for a world that he both understands & believes in. Which begs the questions: does creating your own world mitigate its personal salience? can you derive true meaning and satisfaction from a world you yourself have devised?
‘Luminarium’ raises lots of big issues, but with incredible imagination, intelligence, & wit. Nice work, braaaa.