Bitmaps and knit blankets both are based around grids, and the graphics that defined early video games look to a modern viewer as sharing a primitivism with folk art. Their geometric designs dictate that pixel art of an animal resembles a depiction that could occur in a woven tapestry. Shane Jones’ novel Crystal Eaters tells the tale of a village whose simplistic belief system is understandable in video game terms: Their folklore assigns every living thing a number, a crystal count, and this image of hexagonal crystal, imagined interlocking, is the engine on which the book builds its everything. Crystals are life, and while every living thing’s number diminishes to zero and death, they are also a material thing, findable outside the body, capable of being mined. In this form, colored yellow and red, they fuel the village’s economy, either melted into an energy source or traded as trinkets. The crystal can be understood as energy, and the book’s world, like our universe, can be understood in terms of math.
The employment of such language – of crystals, energy, and math, in terms almost interchangeable- can be understood as “drug talk.” Even within the book’s mythological confines, there is an idea understood as a myth, that black crystals, if found, can be used to extend life. In practice, the black crystals are a hallucinogen, the ingestion of which detours the story’s forward progress through time and space to shuffle its chosen images into something non-Euclidean, although they also give whichever character is using them the impression that they are being made healthy. But a momentary feeling of infinity only lasts so long, and the clock keeps ticking, in numbered chapters counting down from forty, foretelling mortality in form. By the time the reader learns that forty is the number every dog is born with, the first dog they’ve met is already dead.