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Described simply as “A Novel” in its subtitle, Puck is really something quite more than that. A fictional story, yes, but also a tour of some of the “weirder” aspects of Gene’s universe — and mine.
I won’t try to describe much that goes on, save to say that the story takes places in two parallel(?) universes, and sometimes in the spaces between them. You got your swords ‘n’ wizards fantasy adventure, you got your romance, you got your mystery and intrigue, you got your modern psychological drama, you got your science fiction — everything, indeed, that one could ask for in a modern novel.
But there’s more…
Puck is a book on several different levels. It’s loaded with references to mythology, anarchism, religious traditions, history, the odder bits of physics and a whole bunch of classical literature to boot. I consider myself a fairly learned guy, but Mr. Gene has been treading this planet a bit longer than I have, and his learning shines through brilliantly. To paraphrase another great novelist: this book is like a mirror; if a monkey looks in, no Korzybski looks out.
From page 105:
[Doc and Sophia] shared several passion-filled years, but by the time Doc was finishing graduate school — when the loudest political voices in the Village were proclaiming that AIDS was a government plot against the gay and minority communities, and were fighting pitched battles with the police over control of Tompkin’s Square Park — he had grown disillusioned with what he had come to regard as the posturing of bored, rich kids. It wasn’t that he had no sympathy for their grievances, but rather that he now perceived their activism as more a palliative for their own boredom and frustration than as a real attempt to address the injustices that were their purported motivation. He suspected that their protests were a contemporary manifestation of the same impulse that had motivated Uncle Franz’s Cabala studies. The radicals he knew seemed to believe that if only they could arrange their political slogans in accord with some occult formula, then the ruling elite peacefully would release the reins of power, liberate the masses, dismantle the military-industrial complex, and sow flower gardens over the obsolete missile silos.
Read with caution, ready to remember just how flimsy your paradigms are, and just how liable they are to slip, like flimsy masks, off the face of reality.