Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Amadeus Net

The Amadeus Net by Mark Rayner was another book that I read recently (OK, two weeks ago, but c'mon, I've been busy) and really enjoyed, despite all of the questions it left me with.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart walks into the sex change clinic, determined to have his sprouter snipped off. So begins The Amadeus Net, a satirical novel set in the year 2028, which explores art, love, and identity at the end of the world. For more than two centuries, the one-time wunderkind has kept his existence secret while he tried to understand his immortality. Living in style through funds raised by selling lost Mozart works, he has also helped to create Ipolis, a utopian city-state, after the cataclysmic Shudder, a global disaster caused by an asteroid strike in 2015.

But a few complications mar Mozart’s utopia. The woman he loves is a lesbian, which, paradoxically, makes him forget about his sex-change plans. The world’s greatest reporter knows he’s still alive and will stop at nothing to expose him. The stakes are higher than he knows, because if the reporter finds him, so will the spy planning to sell Mozart’s DNA to the highest bidder. Oh, and, by the way, the world might end in seven days. His only allies are a psychotic American artist, a bland Canadian diplomat, and the city itself: a sapient, thinking machine that is screwing up as only a sapient, thinking machine can.

I loved the premise of this novel--I have a thing for post-apocalyptic stories--and loved that the novel wasn't just from Mozart's point-of-view, but from all of the main characters, including One's.  Truthfully, I found One's point-of-view to be the most interesting.  It reminded me very much of the robots in I, Robot who take over to "protect" humanity from itself; One was very much like that, controlling what and who came into Ipolis, stopping information from being sent out (information that would have harmed Mozart), and trying to stop the war between the North (the haves) and the South (the have-nots).    

The other characters had compelling stories and I loved how many of their stories were wrapped around Mozart's.  We have Bella, the psychopathic artist, born after the Shudder who grew up with her survivalist father.  She's beautiful, twisted, insane, and completely devoted to her art.  There's Les, the boring Canadian diplomat with an obsession for Helen Printo, a self-serving investigative reporter who will stop at nothing to get a story.  She's "friendly" with Alex Burton, a cruel, former black-ops solider who is desperate to get the funds together for an upcoming trip into outer space.  He's got plans to sell Mozart to the highest bidder.  Oh, and we can't forget Katerina, the beautiful Czech woman Mozart has found himself in love with.  Did I mention she's a lesbian?  Or that she's half in love with Helen Printo, and half in lust with Bella?  

And it wasn't just the characters and their stories that I found so compelling, but the ideas that this novel incorporated into the story.  Like how do you define your worth in a society where money doesn't exist?  Or what is art, how is it defined, and how far should someone be allowed to go to produce?  And what about the idea of the truth at all costs?  I don't really think we want a transparent society, no matter how much we want the truth.  I haven't even touched on the idea of immortality (through living forever and through works of art) or artificial intelligence.  Honestly, the idea of AIs scares me.  I don't want one thing, one intelligent computer running my life, not ever.  

The Amadeus Net was a very thought-provoking novel and I'm looking forward to my rereading of it this summer.  There was so much to take in, I'm sure I missed something.  And I still haven't made up my mind about the ending; it's kind of left up in the air.

Or is it?

Flash Me Magazine has a review of The Amadeus Net up as well, although you have to be a subscriber to actually read the whole thing.  I did manage to see a clip of the review though and the reviewer agreed with me:

"Strange? Yes. Implausible? No, because Rayner successfully crafts an inherent logic into his surreal story with a collage of plausible first person narratives, which includes the first person “thinking machine” narrative of the actual setting of the story—the post-apocalyptic, utopian city-state of Ipolis, which is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Furthermore, Rayner’s flair for sustained humor, and compelling story telling enhances the preposterous premises, characterizations, and worthy themes of art, love, and the search for self-identity and sex in the day-to-day existence of an eclectic cast of characters making their way through the end of the world."
--Janet Paszkowski, Flash Me Magazine (April, 2009)

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