Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being is a fascinating, disturbing look at a future that isn’t completely implausible.
Set in 2183, it’s the story of Jerome Conquergood and his quest to find his missing brother, Vincent. Conquergood, as he’s referred to, is a strayer, an outcast, eking out the means of survival in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is Old York City. Desperate to learn what has happened to Vincent and reunite with him, Conquergood gives in and accepts employment as a Turnkey Specialist with the Korporation. Yes, Korporation with a K. That is not a typo. (Fewston intentionally replaces all the hard “c” sounds with a “k,” and it’s very effective at discombobulating the reader.) The Korporation provides a utopia for its people. Food, comfortable accommodation, clothing, all needs are met. What will Conquergood be willing to relinquish to the world’s new overlord to find the last of his family?This is a book of contrasts. Old York City is supposedly decaying and ruined, while the Korporate citadel is supposedly clean, shiny, technologically advanced, everything we’re told we should want. But the mostly vapid, self-absorbed populace of the Korporation stands in stark difference to the vital, active strayers still living and thinking and doing for themselves. As the Bible says, “Better to eat a dry crust of bread with peace of mind than have a banquet in a house full of trouble” (Proverbs 17:1 GNT). And make no mistake, there is trouble. The Korporation controls everything – supply, demand, work, law, governance, all of it – but they want more. “The here and the now, the beginning and the end, Korporate Kontrol demands supreme allegiance and absolute power.”
The world-building here is fantastic. You can almost see the characters Fewston creates, smell the pristine air of Korporate quarters, and feel the grit of Old York City rubbing off on your skin as you read. The technological marvels described are intriguing and just a little bit creepy.
The story is told from Conquergood’s current perspective and in flashbacks, and I often found myself wondering (as did our hero) what was real and what was some kind of trick of the mind. If there were tricks of the mind involved, who was playing those tricks? Surely the Korporation wouldn’t tell Conquergood what they thought he wanted to hear to get him to do what they want…would they? And when you see the backstory of the Korporation unfold, when you learn what they’re really going for, you have to question whether society could actually take a similar path. Isn’t that what a good dystopian tale should do – wave the red flag that tells us, “Don’t go this way”?
This is one of the most mind-bending books I’ve read in recent memory. It almost defies description, but in the best possible way. The ending left me positively gobsmacked and most interested to see if Conquergood does indeed return in a future book, as this one hints at. I wouldn’t call this an easy read. I had to read for a while, then put it down and think on it. But it is definitely worth the time to pore over Conquergood’s tale.
Keep on scrolling to enter the giveaway!
|Photo credit: Thor