The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima

Picture1The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea is a short novel in two seasons, set in post war Yokohoma; where a Sailor is eager to fall from the ‘grace’ he is almost sick of, for a lady who is past that definition of ‘grace’. And her young boy’s response to it through an adolescent jaden speaking nazi gang. I did not like it and the book probably has fucked me up.

Since my initial impression was a disturbed dislike, I read on Mishima’s life to know more about the context I might be appropriating. I was amused by authors extraordinary life and ‘Mishima Incident’, and indulged myself in knowing more about the man himself than the book. From my utter dislike I found myself in agreement with the popular take of book being on polarized idea of ‘masculinity’ and civilizational anxiety in post World War 11 Japan. The kids in this story are struggling with their idealized ideologies of ‘honour’ and ‘glory’, and are disappointed in its non adherence by the very grown ups who taught them that. Ryuji, the sailor, was an embodiment of the nihilist philosophy they found supremacy in, and in his openness to settle down, Noboru, the young boy, found ultimate betrayal.

From my take, the trifaceted main story line represented the dynamics of then Japanese society Mishima struggled to make sense of. Noboru is the stern yet masked traditionalist who finds meaning in old codes of living. Ryuji represents the transition, by being the detached Sailor who is open to the idea of settling down into the statics of an increasingly westernizing society from his current more heroic turbulent current life in sea. Fusako, on the other hand, is the transition; a widower who is a women of her own and well assimilated into the modern world, and is definitely the character readers can relate the most with.

davidpol_1439936772_cropped-seven-virtues-of-bushido1The prose is beautiful at parts, even lyrical and eerily philosophical in its justification for baggages the characters or authors might carry.

“A father is a reality-concealing machine, a machine for dishing up lies to kids, and that isn’t even the worst of it: secretly he believes that he represents reality.”

Sure, this sounds deep. But considering the 13 year old Ku Klux Klan its coming from and lack of narrative precedence, they appeared embryonic and frankly annoying.

But my issue was, I believe, in finding this image of ‘hero’ or ‘male figure’ unprecedented and the kids’ response unsolicited. There was no suggestive ambivalence with his mother, rather Noboru was shown more apathetic in his relationship with Fusako, or even appreciatory in nature. To me, Noboru‘s transition was more like that of the kid from ‘This is England’ movie, though thematically different. The ‘daddy issues’ like the one quoted and superiority complex were more original to the Chief of the gang than Noboru. His and the gang’s extreme response felt very out of the blue for me; even with Noboru’s fascination towards life on Sea and his diary entries of increasing betrayals by Ryuji, his once ideal Sailor. Of course one can blame the privileged ways in which the kids were raised, but, I couldn’t find anything that warrantable in their extra w(v)is(c)e talks and weird world view. The chief often said meticulously crafted sentences that invoked a sense of false superiority and sneering look down on people around them. But, with the final act or the cat scene, their way out was always violence in ‘secrecy’. I think, I needed some emotional or historical baggage to sustain or even trigger their behaviour, other than the fact that kids were being whatever author wanted them to be.

1 WmghYGzr5s3ilePs78G-bAMaybe Noboru‘s secluded life and gradual descent reflects Mishima‘s closeted childhood and his masculine response over the tagged effeminacy and homosexuality. Maybe by detaching the gang from childlike immaturity and consciously committing them to the final act, Mishima was further stretching on western definitions of ‘adulthood’ and ‘childhood’ like that of Philippe Aries. Maybe Mishima is interventionistic of his fundamentalist response towards modernizing Japanese society and hence have left the nazi goonies clan ideology childish and open for scrutiny. Maybe in Ryuji‘s nonchalant acceptance, Mishima was reflecting his own later ‘Sepukku’ with book’s definitions of honour, valour and glory. Maybe I am trying to make sense of a book I didn’t like but desperate to understand. Maybe I should have dropped the book by that visceral scene in first part that scarred me, and even warned me of what might follow. Maybe I am just not smart enough to fathom nor sophisticated enough to enjoy, but just stupid enough to rant.

