Glass Soup

By Jonathan Carroll. Tor, $24.95.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

In Jonathan Carroll's latest novel, Isabelle and Vincent are in the midst of a complicated pregnancy. Their baby will apparently be healthy, but they've learned that once he's born, he'll have powers that could thwart a mythical force known as Chaos. Naturally, Chaos is unsettled.

Welcome to another one of Carroll's weird, wondrous worlds. The beginning and ending of Glass Soup, the sequel to 2002's White Apples, are both a bit disappointing, but the middle is such mind-torquing, imagination- distending fun that it's worth the jaunt. Carroll likes to mess with the concept of time and to blur the lines between life and death. Whether they choose to or don't, characters volley from everyday Vienna (where the American-born author lives ) to the dreamworld to the afterlife. Early in the novel, we learn that Isabelle retrieved Vincent from his own personal version of the hereafter. Chaos has been outwitted and is in a surly mood.

Though it's not necessary to have read White Apples to follow this sequel, it won't hurt, except in the realization that Glass Soup is a less successful book. Carroll is smart, brisk and funny, but his tendency to be glib shows through too much this time around ("[Leni's] thoughts, her words, her desire to tell John how she felt were all as lame as her bad leg now"). The new book is short on the believably romantic and spiritual sensibilities that gave its predecessor so much of its charm.

Fortunately, because Carroll often pulls off his visions of alternative worlds, it's not hard to get over the ones that don't fly. And despite its appetite for surreal landscapes, Glass Soup has some strong realistic passages, too. Carroll once more gives us credible portraits of women, particularly when he describes the bonds between Isabelle and two lifelong female friends. At moments like these, it's striking how much this far-fetched book's words ring true.—Jules Verdone