Jonathan Carroll,
The Wooden Sea
(Tor, 2001)

The Wooden Sea, Jonathan Carroll's newest book, takes the reader on a surrealistic voyage through a man's life.

It starts simply enough, with a stray dog, a marbled pit bull with three legs and a red collar, brought into the Crane's View police station. Police chief Frannie McCabe lets the dog stay in his office while he looks for the animal's owner, but the dog dies before anyone claims him. Frannie decides to bury the dog himself, unaware of the chain of events this straightforward action will set into motion.

Frannie's world begins to tilt in small ways at first: people vanish, a strange feather keeps showing up in unexpected places. Frannie's past and future converge with his present, and he discovers that not only is time nonlinear, but that the possibilities are malleable enough to shift and change.

He has a mission, an assignment, although he has no idea what it is, and he has a week in which to complete it. The assignment is part of a project that has been going on for eons. Frannie's participation is part of the final stages, and time is running out.

I really don't want to give away too many details of the story, because Carroll constructs his narrative so neatly and smoothly that much of the pleasure is feeling each piece click into place. His control is superb; the story's gradual increase in tension is subtle and effective. Closing the book becomes nearly painful.

There is not an extraneous scene or word in the novel; everything fits together. At the same time, the reader can see clearly the separate elements. Certainly, some of the aspects of the plot would be trite or hokey in the hands of a less skilled author; here, Carroll demonstrates his mastery.

We are the forest, and we are the individual trees; it is possible to see and appreciate both. The Wooden Sea touches on our fears and dreams, our nostalgia for years gone by and our pain at succumbing to the inevitabilities of the future.

Ever wonder about the possibilities and potential? If so, Jonathan Carroll's The Wooden Sea is for you.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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