Amis goes Gothic-metaphysical...and does it well. Jul 19, 2009
What a bizarre little book this is. Among many things, it seems Amis' answer to Frankenstein. Without Victor Frankenstein, or perhaps with Victor Frankenstein, or with a pair of, or several, Victor Frankensteins who are perhaps one Victor Frankenstein after all, or with a Dr Jekyll and a Mr Hyde disguised as Victor Frankensteins. Who knows? It is subtitled "A Mystery Story," and mystery is the aftertaste you're left with. And it's a story. And Amis defines stories in Other People as "only lies, imagined for money, time sold."
Lies, money and time are quite big in this novel, particularly the last. Amis had perhaps been on a bit of a Borges bender (he did grow up in the '60s). He does odd things with Borges, generally speaking. A short story in Einstein's Monsters is described as having a Borgesian influence and yet reads as if it's been written by Vonnegut. And I'm not complaining. This is all pure Amis.
A pleasant surprise in Other People is Amis' prodigious capacity for creepiness. Some of the passages here drip with a sharp, poisonous, translucent evil that could put half a dozen Stephen Kings out of business.
These passages, and many others, are a pure pleasure to read. Amis is probing, mad, and generously funny (until you're altogether too creeped out to laugh out loud). There are flaws, of course, and the five-star rating signifies excellence rather than perfection. It sometimes feels as if Amis is trying to cram too much into a very delicate container. To his credit, however, the integrity of the work survives the tangential musings.
All in all a very enjoyable book.