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The Optical Effects of Lightning based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
In this modern-day science-fiction novel, S.J. Kember revitalizes the high-gothic motif of the multiple personality. Invoking literary classics from the past, contemporary media-oriented cultural phenomena, and the scientific possibility of cloning, Kember presents a mind-twisting exploration into what counts as fact, what gets dismissed as fiction, and the varying instrumentation that contour our ability to distinguish one from the other. The story is presented as a case file, compiled by Matt, a fatally seductive and successful professional who abides by a strong moral code. When his lover, Suhail, vanishes, Matt provides detectives with relevant information regarding Suhail’s psychological profile and personality, the nature of their relationship, and the potential factors propelling his disappearance. The file splits into two points of view: (1) the diary entries and writings of Suhail, recovered by Matt and (2) Matt’s methodically compiled and annotated evidence: official documents, diagrams, citations to outside sources, explanations and interventions into Suhail’s diary entries. Matt suspects that Suhail has gone off to find his estranged twin brother, Saeed, who disappeared when a violent altercation between the two brothers left Saeed’s face mutilated and Suhail’s conscience irreparably destroyed. Neither Suhail nor Matt can escape the vengeful specter of Saeed... Traversing the case file requires flipping back and forth between perspectives in conflict, the merging of fact and fiction, real events and flights of fantasy. Boundaries inevitably blur, distinctions eventually dissolve. You will identify, mis-identify, over-identify; you will be directed to external websites for clues; and you will constantly re-arrange your affinities as more information accumulates. You – along with every meaning, metaphor, and character in the text – will transform. “The Optical Effects of Lightning” is brilliantly constructed and beautifully told. It is novel in its interactivity. A fabulously creative and relevant commentary on the apprehension with which we approach the science of genetics and how protective we are of our precious identities. Weaving together the science of cloning, myths of “the double”, bio-ethical and social mores, and identity crisis, Kember skillfully enacts the web of fears and desires that surround genomic discourse today. “The Optical Effects of Lightning” offers a cautionary portrayal of the violence and absurdity of conflating one’s genetic makeup with one’s self. Mixing anachronism, pastiche, self-referentiality, and interactions with the ubiquity of a technologically mediated world combine in this novel to demonstrate to the reader that no part of life can be understood separate from the technologies that shape it. How perfect that Kember performs this in and through the materiality of her text.