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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Book review: Immobility by Brian Evenson




Official Author Website

About Brian: BRIAN EVENSON is the author of a dozen books of fiction. He has translated work by Christian Gailly, Jean Frémon, Claro, Jacques Jouet, Eric Chevillard, Antoine Volodine, Manuela Draeger, and David B. He is the recipient of three O. Henry Prizes as well as an NEA fellowship. His work has been translated into Czech, French, Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Persian, Russia, Spanish, Slovenian, and Turkish. He lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the Critical Studies Program at CalArts.

Publication Date: April 10, 2012 Publisher: Tor Page Count: 256


OVERVIEW: Immobility is unlike any post-apocalyptic book I have read before. After he wakes up, Josef Horkai remembers nothing except an apocalyptic event known as the Kollaps. He has partial paralysis, but he’s also impossible to kill (more or less). Other survivors task him with finding a stolen cylinder somehow essential to their survival. Since he can’t walk, two “mules” (genetically engineered people wearing hazmat suits) carry him across a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Josef struggles with physical and mental limitations; he can’t distinguish true memories from dreams and does not know what is really going on around him. He’s not even sure if he’s still human; the toxic environment doesn’t affect his health and he may be immortal. 

Unlike writers who attempt to present a clear and understandable world, Evenson introduces an element of narrative uncertainty. Josef questions his initial assumptions and doubts the accuracy of his perceptions. As readers, we cannot be sure how much his delusion influences the narrative. The result is fascinating, full of strangeness, tension, and immediacy. 

Immobility has a few characters, and it puts more pressure on their relationships and interactions. An example: the two “mules”, Qanik and Qatik, carrying Horkai through the devastated world, aren’t the brightest or most exciting people, but Josef challenges their beliefs and convictions. They have little time left (because of radiation) but they develop through discussions with Horkai. The contrast between their zealotry and blind belief in Rasmus (their leader) and Josef’s vague recollections of what humanity used to be / should be like leads to nice twists.

Evenson’s writing style is direct and sharp and contains no unnecessary embellishments. He skillfully conveys menace and desperation, making Immobility a quick read. Some might call this writing style brutal and I agree. Especially since Josef makes the argument that it would probably be best for humanity to die out.

CONCLUSION: I never want to wake up in a world similar to the one described in Immobility - its savagery terrifies me. And yet I found the experience of reading the book rewarding and the world unforgettable (if merciless). Fans of post-apocalyptic fiction and gut-punch endings shouldn’t miss it. 

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