Way back in October I went to a book launch/signing/Q&A for Consumed. The new novel by David Cronenberg. I wrote a blog entry about the night which you can read here. I’ve had a weird relationship with Cronenberg. He’s considered the father of Body Horror, a genre of film which I respect but tend to avoid. Throughout his films he deals with some pretty heavy subject matter: life, death, disease, technology, selfhood, humanity, sex, you name it, he’s attacked it somehow.
What originally drew me to Consumed was the promise that the novel would explore these ideas, but in a more manageable form for me to handle. Where film has always given me a more visceral experience, I tend to get distracted by what I’m seeing instead of what the meaning is. I find I can handle a lot more when I’m reading. I was going to get the Cronenberg philosophy without the exploding heads.
The first thing you need to know about Consumed is that the book is aptly named. Cronenberg proves that he knows how to work a theme. Any definition of the word consumed or consumption works its way into the narrative. Food, Consumer Culture, Cannibalism, its all there. Normally this would be too much, but somehow Cronenberg makes it work. Never do you feel like he’s overdone it, and more importantly it all blends together so beautifully.
The thread of his theme that hit me the hardest was the consumption of technology. The two main characters Nathan and Naomi are technophiles. They’re journalists and photographers who just love having all the newest and greatest gadgets. Whenever a piece of tech is mentioned in this novel it is called by name, including the model number. You can google Naomi’s camera or Nathan’s lenses and known anything about them in seconds. The focus on how technology changes and shapes the characters lives (and in reality our own) is a central concern. Our characters are removed from the real, and instead experience everything through the screens and view finders on their cameras. As much as we consume technology, technology consumes us.
The main plot has Naomi and Nathan tracking two different stories. Nathan upon realizing he has contracted and STI from a previous story (covered in the first few chapters of the book) decides to hunt down the Doctor who created the cure. Naomi on the other hand finds herself in Paris following a story about Célestine and Aristide Arosteguy. Célestine was found dead and partially eaten in their apartment. Aristide was in Japan at the time and is the only subject. Naomi tries to get to the bottom of the story and in doing so gets dragged into a conspiracy that somehow connects to Nathan’s disease.
The novel reads like a cross between Vladimir Nabokov and Philip K. Dick. The prose is gorgeous and melodic, making even the more horrifying images seem hauntingly beautiful.
Consumed is not without its flaws. The constant mention of model numbers will eventually date the novel. In Certain areas of the story the text is unclear and I had to go back and reread sections to make sure I understood what happened. What annoyed me the most was just how short the novel really was, it just kind of ends, leaving me with lots of questions and I have a feeling that there will be no sequel.
Despite all that, I really did enjoy this novel. It was different, twisted and fun. It made me think and I was never bored. For the first time in a long time I found myself cycling through essay topics because you can find a lot of them. Seriously, one day I would love to be part of a book club or a read along that tries to tackle this book. Maybe next October? We’ll have to see. Consumed is billed as a horror novel, but I was never truly scared. If you are a fan of Cronenberg’s films than you will enjoy this novel.
So if you think you can handle it, go forth and read Consumed. It is truly one of a kind and I can’t recommend it more.
DEATH TO VIDEODROME! LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!