Current Weather
The Spy FM

Surviving ‘Immobility’ And End Times

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
April 12, 2012

Stories about the end of the world are as old as literature itself. From the tale of Noah’s Ark to the plague-ravaged landscapes of Mary Shelley’s controversial 1826 novel The Last Man, writers have long held a morbid fascination with the possibility of a future apocalypse.

It was all fantasy, of course, until August 1945, when the world learned the threat of widespread destruction was much more real than anyone could have imagined. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, post-apocalyptic literature, and humanity itself, would never be the same. As Josef Horkai, the anti-hero of Brian Evenson’s new novel Immobility, reflects: “We say no to sixty-six thousand dead in a single bomb blast over a defenseless foreign city, and then we do it again, a hundred thousand this time. … Humans are poison. Perhaps it would be better if we did not exist at all.”

Immobility takes place years after “the Kollaps,” an unspecified cataclysm that decimated the planet, leaving only a handful of people barely alive and the world transformed into a hellscape: “no living thing, not even a cockroach, nothing but wrack and ruin … marks of calamity, terror, distress.” Josef Horkai doesn’t remember much about what happened — he’s been kept in suspended animation for years, possibly decades, and awakened by a mysterious group of survivors keeping shelter in the ruins of a university. He’s paralyzed from the waist down, but that doesn’t stop the group’s leader from asking him to go on a cryptic mission to steal a vitally important cylinder from a mountainside fortress, miles away. With the help of two men who take turns carrying him, Horkai reluctantly sets out across the desert to find the precious container.

If there’s a novel that Evenson was born to write, this is the one. The author is well-known both for his challenging, postmodern fiction — think David Foster Wallace and Blake Butler — and the mainstream science fiction he writes under the name B.K. Evenson. In Immobility, he draws from both literary traditions to create a driving, terrifying tale that wavers between despair and hope, nihilism and an almost religious sense of possible redemption.

Evenson’s prose is, as usual, perfect — intelligent but unpretentious, and perfectly evocative of a barren, brutal world that’s been mostly given up for dead. He doesn’t pull punches when he describes the cruelty of the wasteland that the planet has become — in one chilling scene, he describes the corpse of a man, his head, forearms and lower legs amputated, nailed to the front of a ruined hospital. It’s an image that perfectly encapsulates the savagery of the new world; like the novel itself, it’s merciless and unforgettable.

Immobility is not, of course, the first book to consider the life of the planet after a global annihilation, but it’s also a novel without any obvious antecedents. There are thematic similarities to Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but Evenson’s vision is as unique as he is. It’s not an easy book to read, but it’s an undeniably important look at what we’re at risk of becoming — a nightmare world without hope, reason or compassion. “It’s never fair,” as Horkai says. “Why should it be?” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

Listen Live Now!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

11AM to 12PM The Story

The Story

The Story with Dick Gordon brings the news home through first-person accounts. The live weekday program is passionate, personal, immediate and relevant to listeners, focusing on the news where it changes our lives, causes us to stop and rethink, inspires us.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center