Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Plagiarist by Hugh Howey (Science Fiction Sunday no 3)

Publication date: 15th March 2011
Published by: Broad Reach Publishing
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 58 pages

Publisher's synposis
Adam Griffey is living two lives. By day, he teaches literature. At night, he steals it. Adam is a plagiarist, an expert reader with an eye for great works. He prowls simulated worlds perusing virtual texts, looking for the next big thing. And when he finds it, he memorizes it page by page, line by line, word for word. And then he brings it back to his world.

But what happens when these virtual worlds begin to seem more real than his own? What happens when the people within them mean more to him than flesh and blood? What happens when a living thing falls in love with someone who does not actually exist?

My Review
The Plagiarist is a novella by Hugh Howey, author of WOOL.

I enjoyed this immensely. I am a big fan of science fiction (books, films and TV), especially the sort that are about 'ideas'; the philosophical kind like Ray Bradbury's novel The Martian Chronicles or the film 2001: A Space Odyssey  (although I quite like the space invaders kind like Star Wars, also).

What this story reminded me of most was the movie Blade Runner, adapted from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which is the science fiction Holy Grail, as far as I am concerned (and probably one of the best movies ever made). If I told you why it would ruin the plot, so I won't. I did not see the twist coming but in hindsight a lot made sense.

If you are a writer (or like me dabble), I strongly recommend you read this book, because what it is really about is writing - or at least it is for me. Adam demonstrates all the characteristics of a writer and he talks about the stuff writers sometimes experience and feel.
  • The self doubt - that feeling of not being good enough, especially compared to the greats - a feeling so strong that you don't feel worthy (to the extent that you think maybe you should just give up and leave it to those who do it really well).  Insecurities that must be overcome.
  • The tendency to procrastinate because writing is so hard (yes I do appreciate this).  
  • The importance of reading (in moderation).  Adam has a tendency to spend too much time reading and hardly any time writing because it is SO HARD.  Instead he spends his time searching for the next Shakespeare in the virtual world.  (Hmm, now who does that remind me of?).  He does however create haiku and he keeps them stored in his head.  They come naturally to him and the reader gets to read one at the beginning of each chapter.  Every now and then his girlfriend, Amanda, manages to persuade him to share one with her. 
A lot of this spoke volumes for me as I could relate.  It made me feel like I am not alone. 

Adam thinks it is his mission to find the next Shakespeare but, in truth, it's irrelevant if he achieves it or not. In his quest to do so he discovers love in a virtual world known as Hammond. The 'virtual' girl he falls for is Belatrix and Adam soon becomes fixated with spending all of his time with her.  He feels a sense of shame knowing he should focus on his relationship with his real girlfriend, Amanda.  But he cannot help the way he feels about Belatrix, even if she isn't a real person.

I could not help but draw parallels with the 'virtual worlds'  in this story and the actual world of publishing, a world saturated with - well, to be frank - works that aren't good enough. And with self publication being so easy and quality control not so tight with publishers, the volume  of such works is constantly increasing.  Is book publishing out of control?  Is a cull the answer?

For some authors, writing is a way of preserving their mortality - in the sense that they will live on through their work after they die - and for some this is a motivator.

It may only be 58 pages long but you get so much from those 58 pages.  The above are just some of the interesting ideas that I took from the story.

For me The Plagiarist is 5-a-day fiction.  [You know how we are supposed to eat 5 fruit and veg a day?  They are good for us.  They are important sustenance and keep us healthy.]  This novella gave my mind sustenance and fed my soul.

I don't allocate ratings on this blog because I feel it is rather simplistic to compare books in that way.  However, I cannot fault this story and it gets full marks from me.

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