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THE GLASS COCOON
by Christopher J. Jarmick and Serena F. Holder
Flibbertigibbet Promulgations, Mesa, AZ 2001
Reviewed by Pamela White
In this age of safe sex and easy internet access, it was only a matter of time before two people meet in a chatroom and plot to write a book about two people meeting in an internet chatroom. Why not make it a suspense thriller murder mystery? Why not? The anonymity afforded by such chatrooms allows individuals to create identities unlike their own. Hey, we could even have the male and female who meet in the chatroom strike up an illicit affair, destroying marriages and friendships, without consequences.
Yeah, guys, why not?
One big reason not to try this is the publication of The Glass Cocoon, although its inconclusive and impossible to follow plot coupled with inane dialogue, idiotic characterizations and lack of description of believable emotions could be why it fails.
At the end of the book, the two authors gleefully proclaim that although it appears to be unbelievable, they wrote this 500 page reason to reach for Excedrin by taking turns writing the chapters, without an outline of any kind. Heck, even they didn't know whodunit until the very end. Heck, I don't know whodunit, or rather why they did it and I read the ending four times.
It is extremely believable that no outline or forethought, editing or storytelling consideration came into play with this work. Time and place have very little meaning - within a few pages, the reader may travel through time, zipping back before the murders in one paragraph, living in the present in the next, then move into the future where a number of murders have already taken place. In the first chapter, there have been four murders and these two cyber-lovers, Patricia and Philip, have never met. By the second chapter, there have been no murders, no meeting and in fact, we meet several characters that pop up, enjoy a flashback to their childhood or perhaps a meaningless meandering of thoughts, then disappear forever. Each chapter sports a few of these characters that have no purpose in the story, and are allowed no more than 300 words' worth of appearance.
Examples? How about the guy who arrives at the scene of the third murder (this is before we jump back and forth in time, never knowing where or when we are)? He sees a rotting corpse with a severed neck. And as all men who see such visions, his thoughts turn to romance. He sees a vase filled with roses and begins his wandering wondering about whether he will ever have a date, or find someone he can send such beautiful flowers to. Or perhaps we could consider the woman stricken with cancer whose husband plans to sell the bookstore and quit his job at the library, turning both over to Patricia of the online affair. This woman is remembering her mother who, after realizing her bout with scarlet fever has damaged her eyesight, prepares for blindness by donning a blindfold during her final years of sight.
Am I being too harsh? Most emphatically I respond in the negative. Through this never-ending opus, we watch individual's personalities change from gentle and loving, to nasty and evil and back to manly and honorable, as in the person of Patricia's husband, Trent. Biased attitudes arise in conversations and then disappear. One particularly offensive conversation includes the statements that anyone who studies at the Taos Institute of Art is a "limp-wristed weirdo" and the president of the college is nick-named Frenchie Fancy Pants. Another time Patricia screams at the female cop, who later (or perhaps earlier, I lost track through the time warps) becomes her friend, that she is queer and a dyke. It doesn't stop there, though. It is clear that anyone who beheads a woman, or rather three, must be a homosexual male who wears women's clothing. It gets worse. The police and Philip theorize that the murderer must be Japanese because Japanese men are warlike.
As offensive and purposeless as this all is, the ending is the real crime taking place in this novel. It turns out that the murderer is two people, both created out of thin air, and one is caught, admits to one murder and cries he did it because she (the murder victim) didn't love him enough.
The police then tell Philip that the second murderer of three people -- two decapitations and one exploding car accident (mentioned only once then forgotten) -- will never have the nerve to bother him again. That's it.
The facile solutions, improbable relationships, silly, one-dimensional dialogue and insertions of pages of cyber-sex talk do nothing to help along this book.
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