A celebrity tries to find herself with help from her dead lover’s reality-bending invention.
Somewhere between her early days scraping by doing stand-up in New York clubs while wearing an assless tutu and her current multimillionaire, Hollywood lifestyle as the star of a popular sitcom, Ellen Gregory stopped recognizing herself. Her 17-year-old self that carried a dream and ran away from home no longer exists. Neither does she know Ellen from the wildly popular TV show Girlfriends, who now makes a home on tabloid covers. So Ellen runs away again, except this time, back to her childhood home. While hiding from the world in Iowa, she meets Michael Webster, a man she falls in love with; only weeks later, though, he dies in a shark attack while the two are on vacation. Michael, a Ph.D. student, had invented the Black Box, a piece of unintentional brilliance that intertwines the human brain with a computer interface in a way that opens new windows into reality. The novel starts with the shark attack, thrillingly throwing the reader into the depths before the narrative slowly pieces together the psychological puzzle of Ellen’s world. In starting so dramatically, Stark (Second Son, 2011, etc.) sets the stage for his wild style of storytelling, in which he marvelously toys with point of view, the timeline and the novel’s internal reality to envelop the reader in alternating layers of acuity and confusion—the exact feelings Ellen and Michael experience in the Black Box. That seemingly impossible technological masterpiece is central to Stark’s dig into Ellen’s head; the contraption allows Ellen to enter an unknown world that even Michael, its creator, isn’t sure is real.
An intense, unexpected mind-meld in a captivating blend of technology and romance.