"Immobility" Book Review
Written by Brian Evenson
2013, 256 pages, Fiction
Released on April 9th, 2013
I've read many genre-bending books, but very few that are absolute must-reads for fans of every genre. Brian Evenson's Immobility belongs to that rare second group. Evenson brings together sci-fi, horror, adventure, and post-apocalyptic fiction, slathers it with the kind of prose that's deemed "literary" (usually for lack of a better word), and serves it up wrapped up in a narrative packed with tension, strangeness, and an atmosphere somewhat reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Since categorizing this book presents such a challenge, I'll just call it freaking fantastic.
When Josef Horkai opens his eyes, confusion and pain make him wonder if it'd be better to return to his previous state of oblivion. Someone is there, taking care of him and monitoring his progress as he slowly regains consciousness. When awareness finally returns, it doesn't come accompanied by memory. Horkai doesn't know who he is, where he's been, or where he's currently being held. Rasmus, one of the men taking care of him, claims to be a friend. He can't fill in all the blanks, but fills in enough of them for Horkai to know he's been frozen for three decades, that a catastrophe destroyed the world outside, and that he has been thawed out because they need his help retrieving something. Unfortunately, the mission is not as easy as it sounds because Horkai is paralyzed from the waist down. With the help of Qanik and Qatik, two genetically engineered "mules," Horkai sets out to do what Rasmus asked him to do for his colony. However, the trip changes things and Horkai learns that Rasmus was not honest with him. What follows is an otherworldly, action-packed narrative about the future of mankind and Horkai's own quest for truth.
Immobility grabs you immediately. The mystery surrounding Horkai, his health, his past, why he doesn't get sick outside like everyone else, the way Rasmus talks about the hive, the ruined landscape, the unquestioning zeal of the mules, the shady mission; it all adds up to a superb story that forces you to keep reading in order to find out what comes next. Then, once Horkai is on the shoulders of the mules, Evenson skillfully describes the scenery and allows the action and Horkai's doubts and growing knowledge to take center stage. The result is a very interesting narrative that moves along at a nice pace and keeps the surprises coming.
Evenson's prose is what truly makes Immobility unique. It'd be easy to give readers an idea of what they'll find in this book by asking them to imagine a dark, gritty, post-apocalyptic thriller co-authored by Franz Kafka and Cormac McCarthy as they try their best to channel William Gibson's gloomiest nightmares. However, that wouldn't do the author justice because, ultimately, the writing here is all Evenson's: a mix of great, straightforward storytelling and otherworldly poetry. If you're looking for a book that can comfortably be called literary sci-fi, look no further.
Immobility will ensnare you with its story, Horkai's journey, the mules' slow, inevitable weakening, and the descriptions of life struggling to make a comeback after the end of the world. However, when you turn the last page and realize what Evenson did, how he seamlessly brought together horror, noir, and science fiction, gave the story truly unpredictable turns, and kept you glued to the pages, that's when you'll take out a pen or pencil and write his name on the list of authors whose work you can't miss.