I think the last line makes more sense. I might pick another Mishima up, but my feelings are still unchanged; I didn’t like the book.


The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (Japanese: 午後の曳航, meaning The Afternoon Towing) is a novel written by Yukio Mishima, published in Japanese in 1963 and translated into English by John Nathan in 1965.

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The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach

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This book made me recall Ursula K Le Guin’s introduction to Left Hand of Darkness, where she explains science fiction as descriptive, rather than predictive or prescribing. Novelist, knowingly or unknowingly, invents elaborately circumstantial lies for describing certain aspect of our psychological reality, with metaphors. To me, Andrea Eschbach’s writing did just that, the alternative universe in The Carpet Makers was a reflection of the world we think to have left behind, yet latently existing within ourselves.

The novel opens with an archaic tale, reminiscent of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, in premise and narrative. Our introduction to the Intergalactic Empire is through Yannahochia, a planet of Carpet makers where the caste system is more rigid than that in Manusmriti. This planet, G-101/2 in the Gheera galaxy, comprises of traditional carpet weavers who consider it their sacred duty to create carpets using nothing but hairs of their wives and daughters. As far as Yannahochian narrative is concerned, the existence of the Empire or any Empire or even other planets are mere speculations for readers, as much as it is for the fundamentalists and heretics of the planet. Though the initial mystery of carpet business had me hooked, I was more lured into the story to see how this medieval fable would fit into the genre of sci fi. And it got paid off well.

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Each chapter in this novel can be considered as a standalone story, and maintains subtle continuity with others in premises and characters. Eschbach‘s simplistic prose wasn’t much lost in translation, I believe; the reproduction might have even enhanced novel’s adapted fable structure. There was an underlying melancholy in each story, characters were in perpetual conflict between faith and duty; yet hope remained the dominant emotion, as author expanded his universe through the ‘merciless maelstrom of time’.

The way the writer portrayed the Carpet Makers and the higher Empire was similar to Bank‘s treatment of Azadians with utopian Culture. The Emperor defined the empire; in his permanence subjects found purpose and structured their lives around in reverence. Even though he ruled over with overseers and levied taxes, his meth like chronic existence – that has already transcended generations from the point of view of mortal vassals – placed a perpetual halo over his head, more like that of Semitic conception of God than that of an Oriental emperor. Also, unlike the Katy Perry loving Kim Jong Un from The Interview, Carpet Makers’ Emperor was serious business, who had actually stopped aging for ages.

Imperial workers, Carpet Makers in particular, represented a closed society based on ‘faith’. The caste system and sense of duty was so deeply riveted in empire’s social consensus that people took pride in being jittery marionettes of a defective system. Author has beautifully captured the generation gap, between the Rebels and fundamentalists who have spent their whole life and that of their forefathers in the fantasy or utter devotion to Empire; and their stubborn reluctance to break out of the system, by the silly yet warranted reason that, they should honour their traditions. And in honouring this false pride, they were willing to ignore the future that gets sacrificed in the altar of past. Every character, regardless of caste, was shown to possess an intrinsic insecurity that called for constant revaluations, to see whether he/she has done things right. This tussle between self-reliance and ‘dharma’, and auxiliary temptation to reason failures to its non-adherence, to the over analyst in this reader, felt like a critique to organized religion, conservatism and postcolonial psychology of 20th century.

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I was constantly reminded of Arabian stories and middle eastern culture, Carpets might have triggered it with story setting reinforcing the same.

Novel’s narrative wasn’t one sided, through changing perspectives and characters, it gave due diligence the emotions attached with the very customs it seemed to ridicule. There were stories that professed free will and importance of individuality, and then there were stories that suggested them being illusions, like Ted Chiang‘s What’s Expected of Us. There were stories about adherence to one’s duty in the society and then there were stories that warranted the need to break away. And then there was this outsider perspective – how everything looked futile when viewed from outside the community, like Shyamalan‘s Village people. Again, as an antithesis, there were stories that dealt with loss of one’s identity and faith, which made rebels’ civilizing mission look like Hegemony attack on Maui-Covenant.

