Mindsawp by Robert Sheckley

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Books like these are the reason I read.
Mindswap evoked a familiar, Lem or Douglas Adams feel, but this is one rare weird sci fi gem with a combination of meta realism and humour so unique of its own.

Marvin Flynn, a casual vacationer from hinterlands of Earth with innate small-town conservatism goes all wanderlust and decides to see the vastness of cosmos at minimal disposal of funds. He then Mindswaps with one Martian, a logically unsettling, but cheap process that allows individuals to swap minds with people light years away in mutual consent. Mindswap is basically Bester’s Jaunting without the body or a docile version of Matrix’s Agent Smith bodyswap or maybe little bloody Third Birthday possession.

But Marvin had to let go of the Martian body and swap along a series of near sorry situations all long the universe in bodies of various intelligent species, thanks to an Intergalactic body snatching criminal called Kraggosh. Meanwhile a stumblebum intergalactic detective ‘Urdrof’ with implacable will and utter self confidence is hunting Kraggosh, hoping Marvins body would break his protracted bad luck series of 158 lost cases so far.

“You forget that I am a detective,’ Urdorf said, smiling faintly. ‘I may have my troubles in finding criminals, but I have never experienced the slightest difficulty in finding victims”.

Marvin adventures includes talking eggs, poetic alien hermit who converse in sing-song fashion, intergalactic daily wage contract, Don Quixote references and acid trip reality benders. Previously referred Quixote fandom goes full swing in later chapters with totally absurd unnecessary anew characters fighting for chivalrous bullshit. It had me going ‘why is he telling us all this’ to ‘are these some printing errors’ to an eventually graduated emotion – ‘awesome’. Marvin – Kraggosh Twistedland boss battle so reminded me of the rotomodante slow motion fights I had with bro wen we were kids. Total high dope laugh out loud fun stuff.

f4ceb0002584f9dc49bbfaea267In terms of eloquence and adroitness, Scheckley’s humour is comparable to Lovecrafts horror. Tweaking Scheckleys own words, It was typical of books of this genre to overdo the youthful slang, thus losing any comic effect except the amazingly unintentional, but not this one. In fact Marvin Flynn is a cross of Arthur Dent and Gully Foyle, on the docile side, two puny Terra citizens lost in vastness of Cosmos.

 

 

This book is worth the reads and re reads and re re reads, not just for the laughs but for the deepness it cleverly hides.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

The knack of reading this book is either being rich enough to afford a physical copy or tricking some-one into gift you the same. After seeing the hard print alone did I realize the extent of detail that was lost in ebook reproductions. And the book comes with its own soundtrack 🙂hol-cover2

It is a well-researched scholarly article on a fictional non-existent film, laden with tons of references and footnotes, also happens to be written by a blind mad man, compiled by a messed up tattoo artist, and published by some mysterious editors. Inception gives a familiar yet novel Lovecraftian feel, Pickmans Model or Cool air to be exact, where protagonist learns about Zampano(this book’s Pickman or Dr.Monaz), posthumously though – a weird guy who lived a secluded life shutting himself in a nearby rented apartment, with his uncanny research. Lead soon finds himself obsessed with the dead guy’s newfound material which turns out to be on a strange in-explainable homemade movie. The film contains some seemingly real life footage – experiences Navidson, a Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist and his family encountered on moving to a new house, which happens to be bigger on the inside than outside. And it’s not a Tardis with perception filter. Well, the House rearranges on itself in space and leaves one five and a half minute hallway down to earth, sometime soon after being occupied by this young family.

Navidson records are more like those eerie mad Tardis episodes, or the mysterious Island and Black smoke of Lost. Messing up with its inhabitants, making fun of known physics and logic. Those Hi8 records deals more with psychological effects the house has on the family and people associated, aspects of male dominance and female strive for attention, relationship studies, semantics etc. And reader knows all this because, its written in the form of compiled research with footnotes, multiple references, verbatims, transcripts of interviews, journal entries and so forth. Truant, Navidson and Zampano are shown as confused males who were deprived of their right to name what they inherently understand as their own.

And beware, this book has got nothing to do with Da Vincis Demons or the Truks.

With a preface that literally says- This is not for you, the fully remastered coloured edition pretty much looks like the compilation House of Leaves boasts itself to be. Accords of Truant is in Typeface and Navidson records are in Times New Roman, and unlike other books where different timelines are separated with chapters, here the stories pretty much meddle each other, leaving readers only one distinction element – font. And Navidson and Truant are expressed like two poles of personality, a well organized successful family guy trying to understand the anomaly in his newly bought house to a washed out tattoo artist in company of hookers researching on the former. And more and more he dwells into the research, more is he lost from his social life, much like his predecessor Zampano.

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This edition was extremely faithful to its commitment on colour coding and fonts – every time the word house was printed they kept it blue, Minotaur parts red and striked out since Zampano wanted it off his research collection. In fact the publishers were so committed that they blued haus in a german name burghausen which was a reference, on a side note, by a right column, printed inverted.

Inside its splintered timeline, the book was as sick as the House itself and had with its weirdness, maybe a tad obsessed over the Navidson Records as well. Much surprisingly there is little follow up for the book except for The Whalestone letters, a series of letters from Truants mom over her life at asylum. They were elegantly written and heartrendingly beautiful. Also serves its purpose of giving the much suggested confusion for an open ending, thus being the essential House of Leaves companion.

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From Whalestone letters, take this as my apology for a review this long

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There were pages that needed to be read on mirror, stroked off red references, nonsense blue boxes with and without text, nonsense blue boxes with black colour, gaps in pages that made reading like watching a tennis match from net-side, pages with few lines, single lines, single words even, and prints that needed to be turn in 45, 90, 180 degrees and its multiples. It doesn’t end there, there were transcripts of interviews with people like King, Donna Tartt, Kuberick, Hofstadter, David Copperfield and more. Verbatims in French, German, Greek, Latin and other fonts that I couldn’t fathom. Links to legends and stories like Minotaur, Beatrice, Dante, Bible, references that link back to book by page numbers. Maybe to add agoraphobia with the eeriness of house exploration, there were pages where writings were squeezed into descending smaller blocks much like the reducing walls.

“Doorways offer passage but windows offer vision”, And this book offered both, once you are past the initial vagueness and dilatoriness.

This book is a satirical proof that given the required resources and right amount of motivation people can research on anything to any extend much like this review. And Navidson Records if exists would have been the new age Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, and House of leaves itself would be The Fourth Kind.

Here is a link to the track mentioned by the end of the book, five and a half minute hallway, from album ‘Haunted’ by Poe, She is Mark’s sister and this was done as a companion to the book. Pretty snazzy for a book to have its own soundtrack.

The fully coloured remastered edition does feels like facsimiles of Turant’s Zampano research. And within all its weirdness it manages to be a well written open thriller that keeps you on the edge. I would give the book 5 stars for being weird and awesome.