Review – From The Notebooks of Dr. Brain

So a friend lent me her copy of this the second book by Minister Faust, but the first book of his I’ve read. I’ll admit it was hard for me to get into and that wasn’t because the plot wasn’t interesting, or the characters intriguing or the writing dynamic and humorous. Because it was all of those wonderful things. The reason I had such trouble getting into the book is because I hate the narrator, Dr. Brain. Let me explain, it’s a book within a book so that while you’re reading From The Notebooks of Dr. Brain, you’re actually reading one of her self-help books for superheroes. Now she’s designed to be an unreliable narrator (and several characters call her that in the book so it’s not at all hidden) and while I’m usually able to deal with and sometimes like unreliable narrators, the problem with Dr. Brain is the fact that she can’t see anything beyond what she believes to be true. So someone can come up with some compelling issues and stuff and she’ll write it off as a delusion or paranoia and that’s a tactic I’m familiar with. It’s a tactic used all the time when sexism, racism, heterosexism, any oppression is mentioned, it’s the reaction of those with priviliege. I hate it so much that it makes me grind my teeth, but it’s a very effective literary device for Faust to use here, especially with the story he’s trying to tell.

Ultimately I was glad I stuck with the book and it’s cast of characters, some of which riff off of “classic” Golden Age superheroes. Iron Lass – WonderWoman, Flying Squirrel – Batman, Omnipotent Man – Superman, Brotherfly – Spiderman and PowerGrrl & X-man who have no analogues that I can really think of. I don’t read a lot of satire I’ll admit but this just might be the key to changing my mind.

Faust takes all these characters to their ultimate end, the Republican and openly racist Flying Squirrel, the hokey desperate for approval Omnipotent Man, the totally in control and controlling Iron Lass, the shuck and jivin’ Brotherfly living with a secret, the celebutante PowerGrrl and the anti-racist but aversively sexist and homophobic X-man. With these characters he interrogates everything from 2nd wave vs. pseudo-feminism girl-power (not 3rd wave feminism which is a whole other thing), the sexism & homophobia within some African Nationalist movements, drug addiction, parent-child issues, the way the media skews things based on race, governmental corruption (think Iran-Contra) and a whole lot more I don’t want to say for fear of ruining some of the amazing surprises in the book.

I’m not gonna lie it took me to maybe the very last pages of the book to really get what was being emulated and deconstructed but that could just be me being slow. When I did get the understanding though the whole book took on a new edge and I liked it much more than I thought I would. It’s about problems being ignored, people turning on each other, reveling in their privilege while actively ignoring the truth and finally about the way fear can affect us all making us do things we would never normally do and act in ways we find reprehensible. What Faust has created here is a scathing look at the human psyche and the way that super-powered or not we all fall into destructive patterns that can not only fell us but all those around us. Now I sound like Dr. Brain but I’m trying to explain the novel without spoiling anything for y’all. In the end I just recommend you all go pick up a copy.

But I still hate Dr. Eva Brain.

***Comments May Contain Spoilers***

3 responses to “Review – From The Notebooks of Dr. Brain

  1. Yeah, I was seeing the deconstructions early, but definitely my hate spike kicked in deep at the end.


    Yeah I was really angry by the end but after a few days I also started to look at it as meta-fiction. Because within the world of the book Dr. Brain’s book was published (after all isn’t that what we’re reading) so there will be others in that world who will hear what X-man had to say and like us will know it for the truth. That’s what’s really interesting to me that within this new regime the Flying Squirrel actually allowed the book to be published.

    Yes, I know sometimes I go way to deep.

  3. Thanks for your comments about my book (comments I just discovered today). Enjoyed a summary of your comments during a Wiscon panel. Any chance you’ll be at SFRA or WFC in 2012?

    Minister Faust

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