Thursday, October 28, 2010


I rarely discover contemporary novels that combine intellectual ideas with intriguing human relationships, written in a readable fashion, but I recently read an intriguing novel by Gary Entsminger and Susan Elliott of Pinyon Publishing which combines science and mysticism with the story of humans struggling to work out their destiny in our mysterious universe. OPHELIA’S GHOST (2008) was written by the publisher and designer of CHANT OF DEATH (a mystery co-authored by me and Isabel Anders, published this year).

I was fascinated from start to finish with this compelling read which features an anthropologist, Eva, who goes missing from her camp in the southwest U.S. while she’s researching the Anasazi, a native American culture that disappeared from the U.S. during the 14th century. Her tracker, Joe Hill, with the aid of a field notebook, takes us on an incredible journey that includes UFO’s, Einstein, parallel universes, Shakespeare, Jung, the lost continent Atlantis, astronomy, and psychic consciousness, woven into a complex mix of disciplines and written by authors who are expert at capturing intellectual ideas without lapsing into pedantic prose. These ideas are presented within the construct of a broken relationship between Joe, the tracker and his former wife, Esperanza, a healer who used native-grown herbs to do her work, and his devotion to their daughter Nina who performs in "Hamlet" ( a fitting enactment by the immortal Shakespeare in this story of eternal ideas).  Nina introduces the reader to ghosts and questions about reality.

The authors use the device of Eva’s field journal to carry us into the world of divine knowledge, astronomy, and memory work, interspersed with speculations about the moon’s control over earth dwellers, and pictographs. Their prose is highly accessible and suspenseful as they convey the abovementioned complex ideas, and the reader is beset with moments of wonder and wondering.  

This is speculative fiction/mystery at its zenith, plunging the reader into other worlds where the physicists are desperate for something to believe in. Their theories have gone haywire since Einstein… The story takes place on Anasazi terrain, the Land of the Ancients, in Hovenweep (deserted valley), and the descriptions are as haunting as the mysterious disappearance of Eva and her search for the unknown: She heard the spring more clearly now and decided to search for the source of this water music. Pack on back, she carefully let herself down into the steep canyon. Violet swallows dived above her, while a fat horny lizard scurried at her feet. She watched the lizard a bit too long and forgot where she was; she lost her footing and slid. Her fingers dug into the ground to break her fall. …Once she was out, Eva rested on a boulder. A small blue butterfly fluttered into the patch of silvery lupines. Although only May, the lupines had already begun to produce hair seedpods. The butterfly flitted nervously around the remaining indigo blooms…

I liked the form of dialogue in OPHELIA’S GHOST – Joycean style, rendered without the impediments of quotation marks and “he saids,” “she saids” that often halt the action of most novels, e.g.:

--You’re saying that the Egyptians believed in spaceships?

--Nope. I’m not saying that exactly, but I’m also pretty sure that no one in our lifetimes, at least in mine, will ever be able to convince everyone about what went on with ancient cultures. Some historians think the Pharaoh journeyed to a launch site. And that’s not my claim, but a prestigious scholar’s who studies these things very seriously.

--Another reliable specialist?

--Yep, he says the Pharaoh would go into subterranean complexes, which seemed to be every which way you looked in that time, somewhere between 3000 and 10,000 B.C. So down he goes into this oddly vented underworld. I’ve seen some of the pictures. And in those recluses for oblivion, lit only by lanterns and reflected sunlight and moonlight, the Pharaoh was treated like the royalty he was and prepared for his trip to the next world…

Tantalizing? Yes, and at the conclusion of OPHELIA’S GHOST, we’re left still wondering about Eva’s disappearance, pondering the idea of ancestral control and just how far the Collective Conscious can take us in this life where we pass from world to world in a breathless spin via “ghosts.” We close the book, asking with the authors, how long have we been here? (p. 94 of OPHELIA’S GHOST).

This is cosmic mystery at its best, and it makes me even prouder that CHANT OF DEATH was published by the two intelligent authors with eclectic interests who created the magic of OPHELIA’S GHOST.
Post a Comment