"Dr. Identity, or, Farewell to Plaquedemia" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Raw Dog Screaming Press
I murdered a student-thing. St. Von Yolk. But it was an accident. I thought he was an android. – Dr. Identity
Written by D. Harlan Wilson
2007, 205 pages, Fiction
Released on March 1st, 2007
In The Bizarro Starter Kit: An Introduction to the Bizarro Genre, Bizarro fiction is described as:
- Bizarro, simply put, is the genre of the weird.
- Bizarro is literature's equivalent to the cult section at the video store
- Like cult movies, Bizarro is sometimes surreal, sometimes goofy, sometimes bloody, and sometimes borderline pornographic.
- Bizarro often contains a certain cartoon logic that, when applied to the real world, creates an unstable universe where the bizarre becomes the norm and absurdities are made flesh.
- Bizarro strives not only to be strange, but fascinating, thought-provoking, and, above all, fun to read.
- Bizarro was created by a group of small press publishers in response to the increasing demand for (good) weird fiction and the increasing number of authors who specialize in it.
- Bizarro is:
Frank Kafka meets Joe Bob Briggs
Dr. Seuss of the post-apocalypse
Japanese Animation directed by David Lynch
It's safe to say D. Harlan Wilson's Dr. Identity, or, Farewell to Plaquedemia meets every one of those requirements, as it's enjoyable insanity of the highest level.
When Dr. Identity, the robotic doppelgänger of Dr. Blah Blah Blah, inadvertently kills a student's 'gänger — he never liked it, anyway — he thinks nothing of it. See, at Corndog University, it's okay for a professor-gänger to kill a student-gänger and a it's okay for a professor to kill a student, but not the other way around. You can only kill your own kind. When it turns out that the student-gänger wasn't a gänger after all, the shit hits the fan. So Dr. Identity does what one would naturally do in this situation: He wipes out the entire English department, followed by a binge of mass murder in the city of Bliptown, with his human owner, Dr. Blah Blah Blah, in unwilling tow.
Dr. Identity is an absolute blast. Filled with über-violence, laugh-out-loud moments and one hell of a statement on today's society, the book is more than just the surrealistic mindfuck it appears to be at first glance. In a sense, it's very similar in theme to Natural Born Killers. Like NBK, Dr. Identity has two characters on a killing spree (albeit one that really doesn't want to be there), and the population both fear and love them. Instead of shaming them for their heinous crimes, people want to buy the action figures (which, in the book's case, were manufactured mere hours after the slaughter began). This is true to life, as we all know. How many of us own something with Charlie Manson's face on it? I know I do.
In addition, author D. Harlan Wilson takes shot after shot at college academics, most noticeably in chapter 14, titled: excerpt from "the post(post)/post-post+postmodern icklyophobe: ultra/counter\hyper-nihilism in fiona birdwater's megaanti-micronovel, the ypsilanti factor". Yeah. You read that right. That chapter is excruciating to read because it's apparently a college thesis, and is true to form in that the character Dr. Blah Blah Blah overuses the thesaurus in an attempt to appear more intelligent than perhaps he really is. While it's a tough chapter to read, it's an amusing one realizing what Wilson is doing, poking fun at the ridiculous notion that professors (and students) seem to have that the more syllables you force into your paper, the more intelligent it becomes, except they never acknowledge the fact that the only people who are willing to read it are those who have to.
Yet the book isn't all about secondary meanings and multiple layers. There is a very healthy dose of wonderful, senseless violence and unique, amusing characters in the mix, as well. There's a certain glee when Dr. Identity utterly decimates Bug-Eyed Monsters in Littleoldladyville, a Walmart-esque shopping center where you literally die if you don't spend a certain amount of money each hour you are there. There's also one hell of a battle where our hero 'gänger fights off both the Papanazis and the Pigs. The Papanazis should be self-explanatory, as they are journalists of the most annoying degree. I can't describe the Pigs better than Wilson himself: "The genetically souped up pseudonyms-made-flesh flaunted German war helmets, oversized Fisher Price mirrorshades and martial arts weaponry. Surrogates of the police, they would tear us to shreds with ease." How's that for a description?
Dr. Identity is chock full of unique characters getting into insane situations and is an incredibly intelligent book in the midst of all of the madness. My experience with Bizarro fiction is limited, since I've only read one other work in this genre, but I can safely say if you like your books off the beaten path and have never read any Bizarro fiction, Dr. Identity is a great place to start.