Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Review: Walter Mosley. The Wave.

Michael Sedano

There was more than a little trepidation in my reach when I spotted the unfamiliar Walter Mosley title on the shelf. Clearly, the thin volume's blue spine didn't follow in the mystery writer's color series, Devil in a Blue Dress, A Little Yellow Dog, for example. But then, Blue Light had the color key going for it, but that was all.

In fact, my hesitation grew from the disappointment with Mosley's sci-fi piece about the trees and nature and stuff. I think I needed three weeks to get through Blue Light. I'm glad I kept an open mind. Walter Mosley's The Wave will prove a rewarding few hours.

What a story! Crank calls in the middle of the night. "So cold" the voice says. "Who are you?" the first person narrator demands. "Papa" the voice answers.

Turns out, the caller is Errol's father. Not exactly the same fellow who'd aged, wizened, and died from cancer. A young man who looks like papa looked in his twenties. And the young man has details only the father would know--or a bastard son Papa kept on the side.

Papa's clone has a fantasy about a wave that emanates from a dark cave deep in the earth. Errol has trouble separating the crazy man's fantasies from Errol's growing love for his father figure. And Errol's not the only family member in emotional turmoil: Errol's sister and Errol's mother are dumbstruck, but accept the man.

Less confused is a secret team of government soldier-scientists who know Errol's father has in fact come to the surface of earth from subterranean origins. And the government wants to know what Errol knows. So the horror begins. Errol is kidnaped and taken to a variety of prisons where other creatures are kept prisoner, or experimented upon.

The government jerks are convinced the earth is being invaded and these risen from dead people clones are working to take over all life on earth. The scientist general is going to stop the invasion by discovering some means to kill the seeming immortal invaders. Genocide is what Errol sees.

Mosley has always developed strong characters and ingenious plots. And his writing reliably gets a reader into the story and Mosley's people. The Wave, in this sense, is "typical" Mosley. For example, here's one of those Mosley gems:

The hatred that rose up in me, the anger that burned in my heart--it wasn't mine. I knew that as clearly as I knew the difference between my foot and the sock covering it. But for a moment rage and lust for retribution were all I knew. (95)

Less typical for Mosley is the absence of well-defined characters. This is not the fearless ingenuity of E.Z. Rawlins--though Errol talks and acts very much like E.Z.--nor the single-minded intensity of Napoleon Fortlow--though Errol lives in a converted garage very much like Fortlow and has a fierce single-mindedness to him.

Absent also from The Wave is the racial tension that informs Rawlins' and Fortlow's worlds. Papa is a black man, but mama comes from white Orange County stock. Errol's wife has left him to move in with a white man in New York. Then there's the wild sex with Krista, the general's wife, and the endless array of back from the dead lovers of all stripe.

The Wave is a fun offering from one of California's most scintillating writers. It's rewarding to see Mosley's sci-fi fingers developing strength. The Wave is a finished work that deserved a longer incubation. I will pick up the next Mosley sci-fi with no hesitation.

Have a great Independence Day, and see you next week!


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