The International Writers Magazine:Book Review
WAVE by Walter Mosley
Warner Books, 2006, 211 pp. ISBN: 0-446-53363-7
Mosley, the author of twenty published books prior to THE WAVE,
can tell an engaging story. Chapter One of his latest novel starts
with an anonymous, seemingly crazy phone call to the narrator,
jumps to recollection of a grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer's
delusions, and finishes with the dream of a father who died of
cancer. With the sureness of a craftsman, Mosley quickly entangles
protagonist Errol Porter with problems, not wasting a phrase in
the doing. Chapter One is four pages.
In a handful of
pages more, the reader learns Errol's other personal problems include
unemployment (with no motivation to regain a computer programmer job
lost in the dot.com bust); and divorce (his wife left him for another
man), the settlement forcing him to sell their Los Angeles house. Errol
now lives in the garage of the house he sold, a non-code apartment conversion
he rents from the buyer.
Against this background of life's defeats and apathy (but plenty of
free time), Errol discovers the crank phone caller is a man who claims
to be his father, and who knows an unnerving amount of information about
Errol and his family. In response, Errol goes to his father's grave,
to verify the burial years ago. The complication is fresh dirt around
the grave. Next, a meeting--the middle of the night in the graveyard--with
a naked, dreadlocked maniac who acts and looks like his father, but
is several years younger than Errol's twenty-plus years.
Errol's "father," whom he calls GT (for Good Times) is a wild
and resonant character, powering along the first half of the book with
a resurrection twist as the premise. Errol takes his new-found dad to
meet the rest of the surviving family--mother and sister--and the story
speeds along (one noteworthy revelation is that Errol's dad had murdered
the lover of Errol's mom).
Alas, at roughly the halfway mark in THE WAVE, the narrative jumps track.
For one thing, the engaging interplay between Errol and his "dad"
GT temporarily suspends. For reasons having to do with being in contact
with GT, armed agents abduct Errol and he is taken to an operation run
by the Department of Homeland Security. If Mosley had political satire
in mind, any effect is largely diluted by potboiler fantasy finishing
out the second, less-than-satisfying half of the book.
Yes, alien beings inside the earth are coming out of caves and look
exactly like above-ground earthlings and have plans to take over the
world by polluting human bloodstreams with a zombie-inducing contagion.
Yes, the Department of Homeland Security knows this and will stop at
nothing to track and destroy these subterranean XTs (as in Extraterrestials?).
Yes, the Department of Homeland Security must keep their campaign top-secret
to prevent widespread panic among the public at large.
I kept reading THE WAVE hoping it would rise above this unwelcome cartoonish
tenor, but no luck on that score. One of the few saving graces in the
last half of THE WAVE, however, was GT's reappearance (too brief because
In the last chapter, when the killer of GT, the principal "bad
guy" of the Homeland Security detail, General Wheeler (also a plastic
surgeon), takes on the role of Errol's new "dad," it was enough
to make me want to throw the book across the room and stop reading.
But there being nothing left to read, Mosley's artisty appears to be
he saved the worst for last!
To recap, Mosley is a skilled novelist who can put together an engaging
yarn. THE WAVE begins well, the premise of a "resurrected,"
younger dad seems right, the first half of the novel makes good use
of character-driven interactions between father and son. But the second
half scrapes along. The plot-driven, destroy-the-aliens story has been
told so often it booms cliche. Moreover, fantasy of this sort would
be leavened by the literary beauty of what one finds on any page of
H. P. Lovecraft. Despite its engaging initial premise, the reader is
advised to pass on THE WAVE.
© Charlie Dickinson
Feb 1st 2006
read "stories & more" @ http://charlied.freeshell.org
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