Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gateway

My dad, when he was my age, decided he would go to the library, look at the sci-fi section, start at the upper left hand corner and work his way right and down. So he did.

Now, every now and then, randomly and out of the azure emptiness, he'll stick me with a book and say, "Hey, read this." I'll take it and say, "Yeah, okay, sure." And he'll go on to sort of say why he's chosen it, if not what wending mind-work and/or external triggers led him to this choosing. Hefty napkins-full of time I've spent wondering if this book was brought to his mind by a movie he'd seen recently, or if that one was inspired by his Russian boss who cusses like a couple sailors. But I haven't been able to figure it out.

Anyway, one day he gave me Gateway, an most ancient classic by Frederick Pohl. He said, "There is surprise at the end, m'lad. Read on."

He said the same thing about The Dispossessed. When I finished that one, I went and asked him what he thought the surprise was, because I missed it. He couldn't remember. After talking on it for a while, we still couldn't really figure it out.

So I had some skepticism about this Gateway surprise. It took me something like seven months, off and on, but I've just finished it. Hurrahz! And there was a surprise at the end. And it really surprised me. But it was in the last effing paragraph, which was, additionally, terribly short, which also annoys me. Up to that paragraph, the book had no meaning to me. Or very little. Almost none. Close to zero. Maybe a level four meaning.

And I could almost feel frustrated. Except that having finished, I really liked the ending. That last paragraph and its meaning-inducing brevity.

And so, though I was bored in reading it, and though the ending seemed to have next to no indication that it was coming, there seemed no probability that the plot was what the ending said that it was...even after all that, I'm glad I read this book. It felt like time wasted, and now it does not.

The book had a moral: life is fucking complicated.

4 comments:

Ali said...

A last-paragraph twist, eh? And it worked? Color me impressed.

Oz, the Mad said...

Yeah. And it altered the entire focus of the book.

Maybe, if it had been a different set of circumstances, I would have been terribly annoyed. But this twist sort of fit in with other things I enjoy, and it was my dad's book...so there were reasons that I was prepared to like it.

The One and Only John said...

Like a jigsaw puzzle needing that last piece that makes it all make sense.

Oz, the Mad said...

Wow. I bet you worked on that metaphor for hours.