Can our faces forecast our fate?
The main premise of Faces Tell All is that our faces “give us away”—our identities, our physical and psychological fitness, our attitudes and intentions—and this revelatory power can now be enhanced through computer-based scanning cameras to predict, for individuals and the masses, not only our behaviors but also our survival-potential as a species.
Why facial imagery in a book is important.
One would expect Faces Tell All, the first novel to feature the communicative power of the human face, to be brimming with highly-detailed descriptions of the characters’ appearance and expressions (occurring usually in conversation); indeed, the changes in characters’ faces (and emotions), as they interact, especially in dramatic and even humorous situations, should produce among the most interesting, entertaining and intriguing imagery to be found in any such book—or in movies for that matter.
In fact, Faces Tell All reads much like the script of a screenplay, in which dialogue is interspersed with descriptions of changing scene, facial expression, voicing, body language and other movement, moment to moment; and, to help the reader more readily “visualize” each and every character’s participation, the author deliberately employs the device of a shifting Point of View, which sometimes includes the thoughts of multiple characters; so the reader becomes not only an omniscient observer and listener, but a mind-reader as well. Instead of being trapped in the head, so to speak, of one character and his or her perceptions, one can more completely “eavesdrop” and guess along with each, what the others are up to.
Although a shifting Point of View, sometimes disparaged as “head-hopping”, can interrupt and slow a flow of action, the author’s aim, here, is to illustrate how, as characters interact, their expressive faces and body language often become important aspects of the action and help define their various personalities.
For example, in Chapter VI, Part 1, the protagonist, Harold, while in a bar, is conversing with two women whom he hopes to interest in the subject of faces:
Jennifer raised an attentive eyebrow. “Compatible could be ones like your own or ones you’re attracted to. Maybe strong faces would be attracted to sweet ones, or vice versa.” She thought, I’m not sure which one I’d prefer…
“Looking strong and healthy is huge,” said Trish, flexing a bicep. “I saw a documentary once about women who judged possible mates on how healthy and potent they look. Guys that were classically handsome but didn’t look potent didn’t make it.” She aimed a foxy grin at Harold.
The flush around Harold’s cheeks was visible, even inside the low-lit booth. “That’s all right. Maybe more choices for us healthy types—men and women.”
Trish thought, I don’t think he knows he’s cute. She struck a commanding pose.
Multiple Points of View are also employed to give voice to the book’s several main characters, which, in keeping with its extensive factual and informational content, comprise a broad range of personality, demographic and ethnic types.
(However, adhering to tradition, there is only one main protagonist, and multiple Points of View appear almost always one at a time, each in his or her own dedicated chapter or segment.)
Thus, the occasional use of multiple Points of View in Faces Tell All reflects the multicultural nature of the book, featuring as it does Americans of various ethnicities and a number of foreign nationals. These characters are not paraded for the reader as window dressing or for the sake of diversity; each of their cultural backgrounds—Western, African, Chinese and Egyptian—has made pertinent contributions to the science and mathematics of facial esthetics and to the symbology of facial and other images that recur in mythology.
For example, in one 2-page chapter, Hoda, an Egyptian-born curator at New York’s Metropolitan Museum makes a call to her uncle, a renown Egyptologist in Cairo, in which they discuss Coptic and ancient Egyptian beliefs relating to the power of faces—which Hoda later gets to implement powerfully in the story.
Despite comprising a large segment of Egypt’s intellectual and professional elite, Coptic families like theirs had suffered discrimination at the hands of the Muslim majority for centuries. Ironically, they were Christians who claimed to be the true ethnic descendants of the ancient Egyptians and as such, had assumed patrimony over that “pagan” culture.
Since it was evening in Cairo, Hoda reached Uncle Makram at home. They spoke first in Arabic for a few minutes—solicitous inquiries about family—after which Hoda slipped into Coptic. “Uncle, maybe you can help me. Friends of mine are researching the subject of faces—the power of faces. What might Egyptian scholars of the ancients have to say on that subject?” A few quiet seconds passed. Hoda inquired, “…Uncle Makram?”
His answer was hearty laughter.
“Have I misspoken, Uncle?”
“No, my sweet. I will explain why I am amused in a moment. But first I must ask, does this concern Met business?”
“Oh no. This is a totally private venture involving my girlfriends from college and another man. I would not presume on you otherwise.”
(It had been long understood—despite their bonds of blood—that uncle and niece would respect the rival interests of their two great museums.)
“Good. I will explain why the power of faces is amusing…it is because of a pet nickname you had as a child—one which we never told you about.”
“What name is that?”
“The name is Udjat—short for Wadjet.”
“Wadjet? The god who personifies the Eye of Horus?”
“The very one. Even as a baby you had that bewitching Eye of Horus.”
“Why keep it a secret? Everyone knows Horus is a good omen who wards off evil.”
“You were always a good person, powerful yet modest, even as a child. But we didn’t want to give you an extra sense of privilege or importance—by, in effect, worshipping your beauty. That would be idolatry and un-Christian.”
“Thank you, Uncle, but would not our Coptic faith consider using the Eye of Horus—even for good—a form of witchcraft?”
Makram laughed gently. “Ah, precisely the point. The Coptic Fathers would judge that as permissible magic in the service of healing and protection. So I trust you would always use your powers wisely.”
(The chapter then concludes with Uncle Makram offering to send Hoda crucial background information on the numerology of the Eye of Horus and her promising to use it with prudence and wisdom.)
How this book is different.
Faces Tell All is more of a psychological thriller — exploring the struggles or motives of the main characters—than a “who dunnit” where identities of the culprits are shrouded in mystery.
Instead, in this novel, broad clues and ambiguities are offered about various actors, and major questions come down to: is he or isn’t he guilty of spying? Or, how will they catch the probable villain? Or will she or won’t she fall for a certain guy?—rather than, say, discovering, in a surprise ending, that perpetrators fall outside a circle of likely suspects.
A novel of ideas but also of human challenges.
As in other techno thrillers, the plot line of Faces Tell All involves a quest for vital information—in this case, the keys to scientific face reading, which can diagnose and reveal inner truths of our natures—physical and psychical. The characters discuss and vie for this information—they each have motives for seeking it—and dialogue becomes the most effective vehicle to advance their search. But their own unfulfilled desires and individual worldviews cause them to act as humans would in facing challenges personal to them as well as those common to the group. As has been mentioned in previous blogs, they include matters of romance, career achievement and sexual identity.
Faces Tell All
Now available at Amazon.com, as print on demand;
ebook is expected in May, 2019.