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Thomas M. Disch
The Voyage of the Proteus : An Eyewitness Account of the End of the World
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2007

Subterranean Press
US First Edition Hardcover
ISBN 978-1-596-06150-7
112 Pages; $35
Publication Date:01-02-2008
Date Reviewed: 12-04-2007

Index: Fantasy  General Fiction

Fantasy is the ultimate big tent. Pretty much anything beyond a book containing only numerals has the potential to be categorized for some shady reason, as fantasy. 'The Voyage of the Proteus : An Eyewitness Account of the End of the World', with ancient Greeks and a modern American, harpies and global warming, Agamemnon and George W. Bush is arguably a fantasy. It certainly uses the tropes and literary techniques of fantasy, and it paints scenes that are full of the fantastic. But in fact, it would be a fantasy to imagine that 'The Voyage of the Proteus : An Eyewitness Account of the End of the World' is anything other than a full-blown, froth-mouthed polemic, a seething spew of bile aimed at the heart of the world we think we know and presume to be living in.

Disch begins the voyage his own damn self. Tom, an American, finds himself aboard the Proteus and in the company of Cassandra. There's no explanation; it just is. Our Hero, Tom, is fairly aged, and explains to Cassandra that he's gay, even while she attends to his sexual needs in an extremely graphic manner. As they voyage around something remotely resembling fictional visions of Ancient Greece, he spews about the ills of our present (her future), while she spews about the ills of her present and predicts a variety of futures. Imagine a conversation between a clever hooker and a lecherous liberal professor aboard a faked-up Greek ship and you'll have a good idea what you’re in for.

'The Voyage of the Proteus' finds Disch in fine form, assuming you enjoy his witty, vituperative, over-the-top agonizing. There's something here to jar or offend just about any sensibility. Subtlety is been barred from the proceedings, and any time it threatens to rear its head, some mythical character or creature is there to lop it off and watch the blood spurt from the neck stump. Disch makes no secret of his political leanings as he savages the current administration and feasts upon the steaming entrails. I personally found this book bracing and rather funny, but a fair swathe of readers will find it offensive, juvenile and overly-simplistic. If the current state of the world makes you want to scream obscenities, then you're going to find a lot to like here. If the world makes you want to sing in perfect harmony, then perhaps you’re after all the perfect audience. You sensibilities need to be offended. Thomas M. Disch is here to answer your unspoken prayers.

'The Voyage of the Proteus: An Eyewitness Account of the End of the World' offers readers visions of mythical terror and insightful swipes at the sort of Greek myths taught in elementary schools, found in the comics or onscreen at the multiplex. You won’t learn a lot about ancient Greece or modern America. You will learn what makes Thomas M. Disch fuming mad. If those are the sorts of things that make you mad, then consider this the best book of bile money can buy. If you pick this one up, don't prepare to sail. Prepare to spew.

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