First published in 1990 ‘Stone Junction’ was Jim Dodge’s second novel and it shows. A bildungsroman which also chronicles a more literal journey across the USA, which in turn gives an opportunity for his social critique. Being a Dodge it retains the elements of gloomy fantasy which define his writing and expands them to give the book a constant theme of pessimistic technophobia.
Daniel Pearse is an adult Harry Potter, orphaned and (initially unbeknownst to him) a possessor of magical abilities. Taken on board by the Alliance of Magicians and Outlaws (AMO) he is taught to develop this potential, before being asked to find a mythical stone of uncertain powers. Crucially the theme is of magic versus technology. AMO are in self imposed outlaw from an ingravescently intrusive America. Set in the early 1980’s, the nascent development of information technology is a threat to the magical subculture who require Pearse and the stone for survival.
‘Stone Junction’ is a success, its characters have dimension and its message is explicit without being simplistic. The prose scans well too, with the rhythms of Southern American parlance. Unfortunately the author appears to feel compelled to write to a 500 page minimum, clearly aiming to write a classic, the result is merely an overlong good book.