Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Non-existent book review



Metamorphosis by B. D. Zoo Press, 2003.
Synopsis:
Metamorphosis is a cycle of poems about the Transformers, a toy line and associated children's cartoon from the 1980's about robots that can turn into vehicles. (Although comics, cartoons, and other works built up multiple conflicting backstories for these toys, D. largely ignores these.) Despite the silliness of the idea, D.largely plays it straight, treating it as if it were an epic secret history to be taken seriously.
There are 24 poems of varying length, each named by a letter of the Greek alphabet. The first poem, "Alpha," is a creation myth, explaining the origin of mechanical life on the distant world of Cybertron, and introduces the characters Primus and Unicron. It references Genesis, the Enuma Elish, Keats' "Hyperion," and others.
Subsequent poems describe a War in Heaven and fall to earth. From this point on the main characters are Optimus Prime and Megatron. D.'s version of the characters are basically archangels or demigods, immortal Platonic forms that can take a bi-stable mechanical form, but when destroyed continue to exist as a kind of design plan/computer program/spirit. This conceit allows him to explore questions of consciousness and the nature of a mechanical, deterministic world. Their dual nature (spirit/body) is symbolized by the duality of their form (robot/vehicle).
Not all of the poems fit precisely into a larger narrative. In "Eta," the Autobots are described as immigrants, finding a face that fits into America by becoming a worker, a machine. "Omicron" is a riff of Samuel Butler's Erewhon. "Pi" explores the question of whether mathematics is universal or culturally specific by inventing a Cybertronic mathematics as a series of transformations. Other poems are retellings of the myths of Galatea and Daphne. The poem "Theta" is a conversation between an American mechanic and a Japanese scientist about the respective countries' relationships with automobiles and robots. The themes of disguise and change run through all the poems. Puns and wordplay are scattered throughout, bringing a little lightness to the proceedings.
The last few poems are an interpretation of the Apocalypse of St. John as enacted by Decepticons and Autobots. In "Omega (Supreme)" the Earth is transformed into glass, recalling Ballard's The Crystal World.