Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vacation reading: "Sewer, gas, electric"

... He stood on the Yabba-Dabba-Doo's launch deck, wearing a star-and-moon-speckled wizard's hat and a set of fake-nose-and-moustache glasses. "Hey world, time for another visit from Mr. Science. Today we're going to do an experiment in kinetic energy transfer. This" - he pointed to a long cylindrical track that had risen out of the hull beside him - "is an electromagnetic rail gun, a scaled-down model of the very same device the Republicans are using the protect the White House from a nuclear attack. And this" - he held up a hefty deli sausage - "is twenty pounds of kosher salami. Now what we're going to do is accelerate the salami to Mach 9 and see what happens to the bow of that ship over there, OK? Kids, please don't try this at home without your parents' supervision ..."
Every now and then, a really bizarre book is needed. So, when I saw another obscure trilogy-of-something on the bookshelf, I gave it a try. After all, I've survived Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" (which a friend gave me as a present many years ago; she's now a professor of comparative literature studies). And so we enter the strange world of 2023, where ecoterrorist and pirate Philo Dufresne plays practical jokes on large corporations with his green-with-pink-polka-dots submarine, robots have become everyone's best helper, the New York sewers form a highly mutagenic biosphere including the giant white shark Meisterbräu, and the shadows of Disney and Hoover loom. A murder mystery has to be solved, which requires all the attention of Joan Fine, ex-wife of America's richest entrepreneur and ex-employee of the sewers department after her first encounter with Meisterbräu (the hand grenade blew up half of Times Square and ignited the Hudson River)...
What shall I say. It was interesting reading, but I'm not really sure if I will read it again. Some clever ideas, good jokes and nice discussion. In the end, what drove me off was my personal feeling that the crazyness and style could not keep up with the storyline. Which is a really hard-to-reach objective, as even Douglas Adams may concede from above; while focussing the attention of the reader requires at least some sort of coherent narrative, the innovative character of the text also needs culmination and finesse. (Maybe, just maybe, all the fake Ayn Rand dialogues got on my nerves, too.)
Matt Ruff, "Sewer, gas, electric: The public works trilogy". Aspect 1998; ISBN 044660642. Two-point-three-three-three-three out of of five eyes in the pyramid in the category "whacky conspiracy theory postmodernism". May be considered quite bad taste (but that's likely true of many books in this genre).

No comments:

Post a Comment