Monday, July 26, 2010

Skinquake: A Novel

Eric Mattingly
Lulu (2010)
ISBN 9780557267170
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views

The subject of Eric Mattingly's "Skinquake" captured my attention immediately. Without any fanfare or a lengthy introduction Eric introduces Randy Jones in the throes of waking up to the sound of birds "chanting."

Randy is a 32-year-old computer language prodigy, a self-employed consultant. He works from home, earns lots of money. The one thing missing in Randy's life is the ability to identify with an ethnic background. He is an amalgamation of mixed races and cultures and does not fit into any niche.

Nearly obsessed with this lack of belonging, and a sense of feeling excluded, Randy withdraws from social contacts and conducts his business using the computer and telephone contacts. Randy became deeply involved in metaphysical reading in his search for answers. Plagued with unresolved emotions and nightly dreams which left him out of sorts and restless Randy is confronted by a talking shampoo bottle named Clint. This event nearly pushes Randy over the edge as he fears for his sanity.

Karen, his girlfriend, of six years, has asked Randy to take charge of her small upscale coffee shop for a week while she vacations with her mother. In some strange way Randy finds satisfaction in helping Karen. He has done it in the past on a few occasions. He enjoys observing the customers. The experience gives him a certain "situational fluidity" in meeting the service needs of Karen's patrons. 

While working at the coffee shop he is re-united with four college dorm friends. He visits with customers from another time and place, metaphysical savants: one from a people of fire, another from a people of water, seen by many as a metaphysical representation of the flow of the collective mind and the collective unconscious. He also becomes intrigued by the concept of hearing the pulse of the earth, and the relation of time and space.  His week at the coffee house includes an experience in telekinesis, and an unexplainable thirst for knowledge and understanding while on the edge of losing any semblance of sanity. His fear of losing his mind reaches a "critical pitch."

Eric has chosen the medium of fiction and Randy his protagonist to demonstrate how we are a people between sanities. He put Randy in situations where he is confronted with his own multiple personalities, the ideals of celebrating diversity, the reality of his own ego, his self-absorption, selfishness, intolerance, and hatred. He tries to see culture in everything and race as illusory, arbitrary and irrelevant.

He is forced to consider being part of fostering understanding, while on a mission of peace, of healing by the conscious acceptance of a stranger, and other complex issues.
Inspired by the writings of Edgar Cayce, Lee Brown, Mary Summer Rain, the book of Genesis in the Bible, and the works of Rinpoche, Kupihea, and Carols Castaneda, Eric Mattingly has created a intricate plot which is entertaining, frightening, and thought-provoking.

Well-developed characters, a hint of romance, and a genuine empathy for Randy, the protagonist, captivated my imagination, drew me into the story, and challenged my thinking. "Skinquake" is addictive reading.

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live

Read interview with Eric Mattingly