Readers like to know where they are when a book begins, and in '2012:
The War for Souls', Whitley Strieber tells you right off the bat.
Martin Winters is beneath the Pyramid of Khufu, using new technology
to determine just when the structure was built. He's been working
on a number of ancient sites in Egypt and South America of late,
and he's not yet published his findings for fear he'll be laughed
out of the academic world. Beneath Khufu, he hopes and fears he'll
find more of the same, and he's not exactly inclined to rock the
world. The world however, is not shy about rocking him,
and in the aftermath, the reader starts to notice that the tunnels
beneath Khufu are perhaps the most familiar place they're going to
encounter. When characters pass the emerald arches of Mickey
D's, we're finally sure that we're not in Kansas anymore.
Except when we are. '2012: The War for Souls' has more than a few good
ideas rattling around, jumbled up with literally every single so-called "New-Age" conspiracy
theory you have ever read about, heard or seen scrawled on a restroom
wall. '2012' has scenes of spectacular destruction, visions of heaven
and hell and more intentional jokes at the author's own expense than
you'd ever expect. Coherence on a prose level is but one of the many
sacrifices made to the Deity Formerly Known As Satan. Readers who are
willing to gloss over occasional lapses in continuity for the sake of
a pace that annihilates or nearly annihilates not one, not two but three
worlds in a mere 300-something pages will find that Strieber's latest
novel is a lucky bag where everyone wins and everyone loses Real Big.
The novel is a fascinating prose product, sometimes craftily written
and cleverly constructed, while at other times it seems to be a slipshod
mish-mash of disaster movie clichés dashed off by an over-caffeinated
Hollywood hack. From the get-go, nobody will be able to accuse Strieber
of lacking ambition. A special effects laden spectacular start with the
aforementioned archaeologist takes place not on our world, as we're led
to suspect, but on a parallel "two-moon" Earth. On that version
of earth, on November 21, 2012, fourteen gigantic black lenses emerge
from fourteen sacred sites. This is clearly the lead-in for whatever
is going to transpire on December 21, 2012, the end of time according
to the Mayan Calendar. Martin Winters may have a hand in either preventing
it or helping it come to pass.
But on what nominally passes for our world, Martin's story is only a
story. It's the latest novel by disgraced Sci-Fi author "Wylie Dale," who
clutched fifteen minutes of fame when he wrote a supposedly non-fiction
book about being anally probed by aliens. Unfortunately, this novel is
writing itself. Wylie can't stop himself from writing it, he can't erase
the computer file and he's becoming increasingly certain that his latest
book is in fact a chronicle of events happening on a parallel Earth.
understandably, is becoming impatient with his latest trip.
Readers on the other hand will find Wiley a pretty damn delightful creation.
Strieber doesn't spare himself in '2012'. He relentlessly lampoons his
own work, and it’s quite amusing to read these portions of the
novel. Dale and his family – who do live in Kansas, the geographical
center of the US – are pretty fun to be around. And as a written
construct, these portions of '2012' are, if not sophisticated, at least
an interesting literary device. They’re not the usual stuff of
blowin'-up-shit bestseller fiction.
This is not to say that '2012' lacks the usual blowin'-up-shit passages,
or that those portions are particularly well-written. As events unfold
in first one world, then two, then three, Strieber lapses into chase
scenes where readers are told to feel terror that is not
present in the prose. And when you have parallel worlds with characters
who are remarkably similar, the writer has to be clear as to who is who.
Strieber seems to think he can sprint past these niceties, and perhaps
he can. But the promising early portions with their clever constructions
soon seem to be crammed into a cannon and fired in the general direction
of the Big Book of New Age Conspiracy Theories.
While '2012' is certainly not Strieber's first novel, in one respect
it certainly reads like one. It's got everything in it. This
is actually sort of fun. There are so many fringe theories alluded to
and included in the plot of this
novel that a bibliography of the sources would probably be longer than
the novel itself. Shape-shifting extra-dimensional reptiles in the White
House, the UFOs of God, Your Eternal Soul, Hell on Earth and Earth as
Hell – it's practically non-fiction. To his credit, and perhaps
simply as a result of the fact that Strieber's trying to make a small
batch of Ultimate Stew, none of these things, with the exception of Love,
Love, Love, is taken particularly seriously. But readers who want the
entire Encyclopedia of Weird and Unusual Beliefs to be included in a
short, action-packed novel need look no further.
'2012: The War for Souls' plays with cool concepts, has some fun plot
twists and employs inventive literary tweaks. It's a wild-eyed, late
night preacher of a novel, weirdly entertaining, mildly incoherent and
prone to make the reader laugh at it as often as with it. Or maybe that's
all by design. Maybe it's all a conspiracy. If anyone is going to get
a gig working with the shape-shifting reptiles in the White House, it's
going to be Strieber. Make us laugh at the destruction of the world will
you? It's just a novel from that probed-by-aliens guy, right? Sure,
just a novel. No need to worry. You may or may not be in Kansas anymore,
but you know where you are. Just hope the person writing the story of
your life isn't a horror novelist.