Monday, 10 September 2012

Applying layers to reality

Yesterday evening I took several books from my former apartment, a few of which I had not yet read. The blurb on the back of one of them captured my curiosity so intensely that I was gripped with the compulsion to start reading. The title was Seeing Through Third Eyes, and the book jacket was a large wraparound photograph of a canalled city, perhaps Amsterdam, in autumn morning shades of yellow and orange.

The story was about a person named If -- which I presumed was a Norwegian version of Jeff, or something similar -- who is described as a ‘sensitive, compliant consumerist’ yet nevertheless has a high degree of insight into his motivations for the life he leads. As the story progresses, he begins to think critically of his peers due to their lack of awareness into the essentially superficial reasons for their own behaviour.

Everything changes with the arrival of what we understand to be an invasive alien presence, or perhaps some long-dormant terrestrial race, or perhaps even a class of non-physical entities that assume control over the people in the novel. I didn't read much of that part yet, so all I know about it is from allusions in the blurb.

From what I did read, I had the impression that the Attrachian newcomers -- while intent on, basically, acquiring some percentage of local resources -- were intent on a takeover that involved minimal bloodshed and disruption of people’s ordinary lives. I even speculated that the novel would end with the characters finding themselves ultimately better off under Attrachian control, than they had been when presided over by a human government.

Most interestingly, the novel is narrated from the perspective of one of the Attrachians, who forms a strong friendship with If -- and it is even hinted that they eventually develop some kind of sexual relationship as well. Don't ask me about the mechanics of this, I only read up to the very earliest moments of the 'invasion', which initially took the form of remarkably unusual and extreme weather. (To the reader, it is apparent that the Attrachians have the power to ‘steer’ tornadoes and precisely control other atmospheric phenomena.)

The opening of the novel is written in picturesque and eloquent prose, although I started reading while other people were watching a movie nearby, and the mix of battle-noises had a profoundly negative effect on my dreams later. I ultimately found myself thrust into the thick of an alien-invasion nightmare -- in first-person, full-sensorium context -- but the invading Attrachians were much more repulsive and inhuman than the parts I had read suggested.

The luminous and slightly surreal novel that I had been enjoying, was sadly corrupted into something that had more in common with the film Battlefield Los Angeles. There was even a particularly horrific moment when I managed to trap one of the foreigners in a partly destroyed cathedral, and systematically unloaded vicious injury on the poor individual until I learned how to kill it. Suffice it to say, the story had really descended into breathless fear by that point; what had been written as a thinly fantastical, engaging and perceptive social commentary, had turned into a visceral fight for survival, filled with terror, heartache and devastation.

I awoke, eventually, and I was in such a terrible frame of mind that I longed to continue reading the original book, in the hope my internal mutilation of its narrative may be repaired by what developments the author actually had envisaged for If and his friends.

Imagine my disappointment upon realising that the book itself existed only in the Land of Dreams, and from the standpoint of Newtonian (waking) reality, I had already been asleep for some time before the moment when I selected it from the pile of recent arrivals and began reading.