(Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

Glimmering follows Elizabeth Hand’s Nebula- and World Fantasy Award-winning novel of the supernatural, Wake the Moon (1995). The glimmering begins in March, 1997. The coincidence of a major solar flare with a manmade disaster destroys the ozone layer and changes the sky into an opaque light show similar to the northern lights. Other results include continuous disruptions of the earth’s magnetic field and of communications and electrical power, the disintegration of cities and governments, and the development of new diseases. Late twentieth century Western civilization begins to fall apart.

Hand avoids an epic approach of telling about heroes struggling to solve the new large-scale problems. Rather, she focuses mainly on the private lives of two men who respond differently to the new world. John “Jack” Finnegan is heir to a glass ornament fortune and a century-old literary magazine, The Gaudy Book. A victim of the computer age, the magazine has swallowed Jack’s dwindling fortune. By the time the glimmering begins, Jack has already experienced “the end of the world” in the decline of his fortune and work and in the loss of his long- time lover Eric and many other friends in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) plague. Suffering himself from AIDS, Jack continues hopelessly trying to prolong what good is left in his life.

His life’s direction alters when the multinational corporation Gorita-Fulham-Izod (GFI) offers to buy The Gaudy Book and when Leonard Thrope brings him a bottle of Fusax, claiming that it is a new AIDS drug. GFI seems to be the only functioning power center in the current chaos. Fusax arrests Jack’s AIDS, and money from the sale of his magazine allows him to live on at Lazyland, his Yonkers, New York, mansion. While the mansions around him are abandoned to squatters, he believes that he can live as he has for years with his grandmother and their aged housekeeper.

Trip Marlowe is the lead singer in a Christian rock band that has begun to achieve popularity in broader markets. Raised in a separatist religious community and managed by religious mentors, he has no experience in the secular world or in relating with women, although he is twenty-two years old. Sensing his power in audience reactions to his performances, he begins to resist the rigid control others exercise over his life. His resistance leads to his first sexual encounters with Marzana Chandry, the adopted teenage daughter of Nellie Chandry, in a planetarium. Nellie wants to sign Trip with Agrippa Music, one of the many subsidiaries of GFI. Consumed with guilt over his sexual fall, Trip nevertheless breaks away from his band and meets with the seemingly ubiquitous Leonard Thrope for a recording session. This session traumatizes Trip further when Leonard leads him into new degradations of sex and drugs. Trip returns to his home in Maine and attempts suicide by throwing himself into the ocean whirlpool where his mother killed herself. Miraculously surviving, he is found by Martin Dionysos. Martin nurses Trip back to health, falls in love with him, and out of this love carries Trip by sailboat back to New York. At that point, Trip decides to find and marry Marz, thus choosing to live an ordinary, responsible life.

Large-scale, epic responses to the environmental and related crises are kept mainly in the background, though at the end of the novel Jack finds himself cast as a player in this larger game. GFI emerges as the only world power capable of a technological response to the glimmering. The corporation has managed to amass and organize power and material resources that are increasingly scarce by means that are shadowy and, probably, ruthless and criminal. GFI develops technology that it claims can repair the damaged atmosphere. Opposed to GFI is Blue Antelope, a “terrorist” organization of religious and environmental groups that believes the glimmering expresses God’s will, that the apocalypse has arrived, and that humanity has earned its death. One of its goals is to sabotage GFI’s technology. Jack becomes a player when he learns about Blue Antelope’s plans and has an opportunity to warn GFI officials.

The third major factor in this game is Leonard Thrope, whom Jack characterizes as the lord of misrule. Leonard is a death artist, making and selling recordings of deaths of all kinds, such as suicides and the last members of endangered species. His work and interests seem to take him everywhere, so that he has the power to obtain and widely distribute Fusax, which proves to be...

(The entire section is 1872 words.)