The beat poet, Kenneth Patchen, in his poem Street Corner College, wrote-
Last year was a year ago; nothing more.
We weren’t younger then; nor older now.
We manage to have the look that young men have;
We feel nothing behind our faces, one way or other.
We shall probably not be quite dead when we die.
This is the starting point, the primary conceit, for the novel Generation by William Knight. An evil corporation (is there another kind?) is swimming in the gene pool with unforeseen results. An age old fear, beyond the fear of death, the fear of waking inside your coffin, is the basis of this novel. The dead in this work are not in coffins but in a forensic research facility where they lounge around in the open, in various states and stages of decomposition and decay, for the benefit of science. A facility like the one described to great effect in the non-fiction work, Bones. The unfortunate semi dead reside in a strange limbo of part joy and part helpless remorse which Knight treats with sympathy and skill.
I admit to liking the lead character based on a prejudice. As a private detective I often used pre-texting in my work. Pre-texting is making believe the world is something other than what it is. It is pretending to be blind so people you are talking to don’t guard their actions in front of you. It is pretending to be something you’re not in order to disarm someone’s suspicions. Knight’s character does this and does it well.
I found myself unsure of wanting to read the parts about the near dead. But in this book the reality of the dead and that of the majority or the living never really touched each other but there is more to come judging by the ending and I look forward to reading it. The idea is compelling.
If the novel needs a weakness, I felt a weakness in the love relationship. At least I was unconvinced by it. The actors seem to turn into completely different people when it came to sex. But at least it got them naked and vulnerable and… Well I don’t want to ruin this part for you. Here’s where it gets good again.
It’s written in British English as opposed to American English. But in fairness, British English should be called simply, English. Be ready for things like curb spelled with a `k’.
Read it, it’s fun. GENERATION.