Wednesday 11 April 2018

The Beasts of Electra Drive by Rohan Quine

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

The Beasts of Electra Drive is the story of a games designer who becomes deeply disenchanted with the ‘lowest common denominator’ mentality of the big corporation he works for, and leaves it in order to create a game of his own. But when his former employers refuse to take his desertion lying down, something rather strange happens, and the characters from Jaymi’s game start to cross over into ‘meat space’ and become the arms of Jaymi’s revenge.

Quine’s narrative challenges the arbitrariness of commercial gate-keepers and the randomness of success – and has a lot of fun in the process. It’s an odd mixture of dark – verging on horror – with more than a bit of kitsch. Some of the characters overlap with characters from Quine’s earlier work (like The Platinum Raven), though this is not strictly a prequel.

The Beasts of Electra Drive makes use of passages of almost incantatory repetition – something we accept quite happily in music and in books for young children, but which is unexpected in a book written for adults. It’s used primarily when Jaymi builds each of his characters and draws then through into ‘meatspace’, giving the act the feel of a creation myth.

It’s a very visual novel too. Quine gives his narrative voice (and sometimes his characters), the eye of a camera mounted on a drone, able to fly across valley in zoom in on details miles in the distance – like a tiny reflection in the pupil of someone’s eye. It’s set in and around Los Angeles and swoops from the Hollywood Hills mansions of the mega-rich, through the glass-sided towers of business districts, down into the slums and back again.

Reading this book is a little like watching a particularly unsettling art house movie. You will be, in turn, disoriented, enchanted and repelled.

For all the technology involved, this is more magic realism than science fiction. It deliberately pushes the boundaries of the outrageous and challenges you to go along for the ride.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas, The Imagination Thief by Rohan Quine, Delirium by Barbara Scott Emmett

Avoid if You Dislike: Surrealism, incantatory prose

Perfect Accompaniment: A Tequila Sunrise

Genre: Literary Fiction, Magic Realism

Available on Amazon

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