I found J.M. McDermott’s Maze to be an interesting read. It’s the latest LibraryThing Early Reviewer book on my TBR list and is quite different from a lot of what I’ve read recently.
Maze is divided into sections: the mazes of four different characters, Maia Station, Joseph, Wang Xin, and Julie Station. They all find themselves trapped in the same place, it would seem. A lot of overlapping characters and places. But these characters each have their own issues to deal with. Having thought about it since I finished the book, I feel like there are four separate mazes (at least) that all lie on top of one another. They interact and yet are somewhat separate. That probably doesn’t make any sense, unless you’ve read the book.
And even then…
I found McDermott’s prose to be solid and, occasionally quite lovely. The stories themselves are dark, violent, and in some cases, downright gross. The book is a mix of genres. Science fiction when we’re in Maia’s maze; she comes from a space station and looks at the maze from a scientific point of view. She’s the only one who does. Julie, Maia’s daughter, is born into the maze and doesn’t really understand the science her mother tries to teach her.
The two men’s stories, as well as Julie’s, are told more from a fantasy/horror point of view. The men both came to the maze from a more prosaic planet Earth, stumbling into it. Well, Wang Xin trips over his bicycle, literally stumbling; Joseph is dragged into the sewer system by a ghost he brings to life.
I found Wang Xin to be the most interesting character of the bunch. Jenny Ghost, who has her own interlude in the book, drags Joseph into the plumbing, but gets to Wang Zin through his eye, and he (as a young boy) believes he can see the future because of this. A lot of things happen that convince him he’s right, and even when things don’t match up to his vision, he’s still convinced.
Wang Xin’s section of the book, his maze, is also the most disturbing. Part of his vision includes two women he is sure are in love with him. They aren’t and he ends up treating them badly–raping one, in fact. Xin pays for his bad behavior, and the author’s tearing down of his visions bit by bit was an enjoyable–from this reader’s perspective–part of the payment.
Unlike most fiction I read, Maze has no resolution. Our protagonists never find their way out of their mazes, unless death is the way out. As Joseph says at the end of his story:
We made the best life we could in this terrible place.
This may be frustrating for readers who like a definitive ending to their stories. I didn’t mind it so much. My main problems concerned certain sections that weren’t as well written as others. Joseph’s section, in particular, felt stiffer and more confusing than the rest. And the scene with Parks on the bed reminded me of the first Evil Dead movie, and not in a good way. The grotesqueness of what was done to her felt gratuitous, moreso than other nasty scenes in the book. What was the point?
In general, though, I would recommend Maze. If you’re up for a dark and troubling read with no easy answers, give it a try.