I anticipated a mind-scrambling, reality-bending book of epic proportions, but this exceeded all expectations. It is among the most remarkable books I...moreI anticipated a mind-scrambling, reality-bending book of epic proportions, but this exceeded all expectations. It is among the most remarkable books I've ever read.
In a future where the world has become obsessed with fashion, a kind of nanotechnology virus infects girls to turn them into "dolls", which might best be described as android-vampires. The dolls endure ostracism, extermination, and finally ascension into extra-dimensional demi-gods as the epidemic spreads.
Among the bewitching ideas at play is that because the nanotech robots operate on such small scales, they employ quantum effects to defy "Euclidean" reality and create parallel worlds akin to cyberspace. Evidently, the dark fantasies of the virus's creator acted as a template for the dolls' genetic proclivities. Hinted at in the first book/part Dead Girls, Calder launches this premise into the stratosphere in the second book (Dead Boys), wherein history itself seems to have been re-written by and for the infected. Or perhaps the future has devolved to resemble the dark dreams of the past. The third book, Dead Things is set in the present (1990’s), but it is an alternate present, warped by future events related in the previous two books, and riddled with flashbacks of Primavera and Iggy’s earlier/alternate lives throughout history (and future). As the story progresses, some of the dolls, our protagonists among them, take it upon themselves to undo alterna-creation, to exterminate all life, history, and un-reality. Partly for retribution against the crimes of mankind, and partly because it is in our nature, and therefore the dolls’ nature, to seek entropy and oblivion.
Not making much sense? It has to be read to be believed. I hesitate to say 'understood' because the story is inscrutable, paradoxical, and deliberately disorienting. Not an easy read, but a fascinating one. Trying to summarize the story in any way was an exercise in futility so I'm done with that.
Fittingly, the book dilates time and threshes my psyche such that each and every page took 5 minutes to read. The nihilistic prose and exotic vocabulary grated my nerves for the first 20 pages, but once I bought into it, I did an about-face and came to relish the way it is written.
The only thing that remains to be commented upon, indeed a glaring omission from this review, is the boundless prevalence of sex and violence in the narrative. This is not a book for anyone with an even remotely delicate sensibility. The level of depravity is without measure; allusions to Marquis de Sade are not overblown. A small sample of the recurring terminology gives a flavor, if you'll let your imagination run to the most debauched implications:
marauder; fellatrix; slink-riven; sex-traitress; girl-meat; Metasex; the bellyspike; superfemeninity...
The language is beautiful and delicious, fiendish and treacherous. Words like "twisted" fall short of the mark. I do not have the words to describe those of Calder. That’s why you have to read them.
Don’t expect explicit sex and violence in the modern, Hollywood sense. It is not a romance novel, nor is it action-packed. Calder regards reality as tyranny, and reveres sex-death as "a loving cruelty." The most bizarre love story ever told.
I’d like to claim that the book was right up my alley, but frankly, it ran circles around me. I try to avoid histrionics, wary of the boy who cried wolf, but this one threw me sideways. It is high-brow smut, eulogizing the connection between sex and death. This is the central theme of the book—death of the body, of gender, of reality, of time and causation, and of the universe, all for lust, loss and love. Annihilation as the cosmic Demiurge. LSD in printed-word-form, available to you for the low, low price of $15.95. Oh ghod, I'm talking like him now! Get out of my mind, Richard, you fiend!(less)
**spoiler alert** The one short story from this collection that has really stuck with me all these years is "Hinterlands". It describes the exploratio...more**spoiler alert** The one short story from this collection that has really stuck with me all these years is "Hinterlands". It describes the exploration of some sort of warp point discovered in our solar system. Every person who has ever ventured into the wormhole and returned has come back insane. Intensely suicidally insane. Elaborate systems have been established to select all manner of volunteers, and to prevent their suicide and re-establishment into our society (or even just our world). These efforts never work for long enough to get useful data out of the travellers. What the happy-horse fuck do they see on the other side? We only get a glimpse, but it is very well done; would get 5 stars if I could only rate the one story.(less)