Solving the Communion Enigma: What Is To Come
Tarcher Books / Penguin Putnam
US Hardcover First Edition
Publication Date: 01-05-2012
218 Pages; $25.95
Date Reviewed: 03-10-2012
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2012
We can't help but suspect there is something more to our existence than what we see. One of the best ways to explore that suspicion is to read. The meditative aspect of reading reflects to a degree our involvement in something important but immaterial, hard to pin down. Books that take the immaterial, the elusive as their subject are most certainly the best reading material when you wish to immerse yourself in what we might call the "otherworld."
Whitley Strieber has been talking about the otherworld in his writing from the beginning, first as fiction, then, later, as non-fiction and autobiography. His latest book in this regard is 'Solving the Communion Enigma: What Is To Come,' which one might presume to be a direct follow-on to 'Communion.' This is sort of true; in this book Strieber does examine the events described in 'Communion,' and some that took place both before and after, all of them otherworldly. But while there is a lot of autobiography here, and a lot of truly chilling moments, with 'Solving the Communion Enigma,' Strieber is casting a wider net. With his latest work of non-fiction, Strieber strives to come up with a unified field theory for the otherworld, drawing from his personal experiences and those of others to step back and get a bigger picture. But Strieber is ever a contrarian. For him, the solution lies not in answers, but in questions.
'Solving the Communion Enigma' is pretty short, just over 200 pages, and divided into three sections, "The Mystery," "The Extreme Strangeness of the Evidence," and "Caterpillar and Butterfly: Lifting the Veil." He revisits some of the events of 'Communion,' and others that took place earlier in his life. The idea is to put the whole series of event, indeed, the vision of the events, into a bigger context. He explores well beyond his own life, talking about UFO sightings, crop circles, animal mutilations. It's almost a survey, a compendium of strange stuff that is presented with little comment, leaving the reader to explore the implications.
Strieber does not abandon autobiography. 'Solving the Communion Enigma' gives us a fairly raw portrait of a best-selling writer who hits the skids. It's understandable. When 'Communion' was published, there had been nothing like it. Many took it as science fiction, or hoax, or looked at the cover and saw something from their own nightmares. Two more big-selling books followed, but when Strieber was unable to cough up a grey to join him on Oprah, his fortunes started to fall. His books stopped selling. All this real-world economic unhappiness makes a curious counterpoint for Strieber's adventures with the otherworld. It's certainly interesting to read this sort of confession in this setting.
The creep factor in 'Solving the Communion Enigma' is pretty high. Regardless of your assignation of the events described to "fantasy" or "reality," there's no doubt that this book has a number of superbly chilling moments. It's easy to understand how Strieber became a bestselling author of horror fiction. A few scenes here are so striking (and well-written) that they are iconic. The work here is quite simple. It's disturbingly surreal, not gory or violent. Strieber explores our unconscious fears with a clear conscience.
What's most interesting about 'Solving the Communion Enigma' is what it does not say. Strieber frames some very interesting questions, inspired by his wife, but does not offer the reader answers that are clearly in view. It's not hard to put together where all this is going, but this time around, Strieber leaves well enough alone. It is one thing to be led into the unknown by the hand. If you're handed an answer, you're inclined to doubt. But to provide an answer to a well-framed question, you as a reader must make the not just the connections, but the commitment. If you're looking for a date when the saucers will land on the White House lawn, this is not your book. But if you suspect that there is more not just to this life, but to you, than is accounted for in the philosophy that runs the world, then 'Solving the Communion Enigma' might just be the answer to a question you have yet to ask.