I expected the stories to concatenate towards a science-y closure, like various hair strands forming a single carpet. But I was left with the same expression Old Boy‘s final chapters had left me in: an existential dreadfulness, the kind that seemed to have engulfed Ostvan and Guild on learning the truth. Then it hit me, and it was beautiful.

 

 


The Carpet Makers (German original title: Die Haarteppichknüpfer) is a science fiction novel by German writer Andreas Eschbach, originally published in 1995. The first English language edition, released in 2005 by Tor Books, features a foreword by Orson Scott Card.

Dawn by Octavia Butler

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According to Jewish apocryphal traditions, Lilith was the first woman whom God had created along side Adam, before Eve. When Lilith was repeatedly persuaded to be subservient to her husband, Adam, she deserted Eden, revolting against God and her husband. This act of defiance has characterized future legends that epitomize her as manifestation of chaos, seduction and everything apostasic. In modern interpretations though, Lilith is an exemplar for feminist movements, for being a woman who stood up against dominance and subjugation. And for Butler’s post civilizational dystopian universe, that doesn’t have a God or any promised progenitors, I found the choice of protagonist’s name or the series renaming- Lilith’s Brood very fitting, allegorically and narrative wise.

tumblr_oqmsqmEkT91r1u2w8o2_500.gifDawn, as the name rightfully implies, opens with a proxy God scenario. Earth has been left uninhabitable by an obscure nuclear war, and what’s left of mankid is under the cryostatic protection of an alien race called the Oankali. The Oankalis are a very alien Alien species with Medusa-ish body hair, Cthulhu tentacles for sensory receptors, Karellen-ish face and strange names(“Kaaltediinjdahya lel Kahguyaht aj Din“) that makes you wonder whether the author had accidentally bumbed her head on keyboard and decided to roll with it, or was being ridiculously imaginative. This Childhood’s End soon escalates into Overlords awakening their Stormgren- Lilith Iyapo in this case, 250 years since the war, with the intention of repopulating Earth with humankind. But there is a disturbingly weird catch. Something far more unsettling than the proposition of Monks from Doctor Who or maybe even that of Clarke’s Overlords.

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Karellen from syfy’s Childhood’s End. I can’t even imagine how Oankalis would look in a screen adaptation

The Oankalis are perhaps the strangest species I have ever read, both in biology and psychology. As repulsive as this sounds, they have terrifying sensory tentacles all over their body, three sexes as a species, ability to manipulate genetic biochemistry and an entirely different perception of the outside world to which our sentience is rather handicapped in comparison. Though it is easy to go to generalizations with the what is left of us as and the Oankalis as a species, this book evades the appropriation by presenting grey scenarios; Where it is difficult to assert right and wrong, for characters as well as reader. Dawn is reaction driven than character or plot, right from the very inception where Lilith is recruited as prime emissary for the new world order to her conflicting loyalty towards humanity and its godly captors. The book has captured the moral confusion, acceptance of apocalypse and prospectus of strange future from now captivity, rather beautifully. I loved how subtley, it reminded me of racism and xenophobia, and how futile it looked when another species is in play. And how imaginative, though a bit unsettling, the concept of bioship and biological manipulation was in comparison with our industrial contraptions. In addition to this technological incompatibility, genetic dissimilarities made them all the more alien, with reasons to doubt and fear. And author seemed to have let the events just unfold, in all its messiness, confusion and partisian conflicts, without passing any judgemental remarks or assigning any moral codes. It was hard to objectively blame anyone as the possibility of humankind being like pets or Oods to an Ood looking odd species in itself sounds pretty terrifying. And it took me a while to make peace with it.

