By Jonathan Carroll (Orb; 1987)
This is one of the Jonathan Carroll’s loopiest novels–and believe me, that’s saying A LOT! Like quite a few movies and books of the 1980s, it’s a dream story, although, it being a Jonathan Carroll novel, you can rest assured that BONES OF THE MOON is like NO other story before or after.
Told in the first-person by a woman named Cullen James (this is among the very few convincing attempts I’ve read by a male writer at accurately conveying the POV of the opposite sex), who seemingly has it all: a perfect husband, an infant daughter and a good life in New York City. Yet Cullen has a somewhat checkered background that includes a long-regretted abortion (the product of an ill-advised one night stand). There’s also the troubling fact that Cullen and her hubbie Danny live in a building that also houses a disturbed young man named Alvin, who (as the first page makes clear) is a psychopath–and proves it by murdering his mother with axe.
Cullen begins dreaming of an otherworldly environ called Rondua. This is an enchanted realm of taking animals and otherworldly creatures where Cullen finds she has a young son named Pepsi. He’s actually the child she aborted all those years ago, and is looking to collect the magical “bones of the moon” for some reason or other. Thus a fantasy quest is begun through Rondua.
Back in Cullen’s waking life weird things are happening. For starters, Cullen finds she can shoot bolts of energy from her hands. There’s also the specter of Alvin, who’s locked up in a nuthouse but insists on sending periodic letters to Cullen. Inevitably Cullen’s two worlds intersect in weird ways, and eventually become one in a brutal climax that involves Pepsi and Alvin.
I’ll confess the Rondua set sequences didn’t grab me as much as those set in the “real” world, in which the weirdness is presented as an unexpected intrusion into the ordinary rather than the norm. Yet Jonathan Carroll’s prose and characterizations are (as always) impeccable regardless of the setting. The novel as a whole has an irrational dream logic; at least one of Cullen’s companions in the here-and-now becomes infected with dreams of Rondua, with no conventional explanation offered. I’m positive such seeming inconsistencies will grate on some readers, but I enjoyed the book’s weirdness, which makes for a colorful and exciting tale that’s never, ever predictable.