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by Matt Ruff

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 2003
ISBN: 0-06-019562-2
Publisher: HarperCollins

Ruff (Sewer, Gas and Electric, 1997, etc.) steps closer still to recognizable realism with a tale of dueling multiple personality sufferers.

“The house, along with the lake, the forest, and Coventry, are all in Andy Gage’s head, or what would have been Andy Gage’s head if he had lived.” Andy Gage isn’t actually dead—he works as the creative consultant at the Reality Factory on Bridge Street and thinks of his alternate personalities as souls. He’s 26 but was born a month ago, and his way of confronting MPD is to draw detailed sketches of the topography of his mind. He imagines that all his personalities live in a kind of boardinghouse of the brain and even knows which soul did which bits of carpentry. It’s but a short time after being born that the souls’ love interest arrives, Penny Driver, the new programmer, nicknamed “Mouse and Thread.” At the Reality Factory, work goes forward on infusing video games into an increasingly cyberized world that’s so virtual it might not be so different from you-know-who’s head. Ruff’s strategy is interesting—Gage’s main personality comes in first person, the rest in third, but when Penny turns out also to have MPD, we wind up getting scenes that are like a witch coven rumbling with a trucker convention. Will the personalities of Penny and Andrew, like lovers on a train platform crowded with other personalities, find each other before the all aboard? Between fascinating updates on scholarship into disassociative identity disorder, we’ll watch the two overstuffed people confront the mysterious deaths of friends and the sudden strokes of loved ones—in other words, we’ll see them contend with the sadness, madness, and ardor of a world, like them, increasingly distant and fractured.

A convenient premise complicated by another convenient premise—but not without its charms despite its crowdedness and (necessary) length.