In a world ruled by giant post–human beings, mankind is reduced to mere playthings in this fractured fairy tale.
After exploring addiction and religion in his first two outings, Allen (Jesus Boy, 2010, etc.) throws caution to the wind with his bizarre but exquisitely composed fable that uses transhumanism as the prism to reflect on the nature of humanity. In his latest, the world is populated by “oafs,” simple giants who tower above and live in large, crowded assemblies; and “mans,” people who have been reduced to a primitive, sometimes feral state. The novel tells the story of our protagonist, “Boy,” and his three “mans.” The boy’s first man is called Brown Skin and turns out to be the runaway property of the local mayor. When the mayor retrieves him, the boy is inconsolable. To make it up to him, his father arranges for him to have Red Sleeves, a “female man.” But one day, the boy finds her “entangled” with another missing man, and she later becomes pregnant. When the oafs take her child away to slave in the mines, Red Sleeves dies suddenly. Eventually, her daughter, Red Locks, escapes from the mines and takes up with a rascal named Rufus but eventually visits Boy to let him in on some of the great secrets of the world. If it sounds absurd, it is, but it’s also intellectually curious and rather cutting in many of its conceptual and cultural assessments. It’s a world where man is not only pet, but also meat, where religion, wars and empires are just as backward as they are in our own world, and where worlds collide with a temperamental angst that is as uncomfortable as it is alluring. Much like Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel Planet of the Apes, this novel is a sardonic parable on the nature and destiny of the species.
A nimble fable whose bold narrative experiment is elevated by its near-biblical language and affectionate embrace of our inherent flaws.