Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Puzzle Box Stuffed with Goodness


Nick Harkaway makes my brain hurt. The kind of pleasant I-don't-quite-get-it pain that usually stabs at me in advanced calculus classes or conversations about reality television programs. He likes to plunk his readers down in a story that feels already in progress, in a world that is just one little wrinkle in quantum space away from our own. It is puzzle box fiction that asks a lot of the reader and rewards you for your efforts. As the answers slowly unfold, and the train rockets towards an epic conclusion, we feel elated and self-satisfied. It's a little like reading and a little like solving a Rubik's Cube blindfolded. It's also a LOT like a great story.

It also provides the best justification for becoming an outlaw since Tom Robbin's thesis on the subject in Still Life With Woodpecker. I will forever after think of Three-card Monte as an analogy for the inherent injustices of a life lived "by the rules". Those of you who have solved this particular Rubik's cube will know what I'm talking about.

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