Wave of Mutilation by Douglas Lain

19 Oct

A dream-pop exploration of modern architecture and the American identity, Wave of Mutilation is a Zen finger trap for the 21st century.

It is the eve of the 2001 presidential election. Christian and his wife have traveled back to Tennessee to attend his father’s funeral. When Christian picks up the phone attached to an atom bomb exhibit at the American Museum of Science and Energy, he finds the ghost of his father on the other end of the line. His father’s ghost warns him that a rift in the world has opened and that unreality is leaking out.

Cast into a world with no more illusions, Christian descends into an Escher-like grid of paranoia and comical absurdity. As polls close and votes are counted then re-counted, his wife begins coughing up eggs. Then, back home in Portland, they are forced at gunpoint to join a neighborhood block party. Convinced that she no longer exists, Christian’s wife splits herself open like a clockwork dummy and reveals that she is hollow inside, but she isn’t dead. In fact, she is still pregnant with their child.

In order to survive, they must transform the scenes of their past into a new reality, before the rest of humanity buries them in a wave of mutilation.


-The universe has a hole in it and reality is leaking out.  Who knew it would be this much fun?  Doug Lain’s Wave of Mutilation is the story of Christian and Samantha; a story that generates itself as it devours itself.  Its characters and surreal scenes are rendered with an engaging style and seem to have truths to tell us about relationships, politics, sex, the history of furniture.  At the same time, they convince us they are insubstantial, errant, nothing but the illusion of the world.  Terrific writing, good laughs, and the flawless execution of a fictional tightrope walk between “reality” and nothing. Wonderfully original! –JEFFREY FORD, World Fantasy Award winner

-In Wave of Mutilation, you will find echoes and shadings of J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, Tim Powers and Walker Percy (which is stepping in some high cotton).  Lain shares an obsessive fascination with the interface between technology and psychology, and has a keen eye for sharp juxtapositions (as in the contrast between eroticism and hygiene).  But what I admire especially is his grasp of the subtle and pervasive mood of paranoia and melancholy that haunts our digitalized era–an elusive sense of spiritual desolation complicated by the ghostly infestation of forces and presences we can never really understand.  An intellect and a questioner of literary forms, Lain is also a husbanding, fathering advocate for the Everyman in us all.  The result is curiously human and intimate–down to earth, even as the universe falls apart in our hands.-KRIS SAKNUSSEMM, author of Zanesville and Enigmatic Pilot

-Wave of Mutilation is brilliant: a Barthesian examination of structure, a reverse Russian nesting doll of increasing surreality and emotion. To find oneself alternately pondering the metafictional importance of a Sesame Street book and choking back the tears induced by a surprisingly human drama is a testament to Lain’s writing. I loved every sentence, every word. –J. DAVID OSBORNE, author of By the Time We Leave Here, We’ll Be Friends

-Wave of Mutilation is about what everything means. It’s what you get when the stuff in your head comes out to play — the love of your life floating in a motel swimming pool, unreality leaking from the world, block parties of identity destruction, and interstitial spaces where you might spot Donald from Mathmagic Land motioning you into a strange place between now and a distant childhood that might not even be yours. Lain’s writing is sharp and surprising. You’ll have a good time. –RAY VUKCEVICH, author of Meet Me in the Moon Room

-Go ahead, read WAVE OF MUTILATION-if you dare. Only, be warned: the space between fingers and page will vanish, text and meta-text sixty-nine, and (like the protagonists) you’ll find yourself on both sides of your eyeballs. True, Douglas Lain examines the higher resonances of architecture and politics, the lawn chair, googie design, the Gore-Bush Florida vote count kafuffle, all linked, we discover, to a leakage of reality consequent to a nuclear accident, but this book is really an epistemological inquiry into the bases of everyday perception, a wacky yarn pushing at the borders of science fiction like acne, eczema, elephantiasis, or _anuttara samyak sambodhi._ It’s a mutation, folks, another species of fiction. – ELLIOT FINTUSHEL, author ofBreakfast with the Ones You Love

-Wave of Mutilation is incredible. I loved it. A Proust-like intellectual obsessive-compulsive display. There is a historical moment, and a set of archetypal characters, that eternally recur in Lain’s writings with Nietszchean regularity. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s one of the things that sets Lain apart. Lain is a fantasy writer who has a dearly beloved fantasy world and who explores it in obsessive detail, but his fantasy world is his own mind. He’s painting a hyperrealist portrait of the inside of his own head using concise language to make real all the stuff that usually feels uncomfortably amorphous. –MK HOBSON, author of  The Native Star

-Wave of Mutilation is classic Douglas Lain, dancing about architecture on undercurrents of love, despair and politics. He yokes magic realism and science fiction in harness together to instantiate a trenchant cultural critique that is at once almost maddeningly oblique and a bellwether call to arms stretching from Florida to Oregon to the end of the world. Highly recommended for long-time Lain fans and first time readers alike. –JAY LAKE, author of Escapement



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