Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Genre Character of the Week: Louis Sacchetti

In addition to working through Horror and Fantasy classics, over the last few years I’ve been working my way through the list from Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: an English Language Selection, 1949-1984. This list has lead me to some of my favourite SF stories (seriously, some year I’m just going to give copies of Earth Abides to everyone I know for Christmas), and at the same time has definitely helped change my view of life and the world around me – actually I once read that SF fans are the people most comfortable dealing with change – if you broke people up into categories by genre fandom.

This week I’ve just finished Thomas M. Disch’s Camp Concentration, and his protagonist; poet, lapsed catholic, and prisoner Louis Sacchetti is my genre character of the week.

Not willing to take part in an ongoing war, Sacchetti is imprisoned and through the wishes of a past acquaintance, he is eventually sent to Camp Archimedes, a special prison for a special group of prisoners. (Mild Spoiler warning) At the camp, the prisoners have been infected with a disease that has two specific effects: 1) The infected person becomes a genius, and 2) Everyone dies about nine months after they have been infected.

The novel is written in the format of Sacchetti’s journals – first in a regular prison and then at the camp, where he has been brought to chronicle the events going on. One of the prisoners, Mordachai Washington, went to the same high school as Sacchetti and after finding out he was imprisoned, requested his relocation to the camp.

Sacchetti himself comes across as a man desperately wishing to serve out his sentence and go home, he seems to think that everything happening to him is incredibly unfair (and yes, this is surrounded by men guaranteed to die within the year), and his relation with the prisoners is less than perfect. The reason I chose the character is due to the character arc he undergoes throughout the story. If you come across the book (I had to get it from my local university’s library), it is definitely worth the read. Think of it as an SF mix of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Flowers for Algernon.

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