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One of the strongest and most innovative novelists in America today and rightly compared to William Gaddis and Thomas Pynchon, Joseph McElroy gives us a work of intellectual science fiction, both spooky and profound: an astonishing and moving illumination of human consciousness. An engineer suffering from radiation agrees to have his brain removed and used in an IMP - interplanetary monitoring platform. Orbiting the earth in a satellite, the brain's function is to monitor its physiological self as part of a solar energy project. When the brain begins to go beyond simple monitoring and reflect upon itself, it becomes more than an IMP. It becomes an IMP PLUS which grows and develops an imagination that releases images and fragments of memories from its terrestrial life and other rich and fascinating data. Eventually it develops an autonomous intellect and affective life and cuts itself off from ground control. In the unraveling drama and fate of IMP PLUS, the reader senses an unsettling and disquieting allegory to the postmodern condition.
of him but part of what Imp Plus was part of, he could have thought it the alien monitor or thought himself what the camouflage was meant to be an answer to. Meant? Manipulated. Manipulated was the word. Said by a not-acrid voice in the pale green room on Earth. This had been a good voice. Not the acrid voice. The acrid voice, to whom someone had said, “Say that again,” said near the end of things You don’t want to go on forever, do you? and had also said in a smaller pale green room, and not a
Echo did not. And Imp Plus had to give the readings. But what differences? Between the Earthly dream and what was here in orbit. Differences from more than dream. Which were they? Imp Plus informed himself. A flood of blinding quanta headed through the brain, yet stayed. This made the sea of glia cells shine into snow bedding the bursts of neuron fire, neurobodies firing forth thought that he saw but could only know was his. Imp Plus recalled flesh against a flashlight. And here in the brain’s
sight, each one a solid. Yet where their light was dimmer they could be seen through, and yet his sight was maybe not sure. His sight, though, was solid. But was not only spokes. More wings or necks. He didn’t know where they came from, but he knew they went to the brain. Knowing this he saw there in the brain a blue dart come like the crimson veins in the shadows before. This blue was a line and then a radius. But a radius become the locus of a width. Which was how it plowed sideways
The sliver had been poised above its bed away from the streaming fan of loose power that went out into a substance of himself which he had no name for as yet but which, as one who recalled ultramicrons and a fence with a red sign telling him he would die, he had come to think was lattice acting like the crystal in the solar cells mounted outside. The word was lattice, he had gotten it all over again and now so that it conducted him Earthward. He wanted to be away from the fence. Yet it could do
forms of particle motion passed tongue through shoe and fire through tears, risking all he’d thought he’d lost but now saw flicker here and there with meaning whose power was their final loss. These waves of the mutual light sifted one another like the rains drawn by horizontal winds. Rains he knew—but when he tried to explain he stopped before he started. This light he had or was in blew into brief view the lattice cells so they were felt to be massed shapes rather than veins of line nor like