The follow up to White Apple is nothing short of genius. Glass Soup is the perfect Carroll book filled with characters that you care about, ones that have indivual quirks and faults, personalities that made me laugh, smile and cry. The most wonderful thing about all Carroll's books are that they take the everyday world and spin it upside down on its head. God is a mosaic, polar bears and miniture men exist and choas hates us! This book is so good it almost hurts and will leave you craving for more. All Carroll's work is expectional but this reads like a culimination of the idea's and thoughts he's tried to work through before and comes out as his most rounded work. To get the most out of it though you should read, or have read, White Apples first though as this is very much a continuation of that novel (Also you'd miss out on the zoo and the sublime CoCo). If you're not reading Carroll yet then do yourself a favour and start now.
I'm a big Jonathan Carroll fan, ever since I read Land of Laughs. Carroll manages to mix mundane with mystical in a very charming way. Glass Soup continues where White Apples left the story of Vincent, Isabelle and their child messiah. This makes recommending this book very straightforward: if you've read White Apples and enjoyed it, Glass Soup is a must read book. If you haven't read White Apples, start there.
That said, I think this is quite a worthy sequel to White Apples. The story is quite as odd and profound as it was before. Carroll weaves the events beautifully, as the main characters travel around Vienna and cross the borders between life and death. There's odd humour, curious characters, and fairly deep thinking. The opening of the book is delightfully surreal.
This follow up to White Apples is essentially more of the same, which should please Carroll fans. It reads more like a series of magical set pieces than a normally structured novel, however, and for this reason I found the ending rather a disappointment. I had the impression Jonathan was making it up as he went along. So often was one of Vincent's difficulties solved by some kind of magical intervention you realise that no matter how dire the situation some kind of rabbit will be pulled from the hat to solve the problem. You can never see them coming, so while they do delight they also frustrate, with a feeling of being rather cheated of a plausible explanation.
The other irritating thing are the loose ends. For example, at the end of one chapter Vincent sees the future of Isabelle's hand - minus one finger. It's a startling chapter end, but is never referred to again, the finger is not lost, and there is no explanation. A neat trick to keep you reading, but you're left thinking maybe Jonathan just fogot about it. Then there's the repetition, for the benefit of those whohaven't read the first book - the repeated explanation of the mosaic, for example. One of the usual pleasures in a Jonathan Carrool novel is seeing how a realistic situation and setting are suddenly subverted with a dip into fantasy around a third the way through the book. Here no realistic setting ever occurs, and we go straight to the magical world, which rather dilutes its power.
Perhaps these are minor flaws; I've given this four stars as there are so many wonderful moments in it, but I don't feel they add up to a fully satisfying novel. Hopefully the final book will resolve the many mysteries without resorting to the kind of sudden magical explanations used here. A must for fans, of course, but those new to Carroll are best advised to begin elsewhere, perhaps with Sleeping in Flame
The important thing to remember when thinking about _White Apples_ and its follow up, _Glass Soup_, is that these are primarily love stories. The tensions between chaos and control, the willingness to love the current form of the universe while maintaining openness toward its eventual demise, are all analogs of romantic love: what preserves it, what kills it, what makes it grow. Carroll doesn't write genre fiction, but if he did, he is probably best understood as a magical -- or even supernatural -- realist. He maps our real lives, and our emotional lives, onto a fantastic landscape. His books are our hearts writ large. Only the imaginative can comprehend the insights provided by such imaginative work. If you're not used to this type of writing, try it...with an open mind.