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Perrin Pring

I'm a sci-fi writer and reader, although, let's be honest - I'll read just about anything that moves me, regardless of the genre.

Pym: Review

Pym - Mat Johnson

I'll admit, when I read Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, I walked away thinking, what a strange book. Yes, Poe's attitude was most certainly racist (and as I noted, scientifically inaccurate), but overall I just thought the entire thing was so strange. The book moved though, although nothing really made any sense.

So, when I learned that Pym was out there, I knew I'd like to read it because obviously someone thought about Poe's work way more than I did, so maybe I could learn something. 

When I first started Pym, I wasn't sure I was going to like. It started pretty angry, and while I realize that race relations around the world aren't great, I didn't know if I wanted to spend my free time reading a book about how awful white people are. (I'm all for talking about having conversations about racial history, but if you're just going to tell me that X group of people suck because they were born with whatever skin color, I'm probably not going to spend much time listening to you.) (I get it though, white people did some terrible things. Poe's story is really racist. Still it's my free time, and it's precious. You want to be in it, don't yell at me about things that are out of my control.)

I struggled through the first few dozen pages and got to the part where Jaynes visits Dirk Peter's decedents and everyone is pretending to be Native American. I started to get into the book at this point. 

Cut to Antarctica. Johnson's satire really takes off - the all black crew appraising the ice monsters like cattle, I mean slaves, the Little Debbie Snacks, the fact that the crew becomes slaves themselves, the Glenn Beck loving nut job in his bio-dome with his Kool-aid streams, and the annihilation of an entire species - the book gets fantastical, and at times, makes little sense (I never really understood when Jaynes was planning on slipping away from his ice mining operation to find Tsalal.)

Overall, once I got past the beginning of the book, I greatly enjoyed it. It did seem to lag in the middle while they're trapped in the all white world under the Antarctic ice, but once that ended, the book finished with a bang (although I knew how the book would end when I started it. I did read Poe's book first). 

I'm glad I read this book, but I'd probably only recommend it to people who have read Poe's work first. I'm not sure Pym would make much sense had you not read Poe first. That being said, you can go read Poe, and then read Pym and get two black and white view points on some of the same issues from two distinct stories that seem to have separate but equal amounts of weirdness in them.