November 2006

Sumita Sheth


Venusia by Mark von Schlegell

Mark von Schlegell's Venusia, described as a "dystopian fantasy novel" is the work of a writer with obvious imagination. Almost every page is full of marvelous new mindscapes, previously unimagined and yet oh-so probable gadgets and political maneuvers.

The human world on Earth as we know it ended suddenly and now humanity lives on a part of Venus, the planet all human scientists insisted was inhabitable. People's lives appear to have continued as before -- they sleep, they eat, they exist, there is a version of television, some even try to work. Surrounding all this apparently innocuous routine is a shrouding fog of mystery.     

Many radical changes have taken place since Humanity attempted to make a home on Venus, but no one seems to have really noticed. The "flesh" of flowers is provided to everyone as food, part of "the Feed" ritual that takes place many times daily. Feeding on these flowers works to keep people in a state of oblivion where they do not remember their past and barely even know who they are or what their goals or dreams ever were. It is sad to read how it has become a part of even innocent children's lives "Already glutted, the children held hands in circles. Wide-eyed, they chanted their sound-churning songs," songs that remind us of "Ring a Ring O'Roses."  

The government in place, wants to "make Feed our religion… We must dedicate ourselves to its observance." Ironically, anyone abstaining or choosing to go without flowers is called an "addict." Attempts to "desist" from feeding on the flowers happen surprisingly often, so much so that it is a legally punishable offense to try and abstain from Feed. Even our main protagonist is setting out on this brave route when we are first introduced to him. He experiences strange hallucinations, a slow filling of the mind with the past.  

We get different parts of this big story through the psyches of its major characters, a bookseller who due to a quirk in the system is mostly invisible to the intrusive state spy system, a beautiful high-level psychiatrist who still clings to a sense of right versus wrong, a midget government law enforcer with much to prove and a puzzling television anchor. The main characters are led into a self-chosen route that takes them away from their Feed centered, Venusian lives. We follow them through their decisions, indecisions, indiscretions and adventures as they begin to unravel a mystery bigger than any of them could ever have imagined, one upon which hinges the future and past of Humanity and the Universe. Through the Venusians' fascination with antiques, a lust fueled by a lack of their own concrete memories to give them a proper past, we follow along as Humanity's forgotten history is pieced together, individual characters' pasts threaded together, and eventually a satisfactory revolution against the evil powers-that-be attempted.

Due to the intertwining lives and emotional explorations of these individuals, it could have been confusing to witness the shifts in time and perception, history and future altogether, but the author manages to keep everything quite easy to follow. Some of the details, like a mind's ability to manipulate time and place, lend themselves to multiple readings due to their complex multiple layers but at no time is one lost as to what is happening or wondering why it is happening.

This book by Semiotext(e) Sci-Fi, one of the first in their series of Sci-Fi books under the Native Agents imprint, truly lives up to Semiontexte's aim to "speak to the present demise by assembling radical models for unlikely futures." Compellingly written, with brilliant details, any Science Fiction appreciator would fall in love with this book.

Venusia by Mark von Schlegell
ISBN: 1584350261
248 Pages