[PDF / Epub] ☆ The Unsleeping Eye Author D.G. Compton – Agedanna.info
A Forgotten SF Classic That Exposed The Pitfalls Of Voyeuristic Entertainment Decades Before The Reality Show CrazeA Few Years In The Future, Medical Science Has Advanced To The Point Where It Is Practically Unheard Of For People To Die Of Any Cause Except Old Age The Few Exceptions Provide The Fodder For A New Kind Of Television Show For Avid Audiences Who Lap Up The Experience Of Watching Someone Else S Dying Weeks So When Katherine Mortenhoe Is Told That She Has About Four Weeks To Live, She Knows It S Not Just Her Life She S About To Lose But Her Privacy As Well It s a rare book that has both an NYRB Classics edition and an SF Masterwork edition, but don t let that raise your expectations The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe got reprinted by NYRB Classics because someone thought it could be pitched as one of those prescient works of science fiction that predicted a current trend, in this case reality television It got the SF Masterwork edition, on the other hand, because the SF Masterwork collection is decidedly a mixed bag The premise here is undercut by the setting, Compton fails at establishing the needed connection to the characters, and ultimately the work has nothing to say People sometimes malign literary science fiction as pretentious and boring I wouldn t offer The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe as a counterexample Let s state clearly that this work isn t prescient in the least Reality television had been around for decades prior to The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe s original publication in 1973, and there s never been a popular reality television show obsessed with the death of its subjects either The closest you get is the schadenfreude of shows about hoarders and the morbidly obese, which as far as I m aware have always had a small viewership compared to the competitive reality shows where people try to win fame, fortune, or love So there s no real analogue to the show in the real world, and even in the setting of the book the premise of the show doesn t work We are informed that people want to watch a show about Katherine Mortenhoe s final days because in the future people live to such old age and death is such a rarity that people have an insatiable unconscious hunger for death and suffering that the media caters to But the book itself contradicts this premise with a setting that is still full of death and violence, with fatal car crashes, bombings, shootings, masked gangs wandering the countryside and assaulting drivers, and D.G Compton evidently forgot the premise underpinning the driving plot of the book after the first fifty pages.So the reasoning behind making this reality show starring the dying Katherine Mortenhoe doesn t make sense, but the book could still work if it made you care about Mortenhoe s demise or if the book had insights into death or the media that it could share Unfortunately the book fails on both counts You don t care about Mortenhoe s demise because you don t really care about the fates of any character in this book Mortenhoe is presented initially as a rather unsympathetic hypochondriac who doesn t really love her husband but settled for him, who writes up computer programs that write books but never writes herself, who is condescending regarding her employee only friend, who just generally isn t likable Roderick Roddie is the reported assigned to cover Mortenhoe s downward spiral, who has recently had cameras implanted behind his eyes without seemingly ever considering the downsides to such a procedure downsides which include the inability to sleep or experience darkness, a detail that makes no technological sense and that is added to shoehorn in some inorganic drama near the book s conclusion The book is rounded out by such characters as a couple media executives without consciences, a doctor willing to sacrifice his client s wellbeing for money, a selfish and ultimately unfaithful husband, and others Outside of Roddie s ex wife, who puts up with her ex husband for no discernible reason, a gay BFF clich , and an old guy who does puppet shows, all the characters are the type of people you wouldn t mind seeing die in a fire This is a problem where the approaching death of the main character is supposed to be an affecting journey, and this problem is only made worse when a race against time aspect is shoved into the narrative as well Even if it didn t make you care about Katherine s death, and sometimes in fact made you wish it could be sped up a bit, the book could still work if it had something interesting to say But The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe has no wisdom to impart concerning death, or the media, or anything else that I can recall We get a half baked philosophy from Roddie on the need for continuous observation of a subject to truly know them, the natural endpoint for that philosophy would seem to me to be something like The Truman Show, but Roddie instead settles for following someone around for a week The media in The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe is a nigh all powerful entity that can command the police to assist in its television shows, so it isn t very similar to an actual television network, and besides some general points about the immorality of the business and its participants there aren t any insights here either If you re looking for a book that contemplates death in an insightful way, don t look here, go read Jerusalem by Tavares, or Aniara by Martinson, or of course The Death of Ivan Ilych by Tolstoy Instead of interesting ideas, The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe gives you passages like this The word stopped her Even the Dial A Vicar had preferred to talk of failure and success, rather than sin and virtue But she d crawled out of antediluvian mud on the legs of curiosity, and descended from ancient trees in search of something than survival Did I mention that the writing isn t very good After that passage do I have to The book is also rife with too on the nose names, like the late night spot called Night Hawk s, after the Hopper painting, or of course the name Mortenhoe How clever.Its main premise doesn t make sense, Compton fails to create the necessary bonds between reader and