18 July 2009

Thomas M. Disch, Camp Concentration, 1967

Thomas Disch was never as fashionable within the science fiction community as he deserved, and at the time of first publication Camp Concentration was perhaps (to take a very long view of things) outplayed by Daniel Keyes’s slightly more reader-friendly novel Flowers for Algernon which had been published some months earlier, explores the same theme of artificially enhanced intelligence, is hard-hitting in its own way but then is also, undeniably, outstripped by Disch’s combination of erudition, creativity and political cynicism. Camp Concentration also contains ideas that might look unnervingly close to the present dystopia: America has declared war on the world and its government is experimenting on conscientious objectors. Maybe now that Disch has sadly left us this deserves to be considered a classic of 20th Century fiction: forgive the superlatives but it’s a masterpiece of understated black comedy and still a deliciously wicked book.  PY


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