Sunday, May 10, 2015

I Am Radar by Reif Larsen

I Am Radar.  Reif Larsen. Penguin Group (USA). February 2015. 672 pp.  ISBN#: 9781594206160.

A doctor waits for the head of a baby to appear as the new life of two anxious parents.  In one second the electricity is out and hospital generators aren’t working.  The father, Kermin, pulls out a flashlight and he watches the baby comes out, covered with a white plastic-like covering.  The tension increases with the sight when the baby is cleaned; the child is as black as a Nubian native.  The usual questions are gently hinted at but the mother has not had any relationships with anyone but her husband Kermin. 

Charlene also has an unusual after-effect; all she can smell are noxious odors, a phenomenon that gradually diminishes but still leaves her with unpleasant olfactory experiences.  Her life is dedicated to finding out how and why her son was born like this, her son whom his father calls Radar after the old TV show M*A*S*H.  Kermin believes his son will have special powers.

Radar does indeed to be a unique character. After being subjected to an experiment that is nothing short of a failure, the Radar in the remainder of the story travels throughout the world with a group of puppeteers, a group who try to create work in areas where extreme wars and other terrible events have left residents with nothing.  Radar is now the color of beige and therefore more acceptable to everyone they meet.  The puppeteer use complicated science, technology and quantum physics to create robots but they wind up very hurt from an explosion while working with nuclear matter.  The quantum physics is very complicated but is simple for Radar who has the ability to read radio messages just by putting his hands on the transmitter. 

A group of teachers steal radioactive material with the notion of creating something new as an artistic presentation. Different stories follow in Bosnia and Cambodia involving chaos and violence, but they do connect with the general theme later on in the story.  This novel at times reads like a complicated science article written by physicist academics.  The best advice is just to go with it, even when it makes very little sense at all; this reviewer is not sure whether this makes a difference to the reader but it is what it is.

Are Radar and other characters’ paths one of healing, pure science exploration or something more philosophical, psychological or social?  How is Radar’s epilepsy connected to his uncanny ability to understand radio transmissions? Does his suffering truly lead to his understanding about love who he really is?  I am Radar is a complex work of science fiction that truly stretches the imagination with its disconnected parts that in some ways unite and in others just seem like another round of dystopian fiction with free-floating ideas and attempt to form a new, coherent reality.  Interesting science fiction about difference and exploring new visions of the universe in the future!

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