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Camp Concentration: A Novel Paperback – April 27, 1999
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Frequently bought together
Sacchetti's job is to chronicle the goings-on at Archimedes in a daily journal that is sent to Haast and other select members of the project. Through his writings, readers get to know the various characters that inhabit the camp, geniuses whose intellectual fires burn brightly even while their bodies slowly go cold. Although these latter-day Einsteins are supposed to be thinking up new ways of killing the enemy, most of the inmates are instead focusing their studies on alchemy, which Haast hopes will allow them to discover the secret of immortality.
Camp Concentration is one of those SF books that falls squarely into the "literature" category both for the eloquence of Disch's writing and the timelessness of his ruminations on life and war. This is a thoughtful novel that offers insights into human existence, and it will likely stay with readers long after they have turned the last page. Ursula K. Le Guin summed up the book best in her cover blurb, which says simply: "It is a work of art, and if you read it, you will be changed." --Craig E. Engler
About the Author
- Publisher : Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (April 27, 1999)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 192 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0375705457
- ISBN-13 : 978-0375705458
- Item Weight : 7.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.3 x 0.43 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #448,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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The plot of Camp Concentration is similar to Flowers for Algernon, but instead of creating a genius from a simpleton, the story begins with the main character, Louis Sacchetti, being a troubled, highly intellectual poet with an IQ of 160. I did not like Sacchetti and found it hard to sympathise with his character. The entire book is written in the form of this man's journal and his intellectual elitism and condescension is apparent in most of what he writes, especially in comments about his fellow prisoners. I felt it odd that he only mentions his friends and family outside a few times with no thought or concern about what has become of them. Maybe the author intended to portray Sacchetti as an unlikeable person, an outcast, but, unfortunately, that also kept me from really caring about what happened to him.
The plot itself holds few surprises, save at the end, but even these were nothing that has not been done many times over in science fiction. Sacchetti seems to grow more physcologically unbalanced as the disease progresses, and the references become even more obscure as his journal becomes mostly strange conversations with fellow prisoners and his own thoughts about intellegence, the existence of God, etc. At times, it seemed more like homework for a modern philosophy class. It did succeed in making me think though, so I have to give the book credit and say that, as a philosophical exercise, it was fairly successful.
To sum it up, the plot was too bland for me to recommend as even "smart" entertaiment, but if you can wade through the obscure references and want to think deep thoughts like Louis Sacchetti, then Camp Concentration is for you.
Disch's verbal abilities and his mental dexterity are commendable, and are well displayed here. He is less successful at constructing plot intricacies, character development, and dramatic structure. Though it ties in with the plot, Disch's Pynchonesque linguistic display, which reaches a crescendo in the early part of Book Two, come off as the product of a young writer having fun with a highlighter and an unabridged OED.
It's interesting that this novel was published about half a year after Daniel Keyes came out with a very similar book <Flowers for Algernon,> later adapted into a play and then a movie <Charly>. The idea had been around since Keyes first wrote the novella version in 1959. The idea is basically the same. Scientists come up with a formula that makes brain processes accelerate, the subjects become brilliant for a while and then the unforeseen consequences set in. Charly returns to his mentally retarded state, Sacchetti lapses into the final stages of a degenerative disease (syphilis).
Disch does introduce some interesting ideas along the way, however. The effect of syphilis, in particular,on the artistic mind, has long been a subject of conjecture. Though some arguments are a lot shakier (Beethoven) than others (de Mauppassant, Nietszche), the subject is definitely open to debate. Disch works such speculation into his story quite effectively. There is also the matter of the way in which the agent (The Palladine) is spread through the surface population (by sexual means) by a rebellious researcher. It does rather spookily prefigure the coming aids epidemic, and probably had some influence on later novelists such as Crichton and King.
There is enough talent, brains and imagination on display here to appeal to "general" readers as well as Sci-Fi aficionados. It's at times intentionally obfuscating, but that's confined to a relatively brief section as the narrator undergoes a mental breakdown. The rest is highly readable. I will definitely seek out more works by the author.
Very unusual concept/original,too.on par W/PHILIP K.DICK/HARLAN ELLISONbuy it-IF you can find it.
Top reviews from other countries
It's set in a dystopian future, and is thus quite dark.
It's full of literary references and quotes, some of them probably invented, the main character's poetry particularly of course.
There are one or two short scenes that take on a tone from William Burroughs, when the main character is feeling unwell, but most of the book is more approachable.
I personally prefer books where the narator tells a story, in this, the book is set out as a diary/journal, that usually grates on me, this grates less than most in that way, but I would still have preferred a different style of story telling, it is still a good story though.
Despite this,it isn't such a bad book I suppose,and has some very interesting ideas.
Would recommend it to someone who is tired of the run-of-the-mill fiction,and wants something different.