Fantasy is the ultimate big tent. Pretty much anything beyond a book
containing only numerals has the potential to be categorized for
some shady reason, as fantasy. 'The Voyage of the Proteus : An Eyewitness
Account of the End of the World', with ancient Greeks and a modern
American, harpies and global warming, Agamemnon and George W. Bush
is arguably a fantasy. It certainly uses the tropes and literary
techniques of fantasy, and it paints scenes that are full of the
fantastic. But in fact, it would be a fantasy to imagine that 'The
Voyage of the Proteus : An Eyewitness Account of the End of the World'
is anything other than a full-blown, froth-mouthed polemic, a seething
spew of bile aimed at the heart of the world we think we know and
presume to be living in.
Disch begins the voyage his own damn self. Tom, an American, finds himself
aboard the Proteus and in the company of Cassandra. There's no explanation;
it just is. Our Hero, Tom, is fairly aged, and explains to Cassandra
that he's gay, even while she attends to his sexual needs in an extremely
graphic manner. As they voyage around something remotely resembling fictional
visions of Ancient Greece, he spews about the ills of our present (her
future), while she spews about the ills of her present and predicts a
variety of futures. Imagine a conversation between a clever hooker and
a lecherous liberal professor aboard a faked-up Greek ship and you'll
have a good idea what you’re in for.
'The Voyage of the Proteus' finds Disch in fine form, assuming you enjoy
his witty, vituperative, over-the-top agonizing. There's something here
to jar or offend just about any sensibility. Subtlety is been barred
from the proceedings, and any time it threatens to rear its head, some
mythical character or creature is there to lop it off and watch the blood
spurt from the neck stump. Disch makes no secret of his political leanings
as he savages the current administration and feasts upon the steaming
entrails. I personally found this book bracing and rather funny, but
a fair swathe of readers will find it offensive, juvenile and overly-simplistic.
If the current state of the world makes you want to scream obscenities,
then you're going to find a lot to like here. If the world makes you
want to sing in perfect harmony, then perhaps you’re after all
the perfect audience. You sensibilities need to be offended. Thomas M.
Disch is here to answer your unspoken prayers.
'The Voyage of the Proteus: An Eyewitness Account of the End of the World'
offers readers visions of mythical terror and insightful swipes at the
sort of Greek myths taught in elementary schools, found in the comics
or onscreen at the multiplex. You won’t learn a lot about ancient
Greece or modern America. You will learn what makes Thomas M. Disch fuming
mad. If those are the sorts of things that make you mad, then consider
this the best book of bile money can buy. If you pick this one up, don't
prepare to sail. Prepare to spew.