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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Glass Soup

Jonathan Carroll

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To purchase Glass Soup

Title: Glass Soup
Author: Jonathan Carroll
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005
Length: 317 pages
Availability: Glass Soup - US
Glass Soup - UK
Glass Soup - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B- : yet another adventure with (yawn) the fate of the universe in the balance

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times . 11/12/2005 Anne Boles Levy

  From the Reviews:
  • "Now if only Carroll could jettison the windy passages, such as when a talking polar bear describes the universe, minor characters announce why they're there or Isabelle and Vincent dissect every discovery. Carroll's explanations can rob his fictional world of some of its wonder, but that may be a necessary flaw in a dreamscape so heavily reliant on symbols and made-up metaphysics." - Anne Boles Levy, The Los Angeles Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Glass Soup continues the story from White Apples, but can stand on its own as well. Pregnant Isabelle Neukor and Anjo in her womb, as well as raised-from-the-dead Vincent Ettrich are again central to the story -- and the story is, again, about the fate of the universe. Though small stories interest Carroll -- this, like all his novels, is full of side-stories about people who are obsessives about one thing or another, or engage in some quirky activity, etc. -- but he can't leave be and insists on tackling the biggest of all questions too.
       Glass Soup begins promisingly enough on that life/afterlife divide. There are a lot of dead people here, but death isn't quite what we -- or certainly they -- imagine it, and not all of them catch on right away what it means to have passed away. Once god shows up -- admittedly in creative guise (but the going theory here is that he -- or at least his manifestation -- is tailored to the person meeting him) -- things do go downhill. Apparently there's a problem in the universe, a struggle between what amounts to the forces of good and evil, order and Chaos (with a capital 'C'), blah blah blah.
       It's a demanding premise that's been done to death and for it to work at all an author has to bring something new to the table. Carroll is up to his usual tricks, some of which are quite good, but this is just too much to handle.
       A major problem is one of the central plot devices, allowing some movement between life and afterlife -- Isabelle has the power, but of course even that's not as straightforward as going from one room to another, and is fraught with other dangers. The virtual reality afterlife has the potential not just to fool the dead, making for the possibility of major complications and disasters -- especially if Isabelle gives birth in the wrong place .....
       It gets to be a fairly convoluted story too, for a relatively short novel. Carroll often does his scenes very nicely, and springs his surprises on the readers quite effectively (characters not being quite what they seem, among other things). But it's a big puzzle he's piecing together, and sometimes he seems to be making up the rules as he goes, making for some odd fits. (He also offers the obligatory excuse: "There is no more rule book anymore. Only survival of the fittest and no more rules.") Just because the fate of the universe is at stake doesn't make the book weightier -- in fact, the high stakes probably hurt the book far more than they help it.
       And it would be great to see a Carroll book which doesn't come burdened with a 'meaningful' title that is only eventually explained in the text .....
       There are quite a few good bits, but also an (un)fair amount of hokum. Those who enjoyed the fanciful aspects of Carroll's previous fiction will presumably also like this; newcomers to Carroll might want to start elsewhere.

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Glass Soup:
  • Tor publicity page
Reviews: Jonathan Carroll: Other books by Jonathan Carroll under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Jonathan Carroll was born in 1949. He graduated from Rutgers University and the University of Virginia, and has lived most his life in Vienna, Austria, where he teaches at the American International School.

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