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Luminarium by Alex Shakar
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Luminarium (edition 2011)

by Alex Shakar

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88None136,141 (3.46)1
Member:framberg
Title:Luminarium
Authors:Alex Shakar
Info:Soho Press (2011), Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
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Luminarium by Alex Shakar

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An overly ambitious book that spins out of control and sputters to a finish. This book lacks focus and direction. Among the topics it includes are dreams, reality, magic, advanced video games 9 -11, Disney's town Celebration, Florida, a spirit enhancing football helmet of sorts, and on and on and on. The author trying to be cutting edge and creative but if at the end you ask yourself what have I gotten out of the book and your answer is confusion - I think its time to question why you read it. It is not that I am a dummy as I have 2 Master's Degrees but I really just scratched my head when I was done. 2 stats for readability and interesting characters. ( )
  muddyboy | Oct 3, 2012 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

So before anything else, let me caution my fellow New Weird fans that Chicagoan Alex Shakar's Luminarium is not the trippy sci-fi novel that its cover, jacket copy and breathless Dave Eggers blurb promise it to be, and that those picking it up expecting it to be such are going to be severely disappointed, especially by the "anti-trick" ending that provides a rational explanation for all the bizarre things that happen before it. If what you're looking for, however, is an extremely clever and well-done character-heavy look at the zeitgeist of the Bush years, seen through the filter of such mid-2000s cultural detritus as virtual worlds, New Age mythology and the Disney-owned town of Celebration, Florida, then this Believer favorite is going to be right up your alley; because of all the 9/11 novels I've now read, this is arguably the best of them precisely because it takes such a sideways look at the subject, essentially sneaking up on the issue by instead concentrating on the co-founder of a Second-Life-type MMORPG that's been co-opted by Homeland Security, who rapidly unravels after starting to receive what seems like a series of otherworldly online messages from his comatose twin brother, while simultaneously participating in an academic neurological study that may or may not be slowly granting him psychic powers.

Full of all kinds of wonderfully nerdy details sure to delight any metaphysical tech-head (for one great example, the '70s Cray supercomputer that one brother gives the other as an elaborate joke gift, which is then turned into the online-startup "Prayerizer.com" that will send billions of pleas to God per day on your behalf for a nominal fee), but combined with the kind of quirky character-building details that MFAers are always on the lookout for (like the main character's habit of still performing in cheesy magic shows for children's birthday parties with his stoner hippie dad), Shakar almost magically manages to pull together these and dozens more widely scattered references into one coherent whole by the end, ultimately delivering a profound message about the schism between faith and technology in a world of 3D avatars and planes slamming into skyscrapers. Although the book definitely has its problems, which is why it isn't getting a higher score today -- I would've liked to have seen less academic stream-of-consciousness, for example, and more Chabonesque action scenes, such as the wickedly great section where our punch-drunk hero rampages through the headquarters of his startup's new corporate masters -- Luminarium is nonetheless well worth your time, but only for those prepared to enjoy it for what it is instead of being disappointed for what it's not. It comes recommended in that spirit.

Out of 10: 9.0 ( )
3 vote jasonpettus | Nov 30, 2011 |
Not really sure what to say about this book. I couldn't stop reading, but I puzzled through it's twists and turns and as I finished the last page wondered if I shouldn't be starting again at the beginning.
Worth the adventure. ( )
  ElizabethAnnS | Oct 8, 2011 |
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Epigraph
Lead me from the unreal to the real.

-- Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad
Dedication
For Olivia, the Shakars,

and all my other guiding lights.
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Picture yourself stepping into a small, cuboid room.
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Struggling with the loss of his computer software company and his twin brother's coma, a despairing Fred becomes a test subject in a neurological study promising a new spiritual outlook before he begins receiving bizarre e-mails and texts from someone claiming to be his comatose twin.… (more)

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