Book Card  -  Volume 23  -  Book Review Number 3  -  Tue, Mar 3, 1992 8:42 PM

AUTHOR: Christopher Manson
PUBLISHER: Henry Holt & Company

By now you all know that I am a hopeless maze buff. I like nothing better than getting lost in a good maze. And for years I've been on the lookout for a good maze book.

Unfortunately, good maze books are very hard to find. Most maze books are designed for children and consist of single page mazes, often drawn with little cars seeking garages or leprechauns seeking pots of gold. The best of these are pretty and mildly interesting, but hardly bewildering.

But now, at long last, I have found a truly bewildering maze that is beautiful and dreamlike as well. Christopher Manson's Maze is a book I can proudly place next to Chris Van Allsburg's Mysteries of Harris Burdick, for it is a book not so much to read, but to dream in.

As the author himself points out, this is not really a book at all, but a building in the shape of a book. Each page depicts a numbered room, and each drawing includes numbered doors (or slides, or ladders) that lead to other rooms. As in any true maze we cannot see the whole and so must wander through the parts, in this case flipping from page to page.

We might find ourselves, for example, in room 20. This room looks fairly ordinary except for a rather large tortoise creeping across the Persian rug. There are four doors, two opened, two closed; three of these are numbered but someone has tacked up a handkerchief across the sign over the fourth door. In one corner sits a padded recliner in which someone has left a two-foot-high model of a castle tower. This is especially odd given the painting on the opposite wall depicting a tower being struck by lightning.

There are two newspapers lying on the floor, both with a huge, single letter headline: "S" (one of these is marked "EXTRA"). A second painting on the wall depicts a bearded man in a turban calmly staring in the direction of door number 1. I can't see very far into door number 5, but through door number 27, I can just make out the corner of another painting which suggests an enormous arrow pointing up. And for some reason there is an old-fashioned phone sitting on the side-table.

There you have room 20. There are 44 more, equally strange, drawn in an eerie style that never fails to suggest something ominous just beneath the surface. When you find the shortest path to room 45 and back to entrance (which I have not yet done - I'm taking my time) you will discover an additional riddle, the answer to which is scattered along the true path.

What a glorious ponarv! I urge you all to seek out this book. Open it up on a rainy afternoon and prepare to get lost.