Saturday, October 17, 2009

K-PAX (Brewer, Gene)

Rating: 4
Year: 1995
Genre: Sci-Fi/Comedy
Read Again? In another few years

Time for that Lackey-free zone again.

Gene Brewer--as Dr. Gene Brewer, a head mechanic--narrates his story of a pleasant-seeming man in his thirties who becomes a patient at the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute. He's known only as "prot" (rhymes with "goat") and claims to be from one of the stars in the Lyra constellation. His WORLD is K-PAX (prot has such disdain for humanity, he does not capitalize names--but his respect for stellar objects is such that he renders them all-caps).

prot was picked up by the New York Police Department after he was found standing over a mugging victim. Brewer schedules one session a week, on Wednesdays, and the book's chapters are numbered accordingly.

Brewer learns that prot and his fellow X-PAXians live in Utopian conditions: the weather is always pleasant; there is no crime; everyone provides for everyone else; a typical life is 1,000 years; there is no pollution, no one eats animals, and sex doesn't drive anyone to misbehave or harm others. When asked how his people travel the vast distances of interstellar space, prot smiles condescendingly and tells him it's done with mirrors.

By the 5th Session, Brewer learns that prot is leaving for K-PAX on August 17th, 1990 (less than 3 months away), at 3:31 a.m. precisely. This gives us a clock to watch: Will Brewer figure out what's happening in prot's head and find out who he really is?

"K-PAX" isn't a sci-fi story in the typical vein; we don't see any flashy technology or travel to other worlds--we just have prot's word that it's real, and all done with mirrors.

I like Brewer's style--spare, straightforward, conversational, like a friend over coffee instead of the author-as-performer. His humor isn't screamingly funny, but it's not forced like Lackey's sometimes feels. The story's engaging. It's not Great Literature--but it doesn't try to pretend that it is anything more.

No comments: