Days after finishing Alex Shakar’s “Luminarium,” I’m still stumbling around the house in a mixture of wonder and awe. His new novel considers how our perceptions of the world are manipulated and controlled. I can’t claim to have understood all of it, but I did find it completely absorbing, and anyone hungry for a deeply philosophical novel that, nonetheless, maintains its humility will find here a story worth wrestling with.
You know who you are: You left “The Matrix” and “Inception” dazzled but wishing for a little less computer-generated wizardry and a lot more articulation of the movies’ ideas (which also indicates that you should never become a Hollywood producer). In “Luminarium” those ideas — about the nature of reality and the interplay of technology and perception — are explored with great care and maturity.
Rather than a trip back to your undergraduate bull sessions (cue the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin”), Shakar has set his story against the background of personal and national grief. The result is a strikingly metaphysical novel that never dematerializes into misty cliches, a book to challenge the mystic and the doubter alike.