Your twin brother is in a coma, your family is dysfunctional, the company you have founded is being taken away from you, your girlfriend abandons you, and you're dead-broke: what would you do if every person in the world is dead-set against you? This is essentially the premise of Alex Shakar's novel Luminarium, where the topic of human despair interfaces with modern technology.
The narrative centers around Fred Brounian, the protagonist, who, together with his twin brother George, and their younger brother Sam, founded a software company that deals with computer programs pertaining to virtual realities. So far, it's been a hit: the novel is set in 2006, and with the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars going on 5 years after 9/11, it is said that the war industry has taken interest in their virtual reality software in order to train soldiers in simulated combat.
However, what happens if you have three brothers who are brilliant with programming, and yet have no business degree? Well, through some legal tricks, the company is in essence stolen from them by the big boys. That's one unlucky strike against Fred.
The second unlucky strike? George gets cancer, and is thrown into a coma. Being his twin, Fred wants to keep him alive as much as he can, draining his savings, and his income, up to the point that he becomes broke. But, George doesn't wake up.
In short, there are just so many bad things that have happened to Fred, one would think that Mr. Murphy was having a field day.
So that's just the best scene to enter the bizarre: Fred signs up for a brain experiment, suggesting that it is a study where one simulates emotions and feelings usually experienced by getting religion, without actually attending church. From the looks of it, it's basically a study on the neurophysiology of religious belief. And why would Fred not sign up for it? After all, he earns 50 dollars every session, and he needs some hope, given his scenario.
That triggers the weird episodes. He experiences out-of-body episodes, he "merges" with objects and other humans, and the greatest of them all, he gets a series of emails from his comatose brother. I won't reveal what this is about in this review, but this is basically what kept me going.