Monday, September 01, 2008
Acid Song by Bernard Beckett.
Every so often I take a deep breath, focus really hard and attack the writing of a New Zealand author. Such exertions often bring mixed results, mostly because they are so mainstream oriented and I'm not. But I went there again, because Bernard Beckett is ostensibly a perfect science fiction writer because he's an ideas man, and I was pretty impressed with his award winning children's book. Anyway, Acid Song is quite a departure for Bernard Beckett, being his first adult novel.
The beginning of Acid Song stumbled around with a deliberate incoherency, enhancing the theme of a frayed, but intertwined destiny, with all the characters bathed in a social acidity that has them so disconnected from their feelings and their relationships. This theme was enhanced by the characters themselves being quite male-centric, as though the only purpose for females was to in some way define the men and provide them with something to ogle. Well, I like to think that this was a deliberate comment on society, and that the ambitious female documentary host on her big break was demonstrating a kind of modern shallowness -- that she was not simply a cardboard character. Easily enough she could be both, I suppose, even as she was also the glue, or more accurately the hinge around which all the bigger, "more interesting" characters took their cue.
In the end, the interesting part of the book wasn't the characters, however enjoyable, and insightful they were. The interesting part about the book was an idea. The idea of a fraying society busily trying to hide socially unacceptable facts, even as the loose knot of characters and their lives fray around the edges and are left indelibly etched by the lack of support and respect that truth and honesty fail to gain. Not just generally in society, but most particularly in the educational and academic worlds.
A must read for everyone in education, and not just for the wonderfully sad-funny resignation letter that is never posted. Well written, well paced, and of course most interesting for anyone who wishes to understand how science and society sometimes clash, and how most important and influential ideas are often released against the tide of the status quo.