Five people share a miraculously detailed and disturbing dream in Carroll's latest speculative fiction (The Woman Who Married a Cloud, 2012, etc.). Their experience sparks a need to understand their roles in a cosmic drama played out over eons.
A mundane Vermont town doesn’t seem like the place to discover the underlying mechanisms of the universe, but these five seemingly ordinary citizens begin to see impossible things: visions of the past, hoped-for children becoming real, even a red elephant bearing a map on its hide. Soon, they remember their common past as “mechanics”: nonhuman beings with a gift for fixing what Chaos breaks. But why are these retired mechanics being called back? What dire event has spurred an unprecedented gathering of minds? Our heroes (though some are decidedly nonheroic) must navigate a landscape of dream and metaphor to find out, all the while balancing their human impulses against their mystic calling. The scope of Carroll’s ideas outpaces the clarity of his writing, which features abrupt perspective shifts and some dizzying moves through multiple timelines. While the purported theme is nothing less than the fate of the universe, the action is all internal. Don’t expect a grand battle or glorious revelation. Here, characters talk and argue their fumbling ways to truth, and those who follow the strange logic of the meandering plot, picking up clues like breadcrumbs, fare best.
Though short, the novel is not a breezy read; it's a quiet, character-driven musing on the value of life and death that lovers of magical realism should embrace but that readers wishing for a more cohesive story will find frustrating.