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Lifeform Three Kindle Edition
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|Length: 266 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Lifeform Three, while not quite a dystopian book, is set in the future, and the only remaining countryside is preserved at Harkaway Hall, a theme park that is taken care of by bods. The entire story is written in third-person present tense, which can be really tricky to pull off, but Morris does it effortlessly. Morris's prose the entire book is effortless, always beautiful but always in service to the story she's telling.
And what a story it is. Simply, yet very profoundly, Morris brings up questions of belonging to a group, individual identity, our relationship to nature and animals, and how easily we destroy nature to suit our own desires. Everything is woven into the story so that it never becomes preachy or out of place. Paftoo is a likable protagonist, and I was rooting for him the whole way. The side characters all have their own quirks that separate them from the others (especially since each bod's name begins with 'Paf') and Morris also really knows her horses--not just the semantics of riding and training, but horses themselves. I would have read this sooner had I caught on that a lifeform three is a horse!
Best of all, Lifeform Three was perfectly clean. No language, no graphic content of any kind; I could easily recommend it to anyone. And I would recommend it. If you're looking for a thoughtful, unique, yet entertaining read, check out Lifeform Three.
Unlike the current trend in dystopian novels, there is no human blood or gore here, no guns blazing or a hero of super-human intellect and physical strength to save the day. The story begins long after any catastrophic event (I won't spoil anything by saying what it might have been) has occurred and we've adapted to the new world, just as we've adapted to this new world we live in of steel and style and technology and distaste for anything messy or gooey. Paftoo, our protagonist is a hero of humanity but is not human. Or is he? What does it mean to be human? All the other bods (robots) in this book are named Paf+a spelled-out number, but not the protagonist. His name equates to "Pafalso." There is a spirit and soul to this bloodless creation I can connect with. Perhaps you can, too, as Paftoo has. All of us on this journey of life have had our hearts hit by lightening, and we're usually left damaged with unpleasant changes and years of therapy. But when a bot is hit by lightening in the area where a heart would be, it's that bolt of nature's fury that changes him towards human qualities that can neither be touched nor nailed down in any of the sciences currently scrambling to dissect the human condition. Most important is the question of whether or not the human condition exists outside of nature.
I found this book both disturbing and satisfying on a very personal level. Three years ago we moved away from city life to a remote rural area that has left me feeling as if my shoes are on the wrong feet. Each of my days begins with a hike through rugged terrain in the oldest mountain range in the world. I have to if I want exercise because we don't have gyms or chlorinated pools or yoga studios. Within six months of living and hiking these hills, I noticed something had returned I didn't know had disappeared until they surfaced again--dreams. One little bit of technology piled on top of a minor swell of ambition and busyness had taken away the dreams while I was too distracted to notice. In Lifeform Three, Paftoo breaks rank with his kind when he begins to dream. Do we awaken to the weave of our existence with the natural world around us through our dreams? We're in a pandemic of forgetfulness and clutter in our contemporary world. Have we forgotten who we are and become finance, commercialism, marketing and entertainment robots? Are we so tightly would in thought memes we become ideas rather than the ones who create ideas? What can be pulled out of us by a beast of burden, a powerful and powerfully frightened horse with a tiny name like Pea?
It should be obvious by now that this book raises many questions with no easy answers. The voice and tone of the writing get out of the way of those questions and is absolutely flawless in its prose and voice. This is a unique voice rising in the literary scene and gaining attention, but one that won't easily be copied. Rather than a story well told or an enjoyable book that is read, this is an experience. I thought I'd spend the weekend reading this book, but sat down at 10 a.m. Saturday morning and left it only to eat so the spell would not be broken. It's not a casual read. It may be a new definition of the literary novel, rather than a blend of genres. Time will tell, and until that time has passed, it stands alone as a bold book written by an author unafraid of taking risks, holding up a mirror to our faces as we read, and has a beautifully delicate touch with humor, and word choices that surprise without interrupting the elegant flow of the prose.
Before I talk about Paftoo, and Pea, Tickets and Pafnine, however, I have to set the scene, just a little. Imagine our world some time in the future. It has become a world of back-to-back cities with podcars that drive themselves while their human occupants sleep. It is a world of rampant consumerism and jaded appetites. It is a world where animals, especially wild animals have become a tourist attraction.
In this world, animals are categorized according to the order in which they were domesticated - dogs are lifeform 1, cats are lifeform 2 and horses are lifeform 3. Was that a spoiler? Yes, but just a tiny one.
Now imagine a crumbling manor house set in acres of land, a tiny pocket of nature tucked away in a sea of concrete. This is Harkaway Hall, or what's left of it. Dubbed the 'Lost Lands', the estate has become a tourist destination, and is maintained by a small army of bods, humanoid robots with shaggy purple hair and Manga eyes.
Enter Paftoo. Paftoo is a bod, but he is not quite like the other bods. During the day he collects the poop dropped by the animals that roam the Lost Lands, but at night, while the other bods switch off, Paftoo dreams. He dreams of lifeform 3's galloping across the fields. He dreams of himself riding a lifeform 3.
That is the mystery underlying the story. How and why has this one bod become so different? And why would it dream of horses? Deeper still, though, is a darker theme about intelligence and self-awareness, aspirations and freedom. Paftoo is not human, yet he is not just a machine either, and in his journey we can see a reflection of ourselves. That is what makes this story so utterly wonderful.
For those interested in such things, Lifeform 3 is technically science fiction, but as far as I'm concerned it's science fiction literature.
Did some of you cringe? Did your eyes glaze over?
Please don't be put off by the 'L' word. Lifeform 3 is not arty farty. It doesn't use obscure vocabulary just for the sake of it. It doesn't bore you to tears with pages of flowery descriptions, and it does not go round in circles contemplating its own navel!
Lifeform 3 is science fiction literature because it tells the perfect story. Nothing is missing. Nothing is superfluous. Everything fits, and flows as if it could not possibly be any different. Yet despite that, it's not predictable.
As a writer who reads a hell of a lot, I often find myself re-writing sentences in my head as I read them, or mentally questioning some part of the plot or characterization. It goes with the territory. With Lifeform 3, however, there was not a single moment when I stopped to re-read a sentence or passage because it had jarred me out of the story. Didn't happen, not even once. That is the sign of a truly good story.
So... Would I recommend Lifeform 3 to you? You bet I would! Using my own, personal star rating system, Lifeform 3 gets 11/10, and joins a select list of novels that I think will still be wowing readers in a hundred years' time. That, by the way, is another thing it has in common with real literature - it lasts.
Most recent customer reviews
This is a quite, beautiful story about a sentient machine that tries to break free of what it was made to be to become something more.Read more