In Regards to Chapter 25 through Chapter 33 of
Walter Mosley's Blue Light
3 February 1999
Throughout Walter Mosley's Blue Light Mosley hints at a number of sexual themes: incest, pedophilia, promiscuity, beastiality. These themes seemed mostly gratuitous. On most occasions, there was no way to tell from the context whether these events were particular to the characters, a spirit of the times, or part of the "blue enlightenment". They didn't seem to dictate much in terms of character interactions. There was hardly enough mention to even titillate. One can easily envision Marquis de Sade taking any of those issues significantly further. So, if Mosley was not going to make any significant use of these sexual anomalies why did he bother mentioning these possibilities? They seem to be red herrings.
Juan Thrombone seems to be the most human of the blues, says Chance. In a story of characters more allegorical than real, particularly for being one dimensional and named by their dimension, that doesn't say much. Especially when this most real seems unreal because of his mystical ways. But then mysticism, to many, is a form of enlightenment -- even of higher reality.
Which brings me back to a previous speculation that the blue light delivers an instant nirvana. We may even extrapolate upon this by comparing it to a heroin addiction. The heroin addict finds an ultimate pleasure the first time he gets high. He repeats his action in order to repeat his pleasure; the pleasure is rarely so great, but the junkie maintains hope because he could not imagine a continued existence without returning to his ecstasy.
Perhaps in a similar manner, the blue light creates an addiction. The blue light not being intentionally repeatable, those affected would repeat those actions (or variations of those actions) most meaningful to them at the time the light struck them, such as professing the future or indulging in extreme sexuality.
At Treaty the book loses focus. From all the interesting things going on in the urban environment, it is now just them all hiding out in safety and doing "routine" things (though routines that are less potentially within our reality than those in the city). At this point, it seems Mosley doesn't know what to do with the book and is typing with the ambition of being paid by the word. We meet no new characters, learn very little that can help us understand the future of this novel. We just watch this big build up for the final battle.
And then the final battle was a non-event after the large build up. It was as if Mosley said "I am bored of stalling. I am bored of writing nothing. Time to con some publisher into accepting this tripe." And without even giving us more than a rough sketch of the battle, despite having given us vivid paintings of sex with dogs and Phyllis. Could Mosley not have had a vivid losing battle without changing the meaning of the story?
The ending was a serious cop out. Chance ends up in a mental institution. First, this happens too quickly compared to the pace at the beginning of the book. Second, this allows the reader to surmise that everything that happened before was just a dream and didn't really happen.
Is it significant that Chance is an incarcerated black man? This is hard to say. There are several issues to confuse this matter. First, he is only half black, so perhaps he is merely an incarcerated man -- one of many in a country which, while ironically calling itself the land of the free, has the highest percentage of its population locked away. Second, he is in a mental institute, which though perhaps more severe than a prison, has different connotations, particularly since if he were in prison, we would see his incarceration as clearly wrong because of the story we have been presented. But if he is in an asylum, then perhaps there is good cause for it since perhaps we don't believe his story either. We are left to decide for ourselves whether he is sane or crazy. And if we had any problems with the credibility of the author, we can denounce him as crazy and then his story no longer needs credibility. Could Mosley have confined Chance to a mental institute (if this were indeed necessary for his meaning) without seeming to write an apologia for his inability to write a believable story?
I will not argue whether the ending was a rejection of a traditional SF ending. A rejection of the happy ending, clearly. But my experience with SF is perhaps too limited or perhaps too far outside the main stream to attempt to evaluate that perspective.
But, regardless of what Mosley wanted the ending to say, he did not say it well. The ending was too unbalanced. The imbalance was not so blatant as Tolstoy's War and Peace which made a gradual transition from historical fiction to philosophical treaty. But, there is a definite sense that the book we are finishing is an entirely different work at the beginning and the end. Also, unlike Tolstoy who was great at either end and in the middle and confesses he was not writing a novel (which isn't "a true Russian form"), Mosley goes from a merely good opening to a really lousy ending.