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15th of October 2018


A Superior Spectre review: Angela Meyer's novel about the blurring of lines

Soon the porous inter-communications between Leonora and Jeff become heated and feverish. Though this ultimately unhealthy communion with her desperate parasite makes Leonora question her sanity when hallucinations of unfamiliar sounds and visions cloud her mind's eye, Jeff's carnal appetites also have a catalytic effect, making her act on her sexual awakening as he infects her with his impulses ("I am enclosed, gloved-up inside her, a sensate voyeur.")

The writing is lyrical, literary and visceral but a quibble: the narrative may be jointly shared by the two protagonists, but the heart of it lies with Leonora. The fact that there seems to be an unbalancing in the scale of interest and empathy means that the reader's attention is more slated towards the past.

Aside from a number of small futuristic tokens such as the existence of a service robot (the andserv), the pharmaceutical gee-whizardry and the existence of ID-implant security systems, there's correspondingly fewer attempts to canvas this new world. By contrast, we see Leonora drawn to the muck of the earth, having tea and soirees with polite (and raucous) society and bright-eyed in the anatomical theatre. With regards to Jeff, we're privy to more than one seminal sexual memory (pun fully intended) but weakened and in a fug of self-pity, he feels less fully drawn than his hapless host body. It's arguable though that in the push-pull of their unlikely relationship, the dynamic and inquisitive Leonora would prove the stronger force.

This is a book about the blurring of lines: of social and class-based gendered demarcations; of the base expression of the flesh and of the higher aspirations of the mind; of sci-fi and reality. It's a slippery beast and Meyer handles the haunting of both characters with assurance while she ponders: who walks among us now and in history who doesn't want to be elsewhere, to be someone else?

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