POV by Chris Brosnahan – Review
I remember being about seven and standing up in Mrs Mullen’s 1st-grade classroom at Logan School and squinting at the blackboard. Mrs Mullen snapped at me. “Ricky”—as they called me back then—“you need glasses!” So right away I became four-eyes. Six years later, I traded the specs for contacts (and became covert four-eyes, I guess). This was the 70s, practically the contact lens Stone Age, and these rock hard convex discs of plastic that allowed no oxygen to pass may as well have been actual stones. But I learned to stick the things into my eyes. Day after day after day I stuck them in. My eyes practically grew calluses they became so impervious to pain. Until I was 17, when, at basketball practice one afternoon, a kid named Mark Lovdahl tried to steal the ball from me and instead gouged my eye. His finger broke my rock-hard plastic lens, which stayed in my eye. It took half an hour to get me to the eye doctor so he could take it out. During that time, each blink sent the jagged broken lens across the surface of my eye like the blades of a thousand skaters over ice. I could almost hear the scrape. Any idea how many times you blink in half an hour? The next day I missed practice. I was wearing an eye patch. But, soon enough, I was back to sticking those rocks into my eyes.
All of this is to give you some idea as to the lack of squeamishness I feel about objects touching my eyes. Sometimes, to freak people out, I’ll just poke myself in the eye in front of them and watch them squeal.
“I pushed the needle into the woman’s eye. She squirmed.”
“‘It’s going exactly as it should go,’ I said, pressing down on the syringe’s plunger.”
“If I stopped now … the liquid would just settle at the bottom of the vitreous humour, rather than filling it.”
Get the idea?
Well, maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. This isn’t body horror, though some pretty awful things happen to eyeballs in this novella, and to the owners of those eyeballs. But this is also a clever, imaginative and fast-paced near-future sf thriller with its fair share of amusement. I thought at times of Philip K Dick. I thought of William Gibson. And I kept thinking, I really want to see this on the big screen.
Without giving away too much, John MacFarlane, POV’s narrator, works as an optometrist specializing in the new technology dubbed IDRoPS (Internal Display Retina Operating Systems). IDRoPS, once installed via that ball-popping syringe of the opening passage, allow you to control your visual environment so that, for instance, if you want your wife to look like Angelina Jolie or your husband to look like Ryan Gosling, it’s merely a matter of a few mental adjustments and voila, your every fantasy fulfilled. IDRoPS have a lot of other uses, too, that I won’t go into here, but their popularity leads to problems for MacFarlane. Someone really likes his work. So much so, that the corpses of his former clients begin to turn up sans eyes. What is it about MacFarlane’s work in particular that would prompt someone to collect such gruesome harvest?
To answer that question, POV takes its readers through more twists than a helter-skelter. And here’s the real sucker-punch, for any writers out there who may sometimes fall victim to a bit of the ol’ writer’s block. This novella was a prize winner. Fair enough, you may say. Except when you find out what the contest was. Everyone who entered this one had to write a novella in 30 (weeks? days? nope) hours. That’s right. Chris Brosnahan wrote this dizzying sf techno-thriller in just 30 HOURS! (Yes, that’s what it looks like when I shout.) It unnerves me to ponder what his imagination might produce with a full-on novel over a period of, like, a year or so. I guess that will come in the near-future.
In the meantime, I guess I’ll just go poke myself in the eye.
(POV is available now as an e-book on Amazon for 99p.)