Reviews of Müller-Fokker Effect, the (1971)
Review by kirwar4face (2004-02-28)
At second glance there seems little reason to give John Sladek's turn-of-the-Sixties existential comedy a rating of 8, which I just did. The level of satire is so broad, so obvious, that the novel seems inevitable: somebody had to write it, but only Sladek dared to get down and dirty and actually do it. (Sometimes the author departs from satire and attempts to be funny, and comes close enough that the attempt is embarrassing, but this doesn't happen very often.) But giggling at the absurdity of the military, and big corporations, and the Ku Klux Klan, and organized religion, and so on and so forth, isn't the main fun here, which comes from the sneaking suspicion that, given all the data available to us, we could somehow arrive at a Meaning of Life, as the computerized protagonist attempts to, beyond all the absurdity. I treasure the novel for its accidental resonances with Illuminatus! (which it beat to the stands, in paperback, by about a year) and for the wordplay, as when Bob Shairp's disembodied self tries to invent a face for itself, and discovers a J.G.Ballardian plan of body-as-topography/typography, wandering among such anagrams as the "Slip" and "Robe Wye". My very favorite moments of the book combine wordplay with politics-resolving sentiment, as the last two aging Commie-hunters of the Jess Hurch society, one male, one female, fall at last in love amidst a conspiracy of double meanings.