Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on James Bottino's blog tour for The Canker Death, hosted by Pump Up Your Book! If you're new to the site, welcome! We hope you'll take a look around and see what else we have to offer.
On to the review!
The Canker Death
Septimus Press (2011)
unknown number of pages
Fantasy / Science Fiction / Aliens
I wish I could explain this book to you. I really do wish I could, but I can’t. I lost count of the number of times I turned to Fernando and said, “I don’t think I know what’s going on.” Hours after finishing, I’m still not entirely sure what I just read, so I’m letting Goodreads do the recap for me:
When the reclusive, cynical systems administrator, Petor Fidelistro, discovers that one of his own servers has been cracked late one night, he makes it his personal business to track down the perpetrator. What his search uncovers thrusts him, unaware, into a mad shifting between worlds, time and alien minds.
Fighting to keep his grip on reality, and forcing him to cope with his past, Petor finds himself uncontrollably transitioning between sentient minds that range from semi-conscious to dominant, from beings whose bodies and identities he can control, to those who control him so fully as to be unaware of his presence. As the story unfolds, Petor gathers clues in a twisting mystery that sends him shifting between the mourning child Nanzicwital; the golem giant Faskin; the lascivious, female ambassador Desidia; and Nokinis, an insane prisoner with whom Petor battles for mastery of his own memories. As he struggles to make sense of what is happening to him, Petor finds himself embroiled in the tumultuous upheaval of a ubiquitous society that transcends life, itself.
The Canker Death is told in first-person from the point of view of Petor, a slubby middle-aged computer guy, who finds himself in the middle of some giant conspiracy that has him traveling through alien worlds by inhabiting the consciousness of others. Unfortunately by telling the story in the first person from Petor’s point of view, the reader is subjected to the meandering and often boring thoughts of someone lost inside their own adventure who’d rather contemplate the local architecture than sticking to the plot at hand. On my Kindle, I had entire screens where it was just descriptions or random thoughts that had seemingly little to do with what was going on. It disrupted the narrative flow and probably wouldn’t have been an issue if the story had been told in the third person.
James Bottino is a crazy smart guy. I just couldn’t follow him down the technical areas he sometimes delves into with The Canker Death. The beginning reads far beyond my techie computer knowledge, so that I wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing. At times our main character diverts off the path of the story to contemplate the meaning of classic literature or the effects of warfare on a given populace. Or the architecture. This Petor guy is really into alien architecture.
This book is dense and I fear the density has colored my opinion of the story itself. There are philosophical debates about everything from religion to self-identity. There are on-going discussions about human nature, the meaning of existence, gender politics, how everything in the universe is connected and how the human race is effectively trying to destroy itself. It just came across as too much to put into one seemingly massive book (I’m not entirely sure how long it is page count-wise). All the philosophizing cluttered the actual storyline to me and made it difficult to follow how things tied together. While it caused me to empathize with the incredibly confused main character, it didn’t always encourage reading for enjoyment.
I did enjoyed pieces of the story though, particularly when Bottino got going with action sequences or had his main character Petor interacting with the various alien life forms he found himself inhabiting. The scenes involving the alien Nanzicwital and his fellow revolutionaries were particularly entertaining and I found myself diving more deeply into the story whenever Petor found himself on that planet. I felt those scenes had more humanity and showed a lot of the philosophical ideals Bottino was trying to express without the heavy-handedness of out-right proselytizing.
The supporting characters are also fascinating and I wish there had been more time spent where they weren’t just trying to remain mysterious. I soon became as tired of hearing “Oh, I’ll answer your questions, but not right now” as Petor did. These conversations focused my attention on the fact that I had no idea what was going on and sometimes distracted me from enjoying the flow of the narrative or trying to piece together my own theories.
By the time the big battle goes down, I think I’d followed the general line of plot though I couldn’t explain many of the intricacy of Bottino’s interwoven metaphysical ideas. I felt I’d put most of the pieces together by the end, but then the last page or two threw me for a loop once more. By the time I hit the last line, I once again thought to myself, “I have absolutely no idea what just happened.”
The Canker Death is a challenging, thought-provoking read. I just didn’t seem to be in the head-space to measure up to the challenge.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the author for this blog tour in return for my honest opinion. I hope he doesn’t regret it.