“Friday Reads,” if you’re not familiar with the phrase, is a phenomenon on Twitter where folks use the #FridayReads hashtag to talk about, and usually recommend, the books they happen to be reading (you know, on Friday). It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s kind of fun and cute and whatever, the way Twitter hashtags are. I’m making this one a blog post because I found myself, only 136 pages into this book, wanting to post a really long string of tweets about it.
You know how every Philip K. Dick book blows your mind? If you watch some of the filmed version of his work, like Minority Report or that trippy rotoscoped take on A Scanner Darkly you would be forgiven for imagining Dick’s work as pulpy and unrefined, accompanied by the slightly paranoid low-rent philosophy that comes with its own sour-smelling cloud of smoke and a really bad case of the munchies. And there really is that element to it. But Dick is also probably the most phenomenologically sophisticated writer since Proust (no, really), and the fact that he wrote slapdash pulp like Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said and straight up crunchy, acid-trip weirdness like VALIS in addition to triumphs like The Man in the High Castle does nothing to change that. There is a moment in every Dick novel—every last one—where it backs your brain into a corner and says “I’m just going to stand here while you freak the fuck out. Don’t worry, it’s a perfectly normal response. Let me know when you’re finished and then we can talk about it.” If you walk away from a Dick novel without having had that experience, I’m pretty sure you did something wrong, or your copy is broken or whatever, because that’s sort of the whole point of them.
Anyway, I’m not even 150 pages into Ryan Boudinot’s Blueprints of the Afterlife and I’ve already had that experience a couple times. It’s that kind of book. I’m not even sure what it’s about yet, to be honest. There’s a lot of satire, and a lot more humour in it than Dick could ever manage (not that I blame him, given that he was pretty much the platonic ideal of the divinely inspired genius who also happens to be a complete nutjob). There are excellent takedowns of mass media and corporate boosterism for their very own hoi polloi (by which I mean Hotel and Restaurant Management Olympics for dishwashers like Woo-jin from the opening chapter, not the sitcom-grade retreats for misunderstood actuarials who have a two-car in the ‘burbs and a Xanax habit). There are some genuinely interesting ideas about urban design, biotech and bioethics, and some next-level weirdness that masquerades as the supernatural but that I’m pretty sure is actually an application of a pretty hardcore principal of particle physics and how it shapes reality and what that means for the limits of our perception. I’m seriously not even halfway through the book, and that’s all in there, and it’s all blowing my grey matter out the back of my skull.
It also reminds me of Andrew Kaufmans’ Waterproof Bible, only without the gentle optimism, or any of William Gibson’s pre-Pattern Recognition novels, without the rigid application of realism (by which I mean the rules of Gibson’s reality are pretty clear, and he doesn’t break them; I’m not sure either could be said about Boudinot).
So yeah, my #FridayReads is Blueprints of the Afterlife, by Ryan Boudinot.