There’s a story of Kurt Vonnegut barging into a scifi conference room and yelling, “You’re the only sons of bitches telling the truth. I love you!” Roz Morris is the future life of one of those writers in that conference room. A truth we work very hard to ignore is told in this book that leaves us painfully awake and asking ourselves where are we headed with this world we’ve created. It is dystopian, to be sure, but in an utterly unique way with the same calm stealth with which we approach this new world we’re creating but too busy to imagine where it’s leading. Roz Morris imagines it for us.
Unlike the current trend in dystopian novels, there is no human blood or gore here, no guns blazing or a hero of super-human intellect and physical strength to save the day. The story begins long after any catastrophic event (I won’t spoil anything by saying what it might have been) has occurred and we’ve adapted to the new world, just as we’ve adapted to this new world we live in of steel and style and technology and distaste for anything messy or gooey. Paftoo, our protagonist is a hero of humanity but is not human. Or is he? What does it mean to be human? All the other bods (robots) in this book are named Paf+a spelled-out number, but not the protagonist. His name equates to “Pafalso.” There is a spirit and soul to this bloodless creation I can connect with. Perhaps you can, too, as Paftoo has. All of us on this journey of life have had our hearts hit by lightning, and we’re usually left damaged with unpleasant changes and years of therapy. But when a bod is hit by lightning in the area where a heart would be, it’s that bolt of nature’s fury that changes him towards human qualities that can neither be touched nor nailed down in any of the sciences currently scrambling to dissect the human condition. Most important is the question of whether or not the human condition exists outside of nature.
I found this book both disturbing and satisfying on a very personal level. Three years ago we moved away from city life to a remote rural area that has left me feeling as if my shoes are on the wrong feet. Each of my days begins with a hike through rugged terrain in the oldest mountain range in the world. I have to if I want exercise because we don’t have gyms or chlorinated pools or yoga studios. Within six months of living and hiking these hills, I noticed something had returned I didn’t know had disappeared until they surfaced again–dreams. One little bit of technology piled on top of a minor swell of ambition and busyness had taken away the dreams while I was too distracted to notice. In Lifeform Three, Paftoo breaks rank with his kind when he begins to dream. Do we awaken to the weave of our existence with the natural world around us through our dreams? We’re in a pandemic of forgetfulness and clutter in our contemporary world. Have we forgotten who we are and become finance, commercialism, marketing and entertainment robots? Are we so tightly would in thought memes we become ideas rather than the ones who create ideas? What can be pulled out of us by a beast of burden, a powerful and powerfully frightened horse with a tiny name like Pea?
It should be obvious by now that this book raises many questions with no easy answers. The voice and tone of the writing get out of the way of those questions and is absolutely flawless in its prose and voice. This is a unique voice rising in the literary scene and gaining attention, but one that won’t easily be copied. Rather than a story well told or an enjoyable book that is read, this is an experience. I thought I’d spend the weekend reading this book, but sat down at 10 a.m. Saturday morning and left it only to eat so the spell would not be broken. It’s not a casual read. It may be a new definition of the literary novel, rather than a blend of genres. Time will tell, and until that time has passed, it stands alone as a bold book written by an author unafraid of taking risks, holding up a mirror to our faces as we read, and has a beautifully delicate touch with humor, and word choices that surprise without interrupting the elegant flow of the prose.