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Volume 24, Number 2, Winter 2006

Selene’s Guiding Light

By Greg Bauder

PublishAmerica, 2005, $14.95
ISBN: 1413741509, 93 pages
Reviewed by Anders Monsen

Selene’s Guiding Light is Canadian writer Greg Bauder’s sequel to The Temptress Ariel (both available from Amazon.com). The novel is slim, clocking in at less than 100 pages.

The story begins in a hospital room, as a patient travels in his dream to a distant planet, guided by the moon-goddess, Selene. Adapt at shape shifting, she turns into various beings, beasts, and implements during the narrator’s first-person voyage. We only learn the narrator’s name mid-way through the novel, Don Waters.

The theme of gold runs through his experiences in the new land. Bauder’s language is lush and descriptive, but tells too much rather than let the reader experience the setting and actions. The narrator flies through populated areas, where people proclaim him a god, and also into an empty city. Here he discovers the remnants of a nuclear war, the Hairy People, whom he adopts.

The chapters are like brief snippets of narration overwhelmed by imagery. At times the imagery is vivid yet erratic: “Selene and I caught the midnight Plato-directed flick of Milton’s Paradise Lost which was shot on location in Pandemonium and Eden on another plane in a parallel universe.” Bauder tosses out names at apparent random, with characters in a play a blend of real and mythical people like Eve, Sting, Woody Allen mixing with an audience that contains Ralph Nader, Shakespeare, and Carl Jung. When the narrator wakes up from his dream he’s back in the hospital room, his life now mundanely reduced to a regimen of medication until the next dream.

Greek gods and characters from Greek history and mythology predominate in metaphors (“like the Sirens to Odysseus,” “like Poseidon at sea,” “you rise like Pegasus,” etc.), but Biblical names also make appearances, as do other mythological beings.

The events switch between the dream world and the narrator’s existence as a patient in a mental hospital. The narrator reveals how he moved away from the constrictive one-god belief of his world, finding joy instead in the Earth and nature, which he saw as the embodiment of Selene. In itself this mirrors other divine inspirations and revelations. Other Biblical echoes come forth, such as women being subordinate to men, and the meek inheriting the earth. While feted by the people of a village who deem him a god, the narrator does attempt to subvert deference to authority by saying they control their own fate, and telling them not to depend on gods to grant them anything.

The narrator’s journey is one of discovery, much like The Pilgrim’s Progress, where he is tempted, led astray, yet always with his spiritual guide by his side. Throughout his travails he’s tormented by the real world, as doctors and nurses continually pull him back from his lucid dreams into medicated reality. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, none of the medication seems to have any effect, as he always falls back into Selene’s world.

At one point aliens appear of the type known as “greys,” who seek to help the narrator. They teach him how to operate a space ship and shape shift, becoming indistinguishable from the gods of the past.

We learn Don has been in this hospital since the death of his girlfriend, Ariel, murdered by drug dealers. Don now believes Ariel is a goddess, who communicates with him in his dreams as Selene. The Hairy Persons that Don is supposed to save might be a metaphor for the homeless, the downtrodden. Their enemy, the North Mountain People, who have everything, are the fortunate ones in society. Don sympathizes with the Hairy People, possibly from his days living off the streets in Vancouver with Ariel.

Don meets Ariel’s cousin, Dawn, who looks just like Ariel, and falls in love. The novel as it began ends in the dreamworld, Don seemingly happy. Has he ventured over into the lands of madness for good?

Selene’s Guiding Light is a lyrical novella, rife with effusive adjectives, but not really appropriate as a candidate for the Prometheus Award. It’s a personal novel, a work of discovery and faith, but I fail to see any libertarian elements in the story. It did remind me somewhat of John C. Wright’s Everness books in terms of the religio-mythological content and ideas, but Wright’s books contained strong themes of repression and rebellion amid the gods and monsters. I see none of this in Selene’s Guiding Light. In the end I felt I spent too much time looking for the real Don, as well as the key to the story itself. Perhaps I would have reacted differently had the ideas been fleshed out and clearer in scope.

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