Gene Brewer – K-Pax

11May09

He insists he came from K-PAX, about five years ago, on a beam of light. He’s going to return on August 17, at 3:31 pm. In the meantime, he’s in Ward II of the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute, under the supervision of Dr. Gene Brewer, who doesn’t believe that he’s alien. His name is prot. Yes, that’s right – in lowercase. In K-PAX, the beings spell their names in lowercase, whereas astronomical bodies like PLANETS, EARTH, the WORLD are in uppercase.

But that’s not the most bizarre thing about K-PAX. In fact, K-PAX has been around for millions of years, and not just a couple of millennia like EARTH. There’s no government, there’s no crime, people live happily, and the science and technology is supremely advanced. There’s a herbal cure for everything, from AIDS to cancer. Money is non-existent, as is any kind of trade. In fact, it’s much like Gonzalo’s state (where he’d be King) in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Oh, and sex is painful, vegetarianism is the standard diet, and all beings co-exist in harmony. When asked for K-PAXians are like, prot says like Swedish people, or Gandhi, Lennon or, Thoreau.

As prot speaks to Dr. Brewer, who tries to figure out who prot really is, and where he’s come from, we see prot as a funny, albeit patronizing, ‘being’ (prot is very insistent that EARTH is the only planet which has homo sapiens). However, if you aren’t ‘crazy’ but you have someone (i.e. Dr. Brewer) treating you as though you are, the patronization is probably justified. Gene asks him multiple times where he’s come from, and how he’s traveled, and the answer is the same: Using mirrors and light!

As prot befriends some of the other patients at MPI, and starts helping them get better, they all have only the one thing on their agenda: they want to go back with prot. Heck, they all write essays to warrant their candidacy! And we have Dr. Brewer who struggles to find out more about him, and his condition – is he a savant (does that explain his knowledge about the UNIVERSE?)? Is he an amnesiac? Or, is there something more? Finally, he resorts to hypo-therapy…

This short quirky humorous book is one of a kind. You can’t help but get completely immersed in it, and wonder about prot, and his home planet; about Dr. Brewer and his relationship with his parents; about life and how different it can be in reality and in utopia. I’m scared if I say more, I’ll ruin the end for you, but, this book raises loads of interesting questions, and it gets you thinking…

“You mean your mental patients aren’t treated with any drugs – herbs – to make them well?”

“Mental illness is often in the eyes of the beholder. Too often on this PLANET it refers to those who think and act differently from the majority.”

“But surely there are those who are obviously unable to cope with reality….”

“Reality is what you make it.”

I don’t think I’ve read such a well-written funny thought-provoking fantasy book before, and if you have a chance, you must read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it! The only thing I can moan about is, the ending left much to be desired. Where does prot get his knowledge from? Is he actually alien? Will he return in four-five years, as he promised? How can he see light in the UV range? So many questions… no answers.

The book is the first of a trilogy, so I will probably pick up the sequel and the finale, to see how it pans out, and whether the story still has loopholes, or do all the pieces fit together. Woohoo! More books to be TBR list. Overall, a 7 on 10… and a very engrossing read.

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