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Lilith by John Collier and Watchers as per Noah movie/graphic novel

I couldn’t help but compare the Onakalis with Enochian Watchers from Bible. In Aronofsky’s Noah they were depicted as Rock giants helping the selected ones pursue the ways of God, with minimum possible interference. This obvious appendage to Lilith allegory might be an overkill, but Oankali’s refined yet nonchalant attitude towards humans, even with the weird proposition for co-operation, sounded like something that would eventually become a legend, holy or unholy, once humanity is completely revamped as a civilization. Leaving these far fetched metaphors aside, Dawn felt well written and fast paced, if not completely reassuring. Loved the prose and I was gripped till the end, though it took me some time to decide whether the disturbance I felt were good or bad. Some feministic undertones could be interpreted from the lead being black and female, but, it might beat the purpose if not fun, as humanity itself is reduced to double digits. And just when I thought the book couldn’t get any more stranger, it surprised me by being even weirder. Definitely going to explore the rest of the books.

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No, I haven’t; still

Anyway, the weeboo in me was amazed by the fact that, Butler’s aliens haven’t permeated into the hentai market yet, to which their sexuality is seemingly begging for. Well, there is still time and resources at the disposal of this really strange place called internet.


 

Lilith’s Brood is a collection of three works by Octavia E. Butler. The three volumes of this science fiction series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago) were previously collected in the now out of print volume, Xenogenesis. It has been picked up by Ava DuVernay, Charles D. King’s Macro and director-writer Victoria Mahoney for adaption into a television series.

source: wiki

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

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Central plot – a technically dead off world mercenary is hired by a murdered millionaire to investigate his own murder.

I couldn’t help but imagine Altered Carbon’s as a spinoff from Hyperion’s Brawne Lamia – Keats storyline or as a salty gritty take on Sheckley’s Mindswap. In Morgan’s futuristic pseudo dystopia, Earth is no longer the centre of human civilization and science has successfully dichotomized human body and consciousness. Physical bodies are more like interchangeable vessels (sleeves) and identity or memories of an individual is stored in a chip based cortical stack that can be downloaded, transmitted, broadcasted and even insured. This stack consciousness can be transferred organically or hyper spatially through ‘needlecast’ and be resleeved into a different body, even interplanetary-ily and at a speed faster than light – very similar to Hegemony’s Farcasting and Webworld if you ask me. This forever changes the concept of mortality, morality and death as we know it, since anyone with enough resources can, technically, extend their life as long as they desire by resleeving themselves into cloned organics. Or an Orwellian government can keep citizen stacks in perpetual storage. Anyway, in this futuristic cyberpunk premise, Altered Carbon surprises by being a hard-boiled detective story, a noir locked room murder mystery.

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I was constantly reminded of these three masterpieces during the read

The politics and philosophy of this world is intriguing in so many ways and also perplexing with our contemporary conventions. Also, the universe of Altered Carbon feels more believable now that than when the book was initially released, thanks to the ever increasing exposure to wireless technologies, cloud computing, wearables and STEM cell research. Novel’s very concept of mind body Cartesian duality and technological metempsychosis of consciousness has serious ramifications on the way we perceive morality. For example the recurring graphic violence gets the philosophical justification of it being replacable organic damage, and death as something that a resleeving can fix. It also raises questions like “Who are you when you are not in your body, to yourself and the people around you?” This also braces religion with multiplicity of souls, spirituality and metaphysics of rebirth or afterlife. In fact, Catholicism is presented as a progress inhibiting adversary in this novel with its negative stance on relseeving and clone storage. I was repeatedly blown away by the immediacy of the technological concepts book had to offer. On the explanation and exposition side, an appreciable balance was kept between the hard and soft extremities of science fiction spectrum. Still the believable futuristics and fast paced cinematic narrative wasn’t enough to take me over the general frustration I kept having with the novel.

