Sean Stewart , Resurrection Man (Ace, 1995)

When We Were Very Jung: The Resurrection Man

Resurrection Man is a story of family relationships in an alternate universe.

Dante Ratkay comes from the ultimate dysfunctional family.  His aunt Sophie is a witch, his long-vanished uncle a wizard, his foster brother (or is he his cousin?) Jet is a changeling -- or perhaps merely a psychic projection of Dante's dark side -- his father is a rationalist in a society that runs on magic, and his sister Sarah is the sort of stand-up comic who gives mimes a good name.

Dante lives in an alternate universe that is late twentieth century America with a difference.  In Dante's world, the dark, magical side of human nature has overwhelmed the old rational universe.  The inner cities are overrun by rampaging minotaurs, Feng Shui practitioners have taken the place of dot com millionaires as lords of the universe, and the psychically gifted "Angels" live on the fringes of society.  Angels are deemed necessary because of their ability to channel irrational forces, but they are distrusted and feared because of this power.

Dante is a man in denial.  He leads an aimless, unsatisfying existence.  His problems arise from the vast energy he squanders trying to suppress his hidden nature.  Dante is an "Angel" with tremendous, often uncontrollable psychic powers.  Dante's gift is unusual even among angels; in addition to the standard complement of angelic gifts -- mind reading, telepathy, causing animate and inanimate objects to materialize -- Dante can bring the dead to life.

Dante's psychic powers make him the ideal person to unravel the mystery of his foster brother Jet's parentage and to break the curse that was laid on Jet in infancy.  Dante at first is unwilling to do this because it would force him to use the "dark gifts" that terrify him.  It is only when his own corpse materializes in his bedroom that Dante realizes that he must cut to the heart of himself -- he literally autopsies his own corpse -- to discover the family's secrets and save himself and the family from the old curse that haunts them.  Like his namesake, Dante's search for the truth leads him to "Hell" (headquarters of the fallen angel, "Jewel") and back.

Sean Stewart says that Resurrection Man was inspired by a dream he'd had of someone autopsying himself.  It's not surprising then that Resurrection Man has all the strengths and weaknesses of a dream scenario. Like the images in dreams, Stewart's writing is haunting, sometimes terrifying and often oddly beautiful.  His description of Dante studying his own corpse is the perfect example of this:

"In death, his pale skin was white as frost.  His long white fingers looked sinister and strange.  He imagined them creeping away, each hand a clumsy white spider crawling over the gunnels and dropping from the old rowboat to scuttle out of sight, hiding behind the old oars and buckets of paint, the aluminum boat pails and fishing poles and dissembled Mercury outboard motor."

Plotting is not a strong point.  The logic in Resurrection Man is dream logic.  Things happen without explanation, story threads are abandoned and the action often seems confused or contradictory.

Readers who love a coherent, well-crafted plot may want to give Resurrection Man a miss.  On the other hand, those who like poetic prose, vivid images and an atmosphere of mystery will enjoy reading it.

[Liz Milner]

Chapter One of Resurrection Man, as well as the author's notes and other assorted treats,
can be found on Sean Stewart's Web site.