Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Audiobook Review: Immobility

Listened 5/29/14 - 6/2/14
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best (Audio)Book - A kickass audiobook if ever there was one / Get yer Post Apoc fix on now, Biatches.
6 1/2 hours audio download
Publisher: AudioGo
Released: 2012

Audiobooks are strange animals. The story could be well written, the plot could be interesting, the characters engaging, but if the voice of the narrator grates on me; if their pacing is off; if they overly, painfully enunciate, the darn thing won't stand a chance. 

For me, everything hinges on the narrator.

And in the case of Immobility, Brian Evenson's storytelling and Mauro Hantman's narration were a perfect match. 

(Beware: The jacket copy for the book is a bit misleading. Written in second person, you might - not surprisingly - assume the book is also written that way. But fear not, "you" non-fans, you'll find the third person narration comforting.) 

The story is set in a post apocalyptic world - brought about by what we are led to believe was a nuclear war, but is simply referred to as the Kollaps - and revolves around Josef Horkai, who has just been pulled out of a 30 year cryogenic sleep. As he begins to wake up, he realizes that he is paralyzed from the waist down, something that he seems to have no memory of. Heck, he seems to have no memory at all of being stored, of why he was stored, of where he is, who he is or what he was prior to the Kollaps.  

All of these questions are answered by Rasmus, the leader of a group of people who have made their home in an old ruined university, and his two lackeys Olag and Olaf. Rasmus explains to Horkai that he is not like them, he can regenerate and survive outside in the brutal and inhospitable environment, but he is also infected with a debilitating disease that has left him crippled and will continue to cripple him over time, which is why he has been stored - to stop the disease from spreading while they work on a cure. The Community, as Rasmus refers to his group, needs Horkai's help to retrieve something that has been stolen from them, something very valuable, something very important, something... that their very survival hinges on. And they will provide Horkai with two Mules - identical human-like men named Qatik and Qanik - whose sole purpose is to carry Horkai on their backs, like a burden, while traveling to the mountain where Rasmus believes the stolen capsule is hidden. Though Horkai can travel outside with no ill side effects, his Mules cannot. And though they are fitted with hazard suits, the clothing will only slow the effects of the radiation on them. Rasmus urges Horkai to make the trip there and back as quickly as possible - the longer the Mules are exposed, the quicker they will die. 

All of this makes little sense to Horkai but with nothing else to go on, he agrees to do as Rasmus asks. 

Brian Evenson allows us to see the world as Horkai sees it, with new and disbelieving eyes. We ponder the same things he ponders - Who is he? What's happened to the world? Where are all of the other people? What is the Community? How did he end up in storage with them? Who are these strange and obedient men he travels with? Why are they so willing to follow their purpose without questioning? How can they be so willing to die for him? What happens when he gets where they're going? 

As Horkai pokes and prods at what little knowledge Qatik and Qanik have, and tries to reason out the situation he has found himself in, he begins to question his place in the mission and allows himself to doubt the sources of his information. Nothing makes sense. The pieces don't seem to fit. The Community, the Mules, Rasmus, even Olag and Olaf... something is going on and Horkai won't be at ease until he uncovers what that is. 

This book reeks of cultish and organized religious behavior (and not in a bad way). The blind, adoring faith of the religious compares greatly to that of the members of the Community. The unquestioning obedience and willingness of the Mules to perform their purpose feels very much like the drink-the-koolaid mindset of cult members. The re-appearance of religious or cult-like tendencies, even when the religion we had is dead. And then there's Horkai, much like myself, who questions everything he hears and sees, not content to take what he is told at face value, unafraid to push for answers even when he knows those answers will remain to be vague and clouded. Immobility challenges the reader to look at humanity from a different angle. Not one of imminent survival-at-all-costs. But one of whether or not it should be allowed to survive at all. In Evenson's world, we have managed to kill most of our species (and all other species) off. Should we be given the opportunity to do it again? If we did manage to survive this, we will learn from our mistakes or continue to make more? Do we deserve a second chance?

I listened to this book every chance I could get - on my commute to and from work, driving out to run errands, sitting and waiting at my son's baseball game - I devoured it, because I was dying to learn what Horkai was learning. I needed to know what the endgame was. I couldn't shake the feeling that I knew how it was going to end and I needed to see if I was right. 

I enjoyed putting the pieces of this novel together. As Horkai comes into contact with more people - like Mahonri for example, a "brother" who looks exactly like him, who calls himself a Keeper, and Rykte, the recluse who is content to remain un-influential in the trials and tribulations of humanity - as he began collecting more pieces of the puzzle, as realization begins to dawn on Horkai that he's a part of something much bigger and much more awful than he initially anticipated, I began to unravel the knotted road Horkai would end up travelling. And even though I had the ending pretty well pegged, I wasn't disappointed when Evenson delivered it. 

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