Wednesday, September 4, 2013
New Release Review: "Duplex: A Novel" by Kathryn Davis
Time, place, and mind all bend in extraordinary ways in this new novel from the acclaimed author of The Thin Place and Versailles
Mary and Eddie are meant for each other—but love is no guarantee, not in these suburbs. Like all children, they exist in an eternal present; time is imminent, and the adults of the street live in their assorted houses like numbers on a clock. Meanwhile, ominous rumors circulate, and the increasing agitation of the neighbors points to a future in which all will be lost. Soon a sorcerer’s car will speed down Mary’s street, and as past and future fold into each other, the resonant parenthesis of her girlhood will close forever. Beyond is adulthood, a world of robots and sorcerers, slaves and masters, bodies without souls. In Duplex, Kathryn Davis, whom the Chicago Tribune has called “one of the most inventive novelists at work today,” has created a coming-of-age story like no other. Once you enter the duplex—that magical hinge between past and future, human and robot, space and time—there’s no telling where you might come out.
I had very mixed feelings about this novel. I loved how surreal it was: the story of suburban neighborhoods where women walk their dogs and get seduced by sorcerers while girls gossip and trade cards with their robot neighbors. It was the type of story that combined everything without drawing any attention to the strangeness of it: past meets present meets future; suburban monotony meets apocalypse; fiction meets reality in a way that the two are indistinguishable.
It's a very weird, experimental story. And while I loved that element, I couldn't bring myself to love the actual story. The characters felt flat, and it was hard to relate to them or even see them as real people.
This is the type of book that will appeal to only a small subset of people. Can I recommend it to anyone in particular? Not exactly. But if you're looking for something very different, then I would give Duplex a shot.
Duplex is out now.