DUPLEX by Kathryn Davis


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Literate science fiction, its deadpan tone controlled, which examines life in a future that may or may not be dystopian.

Davis' (The Thin Place, 2006, etc.) seventh novel is hard to summarize. A terrible catastrophe has occurred, but perhaps it's so long ago that it no longer means much to those alive in the now that the book inhabits. The story begins on a suburban street. Ships called “scows” are visible overhead. We meet Miss Vicks, Mary, Eddie, a sorcerer named Walter (aka “Body-without-Soul”) and a snarky teenage sibyl named Janice—but does she know the past or predict the future? Fortunately, in this future present, people have not lost their sense of humor; they still have irony. The point of view assumes that this strange world—time seems to pass, space seems to have extension—where the quotidian and the menacing mix, where some grow old and die while others, the robots, do not, is consistent. It has an identifiable narrative arc, following the characters who grow up and age, bear real or raise artificial children, and die. As in conventional realist fiction, not all details are essential, either to the story or the characters, but are present only for the sake of verisimilitude. Fiction can consider diverse objects and registers of experience—My Pretty Pony, robots the size of pins, trading cards stored in cigar boxes stashed in a cluttered closet, myths—submerge all in a uniform tone and so create equivalence: a world that is not our world but that is recognizable, consistent and strange.

More fiction than science fiction, admirably written but not for the average reader of the genre, this book will please and surprise.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-55597-653-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Graywolf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2013


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