Book Self-Review: Imminent Memories

I’ve been fascinated by the concept of bias since my old English teacher in high school convicted me about it. Bias is everywhere in media, it flows like “The Force” of Star Wars fame. Particularly in the last decade bias has become even more obvious in our media but that is another story for another blog entry. What I’d like to do here is an experiment in “bias” to objectively review my own book, my first book (another is well on the way), which is called “Imminent Memories”. I want to see how much or little of my personal bias enters the work. This is primarily to be posted on my Facebook and let friends and family who have read the book to judge. However, if you are so inclined, a link to purchase the book will be provided at the end of this review.

Imminent Memories

2nd Edition – January 2019

By Matt Blom

Imminent Memories at once rings of derivative nature but also profound uniqueness. The book’s cover art, obviously done in “Blade Runner” font, implies a major influence for the book. In addition, the book is arranged into five short stories that have to do with different aspects that the author believes will be important in the next 50-200 years. While the skin and framework may seem derivative, the stories themselves are, thankfully, not. After a short prologue, we hit our first story “Entropy” about a digital man-made heaven called “Ambrosia”. In this story, people can get themselves downloaded into a digital heaven with various grades of pleasure and scope depending on how much they can pay. The story revolves around “Marek” a man with an intense grievance who pursues a major player in the Ambrosia system.

The story, while the first, is probably the highlight of the bunch and certainly the most intriguing. The idea of a digital heaven – moderated by capitalism – would be intriguing for many people. The discussions between Marek and the antagonist are good, often creating a back and forth banter. Ultimately; however, the story does feel a little rushed. As if it could perhaps use 20-30% more content. The author has tried to create small ‘touches’ on the different parts of his world but this sometimes comes at the cost of details. This is a small but ongoing critique of his entire piece.

The second story is probably the black sheep of the bunch but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Forgoing a discussion of technology, “The Vote” instead focuses on censorship done out of the vise of “compassionate revisionist history”. It discusses what the author sees as a ‘post-truth’ world where feelings overrule facts. This story is controversial and will likely make some arch their back in offense. However, I do believe it’s a good discussion to have and is probably the piece you could most likely have a roundtable and talk about with others in person.

The third story is a gem. Purely a dark comedy, “The Unlucky” is sort of two stories in one. Part of the story takes place in a computer generated dream world, actually a world created by an AI to help a comatose patient recover. The AI, nicknamed “Patches”, can actually influence this dream world and does so for his own reasons. Part of the story takes place outside of the dream world where one doctor suspects Patches’ motives may be sinister. Having a story this short actually being two stories in one almost, but not quite, dilutes the overall effect of this story. You really do feel for the main character who believes he’s awake and fine in the real world yet encountering all these unfortunate situations. If there’s a critism to be levied at this story at all it is that the motives behind it are not as deep or intentional as the others. However, it is a nice diversion from the more intense story right before.

The fourth story, “War Pigs”, strokes the author’s childhood hobby of writing action prose. Taking place in a near-future war zone this story is difficult to talk about without spoiling. Much of the effort is spent on describing violent combat encounters which are suitably well-described and even gruesome in their depiction. Where this story struggles is that it goes for an emotional payoff between the two lead characters that doesn’t seem to pay off despite the efforts. If any story of the five fell ‘flat’, as in being painfully average it might be this one. The vivid action depictions from a mind obviously engaged by the fetish of writing combat action does make it at least readable.

The final story in idea is the most unique and thought provoking. A sort of “courtroom drama” it is the most grounded on actual legislation and political moves that have already happened. The story which takes place in the author’s hometown of Vancouver, Canada. In it a sort of “neo-porn star” tries to leave her career after a chance encounter convinces her that her work is degrading. Unfortunately, Canadian law (and this is true) has legalized prostitution and sexual acts for money, meaning that even though she finds sex work degrading it’s actually illegal for her to quit, as this would nullify her contract. This story is interesting and thought provoking, it does involve some of the darkest language of the five stories so be prepared. It can’t be called “entertaining” as it’s not a fun read, but it is unique, amongst the five stories, with its direct connection to actual legal issues already in place. The main issue with this story is that it’s not reasonable for anyone to be held to the ‘act’ of their contract as the story states. Yes, there may be large financial penalties to break a contract, but unlikely to be jail time, as is proposed.

Each of the stories above is followed by an essay by the author where he discusses his motivations and reasons for each story. Honestly, it’s this more than anything that gives a cerebral tone and cohesiveness to the prose. While he doesn’t necessarily tell us what to think (The Vote perhaps notwithstanding) he does encourage us to think and explains just enough for us to guide our thoughts as we ponder his work. The stories on their own would probably have resulted in a piece of work that’s a “below average” and overly brief first attempt; however, with the essays the stories take on additional meaning and weight. This turns the book into a creative collection of thought provoking literature that chooses to skimp on the details in order to splurge on the thoughts.

