Joyce Carol Oates Reviews "Oblivion"
A book review by Joyce Carol Oates
A new thriller from an unheralded master of suspense.
The New Yorker
04 April 2005
In the long, groping, and haphazard drama of evolution, human consciousness is a recent and precarious acquisition. Our anxiety at its precariousness has much to do with our increasing life expectancy: living longer physically, what can we expect to experience mentally? Neurological impairment is something we’re all too likely to know firsthand, and Peter Abrahams’s suspense novel “Oblivion” (William Morrow; $24.95) makes of this condition something rich and strange: an investigation into “lost time, like some dark forest in a fairy tale.” The protagonist is a forty-two-year-old Los Angeles private detective named Nick Petrov, who, at first unknowingly, suffers from a form of brain cancer (“glioblastoma multiform”) whose symptoms he attempts to rationalize or conflate with the progress of his current investigation. Unlike the morbidly compelling case studies of Oliver Sacks’s “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” (1970), which are narrated from outside the afflicted individuals, “Oblivion” immerses us in Petrov’s assailed consciousness as he navigates his way through a Dali landscape of baffling clues, memory lapses, and visual hallucinations in an attempted reconstruction of personality that is simultaneously a search for a missing fifteen-year-old girl: “Find the girl and live."
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