Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Wave

So I just finished The Wave, by Walter Mosley. I've read a couple of the Easy Rawlins novels, and it seems like I've read quite a bit about Mosley without reading an awful lot of his work, but I'd known I wanted to get around to this novel eventually.

It's hard to know where to begin. It echoes so true to both contemporary America and other popular narrative - Heroes springs to mind - that it's difficult to categorize is as science fiction. Even speculative fiction, a term I have to admit I like more, is a little on the not-quite-right side. It's more Jonathan Lethem than China Miéville, you know what I mean? More hard-boiled.

After a series of creepy late-night phone calls the protagonist goes to his father's grave, and discovers a young man in rags who claims to be his father. The boy (for truly, it's just a kid, maybe 20) knows things about his life with his son that only the father could have known. Whole pages of psycho-babble could be written at this point, but the hook is lightly set, so craftily that everyone (including the reader) simply falls into believing that this is somehow dad, back from the dead by mystical force.

"Dad" identifies himself as part of the "Wave," which the military has in turn identified as some sort of alien amoeba. Big surprise, they consider that a threat (again the Heroes echoes. Did I mention ever that there's only one story?). The Wave is old as earth itself, living in the core, in the midst of massive violence, heat, and danger. It has become an entity capable of undreamed-of feats, including assuming the form of those who have passed.

I won't spoil anything further, but it's a ripping good read. Mosley, as usual, is on the top of his game in terms of dialog.* His pacing is great, slowing down in deep, vibrant places only to bring thins to a head in a paragraph. It moves like a memoir, which it is meant to be. I'm not one to blithely tell people to read books but you could do worse than this one.

And if you have time you should check out Lethem and Miéville as well. And then read a bit of Neal Stephenson or (heaven help you) Mervyn Peake.

*This is not the first time and probably not the last that my British standard spelling gets in the way of the spellchecker. I don't care who you talk to, it's dialogue.

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