Michael Bible’s Empire of Light tells the story of Alvis Maloney, an orphan who finds himself in a small North Carolina town after accidentally causing a stranger’s death. It is here that he befriends Miles, the aimless star quarterback, Charlie, the high school janitor, and Molly, his first love. When their lives intersect, a unique friendship is built upon a foundation of drugs, rock’n’roll, and ennui. This almost sounds like the ingredients for a bildungsroman stamped with the DNA of Holden Caulfield, but Michael Bible destroys the old paradigms of this genre and rebuilds it by taking risks with his prose, especially in its lyrical language and energetic voice that hurls his readers forward: “There were ghostly shapes of light on the lake. The insects pulsed in the trees. Something incommunicable rose between us. A charge of electrons in the air. We talked about whatever.” Bible’s many descriptions of light create an overexposed, dreamlike aesthetic, and Maloney’s first-person narration sporadically projects hallucinations in which he finds himself traveling on horseback through a mystical, western landscape: “I named my horse Forever. He was chasing a swarm of crimson butterflies. I saddled him up. He wore an old eye patch over his good eye that made the bad one better.” Michael Bible, much like Denis Johnson and Barry Hannah, renders the familiar in surprising ways, and the many turns of Empire of Light result in a euphoric, one-of-a-kind novel.

Melville House.