This was without a doubt the strangest book that I have ever read; however, I think that may be a good thing. This is not a book I would have just read for fun, it’s not my top of book; but I have thoroughly enjoyed discussing this book with the class (even if we spent too much time on race). No other book has provided me with the ability to discuss drug use, rape, consenting sex with a minor, centaurs, cannibalism, carnies, and a host of different things. This book is almost indescribable because it is so strange and different.
For my final paper I really want to talk about this book because there are just so many different ways of viewing/reading it. I think a post colonial analysis will be the most interesting because then I can touch on the ‘anti-conquest’ nature of the book. We discussed in class how there were so many similarities between this book and other books; obviously Gulliver’s Travels but Heart of Darkness and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are two other examples. All three of these books are considered conquest books because at their most basic level they are about a journey or an ‘adventure.’ Infernal Desire Machines is another book about a journey, but it seems to be critiquing and expanding on the traditional conquest narrative.
One thought that keeps reoccurring to me is what kind of bad guy is Dr. Hoffman, and who does he remind me of? I came to the conclusion that I think Dr. Hoffman is a mix between Kurtz, The Riddler, and Andrew Ryan/Atlas (the ‘villains’ in the video game Bio Shock). If anyone else has an opinion on the matter or any thoughts, I would love to hear them. I think the Kurtz similarity is relatively obvious, especially with the river boat ride. On page 70, towards the bottom, there is a very Conradesque passage describing the River People. “Since, however, they bore no goodwill to the whites and very little to the blacks, if it came to that, they took a cool pleasure to witness from the security of their portholes the occasional havoc in the towns through which they passed” (page 70). If anyone has played the video game Bio Shock, I think it is almost impossible not to see a little Andrew Ryan in Dr. Hoffman.