It all involves a college student who wants to write his thesis based on the paranormal. He has psi talent and he’s able to do astral traveling or have out of body experiences. In order to keep grant money he has to visit Edgar Allan Poe and convince him to take the road to the military rather than literature. It took me a while to get into it but it was worth sticking with and the facts about Poe were very interesting.
William Reynolds is broke. He’s working on his thesis, “OB’s-History And Techniques.” He survives by working for Professor Loesser who has a grant to look into the wild talents. During one OB Reynolds is supposed to see a number on a piece of paper. Instead he turns it over and sees the number thirteen. Then he floats through the observation room and sees a man in a gray uniform and another who could be Edgar Allan Poe. As far as the number goes, Loesser says he never wrote it. He had a different one on the paper.
The Dean of the Graduate School says he doesn’t believe in the paranormal and pulls Loesser’s grant. He leaves town and that puts William without a source of income.
The man in uniform is Colonel Birch. He belongs to the newly formed group The Confederate States of America. He and the Dean tell William they want him to find out why Poe didn’t choose a military life. He thinks if he did the North would have been defeated at Gettysburg and thanks to General Poe the South would have won the Civil War. Birch has the money to provide a grant. The Dean, smelling a buck, all of a sudden thinks there may be something to the OB experience. It looks like Poe also had OB experiences.
William’s girlfriend Alix is doing her dissertation on Poe and is an expert on his life. William goes through an OB and meets up with Poe. His whole future depends on a card game and the number thirteen. Poe himself is curious why he chose lit over the army. To try and find out Alix, William and Birch do some over analyzing of everything Poe wrote looking for clues.
William lives in Baltimore so tracking down Poe’s haunts isn’t a problem. He does have to travel to seventh and Spring Garden streets in Philadelphia where Poe lived and wrote for two years. (I’ve been there and it’s not some mysterious dwelling and there’s no feeling of the supernatural when you walk through it).
William also goes to a fantasy Battle of Gettysberg where Poe leads a charge. Still no answers. The research gets more intense and everything seems to be a clue.
It is fun to read about how they keep trying to find the conclusion they want as they go through all of Poe’s works. Every word means something and character names have a hidden meaning and they think it all adds up to a massive autobiography of Poe.
To me it reads like a satire on the road to a PhD and what Grad students have to put with to get their degree.