by Thomas M. Disch
Format: Paperback, 192 pages
Publisher: Vintage Books
Participating blogs: Adventures in Reading, Fantasy Cafe, OF Blog of the Fallen, Post-Weird Thoughts, The Reading Gaol
Larry from OF Blog of the Fallen came up some time ago with the idea of a Book Club. And the first choice for that Book Club was Thomas M. Disch’s novel “Camp Concentration”.
Louis Sacchetti, the main character, is imprisoned because he refused the draft. He is serving a sentence of five years, but after a period served in the initial prison he is transferred to Camp Archimedes. This prison, a secret military facility, is run by the General Humphrey Haast who asks Louis Sacchetti to keep a journal with his observations on the prisoners and the prison.
“Camp Concentration” is written from the perspective of Louis Sacchetti, a poet and conscientious objector, and storyline is seen through the entries that the main character makes in his journal. For the first part his journal is kept on daily basis, but after the second half of the book the entries are made as paragraphs or numbered entries and this fact contributes to the building of the atmosphere and the condense of events. Through the main character perspective I was introduced to the other characters and the plot of the novel.
Camp Archimedes is a secret military base in which the prisoners are the subjects of an experimental research. They are injected with a form syphilis which increases the intelligence of the subjects and makes them brighter. However the side effect of this process causes physical degradation and death within nine months. Thomas M. Disch deals with some of the moral and philosophical issues, such as government secret experiments, the technology development and the sacrifices made for that development and human degradation, the downfall at the hands of scientific progress and religious aspects and considerations. The plot of the novel is set in the first half of the novel, but it is much more built and developed in the second half, which is more interesting also.
The novel is written in a more intellectual and philosophical attempt of Thomas M. Disch made in the Science Fiction genre. And because of his approach it didn’t make an easy or enjoyable read. Because of the writing style it was very easy for me to lose focus on the reading and for my mind to concentrate on the novel. As a paradox although I couldn’t focus and concentrate on the novel, the minds of the characters were improved. Beside the writing style the character development is suffering and that because although is told from a first person perspective the main character just relates a series of events. The action and the drama are very much inexistent and these aspects contribute a lot in my lost of concentration. I mean that I don’t read only action packed novels, but at least something must happen to catch my attention and for me to enjoy a novel.
I believe that Thomas M. Disch’s “Camp Concentration” will not benefit from a great number of fans, from Science Fiction genre or outside it. And although is an important and valuable novel it is not what I’m looking in a reading.