A man from the future explores the past through his heritage in this quirky metaphysical adventure.
This is an intrepid debut from frequent short story contributor Cantor, but any reader without an encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish mysticism may wish to come armed with an open Wikipedia page. Meet Leonard—Leonard works in the complaints department of Neetsa Pizza, in a futuristic world where global commerce is dominated by fast-food chains. Leonard works in a clean room in his home answering the phones, chatting occasionally with his sister Carol, babysitting his nephew Felix and asking questions of the “Brazen Head,” a contemporary version of the medieval automaton reputed to be able to answer any question. Because all of this isn’t odd enough, Leonard suddenly can only get calls from “Milione,” an explorer from the 13th century who nightly describes his travels to the Orient. Next, a stranger begins leveling some serious history onto Leonard, a man who oddly speaks with the voice of Leonard’s dead grandfather but who identifies himself as the kabala scholar Rabbi Yitzhak Saggi Nehor, known colloquially as Isaac the Blind. It’s fair to say that the average reader could easily be a quarter of the way into Leonard’s adventure in space and time before realizing he or she is deeply mired in a witty but quite eccentric exploration of Jewish mysticism. For being a rather petite book, it lures in an array of historical figures ranging from Abraham Abulafia, the founder of Prophetic Kabbalah, to Marco Polo to the English philosopher Roger Bacon. It’s an unusual way to examine Jewish history and medieval thinking, but the story doesn’t carry enough weight to justify the experiment. Leonard makes for an amusing protagonist, and Cantor makes some salient points about passing on generational wisdom, but it doesn’t completely work as satire, science fiction or farce.
This play on history and heritage plunges headlong into the mystic, but it’s written for a very niche market.