Thursday, August 2, 2018

John Saul, Asylum (1997)

Saul, John. Asylum. New York: Fawcett Crest, June 1997.

The Stereoscope at Goodreads
The Stereoscope at ISFdb

Part One: The Doll
Part Two: The Locket
Part Three: The Dragon's Flame
Part Four: The Handkerchief
Part Five: The Stereoscope

Rating:     4/10

And the hexalogy closes with a whimper. The final book of Saul's Blackstone Chronicles completes the serialized work as expected, since throughout the series there has been only one logical suspect behind the distribution of the asylum artifacts. I did not mind the explanation and can even forgive the sickeningly overt sentimental closure as it is in keeping with the rest of the text, but there is an immense flaw in this final entry that I cannot overlook.

The revelatory explanation for the strange events that have occurred in the town of Blackstone is altogether rational, and yet the events themselves are depicted as being supernatural. Therefore, the explanation contradicts the events they are attempting to explain.

For further explanation, here be spoilers:

The overarching plot deals with a number of objects mysteriously delivered to residents of Blackstone, and each of these objects leads to the downfall of the recipient and his or her family. Some of these objects, the doll and the locket, result in a kind of possession of a family member, whereas the handkerchief and the stereoscope cause characters to experience vivid hallucinations. The possession of these objects is the direct link to the downfall of the recipients, therefore there is a supernatural element at work, enabling these objects to psychologically disrupt the otherwise mentally stable victims. The only other alternative is to accept a series of incredible coincidences. As in, the people who received these objects, all five of them, just happened to go nuts shortly after coming into their possession.

There is nothing supernatural about the items that were distributed, nor about the person distributing them, and yet the presence of these objects resulted in supernatural occurrences. Perhaps if Saul had created a universe in which unusual occurrences are commonplace, we can buy these events. Instead, his world of small town life is too realistic and rational, as he depicts financial audits and traditional community history and relationships. This world is as real as our own, and we are nonetheless expected to believe that otherworldly events can enter this all-too-rational universe.

And now that my article is done I will go teleport to the park.

For more of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books, simply link to them telepathically. Or visit Todd Mason's blog.

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