Do Not Resurrect

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In a world where you never have to leave your home, is life still a highway?

In a world where you never have to leave your home, is life still a highway?

“Jesus–if Kilgore Trout could only write!” Rosewater exclaimed. He had a point: Kilgore Trout’s unpopularity was deserved. His prose was frightful. Only his ideas were good.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

The Goodreads recommendation tab kept insisting that fans of this book would also enjoy a series of stories by Kurt Vonnegut, so I thought it appropriate to sum up this novel with a Vonnegut quotation.

Do Not Resurrect provides some very interesting premises but it reads as a Coles Notes summary of itself.  There are ideas there, but they are told, not demonstrated, and while those ideas might prove very interesting to some, I’m not entirely sure that they need a prose fiction story to accompany them.  If you’ve read Atlas Shrugged, you’ve encountered the infamous “John Galt Speech”:

If you haven’t, I recommend giving it a bit of a listen.  Keep in mind that not only does it go on for over 3 hours, but that it basically just summarizes what the point of the novel has been up until now.  If you end up giving up, know that you’re not alone; many people end up skipping it, and even those who don’t will admit that embedding a persuasive essay into your novel is a heavy-handed way of transmitting the crux of your novel.  Do Not Resurrect is like a number of John Galt speeches presented back to back, and if that’s your thing, then by all means read on, but if you’re looking for a character piece, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

DNR follows the life and afterlife of eccentric American recluse Severino Verna, who is supposedly a “real” person, in as much as a character in an obscure iTunes documentary can be considered real.  The documentary, which I have not seen, apparently names Sevi as the creator of the mysterious Toynbee tiles which have popped up in cities across the Americas.  Sometimes stooge, sometimes revolutionary, Sevi’s life is irrevocably wrapped up in the fate of Toynbee Media International.  By 2080, TMI holds a monopoly on the afterlife, having perfected its resurrection technology in a bid to compete for the one thing that matters in its post-scarcity economy: popular opinion.  Individuals are resurrected and judged by popular vote on a program not unlike American Idol and Sevi’s tiles provide a basis for it all… somehow (the hows and whys are a bit fuzzy).

In many ways, Kingmaker could have benefited by taking a page from Liggio’s book and including foot notes.  It would have allowed him to include his academic-style explanations without interrupting what story there is.  It would even have worked thematically: one of his characters is a twentieth century historian, and the novel itself about altering/adding onto history.  What else is a footnote if not the author or editor’s attempt to alter meaning by tagging a bit on a the end of a text?  I suspect that this would have resulted in paratext that was longer than the novel itself, which may be why Kingmaker avoided it, but even there you can argue for a thematic interpretation: the TMI’s afterlife is seemingly endless, whether one wants to continue or not.

So what was enjoyable about the novel?  Kingmaker bases many elements of his future Earth on online culture, but unlike your average cyberpunk novel, he does not write about a digital Earth, but rather an Earth where everyone is a YouTuber, blogger, or self-published author, competing for an audience.  He counters the supposed utopia of a post-scarcity society with a distracted, abstracted populace, concerned entirely with whatever elements of pop culture happen to be trending at the present time.  In fact, the parallels to Ayn Rand are not entirely inappropriate.  Like most science fiction, Kingmaker’s novel is set in the future but offers criticism on today’s society.  If we continue as we are, we will become fluffy “artistes” so busy discussing out thoughts and feelings that we become incapable of innovation and end up stagnating.  I’m not sure how Rand would have felt about the need for copywrite (it kind of goes against the free market to forbid people from creating products more efficiently) but she would have agreed on a lot of what goes on in Sevi’s head.  Again, the John Galt speech serves as a passable litmus: if you dislike being preached to by secularists, DNR (in this case, “do not read”).

The final straw for me was that ever-present bane of self-published books: insufficient copy editing.  It wasn’t overwhelming in DNR, and the errors may have been the result of a conversion problem as opposed to a problem with the original manuscript, but they were still present where they shouldn’t have been.

Final verdict?

Overall Rating: 2/5

Recommended if: you enjoy non-literary attempts at world building like the Infinite Histories wiki or you enjoy reading amateur philosophy in a loosely novelesque format.

Skip it if: you’re looking for a novel that’s driven by plot and characters rather than underlying ideas or you’re a stickler for “show don’t tell”.

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