Unwitting players in a universe-spanning game make choices that will determine Earth’s survival in this novel of ideas.
New York City–based investment banker David Cornwell is selfish, arrogant, and obsessed with winning. He loves his job: “The pure, shameless focus on making outrageous amounts of money. On being the first. The top. The richest. The best.” Meanwhile, on a world called Home Planet, a gray being called Noœ-bouk uses his energy-channeling abilities to help along the planet’s long-term development. Next, Noœ-bouk will travel to Earth in an attempt to help it to ascend to a new plane of consciousness. Elsewhere, in what seems to be a huge library, the newly dead Sir Alisdair McCauley meets Duncan, a guide who will prepare him to review his happy, successful life. Back in London, Alisdair’s beloved, free-spirited granddaughter, Elspeth, decides whether she should take the guaranteed job that he’d arranged for her. But as Noœ-bouk, Alisdair, and Elspeth take steps toward greater knowledge and freedom, David spirals downward, committing a terrible crime. All their destinies turn out to be part of a massive “unity game,” which eventually leads to love, experienced in every possible manifestation. Meriel (The Woman Behind the Waterfall, 2016) transcends genre in this novel, employing elements of magical realism, science fiction, love stories, and philosophy as well as keen-eyed social critique, employing a range of voices. The novel requires some patience, particularly during the sections dealing with Noœ-bouk’s narrative, written in a remote, dry, and abstract tone and requiring readers to assimilate a good deal of information. Yet the story of Noœ-bouk (which later includes another character, Adm. Ba-hutá) becomes, in its way, a deeply romantic tale of love and sacrifice. Problematic, though, is the idea that earthly injustice or evil is merely a “brave life path” freely chosen by advanced souls. This view makes sense of why someone like David might deserve redemption, but many readers may find it hard to swallow nonetheless.
A complex, ambitious, and thought-provoking novel about unifying love.