Verbal dancing, Kitt Comer
The novel Lullaby by Bernard Beckett is a unique philosophical story about a boy whose identical twin brother has been knocked into a coma, and he has the option to effectively copy his brain into his brother’s defunct brain, making him “live” again. This book is one of the more outlandishly philosophical books to be written by a New Zealand author, and it will make readers think a great deal.
Beckett writes the book in the first person, from the view of Rene, an identical twin. Most of the story is conveyed through a long conversation between Rene and a psychologist named Maggie, who has been ordered to evaluate Rene’s mental state and decide whether he is eligible to make the decision to have his brain copied. Rene’s personality is revealed almost entirely in these talks with Maggie. Beckett has written a convincing character who is intelligent, sharp-witted and willing to say what will come to most readers’ minds. Additionally, Beckett is one of the few authors who has written a male teenager that is actually true-to-heart, a boy who sometimes answers questions with complex and thematic answers, and sometimes shies away with a typical “dunno.”, or crushes what he perceives to be pretentiousness with cruel reality. Beckett has described the teenage dilemma of coming to grips with a dark world that Rene has ignored while enjoying its pleasures. Maggie herself is an intelligent woman who calculates both her words and Rene’s responses, and her own wit often reveals Rene’s flaws.
This reviewer pays careful attention to how the story is told and what the effects are of telling it that way.
Editor’s note: Close
However, these two interesting characters and their verbal dancing are only vehicles for the book’s main question: what happens if you copy your brain’s activity, if you copy you, and put it into another identical body? Rene wants to do this because he believes he is resurrecting his brother, but the lead doctor calmly points out that this is not what is happening. The doctor mainly wants to do this procedure not to save lives, but rather to show that a new and advanced medical process has merit for future use in other purposes. These dilemmas will divide readers’ minds on the issue of copying Rene’s brain activity.
As the story progresses, more is revealed about the twins’ relationship and their private activities, and overall becomes much darker in tone. The decision about whether or not to go through with the procedure becomes more difficult to make as Rene considers the ramifications. However, the fact that this story is told almost solely through dialogue makes it feel slightly unrealistic, as it seems that Rene is merely voicing his thinking process very slowly and to another person, even though the decision could be made just as well without another human’s input. But, Beckett had to do this in order to make the story readable, as otherwise this would be an expositional nightmare. The science of what happens if a brain is copied is also slightly unsound, but it had to be tailored to suit the story’s theme. The book is, nonetheless, highly readable with an ending that will twist your thoughts around.
Overall, this book is an enjoyable read that will make you think for a long while after you read it. Interestingly, the book’s main theme is similar to a video game called SOMA, where the dilemma of brain-copying is explored in a slightly different way. Beckett has created an accessible book with realistic characters with human drives that explores a complex and debatable philosophical issue. I think it was a very good book that, despite some hindrances, is one of the more convincing and complex books that I have read in my life. I think that nearly anyone can enjoy reading this book, and additionally I think the book is good for getting teenaged boys into philosophical debates, boys who would generally not read a different book with a philosophical theme.
Kitt Comer is year 13 at Wellington High School.
February, 2016 jane Scroll down to see reviews submitted by YA readers: Lullaby