What is actually going on?
For example, Shaw never figures anything out. What doesn't he figure out?
Sure, the whole narrative is wrapped in luminous uncertainty. Sure, it insists on the absurd and the fantastical within the everyday. This is a universe where great chunks of memory go missing without explanation; where people take turns blurting unintelligible messes of language and pretend that they are 'conversing'; where a plague of hyperactive pattern-recognition risks turning you into an obsessive automaton endlessly scrolling, peering, and posting; where ghosts and figments endlessly sparkle and cavort at the edges of everything; where you might any moment be seized by strange forces and compelled to action you can't understand. And all this is done under the rubric of realism, and a sharply observed Menippean satire.
Sure, any reader who wants to puzzle it all out will find themselves gently trolled by the possibility that they are just like the novel's own conspiracy theorist Tim Swann.
But here's the thing: there is a speculative-fictional plot here. There are clues and connections, and the novel also invites a certain amount of cobbling things together, even if the sturdiest possible outcome is a bit wonky. There is a strangeness which asks of us the extrapolative and interpolative reasoning characteristic of speculative fiction.
So I'll put this out there, for starters: it seems likely that Shaw's 'crisis' or 'rough patch' was his birth, and his memories of the period before that time are in some sense artificial. At least, if I were Shaw, that's what I'd be wondering.
What do you think? Does that ring true?
PS: Some Contexts
- The Water Babies
- Nova Swing
- Blade Runner
- The Drowned World
- Rick & Morty
- Pincher Martin
- The Shadow Over Innsmouth
- On the Origin of Species
- Creative Evolution
- Russian Doll