Jason Pettus's Reviews > Brain Thief

Brain Thief by Alexander Jablokov
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Jul 09, 10

it was ok
bookshelves: contemporary, weird, dark, sci-fi
Read in July, 2010

(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

At first glance, the "trippy" "cyberpunk" novel Brain Thief by Alexander Jablokov looks like something that'd be right up my alley, to the point that it's one of the few titles I've ever bothered to put on reserve at my local library, instead of my usual habit of choosing books based on whatever random titles happen to be there on the day of my visit. But alas, this novel is neither trippy nor cyberpunk, but rather a sorta ham-fisted gonzo comedy that shares exactly enough surface-level elements with trippy cyberpunk to justify some lazy marketer slapping the words onto the dust jacket, a book that supposedly concerns the day-after-tomorrow high-tech industry centered around Boston and an artificially intelligent entity that has gone rogue, but whose entire first half (which is as far as I read) mostly consists of zany chase scenes that for some unknown reason are set in locations that feel more like rural California in 1956. Of course, details like these have been forgiven in other bizarro novels I've reviewed here, but Brain Thief also happens to be egregiously guilty of the most common crime among all genre fiction in general, of ignoring character development in their service of an overly convoluted plot; and so not only does this book mostly consist of zany chase scenes when it's been advertised as a brainy thriller, but they are chase scenes set among disposable cartoon characters, completely failing to generate any interest among the reader as to what their fates might be, and instead forcing the reader to judge the book solely by how clever it is (which unfortunately is "not very"). I mean, not every book out there has to be Proust, but for God's sake, I want an artist to at least make an effort at getting us to feel like we're following the fate of a real human being, and not just some cardboard chess piece that emerged whole-cloth from their mind's eye; and this of course is the big problem among CGI-obsessed Hollywood these days too, and why such big-budget spectacles like Avatar still end up feeling flat and listless no matter how inventive the special effects. This book is the textual version of that, and it comes recommended to only the most hardcore fans of bizarro and gonzo fiction out there.

Out of 10: 5.7
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