Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Jumping On The Blue Man Bandwagon

Everyone else seems to be doing it, so, since I don’t disagree, I may as well too. Yep, I’m adding my voice to the chorus of praises for Nick DiChario’s “A Small and Remarkable Life”.

If you love intelligent storytelling – literature that examines what it means to be human, without being pretentious, then you should read what one reviewer on the SciFi Channel’s website called this “small and remarkable book”.

The fact that this story is science fiction makes it so much better. Not because one needs little blue aliens that just don’t stay dead to make a good story, but rather this book adds to the stack of stories proving that speculative fiction is, at its best, exquisitely literate and though unnoticed by the vast majority of mainstream reviewers, is a genre whose fare often leaves the more widely noticed regular fiction in the dust when it comes to quality.

The story is presented in two interweaving parts. The first begins with the funeral of Tink Puddah (the afore-mentioned little blue alien) in a mountain village in pre-Civil War America. The town preacher is desperately trying to reconcile how a “man” who rejected God could have been so loved by the townsfolk. This as he obsesses over his perceived inability to bond with his flock, his life under his father’s shadow, and the fact that despite his chosen profession, he has never felt a divine connection. From here, the preacher begins to spiral into insanity. While this half of the story deals with the deconstruction of a man, the other half of the novel concerns the development of a young alien. It is a bildungsroman (speaking of writing that gets pretentious, I apologize) – a novel of growth about Tink Puddah’s violent entry into our world and his quiet struggles to come to grips with his isolation in it and with who he is. He tries to figure out what it means to be human, even as he wades into what it means to be an alien from Wetspace.

In fact, I would say the only part of this book that isn’t worth reading is the “book club guide” at the back. Anyone who could read this tale and sit back and reflect on it doesn’t need to be led around by the nose by questions provided by the publisher. Anyone who needs those prefabricated thought-provokers probably doesn’t get the book to begin with, and likely won’t even benefit from a series of directed questions. It’s a pity these publishers with their eyes on the book club niche don’t give the denizens of those gatherings more credit for their intelligence. Let people reflect and discuss and dig deep internally and discover on their own, without some all-powerful, all-knowing outside guidance. It worked for Tink Puddah.

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