(Tor Books. Hardcover, 304 pages, 1 September 2002; ISBN: 0765303884. Paperback, 304 pages, 1 July 2003; ISBN: 0765304015.)
Vincent Ettrich comes back from the dead. Not onlydoes he not remember dying, but no-one else remembers that he died -- except for Coco, a mysterious woman who owns a lingerie shop, and Isabelle, the on-and-off love of his life. Meanwhile, the unborn son of Vincent and Isabelle is fighting against Chaos for the fate of the universe. In the end, Vincent and Isabelle love each other, so everything turns out alright.
I admit that I'm being facetious. But then again it's hard to admire Jonathan Carroll's twelfth novel, White Apples.
All of Carroll's previous books are intensely beautiful, subtly menacing, and bizarrely mysterious. White Apples, in contrast, is filled with clumsy exposition, preposterous explanations, and cloying sentimentality.
Typically, Carroll creates scenarios where inexplicable -- or at least unexplained -- supernatural events interfere in such a way into his characters' lives as to explore with insight and profundity the web of relationships and experiences that shapes their identity. In recent books -- The Wooden Sea and The Marriage of Sticks, for example -- he started to offer some explanations for his supernatural shenanigans, but left enough mystery to stimulate readers' imaginations. And he never sacrificed the integrity of the story he was telling.
In White Apples, the explanations are so heavy-handed that the book acquires an off-putting preachy tone. White Apples is somewhat reminiscent of such New Age feel-good pseudofictions as Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Celestine Prophecy. The forced, gimmicky story seems like a transparent veil behind which lies an author too earnestly trying to reveal to his readers whatever nonsense he believes are the secrets of the universe.
As fiction, White Apples is a dismal failure.
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© Claude Lalumière 28 December 2002, 12 April 2003