This novel started off on a real bang, lots of drama and action taking place within the first pages of the novel. A hispanic lady named Connie or Consuelo (which funny in Spanish means comfort) and her niece Dolly who has been assaulted and beaten, are caught up in dangerous ordeal with Dolly’s pimp named Geraldo coming to do some more harm. I think Jonathan had mentioned it in his post, this is some straight up gritty New York City stuff in here, especially with the backdrop of El Barrio. I think of gritty 1970’s movies like Fort Apache: The Bronx when I read this first chapter. Then Geraldo has a crooked “doctor” coming in to abort possibly his own baby that he’s had with Dolly to keep her being able to be a prostitute.
Then things turn worse when Connie gets committed to a mental institution which is Bellevue Hospital (which I know as a notorious past for having some bad things happening in that hospital). The scene of her strapped helplessly in the institution was heartbreaking, really some of the saddest things I’ve ever read. Connie had to lay there in her own filth, and soon she finds out that her niece betrayed her, saying Connie had assaulted her instead of Geraldo. All Connie can think about now is getting out. All she looks forward to is escaping this god forsaken place.
Funny thing is, when I was reading this, it took me a while to say “wait a minute, what does this have to do with science fiction?” It felt like I was reading a cross between a Junot Diaz novel and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Especially when later on in chapt. 4 she describes the patients that got the horrible electroconvulsive therapy. The way she describes what it does to the person took me right to the scene with Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest. “One morning there would be no breakfast for you, and then you would know…Then they would send voltage smashing through your brain and knock your body into convulsions…your scorched taste of death with parts of your memory forever burned out.” (pg. 73) Really scary depressing stuff.
But then the sci-fi elements slowly starts creeping in when chapter 2 hits and we are introduced to Luciente, We’re led to believe this is a man (who turns out to be a woman, so I’m gonna refer to him as her to avoid confusion on my part!!) who is somewhat crazy and talks to Connie in what appears to be a dream like state. Immediately you can tell something is different when Luciente is introduced. The way she talks is so different than the spanish slang used by the rest of the characters, and she talks about herself as being a sender, Connie being a catcher, living in a different time, etc. Things start to get really weird when Luciente appears in the psychiatric hospital and not only reveals herself as a strongly built woman, but transports her into a different dimension in time. The revelation of Luciente being a woman gives her a sudden form of comfort. Apparently, this is a future that has people living as if they were back in time. There was an emphasis on nature, everything was clean, no sign of busy streets or high skyscrapers. This new form of living is so foreign to Connie, and Connie’s way of life is equally as confusing to the futuristic people.
All in all, I can only give my impressions of the book so far. I can’t give any concrete analysis cause I don’t know what the hell is gonna take place in this book. It really isn’t like anything I’ve read before. It mixes themes and concepts that exist within urban minority life, elements of the human mind, and some elements of science fiction. Interested to see where this goes in the future.