Earthly Vessels: Magical Realism, with the Forces of Light and Dark Battling on Earth

David T. Isaak

Publisher: Utamatzi Inc. Pages: 398 Price: (paperback) $15.99 ISBN: 9781958840146 Reviewed: April, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

The late David T. Isaak’s novel of magic realism concerns a young man’s attempt to understand his place in a suddenly complex—and dangerous—world and come to grips with his burgeoning supernatural abilities. Is he the Fool, the Hero, or both?

Crystal Keeling is a free-loving hippy who escaped a weird sex cult in the late ‘60s when pregnant. Fast forward 35 years: Crystal’s son Arby is working as a geologist in the Middle East. Arby doesn’t think he’s particularly special—except that things always seem to go wrong when he’s around. But after meeting a mysterious blind woman named Elaina, his life is upended when she informs him that he’s an unknowing player in a grand-scale war between Good and Evil being waged on multiple planes of existence. As a godlike villain closes in on Arby (and those near him), the blind woman opens his eyes to the reality surrounding him.

There’s much to like here. The 1960s’ vibe (shown through Crystal’s backstory and “love child” personality) is strong throughout, featuring numerous pop culture references like Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and Robert H. Rimmer’s The Harrad Experiment, as well as metaphysical and New Age subject matter like tarot symbolism and hallucinogenic spirit quests.

Additionally, Isaak’s intellect and biting wit are evident throughout. Describing Crystal’s spiritual gift shop in Portland, he writes: “Where else could you go to purchase a three-foot-high wooden penis statue from the New Guinea Highlands and also pick up a Tibetan gong, a string of rosary beads, and a nosepipe for inhaling pulverized Anadenathera seeds?”

But the real power of Earthly Vessels is its thematic impact. Arby’s self-discovery journey is sure to resonate with readers because of the universal questions asked: Who am I? What is my purpose? Are there other planes of existence? Do I have a soul, a spirit, that lives after physical death?

Readers who gravitate towards novels like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods will find this narrative highly entertaining.

Also available as an ebook.

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