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The History Of Our World Beyond the Wave

by R. E. Klein

hardcover edition

The History of Our World beyond the Wave is an odd and interesting book, notable for dreamlike imagery, overt Christian symbolism, and the most cumbersome title to grace a cover this year.

Paul Sant, a Los Angeles English teacher, is renting a surf mat at the beach when a monstrous tidal wave rolls in from the sea, drowning California and the rest of the world. Paul's surf mat bears him to higher ground, a former mountaintop that's now a slowly shrinking island. Menaced by the rising sea and eerie monsters, Paul builds a raft and sets off in search of other survivors. He finds unfamiliar lands scoured clean of civilization and wholly unlike the world before the wave.

Klein's writing is haunting and evocative, with frequent moments of genuine horror. The story is rife with literary and mythic references, but lacking in straightforward explanations, as Paul and his eventual companions wander through episodes from Genesis, the Gospels, and Arthurian myth.

A novel should be able to stand on its own without allegory and symbolism, if only so that those readers who appreciate the complexity can feel comfortably superior to those who just enjoy the story. But take the symbolism out of this book, and you're left with a sequence of strange and wondrous imagery strung together in somewhat incoherent fashion. Besides, in coyly pointing out that this story features symbolism and not allegory, Klein barges right over the wide line between in-joke and pedantry.

The History of Our World beyond the Wave will definitely not be to everyone's tastes, but literate readers should give it a try. It's particularly worth a look if you read Revelations for fun or tingle at the idea of California sinking into the sea.

-- Christina Schulman.
Reviewed in
February 1999

hardcover edition
Publisher: Harcourt Brace
Date: November 1998
ISBN: 0-151-00411-0
Binding: hardcover
Pages: 224
Price: US $22.00

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