Book Review: Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem

Author: Jonathan Lethem
Title: Chronic City
Publication Info: Doubleday (2009)
ISBN: 0385518633

Previously Read By The Same Author: The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn

Summary/Review: This science fiction novel is set in a Manhattan of the near future much like our own but with odd differences like a no-war edition of the New York Times, a tiger rampaging the Upper East Side, and a mysterious mist covering lower Manhattan.  Former child actor Chase Insteadman lives on residuals and his engagement to an astronaut becomes a daily feature of celebrity news when she is trapped on the International Space Station.  In the course of the novel, Chase becomes acquainted with several new people, most of interesting of which is cultural gadfly Perkus Tooth.  Chase and Tooth smoke pot (the “chronic” of the title) and have philosophical debates about cultural icons like Marlon Brando and seek to acquire the elusive vase-like chauldrons from eBay.

There’s a lot I like about this book in it’s little deviations from reality and how Lethem uses them to comment on our world.  On the other hand there isn’t a real plot to this novel and there are a lot of red herrings.  *SPOILER* I’m particularly disappointed by the cliched conclusion where Chase comes to the realization that there is no reality in his world. *SPOILER* Still, it’s a fun, quirky little book, especially to listen to the great voices on the audio book rendition.

Recommended books: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Rating: ***

Book Reviews: Out of our heads by Alva Noë

Author: Alva Noë
Title: Out of our heads : why you are not your brain, and other lessons from the biology of consciousness
Publication Info:
ISBN: 9780809074655

Summary/Review:  I thought I’d like this  much more, but I was disappointed.  Noë’s premise is a philosophical examination of the science of the mind and posits that we should no longer accept the belief that consciousness resides in the brain.  Basically he’s arguing the opposite of the Free Will chapter in 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense.  While it’s an argument I’d like to accept, I feel that Noë never really shows evidence for his thesis and that a lot of the complex language he uses serves to obfuscate rather than illuminate.  It’s just as likely that most of this went over my head though, so maybe I’m not the best person to review this book.

Recommended books: Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson and Thumbs, Toes, and Tears: And Other Traits That Make Us Human by Chip Walter.
Rating: **