Speciman days was not really a novel per se, but more like three linked novellas. The three stories were all set in different time periods: The IndustSpeciman days was not really a novel per se, but more like three linked novellas. The three stories were all set in different time periods: The Industrial Revolution, Present Day New York, 2150 New York. Each story loosely involved three characters named some derivation of Simon, Catherine and Lucas. There was a bowl of some sort that was passed between all of the stories (symbolism of this remains unclear). And then there was Walt Whitman.
In the first story, about a poverty stricken family where the oldest son has been killed (Simon) and the youngest son (11-year old Lucas) must go to work to support his disabled Father, distraught mother and sort of his brother’s fiancee’ widow. Lucas has some sort of problem where he constantly speaks in poetry. Specifically, Walt Whitman poetry. Whitman makes a cameo.
The second story, involves a NYPD call-center psychiatrist who’s job is to answer terrorist phone calls and she hears about a terrorist plot perpetrated by a series of children. Children who keep quoting Whitman. More Whitman references as the plot develops. The context is pseudo-present NYC, however it is in some sort of alternate world where terrorism is much more prevalent than today. Where this is such an all-consuming factor that it almost appears post-apocalyptic.
In the last story, Cunningham was clearly taking some happy pills. It is the story of a Cyborg (Simon) who rescues an alien lizard (Katreen) from persecution for lying to the robot-police and they take off on a cross-country race to Denver to meet up with the cyborg maker before he takes off on his spaceship to colonize another planet, picking up a disenchanted boy missionary with a freakish head (Luke) and dragging him along. Very strange.
I really didn’t get this book at all. Each one was difficult in its own way and I struggled with the writing style. I feel like I almost would have like the last one the best, but was unable to really appreciate it juxtaposed as it was to the other two stories. I am sure I should be pulling some deep meaning from the title “Speciman Days” as they all take place on the same day of the year (June 23 if I remember correctly) but each 150ish years apart.
Blah. I refuse to try to overanalyze this one.
If someone liked it, please tell me why. If forced to choose which I liked best, I would probably go with the middle one, though the ending pissed me off.
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