Camp Concentration

Camp Concentration

by Thomas M. Disch

Paperback(1 Vintage Edition)

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In this chillingly plausible work of speculative fiction, Thomas M. Disch imagines an alternate 1970s in which America has declared war on the rest of the world and much of its own citizenry and is willing to use any weapon to assure victory.  Louis Sacchetti, a poet imprisoned for draft resistance, is delivered to a secret facility called Camp Archimedes, where he is the unwilling witness to the army's conscienceless experiments in “intelligence maximization.” In the experiment, Prisoners are given Pallidine, a drug derived from the syphilis spirochete, and their mental abilities quickly rise to the level of genius.  Unfortunately, a side effect of Pallidine is death.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375705458
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/28/1999
Edition description: 1 Vintage Edition
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 849,789
Product dimensions: 5.22(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.44(d)

About the Author

Thomas M. Disch is the author of many novels, including such classic works of science fiction as Camp Concentration and 334. He lives in Manhattan and in Sullivan County, New York.

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Camp Concentration 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The most notable thing about the dystopic view of an alternative America in Thomas Disch's novel is the status of the narrator. This topic is important to me in part because I am currently reading Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire for which the issue is paramount, but while thinking about that book my view of the status of other narratives was called into question. I mention this because Camp Concentration is told in the first person as the journal of Louis Sacchetti, poet and draft resistor (this is the 1970s), and the question of its reliability is just as important as in Nabokov's meta-fictional work. The story is somewhat reminiscent of Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon, but with a Dostoevskian twist. Adding to the complexities of the narrative are many literary references, most important of which are references to the fictional poetry of Sacchetti himself and those to the Faust legend as told by Goethe and Marlowe. There is the character of Mordecai Washington who plays Mephistofeles to Sacchetti's Faust. As another inmate undergoing the drug treatment that enhances intelligence, Mordecai has become obsessed with alchemy to the bewilderment of Sacchetti. Unfortunately, the drug is based on a bug that is related to syphilis and results in death of the test subject. The parallels in this book abound, but with the notion of poisoned minds, whether by the State which is engaged in perpetual war) or through the experiments in Camp Archimedes, where Sacchetti has been sent to participate in tests of a new mind-expanding drug, one is reminded that this book was written during the middle of the Viet Nam War era. Sachetti's journal tells a horrific story, but how much can we believe when it (apparently) has been through the prison censors. Is Sacchetti like one of Plato's banished artists? Is he a revolutionary, in spite of his claims to the contrary? Or is his story a figment of his imagination? The reader will have to decide for himself and this book has more depth than most I have read leading me to recommend it to all. The reviewer who called it "exciting, allegorical, suspenseful, disturbing. Superb prose and [a} novelist's integrity." (Amazing) was close to describing the feelings I had while reading Camp Concentration. Reading it was a journey into an alternative world that, unfortunately, was all too believable.
M.Campanella on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is not about intelligence at all. It is not 'Flowers for Algernon' and does not try to be.But it is a wonderful retelling of that very old story we all already know.I actually wanted to know how to retell it in a sci-fi way.Someone beat me to it, in the 60's.Damn.
betula.alba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Exceptional writer, beautiful and hard-hitting prose. Takes place in a society fueled by fear, which makes the novel more important today than ever. Very edgy. Surprising plot twists and a terrific ending.
CBJames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch makes for two dystopian science fiction novels in a row. I seem to be reading quite a bit of this stuff lately. I'm not really writing a review of this one--I didn't really like it and I only review books I like. So please don't consider what follows a review.Written in 1968, Camp Concentration is full of Big Brother type anti-government paranoia. The narrator/hero is serving a five year prison sentence as a conscientious objector for refusing to join the U.S. army. The U.S. is fighting a war against an unnamed opponent but that's just a narrative device to get the narrator in prison--this book is not about the war. Shortly into his sentence, the narrator is taken to a secret laboratory where he is forced to participate in a government experiment to develop a drug that will make people smarter. The drug works but at a price--while those who take it become geniuses, they also slowly die from the side effects. This may sound very familiar to fans of Daniel Keyes book Flowers for Alegernon which was a much better in my view. I've not read it since high school, but all of my friends were very moved by it. In Flowers for Algernon an uneducated, mentally disabled janitor is given a drug that over time makes him a genius. It's written as a first person narrative so the writing itself mirrors this process. The effects of the drug eventually begin to wear off, which we can see in the writing as the narrator returns to his natural state. All of the cool kids at Foothill High School, class of 1982, loved it.Camp Concentration is an entertaining read, for the most part. It becomes a bit bogged down towards the end when the narrator starts debating politics with the other characters. (I found myself mercilessly skimming--another reason why this is not a review.) Dystopian science fiction is supposed to reveal truths about contemporary society, but it's not supposed to preach it. Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, which I reviewed yesterday, got a little preachy towards the end too, but the overall novel was a much better read that Camp Concentration. If you happen to be looking for this sort of novel, I'd go with Mr. Harrison's book or with Mr. Keyes's.
cleverusername2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought this book without any expectations, I just liked the cover, but it turned out to be a nicely barbed little American dystopia yarn. While the Vietnam War is raging the lead character (a draft dodger poet) is forced into an Army research program/prison experimenting on methods to boost human intelligence. The results are surprising and disturbing. Even more relevant in this post-Abu Ghraib world of ours, I recommended Camp Concentration particularly if you like V for Vendetta.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago