Amy's Reviews > Pym

Pym by Mat Johnson
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's review
May 03, 2011

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bookshelves: library-book
Read on May 03, 2011

Chris Jaynes, the only black professor at a mediocre college, is obsessed with "how the pathology of Whiteness was constructed". Hired to teach African-American literature, he is fired because he's more interested in teaching Poe and ultimately when he won't join the Diversity Committee. His job is lost and his book collection is in ruins when a manuscript that appears to be written by Dirk Peters (the 'half-breed' character from Poe's only full-length novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket) arrives from his bookseller. Intrigued by what he reads and certain that the characters and events in Poe's book were real, he puts together an all-black team and strikes out on an expedition to Antarctica to trace the route Pym and his companion, Dirk Peters, took.

His best friend, Garth, Little Debbie snack cake addict and Thomas Karvel (think Thomas Kinkaide, painter of light) fanboy goes along for the journey. Jaynes' cousin, Booker, “the world’s only civil rights activist turned deep-sea diver,” captains the ship along with his dog, White Folks. Also on crew are Jaynes' only love, Angela, and her entertainment lawyer husband, Nathaniel. Rounding out the crew are Jeffree and Carlton Damon Carter, gay couple and adventure bloggers.

The adventure truly begins when they meet Poe's Telekians (or 'snow honkies', as Booker Jaynes refers to them) in Antarctica, realize Arthur Gordon Pym is living amongst them, and subsequently find themselves enslaved by the massive, albino creatures. Living in subterranean caverns, freezing and practically starving, Jaynes decides he's going to escape, save the day, and win back the love of his ex-girlfriend, Angela.

Mat Johnson has written a funny, action-packed satire worth reading. While it became a bit over-the-top toward the end, as a whole I found the book entertaining.
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