Brief Book Reviews

Sunday, March 21, 2010 12:51 PM By Simon

They Is Us: A Cautionary Horror Story
Author: Tama Janowitz

Of Janowitz, I've only read Slaves of New York, and it was so long ago I can't even remember if I liked it or not. So, I went in here blind.

"They Is Us is the story of one broken family semi-surviving in an imploding world of pollution, genetic engineering, technology and uncontrolled commercialisation. Murielle, mother of two, has just dumped her second husband Slawa, all beer belly and high heels. Her younger daughter Julie takes a summer job at an animal laboratory where genetically modified hybrids are created and used for research. Pink- and blue-feathered rabbits, fist-size flies and masturbating pigs with human organs who "plead with their terrible saucer eyes" suffer in their cages or die slowly in refuse bins, and Julie is unable to resist rescuing the discarded mutants to hide them in her basement."

This book really is a cautionary horror story. Only in The Road have I seen such a terribly depressing future, but in a wildly different fashion. While, yes, it is speckled with darkdark humor, the interactions between the characters alone--everyone treats each other with contempt, disinterest, or anger. Where a select upper class get to live in a secluded development of wealth, comfort, and completely non-synthetic food, and everyone else is left out to dry in their nuclear-waste infested swamps. I won't get into it, but if we got everyone in America to read this book, they would never look at their trash can the same way again.

Poppy Shakespeare by Claire Allan

A very British book about a woman named N, who's spent 13 years as a day patient of the Dorothy Fish, a mental hospital. One day, in comes Poppy Shakespeare, a 34-year-old single mom in snakeskin boots who insists she isn't mentally ill. As soon as you get used to the twisted first-person narration of N, you'll find a very funny, maybe frustrating, but really good book about the flaws in the mental health system (of Britain). Made into a Channel 4 movie starring Naomie Harris (Selena! Calypso!) as Poppy and Anna Maxwell Martin as N.

Interstellar Pig by William Seater

Teenaged Barney is dragged by his parents to their beach house, but he just wants to read his sci-fi novels. Then come Zena, Manny, and Joe, three strange and exotic neighbors who are very interested in his beach house, and addicted to a space board game called Interstellar Pig. A lovely, engrossing, interesting, and funny YA sci-fi novel, with a sequel called Parasite Pig.