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The Wave ()



I'm a big fan of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries, but can't honestly say I've ever enjoyed any of his forays into other genres, nor his other mysteries. The Wave is science fiction, a kind of Day of the Triffids/Invasion of the Body Snatchers inflected with the usual Mosleyian racial themes. When Errol Porter, who's recently been laid off from his job and deserted by his wife, starts getting prank phone calls they seem to be coming from his dead father. Following clues from the caller he ends up at the cemetery where his father's supposed to be buried and meets a younger version of the old man. Though physically a man in his twenties, Errol's father has a somewhat childlike mind, despite memories of an entire adult life. Eventually it is explained that this doppelganger is just one iteration of a life form that is rising up from the Earth where it has been buried for eons. It's revivifying the dead in order to interact with the living in preparation for The Wave, which it claims will see it join with some kind of interstellar being who's headed our way.

In the meantime though, Homeland Security has cottoned on to the action and Errol and his "father" and the other iterations are soon on the run. Errol is captured and held by an obsessed military doctor who's developing the means to kill off lifeform in toto, lest it kill off humankind instead. Forced to choose sides, Errol casts his lot with the entity against his fellow humans.

Now, it seems to me that there's a decent novel to be had out of this setup, but perhaps it would require a rather more serious moralist than Mr. Mosley to write it, someone capable of sounding a note higher than "racism = bad." Consider that the Left's favorite philosopher, the vile Peter Singer, has developed a theory of "speciesism" in recent decades, which holds that our willingness to eat hamburger but not to have sex with cows reflects nothing but an unjustifiable bigotry on our part that the bovine is not our equal. Or ponder, as Francis Fukuyama has, the implications of genetic engineering and the dreams of the transhumanists, that we will bioengineer a superior species, such that it would no longer be accurate to say that "all Men are Created equal." In both of these cases, and in the instance of the creature in Mr. Mosley's book, we can develop an interesting question of whether our primary loyalty should lie with humankind or whether, upon deciding that Man is not the highest being in the Great Chain, ought one to collaborate with other species? If Hitler were right would a non-Aryan Darwinist be obligated to help exterminate himself for the good of the gene pool?

As that last suggests, I find these ideas quite repellent and the complete lack of introspection with which Erroll essentially decides to become such a collaborator struck me as bizarre. Even someone less offended by the whole notion will be hard pressed to find much admirable in the thing, certainly not enough to justify Errol's choice. Indeed, what Errol is most drawn to is the aspects that are most anti-human--the way in which the various expressions of the thing all still share an undifferentiated unity. They may lack individuality, personality, curiosity, morality, and all the rest, but they're never alone. in a strange way, what this really sets up for is a classic '50s movie, with the thing as an almost perfect representation of collectivism/communism. Of course, that would require Errol to join in the fight against it, an outcome that would make a great deal more sense both morally and dramatically. As is, the book only works intermittently, when Mr. Mosley gets carried away enough by his imagination to make us believe that at least he believes his creation is worth caring about.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (C)

  

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See also:

Walter Mosley (3 books reviewed)
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Walter Mosley Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Walter Mosley (Time Warner Book Group)
    -EXCERPT: from The Wave by Walter Mosley
    -FEATURED AUTHOR : Walter Mosley (NY Times Book Review)
    -BOOKNOTES : Author : Walter Mosley Title : Workin' on the Chain Gang: Shaking Off the Dead Hand of History. (C-SPAN)
    -REVIEW: of TWO CITIES By John Edgar Wideman (Walter Mosley, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of FUGITIVE NIGHTS by Joseph Wambaugh (Walter Mosley, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of CYBERPUNK Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier. By Katie Hafner and John Markoff (Walter Mosley, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Writers on Writing series, Walter Mosley talks about the first important lesson the writer must learn: "Writing a novel is gathering smoke." (NY Times Book Review)
    -INTERVIEW : Working on the Chain Gang : Walter Mosley examines what a world without consumer capitalism might look like (Online Newshour, PBS)
    -ESSAY : Power and Knowledge in Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress (Marilyn C.  Wesley, African American Review, March 22 2001)
    -PROFILE: Socrates of the streets: Raised in South Central LA, Walter Mosley dropped out of college and worked in computers. After taking a writing course, he penned a series of best-selling mysteries which drew plaudits from Bill Clinton. But his new book, a critique of the US war on terror, finds little favour among America's current political establishment. (Maya Jaggi, September 6, 2003, The Guardian)
    -PROFILE: Black male authors: smart, sexy & successful (Nikitta A. Foston, Dec 2002, Ebony)
   
   
-ARCHIVES: "walter mosley" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW: of The Wave by Walter Mosley (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley (Herbert Mitgang, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review) -REVIEW: of A Red Death by Walter Mosley (Herbert Mitgang, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of White Butterfly by Walter Mosley (Herbert Mitgang, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Black Betty by Walter Mosley (Barry Gifford, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of RL'S DREAM By Walter Mosley (Gary Giddins, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED, ALWAYS OUTGUNNED By Walter Mosley (Richard Bernstein, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED, ALWAYS OUTGUNNED By Walter Mosley (Sven Birkets, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Blue Light by Walter Mosley (Nicholas Blincoe, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Blue Light by Walter Mosley (Mel Watkins, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Walkin' the Dog by Walter Mosley (Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Walkin' the Dog by Walter Mosley (Adam Goodheart, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Fearless Jones by Walter Mosley (Richard Bernstein, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Fearless Jones by Walter Mosley (Jesse Berrett, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Futureland by Walter Mosley (NIKKI DILLON, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosley (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosley (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Fear Itself by Walter Mosley (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Little Scarlet by Walter Mosley (Duncan Campbell, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Little Scarlet (Tatiana Siegel, USA Today)
    -REVIEW: of Little Scarlet (Valerie Wilson Wesley, Essence)
    -REVIEW: of Little Scarlet (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Cinnamon Kiss by Walter Mosley (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley (Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley (Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, Crisis)
    -REVIEW: of The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley (Robert MacFarlane, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley (Janet Maslin, NY Times)

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