A review of Chimpanzee by Darin Bradley

Chimpanzee: A NovelChimpanzee: A Novel by Darin Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So if you took Twelve Monkeys, add The Time Traveler’s Wife but subtract the time-travel, multiply by 1984, factor in Strange Days and divide by Fight Club, you get Chimpanzee. (Wow, that required some intense concentration. Had I had a PhD it would have been easier – maybe I do, and it was repossessed.)

Honestly, I fell into this novel with gusto. The prose is tight, so tight sometimes you wish he’s just let loose with some florid flourish, but Bradley’s prose is straight-edge, sharp as a tack. The narrator has a PhD in cognitive science and philosophy (or something…) so a lot of the work is steeped in this first-person’s clever-dick POV, but it’s not showing off: it’s central to the plot.

Well, sort of.

The world is crumbling, this sort of failed-capitalist leading to failed-socialist nightmare dystopia, errday errthang is falling to pieces, people are having their educations repossessed like some clockwork orange therapy, and anyone defaulting on their loans becomes a slave to the state. There is a revolution fomenting, a black market currency rising, censorship is the order of the day, everyone is afraid of taxes and government intervention and there is no spoon and the cake is a lie.

There is not much action either, but there is this love story. That’s one of the things that kept me going, the love story is close to the bone, tempered by the greyness of time and hardship, a sort of realism, a sort of deromanticising which is romantic in itself. (The flashbacks grow gap-toothed, memories collapse, crumbling the foundations of a love story, à la Eternal Sunshine – truly poignant)

The plot is dense, moves along smoothly, the prose is so clever and yet nebulous (imagine a philosopher painting the world as his mind falls apart) I found myself getting into it just because I like the sound of the guy’s voice.

The thing about The Time Traveler’s Wife, Fight Club, Strange Days and 12 Monkeys, is that the ending was always so spectacular you were left kind of breathless, gasping like a fish out of water. The ending to Chimp is a little flat in comparison, specially given the scale of the conclusion, the actual events, all seem muted by the character’s distant POV. That clinical distance is an interesting device, and creates this space for commentary, humour, and poignant moments, but also takes us away from the action a little.

I am a sucker for action, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker, this is a strong novel with rich characters who I wanted to understand, wanted to see unfold. Highly recommend, I’ll be keeping an eye out for Bradley’s work in the future.

View all my reviews

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Sample Illustrations for Dawn of the Algorithm

Below are three lowrez samples of the artwork featured in Dawn of the Algorithm. You can read The Moreau Zoo and T-Rex is Sad on the Inkshares project page, while Post-Human Neo-Tokyo is up on Two Words For. Sharing is caring! Or rather, in the spirit of our generation’s soulless devolution into cyber-detachment: I share therefore I am.

THE MOREAU ZOO
THE MOREAU ZOO – Mathieu Sourisse
POST-HUMAN NEO-TOKYO
POST-HUMAN NEO-TOKYO – Alex Manthei
T-REX IS SAD
T-REX IS SAD – Brian J. Murphy

Poetry Collection: Dawn of the Algorithm

If you enjoy the poetry you read in this portfolio (I mean blog.) you can pre-order my forthcoming (je touche du bois) poetry collection. I’m working with Inkshares, who among others are set to revolutionise the publishing model, and my manuscript is honed and polished. Why not become a patron of the arts, as in olden days, those glorious days of puffy wigs and syphilis epidemics. Also it’s got pictures.

http://www.dawnofthealgorithm.com

InkSharesCover

THE MACHINIST (not the Christian Bale movie)

Kris Kuksi, "Sub-Sonic Dissidence Propulsion Device." Mixed media assemblage, 2008.
Kris Kuksi, “Sub-Sonic Dissidence Propulsion Device.” Mixed media assemblage, 2008.

THE MACHINIST

I have this dream of building a Machine.
Tooled with human stem cells and a soldering iron,
I will build it entirely with my own hands
using rusty car parts and burnt out graphic cards,
toasters, coat-hangers and broken brass instruments.

I plan to weld an electromagnetic rail-gun to the snout,
a hood-ornament pointing to the dangerous future
like the proboscis of a metal mosquito.
The caterpillar treads will be studded with knives
and non-lethal weapons of mass destruction.

