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Inside a Silver Box


Inside a Silver Box

Walter Mosley is one those consummate literary eclectics whose vast art causes genuine pain to anyone obliged to classify it. His just-published novel, INSIDE A SILVER BOX, is a riveting example of genre non-compliance. Marketed simply as “fiction,” this wildly imaginative tale of multiple dimensions, reconfigured lives, disembodied spirits and surreal physics encompasses an astonishing spectrum of traits found in science fiction, magic realism, zombie lore, speculative writing, ancient quest epics, theater of the absurd and more.

Genre identity aside, INSIDE A SILVER BOX will challenge a multitude of other assumptions readers might bring to a tale about timeless mystery, impending doom and limitless potential --- because whatever the archetypal Silver Box really is, Mosley creates beyond any sense of boundaries we humans associate with even the simplest geometric shapes. Box, amoeba, cosmic string…it doesn’t matter; he imagines outside empirical physical dimensions as we know them, twisting our senses with one startling move after another.

"...a riveting example of genre non-compliance.... INSIDE A SILVER BOX is engagingly deceptive in its own form and structure as well. It reads at a lightning-fast pace, thanks to Mosley’s refined and athletically efficient prose..."

And he does it all through a pair of initially unsuspecting New Yorkers who are so typical of their cultures --- Lorraine (white, privileged, professional) and Ronnie (black, street-raised ex- and present con) --- that it’s hard to take them seriously, even as paperback romance characters. When a tragically typical Central Park mugging goes wrong, however, the whole universe changes shape and the scene of Lorraine’s apparent murder by Ronnie becomes a thin place in the cosmos where strange entities move back and forth, determining the fate of a wholly unmindful human civilization.

Thanks to the intervention of the dimensionless Silver Box and its zombie-like ambassadors, victim and killer strangely merge into two new and better beings sharing one another’s personalities, fears, abilities, emotions and ideals, but amplified to the nth degree. Transformed into tentative but increasingly committed superheroes, Lorraine and Ronnie, whose mismatching encompasses so many levels beyond the obvious interracial one, are given the formidable assignment of protecting humanity, and Earth itself, from a threat whose true identity and capacity defies comprehension.

The weirdest yet most compelling aspect of INSIDE A SILVER BOX is that one never quite knows whether they succeed or fail. Nor do we ever get a solid intellectual or philosophical hold on the nature of good and evil as encompassed by the indeterminate borders of the invisible but very present “enemy.” The ambiguity of it all is fascinating and oddly reassuring. Suffice it to say that some kind of temporary cosmic reprieve happens…accidentally, sort of, maybe.

Mosley’s exploration of the impossible gives us pause when we find ourselves, like pre-transformed Lorraine, so easily able to place everything we experience into definite controllable categories; or, like first-version Ronnie, hopelessly drift along, distrustful of anything that might bring sense, meaning or accountability to human existence.

INSIDE A SILVER BOX is engagingly deceptive in its own form and structure as well. It reads at a lightning-fast pace, thanks to Mosley’s refined and athletically efficient prose, but speed is also a subversive means of impressing upon the humble reader that it takes a bit of courage to slow down the word-machine and ponder the imponderable. This is a brilliant challenge for anyone with a yearning to bend some mental contours.

Reviewed by Pauline Finch on January 30, 2015

Inside a Silver Box
by Walter Mosley

  • Publication Date: January 12, 2016
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books
  • ISBN-10: 0765375222
  • ISBN-13: 9780765375223