Sunday, 24 August 2008

Bugs - John Sladek

Whilst the satire in this book is just as sharp as in his others, there is an extra helping of farce that would, perhaps, make it more palatable to a wider audience. There is also a less-obvious sci-fi theme (although it is a fictional tale involving science and, yes, there is a robot) which would, it is hoped, have the same effect.

The target of Sladek’s ire is his home country. Many of the absurdities to be found in ‘American’ society are ruthlessly exposed and mocked. This makes for some wonderful laugh out loud moments (something I rarely do with a book), but it also encompasses the very real pain and bewilderment that sits at the heart of a society that is still (as societies go) in early adolescence.

We see the ‘Moronic Inferno’ of the US through the eyes of a British writer, lured to New York with the promise of a big publishing deal and then set adrift in the wake of inevitable disappointment. He winds up, through a series of misunderstandings, in charge of a project to build a military robot. Dogged by spies, idiots, and on a collision course with fate that caused me to say, ‘No!’ out loud (something I do even less than laugh out loud), Fred Jones survives a wiser and deeply sadder man.

Along with the corporate world, the military, litigation, news coverage, and the poverty to be found in the world’s ‘wealthiest country’ Sladek also manages to get in his usual (and justified) swipe at the publishing world.

The book is a romp; sharply written and carefully constructed it is a joy to read. And having given pleasure, it leaves you with plenty to think about.