Duplex: A NovelDuplex: A Novel by Kathryn Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is hands-down the weirdest, and curiously one of the most affecting, books I have had the privilege to read in 2014. Impressive and incendiary. Overall the structure and tone reminded me of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury: a series of loosely connected and intertwined stories/tales/visions set in a mythical world of the imagination.

That world is either modern suburbia, a virtual reality simulation, a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by giant tsunamis, an old age home/convent, a future utopia where robots are ubiquitous … there is even mention of a Space Drift near the end, that is able to fold time and space, which reminded me of M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy (instead of a cat here we have a red dachshund).

A vital clue is provided towards the end, where a hinge is described as “not only being the place where a real scallop attached itself to its shell, but also the place where you could go forward and back with equal ease”.

There is a lot of mention of doors, openings, even wormholes, and neologisms like ‘dactilo ports’, while the titular duplex is described at the beginning as having properties “that are stretchable but they aren’t infinite. One minute the opening will be right there in front of you, and the next minute you won’t even know where it went.”

What I loved about Duplex is how it reminded me of a time when I was much younger and I perceived reading as a dangerous, even illicit, activity that was anti-social and took me out of the world as I knew it.

It reminded me of the thrill of ordering books from storage in our home town’s legal-deposit library that had not been taken out in years, feeling that not only had I rediscovered these lost books, but that by reading them, somehow activating their magic…

Duplex also reminded me of the brain freeze I would often encounter in reading new authors, and attempting a book that I knew was beyond my teenage comprehension (elastic as it may have been at that time), and being dimly aware of a vast realm of ideas and feelings just beyond my grasp.

If you read a lot of SF and po-mo or contemporary fiction, you are likely to take to Duplex like a duck to water, if you have not discovered Davis already (this is my first time reading her).

This book really reinvigorated my sense of wonder in reading: as a process of discovery (and rediscovery); as a contract with the author to educate and entertain me in equal measure; and as an emotional and cathartic journey, where the heartbeat of the story is much more valuable than the narrative footprint.

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