Connoisseurs of Cronenberg’s cinematic work will most definitely be satisfied with his latest serving; a body horror, disease-addled, debut novel every bit as nauseating and hypnogogic as his films.
This bizarre tale follows, Naomi and Nathan, globetrotting freelance journalists who embed themselves within their stories with self-destructive abandon. The two are technology obsessed millennials driven by flash and spectacle, consuming the world through an ever shifting lens. They become subsumed by their subjects, a french celebrity philosopher couple, Celéstine and Aristide Aristoguy, and their orbiting students Chase and Hervé. Naomi follows Aristide to Tokyo after he is accused of murdering his wife. Nathan meets the other characters swept up in the Aristoguys’ wake, Dr Molnár and Chase Roiphe, first in Hungary and then Toronto, where he comes uncomfortably close to the blending of sickness and flesh. The pair embroil themselves in a depraved story of dysmorphia, disfigurement, and disease culminating in the most Cronenberg of climaxes, cannibalistic murder. Somewhere in the nexus of technology, disorder, and existentialism, Cronenberg’s raison d’etre is unveiled, acceptance, specifically acceptance of the erotic. As this conspiracy tale bloats onto the international stage, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un getting mixed into the recipe, Naomi and Nathan sink deeper into their subjects, in what can only be described as a seductive flirtation with their own demise.
Cronenberg’s fascination with themes of technology, consumerism, illness, and sex are on full exhibition. There are Kafkaesque elements, with the insect audio passages, Satre with the sex with students themes, and a sci-fi feel with some strange futuristic hearing aids, but mostly it’s unadulterated Cronenberg; shocking, sensual, surreal. From Naomi and Nathan’s lush obsession with gadgets, cameras, and Apple paraphernalia, compulsively recording every interaction, to the Aristoguys’ pathological sensuality, eroticising every moment of their relationship, the vicissitudes of aging through to a full on apotemnophiliac melt-down, Cronenberg’s fixations are forefront. Occasionally lacking in character development and a more directorial attention to detail than a novel reader might need, the narrative crawls at times. Cronenberg sacrifices plot for intense psychological meditations. But what is at the heart of this story is a career-long infatuation with the erotic as reality. So much so that the reader is complicit in every act, an unnerving technique he employs with surgical precision and nightmarish honesty.
A must-read for any horror lover, a delectable treat for fans.
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.