Preternatural by Margaret Wander Bonanno

Karen Guerreri is a “midlist’ writer working on a first contact sci-finovel, Preternatural.  She has borrowed her lifelong muse to play thepart of the extraterrestrials that in her story are telepathicjellyfish.  Called the S.oteri, her aliens are a species unable toleave their planet, and believe they are All There Are, reaching acrossspace to create Those Who Have Eyes To See.  Luck befriends Karen in theform of interest in the movie rites to her book when the S.oteri makeher aware she is not the only person who hears and sees them.  In facteveryone in and out of her life seems to have been recipient of theirvisits, or, she has gone nuts.  Karen examines the question of who isdoing the creating, and if the jellyfish are real and influencing her,for what purpose?

Preternatural has collected an awesome plethora of diverse characters.Margaret Bonanno gives us what might be parodies of herself, William.Shatner, Leonard Nemoy and Shirley McLain.  Twining them among sub plotsalong with an unlikely group to include a pharaoh, a female messiah, anextraordinary librarian, a terminally ill artist, an ex-husband andseveral individual S.oteri she spins gold telling an intricate talewith interesting ordinary people, and some fascinating not so ordinarypeople.  Her protagonist carries off a ridiculous role with all thevalues and pluck of a Star Trek hero that make ‘us’ proud to be part ofmankind.

An intelligent writer, Bonanno displays her knowledge of history.Popping in and out of the past she weaves scenes expertly detailed andso real I could smell them.  Definitely left me feeling like I’d been’there’.  At first I thought her subplots would run off in a tangletaking over the storyline, but a master at juggling Bonano pullseverything together superbly.  I did need to read carefully, and openeda dictionary more than once, but it was worth the work.

Written by a skilled master with a sense of humor and one wildimagination, Preternatural is a good story, simply complex, and fun toread.  I can’t wait to get into Margaret Wander Bonanno’s follow-upnovel, Preternatural Too: Gyre.

Review © October 2000, Susan Bailey-Halaney

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