The Wicked Son

by | May 3, 2012 | Book Reviews

The wicked son of the Passover service asks what the service means to the other congregants. Because the question itself implies that he is not part of the group, he is told that had he been in Egypt during the exodus, the Lord would not have saved him. This book is about skepticism and the price the skeptic pays for questioning the views of others. “Yes, it’s true. The heavens have opened up, the seas have parted. The world as we know it is gone forever.” That is what the Coosa sisters tell Dr. John Aster, a psychiatrist. It is immediately evident to him that they are delusional, but he doesn’t really understand–he questions them– why they share the same delusion. He arranges for them to be hospitalized, separately, so that without the support of each other their delusion will fade. As a punishment, Oona Coosa, before leaving his office hands him a magical card that transports him to another world, Wendle. Wendle is a wonderful and wacky place where magic works, and where Dr. Aster finds that he has special magical powers, which, unfortunately, he cannot control. Nevertheless, his coming is accepted by everyone as fulfilling a prophecy. He is just in time to save the world, everyone believes. He is joined first by Pinzle, whose single magical ability is to conjure beer. He personal tragedy, he reveals, is that he was a foundling, found in a tree; and he is umbilicusless, that is, he has no belly button. When the Castle of Doom springs up magically in front of them, they encounter the proprietor, the Ebony Warlock and his assistant Aargh. Captive in the castle is Lila, a beautiful Princess of the Arrid Wastes, who takes one look at Dr. Aster and decides he is the man she has been destined for, who will save her and father her children and make fertile at last all the Arrid Wastes. The Ebony Warlock, and Lila, and Pinzle, too, all tell their stories and the story of their families, and the purpose each of them has divined for themselves and for Dr. Aster. Dr. Aster hears these stories, which seem to him nonsense, but he is drawn anyway into the conflicts which spring up around him one after the other, through which he is guided unreliably by Bernie the Spy. In order to forestall the opening of The Chasm, destined to swallow all of Wendle, Dr. Aster and his companions travel across Wendle in search of three wise men who will open the Portals of Power and fulfill the prophecy of Creepy Charlotte. Wherever they go are destruction and disaster precipitated in part by Dr. Aster’s desperate attempts at magic. All of the people on Wendle are driven by their own fervently held beliefs, all of them contradictory. Dr. Aster is pummeled unmercifully along the way of learning the lesson which is the purpose of his coming to Wendle.

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