character, it doesn t say anything interesting, and it s not well written It has other flaws too, but you get the gist Despite the collections it is a part of, The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe is one you should skip. I saw that Jeff VanderMeer had written the introduction for this, so I snagged it when it became available in Edelweiss for review.I wasn t super into it I think I was struggling to read it in the context of that time Because reality tv is so pervasive now, it s almost a logical step to consider a reality show that follows a death We have some of that already when people announce they are choosing assisted suicide, when news becomes reality tv But considering that this is from the 1970s, it is very smart in predicting the future.To me, this felt a bit like Philip K Dick in tone If you like him you are likely to enjoy this Thanks to Edelweiss for a chance to see the fresh release of this classic I hadn t heard of the author before. First something I must get off my chest I heartily dislike the new goodreads homepage It s far too busy, I much preferred the less cluttered old version Secondly, this is a short novel and only took me three days to read because it is, pardon my French, grim as fuck A bitterer, cynical sci fi novel I have rarely come across The conceit is as follows Katherine Mortenhoe is diagnosed with a terminal illness that will kill her in mere weeks As such illnesses are vanishingly rare, she immediately becomes a celebrity and is hounded by the media A man with TV cameras in his eyes follows her around, trying to make a reality TV show about her Although there is a dark humour about all this, it s a nasty, angry sort of humour that isn t really funny The writing is at times witty, yet never in a light hearted fashion For example this moment when Katherine has just been diagnosed and phones a church Vicar Pemberton speaking So then it was too late for her to change her mind I m going to die, she said You wouldn t have rung me if you really believed that What have you taken I ve taken umbrage This novel which has also been published under the name The Unsleeping Eye first came out in 1974 and reads as unsettlingly prescient The voyeuristic media obsession with unusual categories of suffering and the pervasiveness of reality TV are foreseen very clearly Many background details of world building seem entirely too convincing tokenistic privacy laws, rampant inequality, and constant protest marches that are ignored and disregarded The book has aged pretty well as the focus is on social change, not technological It s a particularly cynical analysis of social and individual psychology Despite the proximity of Katherine to the reader the point of view is split between her and the cameraman it s hard to sympathise with her as a person The narrative places you in such a similar position to those watching her dying on TV that reading about her becomes uncomfortable Knowing how she feels seems voyeuristic, a clever effect to pull off in a novel view spoiler I should also add that to me the most horrible incident in the book doesn t involve Katherine at all At one point when Rod the cameraman is driving, he comes across a protest blocking the road Impatient, he tries to get through line of marchers by slipping after another vehicle In the process he runs over two people, killing one The callous atmosphere surrounding this murder manslaughter is absolutely chilling and Rod recounts the episode with an air of self justification, mixed with disbelief that his actions could have such serious consequences The police pick him up then assure him there will be no charges and no one will care The dead woman and injured man are nameless, faceless, disregarded I think this scene which had no plot purpose that I could discern demonstrated both the dangerous mindset that driving can breed and that media voyeurism is as much about what is not shown as what is splashed everywhere Whereas Katherine s illness apparently justifies a huge amount of media time and money, deaths in road accidents and on untelegenic protests create no interest whatsoever Plus a change hide spoiler DNF at 44% elyunquedehefesto.blogspot.com 2019 0Hay novelas que tras un intenso brillo despu s de su publicaci n, incluso con adaptaci n cinematogr fica como en este caso, tienden a ir cayendo en el olvido Afortunadamente, gracias a Gallo Negro Ediciones, ahora podemos redescubrir esta maravilla escrita por Compton en 1974.Y es que se trata de una distop a diferente Aqu lo m s importante no es el mundo que recrea, muy similar al nuestro excepto en el hecho de que la ciencia ha ganado la partida a la muerte y son muy escasos los fallecimientos Lo m s importante es la manera en que esa perspectiva afecta a la sociedad y en concreto a personas como los dos protagonistas principales, demasiado sensibles para adaptarse y que han desarrollado sus propios mecanismos de defensa para seguir adelante Todo gira en torno a Katherine Mortenhoe, una mujer de 44 a os a la que se diagnostica una muerte inminente y Roddie Jack Patterson, un periodista que se refugia en su trabajo hasta el punto de implantarse c maras en los ojos y as poder huir de una vida personal que le supera.La sociedad descrita da la impresi n de no tener rumbo fijo Esa percepci n de vidas cuasi interminables ha provocado que las uniones de pareja se realicen mediante contratos renovables y que la gente no tenga motivaciones realmente importantes m s all de vivir el momento Pero tambi n les ha insensibilizado originando una insatisfacci n latente que desemboca en continuas protestas por cualquier motivo que canalice su malestar, y ha generado una mayor a de personas con los nervios a flor de piel, dispuestos a ensa arse con quien les pueda servir de desahogo La muerte se ha convertido en el gran espect culo, un fen meno televisivo de puro amarillismo que explota el morbo y el dolor Los periodistas son chacales y el peor de ellos Vincent, el jefe de Roddie y productor del programa que pretende tener a Katherine como objetivo La novela alterna la primera persona cuando nos centramos en Roddie para poder entender mejor lo que pasa por su cabeza , y un narrador omnisciente As vamos descubriendo a una Katherine bastante anodina, que ha rehuido cualquier posibilidad de xito en la vida para mantener un perfil