Friday, December 23, 2016

FFB 1: Damien Broderick: a Guest's Friday's Forgotten Book: NEUROPATH by R. Scott Bakker (Orion, 2008; Penguin Canada, 2009; TOR, 2009)

Damien Broderick: 
I just stumbled on Canadian R. Scott Bakker's 2008 philosophical horror novel Neuropath, which I found rather good, a sort of blend of Greg Egan and Thomas Harris. It was published in the US by TOR, and is an sf novel to the extent that half of Moscow has been nuked (or something similar), the world is in deep shit generally, neuroimaging has advanced at the rate one might expect, and the US seems to have fallen into the grip of people who eerily foreshadow Trump and his chosen support team. The only review I've managed to find is this at Strange Horizons, but it doesn't give the remotest sense of how gripping and informed this novel is. But then to unwrap its motor would ruin it; Bakker's winding threads of neuroscience and Dennettesque philosophy is discursive but thoroughly enacted by his characters. 

Bakker seems to have started with complex fantasy narratives.  I sent the above paragraph to Scott, who replied inter alia: "the esteemed pop culture critic and speculative realist Steven Shaviro devotes a whole chapter to NP in his latest book, Discognitions, exploring the ability of narrative to take us where arguments cannot go...There's a few academic treatments out there, but his reading is smack." I've never heard of Steven Shaviro** nor heard "smack" used as a term of excited endorsement (an upgrade to the tedious "dope", I assume), I'll leave it there for the moment. 

**Wiki tells us: "Shaviro has written a book about film theory, The Cinematic Body, which examines the dominance of Lacanian tropes in contemporary academic film theory. According to Shaviro, the use of psychoanalysis has mirrored the actions of a cult, with its own religious texts (essays by Freud and Lacan)," an opinion only the cultists would disagree with, as I argued a couple of decades back in Theory and Its Discontents.

Recommended. I have a suspicion that it was probably too smart for the sf groundlings ("booorrring") and that maybe it sank swiftly into oblivion--although I see paperback and ebook editions, so I hope I'm wrong.

Copyright 2016 by Damien Broderick 


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Todd, "Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels" looks mighty interesting and I'm sure fascinating to read too.

Todd Mason said...

I certainly like it! Do you see many Canadian, or more likely Australian, books in India, Prashant? Even as one who tries to stay au courant with horror fiction, Bakker wasn't known to me till I read Damien's review here...

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Not really, Todd, unless I go looking for at least those Canadian and Australian writers I'm familiar with. Our reading is still American and British centric, as evident from the books occupying our bookstores and book exhibitions.