Fred Brounian and his twin brother, George, were once co-CEOs of a New York City software company devoted to the creation of utopian virtual worlds. Now, in 2006, as two wars rage and the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, George is in a coma, control of the company has been wrenched away by a military contracting conglomerate, and Fred is broke. Near despair, he's led by an attractive woman, Mira, to a neurological study promising "peak" experiences and a newfound spiritual outlook on life.
As the study progresses, lines between subject and experimenter blur, and reality becomes increasingly porous. Meanwhile, Fred finds himself caught up in what seems at first a cruel prank: a series of bizarre emails and texts that purport to be from his comatose brother.
Moving between the research hospitals of Manhattan, the streets of a meticulously planned Florida city, the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, and the uncanny, immersive worlds of urban disaster simulation; threading through military listserv geek-speak, Hindu cosmology, the maxims of outmoded self-help books, and the latest neuro-scientific breakthroughs, Luminarium is a brilliant exploration of the way we live now, a novel that's as much about the role technology and spirituality play in shaping our reality as it is about the undying bond between brothers, and the redemptive possibilities of love.
I found this book fascinating and compelling throughout. Don't be put off by the fact that every review seems to mention The Matrix and Inception. I'm an old school reader (read elderly) who has no wish to see either of those movies a second time. This is very good writing on timeless human mysteries. I wish this author long life and many more books.
I'm surprised to find myself giving the reader five stars, because there were some jarring almost dyslexic misreadings of particular words and syntax, but in the end it seemed the perfect voice for the book.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
During the mid-2000s, Fred struggles in the aftermath of losing both his twin brother, George, to a cancer-induced coma, and the technology company the two men created together. His engagement is broken, and he's living with his parents. To earn a little extra money, he (rather improbably) agrees to participate in a study that involves inducing states of "spiritual transcendence" by stimulating parts of the brain.
This is an intelligent, very well-written book about the nature of reality and the ways people find meaning in life. Unfortunately, the narrator isn't really equal to the task. The inflections in many line readings are off, suggesting that he doesn't really understand what's being said, and he mispronounces such common words as "mulish," "pique" and "amiable." It's possible that he just didn't prepare sufficiently, but at any rate, the performance did diminish my enjoyment of the book quite a bit.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
A better--and shorter--story, and a more forceful reading would have helped.
What could Alex Shakar have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
The story was a bit rambling. Too much work for the vague payoff at the end.
Would you be willing to try another one of Charles Carroll’s performances?
Yes, but I'm worried about some big misses in tone and pronunciation.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
Any additional comments?
Shakar's a very competent writer, if a little wordy, but this story is too rambling and repetitive to hold the listener's interest for long. At the end my only thought was,