Rating: 7.5/10

Link to purchase:

http://www.blurb.ca/b/9300009-imminent-memories

 

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The Fountainhead Part 1: Book Review

This is the first of two blog articles on “The Fountainhead”. This one is a review of the book itself, while in the second article I want to dive into some of the concepts. “The Fountainhead” is one of Ayn Rand’s most famous pieces of work and is widely considered a classic piece of literature. The book revolves around architecture and one architect, Howard Rourke’s uncompromising approach to his career. Rourke will not compromise even an inch of himself on his designs. So, for example, if a customer wants to hire him but will restrict even one small detail, Rourke will abandon the contract. This leads to circumstances where he becomes bankrupt and lives in abject poverty for a time.

The story plays out like a reverse of “A Christmas Carol”. The book is written in a format that has an introduction followed by three sections where three different men challenge Rourke, ending in Rourke’s own segment and triump. However, unlike Scrooge’s story, The Fountainhead involves three “visitors” that attempt to defeat Rourke with various schemes and are in turn themselves defeated by his virtue. It’s Scrooge as the virtuous soul fending off the ghosts. It’s a novel twist and one I quite enjoyed. The book’s strengths lie in its characters. Rourke himself is attractive, if unrealistic, in the way that he will not compromise himself. As a right-wing individualist myself, the way that Rourke lives his life comes off like a champion – even if I believe his uncompromising vision is impractical in real life.

**Some spoilers follow past this point**

For me the “stars of the show” are the three men that rise to challenge Rourke. The first, and most relatable, is Peter Keating. Keating is a fellow architect who grew up with Rourke but is his polar opposite foil. Where Rourke is strong and individualistic Keating is insecure and a people-pleaser. He’s also downright manipulative to the point of actually purposefully stressing out a supporting character to the point that he has a stroke and dies – which was Keating’s goal. The second challenger is Ellsworth Toohey, an architecture critic with a prodigious talent for persuasion and an ardent socialist. Toohey initiates an elaborate and devious plan to discredit Rourke in court (I’ll expand on these character’s motivations more in my in-depth blog on the book). Finally, there is Gail Wynand who is a former child gang leader who ends up taking control of a newspaper because it will have the most influence on people. Wynand is awesome, think Darth Vader as a newspaper baron. He is pure evil, taking delight in getting good people to compromise their virtues. As a game, he spends huge sums of money to attract news-writers that he can force to go against their own morals and ethical codes. Same goes for his taste in women where he will only sleep with women he buys – and only buys women that “cannot be bought”. There’s an elegance to his evil that’s intoxicating if not downright scary at times because he’s a very intelligent man. At one point Wynand and Rourke become friends but something occurs that changes their relationship.

Alas the book is not perfect and I have two main criticisms.

1.)

From a narrative point of view, my first criticism is how Rourke is handled. For the first 150 pages or so of the book he speaks only in questions or short phrases. His character is established as a very strong and silent type. But around 150 pages in Rourke has his first large monologue where out of nowhere he spews long and articulately about his individualistic philosophy. Howard Rourke is the hero and represents Ayn Rand’s own philosophy, what I read as what happened is that she could not find a way to let Rourke’s virtues just stand for themselves: she had to interject her monologue onto the character to get it to the reader. By doing this, she shocks you with how much Rourke suddenly changes, it doesn’t make sense or jive with how his character was established, and just comes off as giving in to temptation so she can get her politics out there.

2.)

For defenders of the book…This one is going to earn me much scorn as I’m going to join the masses. I’ll just get it out there: The Fountainhead involves a scene of explicit and violent rape. Now, I prefer non-fiction books so I haven’t read a ton of fiction, but I’d never read anything like the first sexual encounter between Dominique Francon and Rourke. There’s an internal battle in Dominique’s mind where her mind is battling if she enjoys it or not. But Rourke doesn’t know this. The book implies that they have some sort of super intense connection that Rourke might ‘know’ she somehow secretly wants the sex – but overtly she doesn’t. The book clearly describes Dominique as physically trying to fight off Rourke while he throws her around the room and into walls. I’m going to weigh in on why I agree with the ‘mainstream’ critiques in part 2 of my analysis.

However, those two criticisms should not detract from the fact that I think the book is brilliant. It encapsulates the virtue, allure, challenges, and triumphs of being true to oneself. We live in a world that pressures us to conformity. That conformity is always changing but The Fountainhead has a hero striking back against the tide. Making a stand for true humanity in the face of the masses. And it’s damn good!

Rating: A