I Am The Other by Phillipe de Vosjoli is a bold, irreverent book that is likely to offend some as it excites others. (It excited me) Set in a future extrapolated from the technological advances of our age—primarily the world wide web and cyber-realities like Second World—it’s science fiction and metaphysical fiction with ideas at its core. The philosophically inclined will most appreciate it, but fundamentalist Christians are likely to be offended by the portrayal of their kind, and others may find the combination of sex and spiritually difficult bedfellows. I suspect that, as with ‘Season of the Serpent’ by David Nova, in general, the baby boomer generation will be most likely to appreciate it.
The book is a disjointed series of snippets from news items, a radio talk show and scenes from the lives of various individuals as they react to a series of communications that appear all over the world at the same time and in all electronic devices from an unknown entity that calls itself, I Am Aaa ome. The book is held together not by a traditional plot, but by the mystery of who or what is this entity and what will they do next. I say not a traditional plot because I Am isn’t an antagonist, however by the end of the book, the fundamentalists have begun to take that plot function.
The book takes several points of view, some we get to know sooner and more intimately than others, particularly the President, Father Graham and Sunshine Borden—a character with very interesting ideas on the direction of evolution of the human race. According to him, we seek a non-corporeal state, free of the hindrances of the physical body, an eternal state achieved, in simple terms, by downloading ourselves to a computer. The question of what constitutes this self is not explored, however. It’s a topic for sequels.
Whereas Father Graham thinks I AM is God and experiences it as such, the Church of the End Times (a cyber church where parishioners enter a computer simulated New Jerusalem for baptisms, crucifixions and the possibility of meeting one of the apostles or even Jesus) thinks it is Satin. A Goddess worshipping feminist group reacts to the fact that it appears, to them, to be male, and so each interprets the events according to their own beliefs. We do this all the time, of course, this book just makes it very obvious, and explores the different beliefs of the different groups and individuals.
The philosophy stimulated as people tried to work out what kind of an entity I Am is includes such statements as: “You’re suggesting God is a cosmic end or product rather than a cause?” and “As you know, a transcendental object is not something mystical or religious but an object eventually created by biological organisms that becomes lifelike, autopoietic, intelligent, and develops a form of consciousness that’s greater than that of its creators.” (I have no idea what autopoietic means and neither does my Kindle. I wondered if it was a typo, though the book is generally very clean in the copy editing department.) So there is a lot here to think about.
Craft wise the different points of view become a problem only when we have a short snippet with one character and the character’s name is not used in the scene. There were a couple of instances where it wasn’t clear who the scene was about, and a couple of instances of head hopping. These issues could be easily attended to. Readers less interested in the ideas than I, may find the action lacking and the philosophising overdone, but this is a particular kind of book and, like all books, should be reviewed in terms of what the author set out to achieve. I think he did that very well.
The prose is generally very good, but there are a few instances where a sentence could be more active with a quick reconstruction removing the use of a ‘to be’ verb.
All up, this is an excellent book for the right reader. 4 stars.
And I love the cover.