We could power it with plutonium, gold
and an army of dead or near-dead slaves
from a country undergoing a demographic crisis.
The Machine’s man-made AI will decide
which country is fit to cull, so I don’t have to.

We could feed it animal pelts—
the more endangered the better—
and stoke the boiler’s steel-jawed furnace
with tropical hardwood and human bones—
the more sacred the better.

I want to smelt all the iron and all the ore
and all those precious metals too tough to chew
and give the Machine a new kind of skin
with diamond freckles and ruby scars.

We could let it loose in the Amazon
like a raging bull, or make it an amphibian submersible
and send it coursing through the coral reefs
to break down the carcasses of the biggest whales
and spill oil into the eyes of all the octopi
and into the mouths of all those blood-thirsty sharks.

And once all the danger has been controlled
the Machine will assimilate everything: the grains of sand,
the exoskeletons of crabs, the insects and worms,
all the scales and fur, and even the pockets of air
inside the hollow bones of birds.

Once fuelled appropriately my Machine
will fire off a sequence of thrusters and rockets,
scorching crop circles into corn fields, and lift off,
peel from the mortal crust like a super-eruption
carving negative space into the ozone layer.

And as I watch my Machine assimilate
the nebulae and star-fields, fertile as a full moon,
self-replicating the machine-baby clones of its creator,
I can at last die peacefully, content in the knowledge
I have brought humans to the stars.

Together, once our hive-mind has crossed
the man-machine divide and reached
our predestined escape velocity, we can all,
at long last, collapse
face-first into the Divine.

Published in Gard Literary Journal, in Turkish

Turkish literary magazine Gard Siir (which I think means Gard Poetry) is publishing a translation of Dawn of the Algorithm in their Winter 2013 print issue. Emre Cengiz, poet, translator and editor of Gardsiir, got in touch with me after reading the poem on the Poet & Geek website. He then took it upon himself to translate the work. It’s a first for me, being translated for publication. As a translator I know what it means to take on this kind of challenge. You really must delve into the work, cram yourself into the tiniest corners of its syntactic, semantic structure and try to capture the flavour of every word. For this I am honoured, and grateful, and really excited! If you are in Turkey, check out the website to see where you can pick up a copy.

For entertainment purposes, here is a Google back-translation of my bio in Turkish: Technical translator and creative writer. Is living in Paris. English and French works of The New York, Thought Catalog, the Bastille Magazine, the Belleville Park Pages and Two Words For as has appeared in print and electronic journals. Among the issues of interest to SETI, the universe, biology, fantasy literature, and linguistic anthropology is located.

Ah, Google translation algorithms… You kill me.

The Octoshark Lives On

Poet&Geek

I’ve been published in the 7th issue of Poet & Geek ezine, a minimalistic, unpretentious, cyberspatial paradimension of “Poetry, Place and Informatics.”

Dawn of the Algorithm was a spin-off of an idea triggered by this NYT Article and this excellent piece by Alexandra Petri at the WP. The Moreau Zoo I guess was inspired by my zoophiliac tendencies by HG Wells’s disturbing novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau”.

Post-Human Neo-Tokyo featured in TwoWordsFor

TwoWordsFor2So there’s a new digital literary magazine in town. It’s mean. It’s lean. It’s a mish-mash, hodge-podge, bric-à-brac type of binary-code Frankenstein stitched together with thread made from lolcat guts by the talented editor and poet, Alex Manthei. It’s got poems, stories, photos, animated art, illustrations… The common thread, the RED THREAD (to borrow a French expression), is the notion of homage. Each piece is a wink or a nod or a shout out to another piece of art, tracing the lines of creative heredity, of inspiration. That’s quite cool, methinks.

My homage to Akira is a wacky one, one of my favourite, and I really enjoy performing this one because I get to pretend to be a futuristic, god-like monster and destroyer of cities (my greatest ambition).

Evan Knight’s poem The Game Where we Pretend to Be Things is a moving, roiling, but at the same time quietly powerful homage to Moby Dick.

Francesca Whitlam Cooper’s short story The Quiet Limit also has some seawater in it, dealing with the pain of geographic separation (it’s a hard-knock, expat life), inspired by the works of Tennyson.

It’s free, available online, smooth to navigate, and even has pictures for the “TLDR” people. You have no excuse not to read it. ^_^

TwoWordsFor