The Familiar, Volume 5: Redwood

Any ongoing work of fiction requires a balance between resolution and continuation; you can’t simply leave questions open indefinitely, but definitive conclusions often leave you with nowhere to go. Redwood, the fifth volume in Mark Z. Danielewski’s ongoing (and increasingly impossible to summarize) Familiar sci-fi/fantasy series about an epileptic girl and a magical cat, finds the author slightly off-balance. Beneath the staggering technical ability and gorgeously unique presentation, there’s a hint of deliberate—and exasperating—opacity, of an author who values ambiguity less as a tool for generating suspense than as an end unto itself. Then again, the series is of such high quality that even its intermediate stages remain singular experiences. Maybe I’m just upset that I have to wait for more.