Antibodies, by David Skal (1988) K

Date Read: 6.27.09
Book From: Personal Collection
Reviewer: Kakaner

I have finally waded out of a merciless sea of deadlines, grad apps, visiting parents, and other such nonsense to bring you a review of scifi crack in book form. So I apologize for my contribution to any recent TBL droughts.

Antibodies is the story of a pale anorexic woman, Diandra, who nurtures an unhealthy desire to become a machine. She is true in every way to the Antibodies cult– starving and draining the blood from her body to entirely prepare herself for mechanical integration. However, circumstances prevent her from completing her transition smoothly. She is captured by the notorious hedonistic psychiatrist Julian Nagy who runs a therapy clinic to heal, and eventually exploit, those of the cult. At the same time, her only guides through this process are vague and ominous directions from the Antibodies authority while contending with the resentment of the public.

I discovered this book through a Coilhouse link Emera flinged my way over a year ago and behold, it bobbed up to the surface of my 100+ TBR pool and I have actually managed to read it. Well, I was pretty hooked after Coilhouse described it as a “deeply disturbing, brutally unsparing book” which sounded right up my twisted alley.

Don’t be fooled by the summary. Antibodies certainly sounds fascinating– a solid mix of cyberpunk and cult fantasy with a generous dollop of scifi fetish braincandy– but it is altogether entirely horrific. It takes many elements of our current society and exaggerates and stretches them into a possible future universe in which people worship and want to become the technology they have created. The depravity of humanity is evident as its constituents are each proponents of some broken part of our very system. Let’s see what Coilhouse has to say:

That’s what Antibodies is, at its heart: a horror novel. There are no heroes here, only the deluded and the ruthlessly predatory. But for all its Gran Guignol touches, Antibodies hits home. In a rush to the future, it’s easy to forget or ignore the wreckage that draws in the alienated and insane into any dream that offers them easy transcendence from their previous lives.

Like many other scifi works With A Message, Antibodies is not so much a work of literature as it is a jar with a wild amount of jam-packed content, and additionally, every bit of crazy Skal could possibly find. Unfortunately, the result is a story in which the events and premise scream so loud over all other components that character development, writing, pacing, and other such elements really suffer. But I assume if you want to read this, it will not be for its literary merits.

For a general idea of the book, here are some snapshots: live primetime masturbation, homicidal exsanguination, a  lesbian half-robot affair, and asylum torture. Even though I can see the good and truth in this book (Asimov wrote an introduction and obviously endorsed it), I hesitate to call it a work of genius like some have. The words of Antibodies seem too eagerly sadistic to be the grim, calculating, analytical masterpiece it could have been– it is certainly no Brave New World.

Finally, a last insightful thought from Coilhouse:

We do live in a brave new world, of magnificent sprinters with no legs, of old iron, new flesh and limitless potential. Oddly, this makes the uncomfortable truths of Antibodies all the more essential: there will still be lies and there will still be those that believe them, and others that profit, leech-like, off their worship. No matter how much steel we have inside us, how much technology we create, the old demons are still waiting, just over the horizon.

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David Skal

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