Summary and book reviews of Luminarium by Alex Shakar

Luminarium

A Novel

by Alex Shakar

Luminarium
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2011, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2012, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Chapter 1

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...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

Full Review Members Only (671 words).

Media Reviews

The Washington Post

…The great pleasure of Shakar's writing, besides his luxuriously cool style, is his ability to weave old metaphysical issues through a plot electrified with contemporary details.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Part Philip K. Dick, part Jonathan Franzen, this radiant work leads you from the unreal to the real so convincingly that you begin to let go of the distinction.

Booklist

Starred Review. With beguiling characters trapped in ludicrous and revelatory predicaments, this is a cosmic, incisively funny kaleidoscopic tale of loss, chaos, and yearning.

Kirkus Reviews

Virtual and 'real' reality intertwine in unpredictable ways in this ingenious novel... Shakar succeeds in a delicate balancing act here, securing the novel simultaneously (and paradoxically) in real, virtual and supernatural worlds.

Author Blurb Dave Eggers
Luminarium is dizzyingly smart and provocative, exploring as it does the state of the present, of technology, of what is real and what is ephemeral. But the thing that separates Luminarium from other books that discuss avatars, virtual reality and the like is that Alex Shakar is committed throughout with trying, relentlessly, to flat-out explain the meaning of life. This book is funny, and soulful, and very sad, but so intellectually invigorating that you'll want to read it twice.

Author Blurb Deb Olin Unferth, author of Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War
This fascinating, hilarious novel, though set in the past, is the story of the future: technology has outlapped us, reality is blinking on and off like a bad wireless connection, the ones we love are nearby in one sense, but far away in another. Yet at the book's galloping heart, it's the story of what one man is willing to go through to find - in our crowded, second-rate space - something like faith. This novel is sharp, original, and full of energy - obviously the work of a brilliant mind.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The "God Helmet"

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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