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Still from Netflix adaptation. Looks like the stage for book’s iconic snuff shootout (could be an iconic moment in TV history, if done properly)

Morgan’s already uptight prose suffered from digressions and plastic dialogues, at least in my eyes. Every time I entered the universe, it offered something impressive and had my attention unaltered for a while. But the moment I put the book down, it looked like an ordeal I don’t want to resume. Plot line was derivative and the murder mystery was off the spotlight less than halfway the book, it was still a good incentive though. Takeshi Kovacs was presented as this hyper masculine antihero to whom everyone in the story is somehow drawn into, no matter how much of a dick he is. The backstory of Ryker’s body or Quell excerpts or Envoy flashbacks or even the first person narrative did little to make me cut any leeway for his actions. Bancroft, on the other hand, was a complacent Meth(book’s term for people who resleeve extensively, after Biblical Methuselah) with a femme-fatale wife and disparaging view on women in general. Everything was overly sexualized in this world, and even with the blurred philosophy I wasn’t able to digest the snuff brothels, unaccounted brutality on bystanders and sexual violence. Author’s efforts to justify them with the premise made it all the more infuriating. His angry dig on religion and neurachem induced Envoy combats made me look back to Hyperion again, to Dure and Kassad, and Forever War.

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It was really weird to be repeatedly impressed by a book and be frustrated over it time and again. Maybe Kovac’s Westworld would have found better audience in my younger self.

 


Altered Carbon is the first book in Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, followed by Broken Angels and Woken Furies. It is getting a live series adaptation from Netflix and is scheduled for 2018.

Artemis by Andy Weir

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I often get confused between Andy Weir and Ernest Cline, and there was a part of me that got excited mistaking Artemis for Art3mis, and hence a Ready Player Two. But after enduring months with the opening chapter tease and having my expectations already raised by Egg, Martian and even Lacero, I must admit to being massively disappointed. This might be an over statement, but in all this author confusion I am inclined to tag Artemis as Wier’s Armada than a worthy successor of his debut novel.

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Artemis Station Plan

Artemis is a lunar colony, a space version of Bioshock‘s Rapture city, and functions under a hierarchical society that follows a post-modern caste system. Built under the patronage of Kenyan government, who had gone Sri LankanSpace Elevatorpath with geopolitics here, Artemis provides home and employment to a considerable number of humans in Tourism and their indigenous Aluminium smelting Industry. Book opens up with impressive topographical sketches of Artemis stations and does a fairly good job in designing a sustainable functional ecosystem in Moon. Written in first person monologue format, the story unfolds through the eyes of a first generation Artemisian and is confined mostly in Conrad Bubble, which is basically an affluent Belt favela from Expanse universe. Our protagonist is a Saudi girl, Jazz, with name of Jasmine and lifestyle of Aladdin, and a weird obsession towards poor life choices. Weir explicitly and repeatedly states the genius of Jazz and her state of life being her own edgy choice than lack of options. But, like her Dad and acquaintances around, I too was not impressed by her or the course of events.

uk-scientists-announce-crowdfunded-mission-moon.jpgThe diversity and the cosmopolitan culture of space station, though conspicuously forced, were commendable, and I enjoyed the small town treatment of lunar bubble in consideration. The cultural contrasts between Earth and Moon, though through brief epistolary side narrative, was well expressed. Even with this edgy diversity and ecumenical lunar immigrant city life, the novel’s near future wasn’t free of clichéd stereotypes. Like the semi centennial Hollywood tradition of killing off the black guy first or making the Asian guy in the guild either a nerd or a Katana expert, Artemis had its own weird conventions. Working classes, for some reason, were from Middle East, tourists were majorly Americans, crime syndicate from Brazil etc. And to me, this cronyistic nationalism and sterile approach was a huge turn off, considering story’s futuristic premise surrounding a lunar colony. There was even a closed room geek who pretty much manufactured every tech the plot needed, and he, with his shady business background, was conveniently a Slav.

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Appolo 11 Visitor center, the major tourist attraction of Artemis

I remember the reddit AMA where Weir answered Doctor Who to a question whose answers of choice were Star Trek and Star Wars. Not sure whether its this predisposition or his weak attempt to attribute references just for the sake of it, the NCC 1701 code breaking felt like ‘trying too hard to stay mainstream’ to me. In fact he didn’t stop there, and went off the narrative to insert an unnecessary and misplaced Han Solo reference as well, like crossing off some list. I love them both, even Who, but its a bit cringy when contemporary literatures find themselves compelled to make passing references, by any means necessary. The contrast was all the more visible, since other pop culture comments felt so natural and aptly placed. Watney‘s SOL log styled quirky monologue and well conveyed science, in my opinion, are author’s strong suit; and novel’s ‘Jashn Bahara’ easily rendered this style irritating by being an arrogant snowflake that somehow enjoys infinite lifeline. The science also felt misplaced at times too, like author had decided to write down everything in his research, no matter what the question was.

