Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Books I Am Reading (2)

Patrick H. Adkins, The Third Beast.  Someone gave me this book; it is ordinarily $0.99 on Kindle.  This is one of about five books in my entire life that I started reading--and I could not go to sleep until I reached the end, which meant that I was still reading it at 2:00 AM.  (And I had to go to work the next day.)

This was originally published on paper in 1995, and alas, some of its subtle social commentary is even more painfully accurate today than it was then.  It won't spoil anything for me to tell you that in the first chapter or two, the protagonist is clearly disturbed by the general degradation of the society, and its return to a form of primitivism, such as the increasing focus on tattoos and body modifications, and he recounts a discussion with another faculty member about whether there might be an argument for censorship at the extremes of the media.

I remembered, too, a conversation I had once had with a colleague about the increasingly lurid nature of our popular culture. I defended such material on the basis that clearly many people wanted such entertainment and that the alternative—censorship—was unacceptable. Besides, I told him, you can always change the channel if you find something objectionable. His answer took me by surprise. “Very well,” he said, “but remember that you’re going to have to live the rest of your life surrounded by people who grew up watching and reading that stuff, and thinking it’s normal.”

The novel itself is, I would say, an attempt to do for zombie novels what Richard Matheson's I Am Legend did for vampire novels: take what is fundamentally a supernatural idea and recast it as science fiction, with a plausible, rationalistic explanation for what would otherwise be horror.  And it does that extraordinarily well!  The novel is first person, and the protagonist is a paleoanthropologist who finds the book he is writing about Homo erectus disturbingly similar to trends that he is beginning to see happening in his neighborhood near New Orleans--but he knows that this can't be happening!

This is a horror novel; there are parts that may be a bit too intense for sensitive readers.

After my experience with Republic, I was a bit sensitive about typos and such, but I found two typos in the whole book: one spelling error, and one homonym error.  That's pretty decent!

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