Title: Bathing the Lion
Author: Jonathan Carroll
No. of Pages: 288
Genre: Science Fiction
Origins: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: 21 October 2014
Bottom Line: Weird and wonderful
“In Jonathan Carroll’s surreal masterpiece, Bathing the Lion, five people who live in the same New England town go to sleep one night and all share the same hyper-realistic dream. Some of these people know each other; some don’t.
When they wake the next day all of them know what has happened. All five were at one time ‘mechanics,’ a kind of cosmic repairman whose job is to keep order in the universe and clean up the messes made both by sentient beings and the utterly fearsome yet inevitable Chaos that periodically rolls through, wreaking mayhem wherever it touches down—a kind of infinitely powerful, merciless tornado. Because the job of a mechanic is grueling and exhausting, after a certain period all of them are retired and sent to different parts of the cosmos to live out their days as “civilians.” Their memories are wiped clean and new identities are created for them that fit the places they go to live out their natural lives to the end.
For the first time all retired mechanics are being brought back to duty: Chaos has a new plan, and it’s not looking good for mankind…”
Thoughts: Bathing the Lion is one of those novels that is practically impossible to describe. The plot is fairly nebulous, slippery when trying to explain it and very fluid. There is very little explanation about the life of a mechanic, their origins, or any other aspect of their backstory. Readers only get as much information as is necessary to explain certain scenes and nothing more. The characters themselves are varied but surprisingly developed even before they start remembering bits of their past. This helps maintain a reader’s interest when things start getting a bit odd. If anything, it is best to go into the story with an open mind and heart and just experience it as it unfolds.
In spite of not being able to adequately describe it, Bathing the Lion is a weird and wonderful novel. One cannot read it quickly because it is rather intricate, no matter how much one wants to rush through the wonderful sentences and astute observations about mankind. There are some fantastic statements about life and love, and those readers who keep track of favorite passages will find much to savor. The story itself gets a little quirky, with its dreams and flips, but each new scene adds another layer to the story which is worth any confusion a reader might have. The ending itself is rather abrupt, but upon reflection, it ends beautifully with hope, peace, and serenity. The scientific fantasy element of Bathing the Lion may turn off some potential readers, and the abrupt shifts in time may discourage others. Those who persevere though will find a delightful, quirky novel that truly captures what it means to be human.