Wednesday, 10 March 2010

the helmet of horror [pelevin]

There's approximately half a dozen characters. Each one is trapped in an identical room. Each room opens onto a maze, each maze taking its own distinctive format. The characters have a computer each, and they communicate with one another on a message board. They have names like Organizm, UGLI 666, and Monstradamus. A censor edits any personal information relating to their life beyond the prison. Fairly quickly, they work out they're in some kind of maze, liable to be confronted by some kind of Minatour. Who will be wearing a Helmet of Horror. Which affects everyone's perception, including the reader's. At some point the Minatour makes an appearance and then leaves, having hurt no-one. Theseus also appears briefly.

Pelevin's novel was apparently commissioned as part of a series on myths. It has a great deal of Pelevinesque flair. There's discussions of what I believe is called phenomenology; mazes within Gothic cathedrals; myth and much more. There's also a beguiling reference to the Guardian Unlimited website, testament to the writer's globalised consciousness, which is allowed free rein within a virtual world. Perhaps he envisioned this as a virtual book. If so, it would appear to be virtual in so far as it is not quite whole; for this reader it was certainly no more than virtually understandable. Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable, skimpy read, and again, in a nod to the cyber-world, the reader finds him or herself surfing the cyber-chat the book consists of, some of it making sense, some of it making non-sense. Perhaps if you know your greek myths better than my rudimentary knowledge it would knit together more coherently, but it might also be that you can't read the Helmet of Horror with any degree of confidence of knowing what's really occurring unless you have degrees in astro-physics, particle Buddhism and Bishop Berkeley. Like, no doubt, the prankster Pelevin himself.

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