Guest Post by Michael Sussman
How I Wrote Crashing Eden:
My first novel, Crashing Eden, tells the story of Joss Kazdan, a 17-year-old juvenile delinquent who is depressed and guilt-ridden following the loss of his younger brother. After suffering a concussion, he awakens to a beautiful sound that no one else can hear. He becomes convinced that it’s the primordial vibration of the universe, and by attuning himself to it he experiences ecstasy and feels at one with the cosmos. Things get even stranger when friends of his are able to construct a device that produces this same Edenic consciousness. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll just say that what starts out so promising, soon leads to generational conflict and cataclysmic destruction that threatens the very survival of humanity!
You may wonder: How did I come to write such a strange novel? I believe the story emerged from the convergence of the following three strands of my life:
1. Adolescence was a painful and confusing time for me, when my struggles with depression first began. I experienced mood swings, became increasingly introverted, socially isolated, and had to contend with deep feelings of guilt, self-hatred, and suppressed rage. These experiences were influential in my later becoming a psychologist, helping others to cope with the ravages of depression.
2. During my later teens, I developed a passionate interest in Eastern mysticism. I read books by mystics and gurus, started to meditate, and even joined a cult called Divine Light Mission. In my quest to transcend mundane existence, I also lived for a while in a commune located – I kid you not – in Paradise, Nova Scotia.
One night, I suffered a concussion in a car crash in which I was a passenger and was lucky to survive. Like my protagonist in Crashing Eden, I spent days following the concussion in what I can only call a state of grace, filled with deep feelings of gratitude and joy.
3. Throughout my life I’ve been interested in world mythology. I’m especially intrigued by the widespread myths suggesting that humans have degenerated from an ancient state of grace, symbolized by Paradise or the Golden Age.
To sum up, I believe that my history of depression and experience as a psychotherapist allowed me to get inside the head of my adolescent protagonist and find his voice. My fascination with mysticism and my personal experience of grace led me to conceive of a transcendent state to which my protagonist aspires. And my familiarity with the Golden Age myths provided a framework for the story.
From there, I used my imagination to envision how the God of the Old Testament might react to an impudent gang of teenagers who discover a way to crash the Gates of Eden. That’s when the story gets really interesting!
For one boy and his friends, the path to Paradise comes at a cost – one they may not be prepared to pay.
When a biking accident leaves 17-year-old Joss Kazdan with the ability to hear things others can’t, reality as he knows it begins to unravel.
A world of legends exists beyond the ordinary life he’s always known, and he is transported to the same Paradise he’s studying in World Mythology. But the strange gets even stranger when his new friends build a device that delivers people through the gates of the Garden of Eden.
Now Samael, the Creator God, is furious. As Samael rains down his apocalyptic devastation on the ecstasy-seeking teens, Joss and his companions must find a way to appease Samael – or the world will be destroyed forever.
Crashing Eden is a quick and easy read. I found the story to be enjoyable and creative. The concept of the “OM” that Sussman created was a very interesting and unique idea to explain how we as humans change as we grow up. The “OM” is a sound that the narrator, Joss, experiences after his bike accident. It is explained in the book that the sound of the “OM” causes a person to be more optimistic and an all-around better person. I found this creative idea to be an interesting way of explaining why children are the way they are – innocent, honest, and happy – and as they gradually lose the sound, they change. The “OM” sound fades away around the age of six and then people become less happy, less honest, and less innocent. I love this idea and how it fits so perfectly with how we are as humans.
The character of Joss is fairly well developed throughout the novel. A bit more information would have been nice earlier in the book, but it is a YA book, so it’s acceptable. He begins as an annoying, self-righteous teenager, but changes into an honest, caring young man. The supporting characters are also developed fairly well. I particularly like Callie, Joss’s younger sister. She is the prime example of how children (who are in tune with the “OM“) are and how they will change once the pleasant sound fades away. I felt like Katherine (Joss’s mother) was the most complex character and she was barely even in the book. The main characters didn’t seem to have many layers.
The writing is decent. It’s a bit of an immature writing style for my liking, but it is intended for young readers. The writing style makes it easy to get through, making it a fast read. The novel is short (209 pages) and I feel that it might have been beneficial to expand on the ending adventure. I found some of the chapter choices to be a bit odd. The chapters were very short – which can be nice – but, sometimes I found myself questioning the reasons behind the end-of-chapter choices. Sometimes they ended at – what I thought were – very strange places.
Overall, I would recommend this book to young readers. I’m not sure mature readers would enjoy it as much as younger readers, as the writing is immature. I did enjoy the story and the unique concepts throughout. I think it is a worthy read, though, even for adults who don’t mind the immature writing style.
Quote from the book: