Review of "Clearly Marked Fiction"

"Clearly Marked Fiction"
by Michael Pearson

A report:

In the relatively rare cases where I read science fiction, my interest is maintained only if the science is plausible and the fiction is thought provoking. I found both to be true in Michael Pearson's "Clearly Marked Fiction". Michael's imaginative and suggestive choices for his characters' names began to provoke thought from the outset. It was obvious that there were deep ideas that were being gently floated to the surface, but as with most such ideas, they seem to defy direct confrontation. Mike used many devices to allow the ideas to be presented from different angles, and for brief interludes, so that confrontation was not an issue. Yet, as the story unfolded in a delightful and non-threatening way, those fundamental ideas somehow made their mark and developed in the back of my mind as they reappeared in other guises throughout the book.

I especially liked Mike's trick of having his characters recite from random places in fictitious documents. Not only did this remove any assertions made not one but two levels from Mike's mouth, but it allowed for a fragmentary treatment of the idea. It didn't need to be initially staged, or developed. It simply picked up at the point Mike wanted to suggest. And, then, having made the suggestion, it was easily dropped as the attention of the character in the narrative was somehow conveniently distracted. In this way, instead of Mike handing us a worked-out theory about something that might be going on, he hands us fragmentary clues to prompt us to work out our own theories or at least to consider some new ideas we might not otherwise have thought of.

Without knowing much of Mike's history, it seemed likely that the story was, in part, autobiographical. The vivid scenes of the Pacific Northwest were certainly authentic, except for the bizarre behavior of some of the animals toward the end.

In short, I found Mike's book to be engaging, fun, and thought-provoking. I would recommend it to anyone who delights in thinking about new ideas.

Paul Martin
November 23, 2002

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