From All Sides: The Squeeze
by Phil Scrima
Illustrations by Charlo Nocete

"He’s using me as an example of the struggle of the species, both the good and bad. He’s trying to convince them that humans have potential and should eventually join other intelligent species, in the cosmos, on the second level and beyond."

Harry might be privy to afterworld conversations with Einstein and energy beams from beyond, but at heart he is just a regular guy trying to keep it together in 21st century America. Living in San Francisco with his wife and three children in a beautiful home, Harry tries to hold together all he has built as the tides turn on his struggling business and mid-life marriage.

Scrima's strength as a novelist is his attention to the details that make a character like Harry believable. Harry appears to receive messages from the "creators" through his centenarian grandfather, Nonno. He also believes his daughter, Athena, is the one chosen by the creators to carry humankind forward. These extraordinary themes weave through the story by way of the most ordinary things: relationships, finances, and food.

Italian food features large in Scrima’s story. Pasta con fagioli, cooked al dente, is described as lovingly as the woman Harry courts over long lunches. Unstoppable sexual attraction flows along with the wines Harry knows from his work in Nonno's vineyards.

The transition from very human scenes like these to supernatural events is sometimes abrupt in Scrima's story. We switch quickly from bank lobbies and loan applications to piercing blue lights and ominous dreams. The effect is jarring, and prompts some backtracking and rereading.

Harry survives the death of his marriage and even homelessness before redemption seems possible near the end of the novel. Mysteries remain, including the true intentions of the creators. A sequel is promised.

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