Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ex Libris: Matt Ruff's Set This House in Order

One thing I love about speculative fiction is the fact that it's a lot like language: if the writer is very, very good at expressing the language, then he or she can make the words jump through hoops. Same thing with speculative fiction; you can shape it like silly putty to create things you would never have thought of.

Take for example, Matt Ruff's Set this House in Order, a book about a person with multiple personality disorder. Andy Gage's life broke into pieces in the '60s because of an abusive parent and now there are a hundred personalities living inside Andy's head. You'd think: "Wow, that's crowded", right? Right, which is why author Matt Ruff imagines the inside of Andy's mind as a house wherein all the personalities live: Andy, Adam the teenager, Jake the boy, Gideon the misanthrope, and Aaron the father figure.

Actually, only a handful of Andy's personalities are well-developed and Ruff takes full advantage of this, imagining Andy Gage as a kind of 'vehicle' and the different personalities trying to take control of the car. To wit, it reminds me of those Disney cartoons featuring Goofy as Mr. Walker and Mr. Wheeler, a Jekyll and Hyde-type-- and sometimes funny or disastrous results occur when one or the other personality runs amok with the 'vehicle'.

As this that isn't enough to make the book interesting, Ruff peoples Andy's surrounding with rather dysfunctional types such that it makes you wonder: who is the crazy one here anyway? And there's also that other MPD sufferer, Penny Driver, who is seeking help for her situation. Let's just say that a good story twist for the goose is also quite good for the gender-- er, gander.

All in all, a funny and yet also poignant reading of people who had to live with extreme measures they implemented to survive extreme situations. Highly recommended. (Rating: 4 paws out of 4.)

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