Rather than being an alcove into life in Moon, the novel was invested in being a panegyrical record of its young delinquent’s jagged adventures. And Weir based it so much on the central character that everyone else felt like some insignificant yet obligatory NPCs, who were there to just nod and propel her narrative. She wasn’t any help either.

Or like Jazz might say, “In comparison with the red planet castaway, Artemis was just a glorified cheap slugged gunk, if you know what I mean.”

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Borne-HPThis novel is about a shape shifting super intelligent vanilla smelling Groot and a giant lethal Bear whose favourite pass time, other than flying, is terrorizing an already ruined city. I did not make that up. And with a premise as ridiculous as, maybe, that of Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla, Borne was surprisingly heartwarming. I did not make that up too.

Apocalypse and its aftermath are rather obscure in novel’s first person reticent narrative. Like the fallout setting of, say, Metro 2033, world is recovering from or accepting its fate of being a bio-technical wasteland. Most of its inhabitants are Frankenstein-ish in appearance and have traceable origins to a biotech corporate known to readers only as ‘The Company’. And in what appears to be a menagerie of hybrid transgenic beings and discarded experiments, the King or Kong is a ridiculously enormous Bear named ‘Mord’. VanderMeer scales Mord to multistorey buildings, and though it often inflicts destruction along its way, many of city’s inhabitants consider Mord as their Lord and Savior. During a scavenging operation, our protagonist Rachel finds baby Borne on Mord’s furries. Rachel’s boyfriend, Wick suspects Borne of being a bio-weapon, but she decides to raise it as her pet and soon develops a mother-child bond between them. Book doesn’t offer clear definitions or explanations for what Borne is, and like Borne itself, readers are kept in the existential crisis of assigning identity for sentient beings outside humanity. I have mixed feelings about the novel as a whole, but I loved Borne and the beautifully prosed dynamics between him and Rachel, and Rachel and Wick.

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Jeff VanderMeer during one of his promotional tours.

Everything is more or less a priori in this narrative and it often succumbs to the genre cliches like dictatorship of corporate, romanticizing past glory, mulling over the greenery, morality etc. But rather than glorifying the apocalyptic SuperGod perspective, VanderMeer develops the story through the insignificants- people who are caught in the crossfire. Unlike the evil Company or levitating Mord or the resistance leader Magician, Rachel and Wick are expendable humans whose primary concern is staying alive than the outcome of events in grand scale. Consider them as the ones whose buildings, cars and tax money get destroyed in cliched Superhero battles under the rhetoric of ‘saving the day’. I adored the relationship between Rachel and Borne, and their life in Balcony Cliffs till the point it turned dark. From there on I mostly read Borne’s child like dialogues in Tommy Wiseau’s voice to reduce the uneasiness.

200To Rachel, Borne was a ‘mirror and window and scene that kept changing’, and to Borne, Rachel was the only way to perceive a world it can hardly comprehend. Borne has a congenital weakness that goes again the general notions of morality, and with a ruined city as the frame of reference Rachel finds it difficult to raise him like a normal person. While Borne was trying to make sense of the world through Rachel, she was trying to make sense of Borne. His child like curiosity and misplaced instinctual priorities were off the usual societal reservations for any usual observer except Rachel. Many of those weirdly playful moments between them were adorable and managed to produce a smile on my face. In fact, the connection author made between Borne’s very first encounter with Mord proxies and his final Boss rush, in Rachel’s monologue, managed to make my eyes moist.

southern-reach-paperback-coversI must admit to treating Borne universe as an extension of Area X, and mentally, consciously or unconsciously, naming this story’s Umbrella Corporation as Southern Reach. And though it might not have been the smartest strategy for someone struggling to accept Acceptance, it did enhance the reading. Both employs a sempiternal narrative, but Borne was more limpid and less stolid in comparison. Also among many details, Wick being an ex company employee who engineers fish ponds (human-eyed dolphins of Annihilation), VanderMeer’s plant fixation and ‘southern’ base of company helped. Nevertheless, Brone offers something that Southern Reach deems luxury – a closure. It’s comprehensive towards the end and provides revelations that changes the way we read the novel and characters altogether, and might even break you in the process.

Borne, though lyrically masquerades itself as a final fantasy filled with parademon-ish miniature Mord proxies and obscure underground movements, is essentially about a mother and her coming in terms with the fact that her child is no longer a child. And it is beautiful.

Anyway, now I consider myself cleansed off Atwood’s pigoons filled abstract apocalypse by an even weirder, even abstract eco catastrophe involving the giant flying Bear and a glorified house plant.

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick

What are you up to?

Reading a Dick novel.

A what!

"Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said"

Dude, is this your coming out?

my what!!

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In a highly reductionist view, this novel is Borne Identity on drugs and in reverse, with Dick’s own domestic Jason.

Jason Taverner is a ‘six’, a genetically superior elite human, both in looks and skills. He is wealthy, extremely successful as a TV musical personality and well popular among ladies. Though written a bit insolent with narcissist tendencies, Taverner is a reasonably decent man, maybe as much as Bester’s Foyle. After being attacked by a parasitic life form, Jason finds himself in a warped reality where every evidence of his existence has been erased, from minds of people and public archives.

The plot that follows is very surreal and dream like, there are no constants or focal points as far as the narrative is concerned. Its like being in a half lucid dream, where you are conscious about things you need to do, but are paralyzed to do so. Story’s varying premises with broken shards of reality don’t entail any rational conclusion as well. The dystopian society is more or less an NPC filled open world where neither the writer nor the protagonist is interested in fleshing out any of the characters, or the central narrative. And if you are someone who insists on stories making logical sense or involving conclusive tropes, this might be a bit off putting, even with the expected messiness of a PKD novel.

Speaking of Dicksian weirdness, the usual suspects were there in open – authoritarian state, radicalized students, genetic superiority, patronizing men, futuristic society, pornography, mind altering drugs, yadda yadda yadda. There was this one specific aspect of the Welfare/Authoritarian state that disturbed me. Going from a well known celebrity to nobody, our protagonist finds it almost impossible to do the very basic things like traveling, eating, shopping etc without being picked by police for his lack of identity. And I found his struggles through the underground economy to avoid labour camp prophetic towards current refugee crisis and rising nationalistic sentiments. Another disturbing element was the random act of kindness by the end of the book, like some sort of apology against novel’s racial selectivity. It is nagging me more than novel’s incongruous epilogue since that unprecedented ‘act’ forms most of book’s title.

[Spoilers in below para]

Well, later contemplations frustrated me even more. The alien creature Taverner got attacked with, at the start of the novel, the one incident that triggered the warped realities in first place was neglected into oblivion ever since, with zero revisit even by epilogue. Maybe the attack was the hidden twist, a ‘bardo’ between the incident reality and the one in which Taverner finds himself lost. And a ‘Jacob‘s Ladder’ reading was intended of novel’s open interpretation. It will actually elucidate the rationale behind story’s lack cursory or even deus ex machina explanation for Taverner’s survival, if one considers the madness that followed as an uncollapsed limbo. 

Whatever the case is, ratiocination wasn’t Dick’s primary objective here and it is better to sit back and enjoy the book on its own illogical terms. I am more inclined to parody it as the Android cried me a river though.

These words from early pages of the book perfectly summarizes my feelings, towards this book and PKD in general.

“The terrible power, he thought, of illogic. Of the archetypes. Operating out of the dear depths of the collective unconscious which joined him and her- and everyone else – together.”