bajo que le sirva de escudo y a un Jack que, desde el escepticismo inicial, ir conociendo a la verdadera mujer, acompa ndola en sus diferentes fases de aceptaci n y posterior rebeld a y recuperando a su vez su propia humanidad En un mundo as , los inadaptados como ellos son los nicos que, bajo determinadas circunstancias, pueden mostrar algo de bondad No es una obra alegre Los villanos son mayor a Hay doctores de doble moral que vender an una vida fingiendo integridad y ricos que pasan sus d as entregados a perversiones varias Pero tambi n buenas personas, algunos viviendo al margen de la sociedad y otros que a n recuerdan lo que es amar Enfrentarse a la muerte es el mejor motivo para hacer balance y comprender tu propia vida, qu fue mal y donde se qued aquel tren del que te bajaste Y a veces se necesita a alguien a tu lado para retornar a ese punto y afrontarlo, como Katherine necesita a Roddie. This book is about a hundred pages too long The first 2 3 was fascinating, utterly riveting Then the main characters went on the run together and it deteriorated very quickly The writing is good the characters are excellent the plotting is abysmal.This book is almost universally described by readers as the best science fiction I have ever read If you are thinking about reading it you should know that there is actually precious little science fiction in it The speculative elements that are there are remarkably prescient e g reality tvthe book was written in the 1970s but are entirely non essential and somewhat intrusive to the storyline itself. The NYRB gave this all but forgotten New Wave Sci Fi classic its seal of approval with a re issue a few years ago Compton s story of a woman diagnosed with an incurable disease in a disease free future touches on the balance between privacy rights and journalism, and also meditates on the larger issue of how well we can ever know our fellow humans The story moves ponderously at times and has that 1970s stink about it but remains worth reading. I have finally found time to reread this novel before posting about it, and the second time through opened my eyes to much than I found the first time This book was my real world book group s read at the end of June it is also one of the most thought provoking novels I ve read in a long while Written in 1974, and alternatively titled The Unsleeping Eye, it seems almost prescient, as it deals with issues that are at the center of debate forty plus years later It s also a book I can certainly recommend.https www.readingavidly.com 2019 07As Jeff VanderMeer says in his introduction, the future in which the novel is set is an uncanny mirror of our own, of an age in which everyone really is a camera eye, or at least carries one around in his pocket While there is a great focus on the overreach of technology and reality television, which caused no end of discussion with the ladies in my book group, The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe is a very human novel at its core It unravels slowly to eventually become a story of not just death and dying, but also of relationships in a society where everything is driven by technology It not only asks how well can we truly know someone, but at its heart is, again quoting VanderMeer from the intro, a portrait of an intelligent, middle aged woman grappling with the ultimate existential crisis How does one conduct oneself while dying It was difficult to put down once I started reading, and it s also not hard to imagine while reading that yesterday s fiction has become today s reality, which for me in this particular instance is a rather disturbing thought. Set in some unspecified time period in which people rarely die of illness, only of old age, such unnatural deaths are televised and have become a spectacle for an audience unused to such suffering The book has been seen as a reaction to the intrusiveness of television and nascent reality TV programming yet, in the end, it is predominantly a book about people and relationships in a particular near future milieu.Indeed, Katherine Mortenhoe doesn t even appear on television until half way through the book and then it becomes clear that this isn t some modern, intense, immersive 24 hour reality show, but in the nature of an hour or half hour nightly documentary in which the audience is provided with edited highlights of the gradual deterioration and death of the subject.Katherine Mortenhoe is to be filmed by Roddie, NTV s star reporter, who has made his own sacrifice to become even relevant and useful in a televisual age he has had his eyes replaced with cameras Having secretly watched her when she was diagnosed with her fanciful terminal illness, Roddie is certain there is going to be to Katherine Mortenhoe than a pitiful victim slowly dying in front of an eager audience Roddie is eager to follow Katherine and discover the woman who will persist, despite the pain and suffering, over her last few days, the real person who continues to exist even through the horror of illness and death.Roddie and Katherine become closer than either would have imagined as Roddie chases the continuous Katherine Mortenhoe, who has accepted her ultimate fate in death but refuses to accept her fate as surrogate for suffering and pain.The narrative takes an interesting tack in terms of point of view Roddie s point of view is told in first person Katherine s story is told in third person The continuous Katherine is distanced, as if seen through the lens Roddie, the voyeur, the surrogate viewer, is immediate and here When the novel is in third person, other, minor actors sometimes become the viewpoint character, as if they are also now part of the dramatised and continuous Katherine Mortenhoe and towards the end of the novel there is a sense that sometimes an omniscient narrator takes over, who can see everybody in, and knows everything about, the unfolding drama These movements between types of viewpoint play with the notion of subject and audience, of watcher and watched, of voyeurism and gaze in an interesting way.Both Katherine and Roddie are well developed characters, and even the minor characters are filled out enough for us to understand their motivations particularly Katherine s husband and Roddie s boss at NTV I also found Compton s writing style easy and enjoyable, with interesting turns of phrase.