Do you feel... Your life is without purpose? Your days are without meaning? There's something about existence you're just not getting?
Fred Brounian and his twin brother, George, were once co-CEOs of a burgeoning New York City software company devoted to the creation of utopian virtual worlds. Now, in the summer of 2006, as two wars rage and the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, George has fallen into a coma, control of the company has been wrenched away by a military contracting conglomerate, and Fred has moved back in with his parents. Broke and alone, he's led by an attractive woman, Mira, into a neurological study promising to give him "peak" experiences and a newfound spiritual outlook on life. As the study progresses, lines between the subject and the experimenter blur, and reality becomes increasingly porous. Meanwhile, Fred finds himself caught up in what seems at first a cruel prank: a series of bizarre emails and texts that purport to be from his comatose brother.
Picture yourself stepping into a small, cuboid room. In the center
squats an old recliner, upholstered in black vinyl. To the chair's back
is affixed a jointed metal arm, possibly on loan from a desk lamp. At
the end of the arm, where the bulb and shade would have gone, hangs
instead a sparkly gold motorcycle helmet, a vintage, visorless number
with a chin strap.
"It's safer than it looks," the woman standing beside you says, with an edge of humor. Her eyes and hair verge on black, her skin on white. Her voice has a hoarseness you might associate with loud bars and lack of sleep, but other things about her - from her black skirt and blouse to her low, neatly fastened ponytail - suggest alarm clocks and early-morning jogs. Her name is Mira, short on the i. Mira Egghart.
Safe isn't the first word that comes to mind. A dozen or so symmetrical holes have been bored into the helmet's shell, and from each of these holes protrudes a small metal cylinder, and from the...
Luminarium may not be for every reader, but if you like to feel the intelligence of the author behind a story that addresses contemporary subjects, conveyed in some of the most consummate prose I have read, this one is for you!
(Reviewed by Judy Krueger).
When Fred puts on the "God helmet" in Luminarium he is participating in an experiment into Neurotheology, a fairly new scientific field of research into the relationship between the brain and spiritual experiences. The first investigations studied brain wave patterns in the late 1950s. As the technology for brain study advanced, so did neurotheology.
During the 1980s, Dr. Michael Persinger, a leader in the field, set out to demonstrate that stimulation of the temporal lobes could "cause" a spiritual episode. His main tool was the Koren Helmet (named for Stanley Koren of Laurentian University's Neuroscience Department who built it according to specifications provided by Dr. Persinger), which applies complex, irregular ...
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