“I have a class theory of literature,” Disch once explained. “I come from the wrong neighborhood to sell to The New Yorker. No matter how good I am as an artist. “And it isn’t just Camp Archimedes. It’s the whole universe. The whole goddamned universe is a fucking concentration camp.” Mordecai rolled back into the pile. In this chillingly plausible work of speculative fiction, Thomas M. Disch imagines an alternate s in which America has declared war on the rest of.

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Camp Concentration by Tom Disch

If there is a literary side to dizch fiction, Thomas Disch is standing on the horizon holding Camp Concentrationhis creation, in the air. Paralleling classic literature, utilizing the tropes of conncentration to full effect, and written in a sublimely deft hand, the novel has a gravitas the majority of writers in the genre simply never approach, let alone utilize.

Delany, the company is didch than apt. Camp Concentration is the story of Louis Sanchetti, conscientious objector, and his resulting imprisonment in an experimental American prison. A strain of syphilis having been isolated and enhanced, when injected in humans the result is a slow but drastic improvement in memory, insight, and all things intelligence. It also puts a cap on life at nine additional months. Encouraged by the prison warden, derided by the prison doctor, intrigued by his fellow inmates, and balked at by the prison psychiatrist, Sanchetti faithfully records his thoughts and ideas—as abstract as they come—in a journal.


Camp Concentration by Thomas M Disch

A young man named Mordecai proves the most thought provoking. Dabbling in multiple languages, alchemy, astrology, and even writing and staging his own plays, Mordecai introduces Sanchetti to the mindset of a person with so little time remaining yet eisch so much brain power to put to purposes previously only dreamed of.

Riffing off Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, Disch exchanges hell for the experimental prison, the devil for the prison authorities who offer their elixir of syphilis to carry out intelligence experiments, and Sanchetti for Faust himself. Confentration milieu at times intoxicating, science fiction rarely is put to such good use. Be warned, however, that the depths of hell in which Disch leaves the reader upon the last page are nothing compared to the suffering and agony of spirit Sanchetti undergoes in the prison.

The ending a nice, simple twist that stands things on their head, in afterthought, it only makes the reader realize how grounded things were.

And Disch is a wonderful stylist. One of those authors who lulls the reader along with effortless prose, seems to always have that nice turn of phrase to embed meaning, and utilizes simile in restrained yet precise fashion, reading the text is enjoyable in itself. While allusion and reference to Greek myth, philosophy, poets of the past, and the classics of literature are all well and good, there comes a point when the inclusion of too many of these items burdens a novel.


A device perhaps used to indicate the increased intelligence of the prisoners, Disch still could have toned it down a little without losing any of the concentratoin.

Thus, be warned that the cocnentration, artists, and classical allusion take a big chunk of narrative. Two sci-fi tropes are used, complementing and driving the content under examination, to full effect.

A real treat for readers who enjoy their science fiction dark and literary, a more than healthy does of classicism is stuffed into the pages, dragging the reader into a number of hells.

The plot simple enough to fully bear the weight, it is truly cerebral read.

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