One man’s drug-induced tour of several altered states.
The sassy title of Barbera’s fifth novel (AGENT of the Gentle Empire with New Technology, 2005) highlights the subject at hand: tempting hallucinogens to which the nameless protagonist-narrator becomes quickly and thoroughly addicted. Set in the near future, the genial narrator makes his living as a courier, trafficking the contents of stolen packages that come into his possession. Many of these intricately-protected containers, which must be broken into by a computer hacker friend, contain small quantities of highly sought-after illegal drugs with the street name â€œdemon flava’ pills.” The narrator decides to sell his new acquisitions, but not before trying one for himself. After popping the pill, a magical tongue-pierced fairy appears and enlists him to rescue her fairy queen. What begins as experimentation soon transforms into boundless addiction as the narrator becomes more dependent on the pills’ super-sensory effects, and increasingly determined to free the queen. He begins to see variously colored energy fields radiating from objects, to note that â€œtypical coincidences of everyday life would become obvious patterns” and to relish the deep fixations arising from his slightest thought. This last side effect leads to ever-more existential reflection. While the narrator’s tone occasionally becomes preachy, and the tale ends with a conclusion as dogmatic as it is dramatic, the Orwellian social satire is effective. Barbera’s biting critique of religion, government and big business is thoughtful and compelling, continually challenging established contemporary social norms and hierarchies.
A scenic, humorous and thought-provoking acid trip.