A windy New Age parable by postmodern novelist Danielewski (The Familiar, Volume 5: Redwood, 2017, etc.).
Danielewski has spent the last few years writing endlessly long, genre-crunching novels that are projected to build to a series of a couple dozen thick volumes, making Proust look like a piker. This latest, falling outside that series, isn’t on its face intended for children, since it’s got big words like “devastated” and “endeavoring” and big themes like death and psychological dread, but it’s full of kid’s-book elements, if perhaps as filtered through the post-apocalyptic Hawaiians of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Kai is a kid with a penchant for flying kites, even as his granny warns that with enough string he might “reach the edge of the Murk.” It would spoil the fun to reveal just what the Murk and the “immense monster too immense for any one name and hungrier than all the emptiness that haunts the space between all the stars” are, but suffice it to say that Kai isn’t shy of tempting fate, the more so as he grows older. And grow older he must, and when he does—well, he’s got to choose whether to hunker down in the Murk or throw off the bonds and strings of grown-up life and fly free in the clear blue sky. Guess which he elects? Let Danielewski tell it: “Kai’s mind is wide open! Kai’s mind has become a sky!" One wonders if Kai’s been reading Michael Pollan’s book on psychedelics, but no matter; thanks to the little blue kite, he enjoys a fine trip. It’s not quite so straightforward, though, for, ever intent on playing language games, Danielewski offers three different ways to read the book, two of them signaled by typographic elements and the other the boring, old-fashioned method of reading the thing straight through. It’s up to the reader to judge which is most rewarding—and whether the trip, though refreshingly brief, was worth the effort.
Think Jonathan Livingston Seagull with a long, winding tail, and you’ll have some of the feel of Danielewski’s latest.