November 19, 2009

Book review: "From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain," by Minister Faust

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From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, by Minister Faust

From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain
By Minister Faust
Del Ray / ISBN: 978-0-34546-637-2

I've mentioned this before, but for those who missed it and still don't know, the 1980s and '90s saw within science-fiction the development of what's now known as the "Dark Age;" informed equally by punk and postmodernism, it was a time of brooding introspection in the genre, when such traditional stereotypes as superheroes were psychologically examined to determine both the reason for their existence in the first place and in which ways these stereotypes could be cracked in our contemporary times. And sometimes this resulted in serious projects, such as Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, one of the seminal titles of this period that helped inspire the term "Dark Age" to begin with; but what has lasted much longer is the compulsion to create comedic material out of such fodder, from classic movies like The Specials and Mystery Men to Austin Grossman's recent and delightful Soon I Will Be Invincible. And now we have yet another example, absurdist author Minister Faust's From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, which essentially covers the same ground as all the rest -- bored, petulant super-neurotics turn on each other once all super-crime has been vanquished, thus necessitating New Age psychiatric help lest they go too crazy and lose their lucrative commercial endorsements -- albeit to his credit, Faust inventively ties his particular look at this milieu metaphorically to the fate of the US after the end of the Cold War, giving us a confused and increasingly spoiled group of superfriends in the face of a complete lack of supervillains in their egotistical, entitled, all-powerful lives.

But there's a problem with this book, a big problem, which is that once Faust makes his metaphorical point, he has almost nothing else of originality to say; and so how he fills the rest of the novel is by having his utterly banal one-note characters endlessly spout tiresome dialogue reinforcing the one note of their personalities (a Britney Spears superhero who always talks in Valley-speak, a black superhero who always talks like Superfly, &c.), along with an infinite amount of petty arguments within the group therapy sessions constantly being forced on them by their superiors throughout the book. It's essentially 25 pages' worth of story surrounded by 375 pages of corny punchlines (and for ample proof of this, see the unbelievable 165 chapter and subchapter titles [yes, I counted], every single one of which consists of a bad pun involving superheroism); or if you prefer, it's Alan Moore's Watchmen as rewritten by a playground full of 12-year-olds. Dr. Brain unfortunately misses its satirical mark by a wide margin, and it's my recommendation today that you skip it altogether.

Out of 10: 5.8

Filed by Jason Pettus at 6:13 PM, November 19, 2009. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |