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Pontypool Changes Everything
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In this novel something mysterious causes insomnia among the inhabitants of the fictional sleepy little town of Caesarea. This insomnia causes many strange things to happen, such as the town's figurehead mayor being replaced by a dwarf doppelganger and Neo-Nazi environmentalists accidentally unleashing purveyors of kiddie snuff-porn on the town. A so-called war is also being waged between the town's respectable citizenry and the white trash from the trailer park.
The pieces are a variety of different genres, ranging from the mundane autobiographical fiction to lurid true crime to phantasmagoria. Each story revolves around a unique and violent act of homicide. The inspiration for this novel was news coverage of the fall of Baghdad and its aftermath.
In fact, he's the only resident of the tiny rural town. Bob has never really felt like himself whenever other people are around, and feeling normal is all he wants in life. NOTE - Yes there was a movie made about 10 years after the book. Both movie and book are brilliant, and Tony Burgess wrote the movie's screenplay. They are very different stories, in fact the only thing they have in common is the virus. It really doesn't matter if you see one or the other first.
View all 13 comments. Apr 30, Sean Fitzpatrick rated it it was amazing. Pontypool Changes Everyting defies definition in a lot of ways.
One of the biggest complaints that gets leveed against it at least by people that I know is that it is supposed to be a book about a zombie outbreak and, yet, the zombies in the book are more conceptual than literal.
It is difficult to feel afraid of the zombies. But the novel's abstraction is its greatest strength because, at its core, it is a indefatigably complex horror novel. The scariness in Pontypool Changes Everything which, especially in a book like this, should be separated from its horror elements stems from the virus itself. The idea that a lethal contagion could spread through language is unbelievably terrifying, mostly because the virus can be spread through the act of telling somebody not to speak and therefore spread the virus.
The fright of a disease that cannot be cured because it disposes with communication is insurmountable in the novel. This is why the book immediately interrupts its own intelligibility.
The book, through a great and absolutely-not-heavy-handed metafictional turn, is infected with the very disease that infects its subjects. It lacks the ability to communicate and rages at the reader because of that incommunicability. Consequently, the destruction that the virus produces is total, which brings to mind my second point.
The arbitrary violence that the disease produces in people is shocking. The fright may not come from the zombie attack, but the novel, through the ingenious device of giving the reader a glimpse into the mind of the infected, adds terror by showing how the infected people transform from relatively high-functioning individuals to snarling murderers.
The manifestation of the violence in the novel is completely untempered. Once the first zombie enters the story, the gore piles up. This is, without a doubt, the most horrific book I have ever read.
From images of patients being liquified under a crush of people at a local doctor's office to scenes where a father administering painkillers to his drug-addicted infant son to simply stop the boy from going into withdrawal, from passages depicting a TV news anchor engaging in forced pan-sexual intercourse with his interns to the dreamlike moments wherein a brother and sister subsist on zombie meat and eventually copulate and produce a zombie baby, the book is full of imagery and complex symbolism that is hauntingly disturbing and, sometimes, shockingly hilarious.
The extremity of the horror in the novel never feels over-the-top, however, because the story is about what people do to one another and what people are capable of when their minds are pushed to the extremities of aphasic rage. The books is also not simple-minded, and does not make the zombies the solely evil presence in the story. People are equally responsible for horrific deeds, and it is the relentless depiction of human depravity that makes the book difficult to get through.
But just because it is difficult does not mean it is not worthwhile. The novel contains beautifully written passages that would be a wonder for anybody interested in the written word. Furthermore, Burgess makes the reader painfully aware of the beauty of Ontario's northern regions while, simultaneously, showing the depravity of the people who live there.
Structurally, the novel is divided into two vexing parts: Autobiography and Novel.
The play of fiction and nonfiction is difficult, especially because the events in both parts are unrealistic. The dipartite form gestures toward the complex nature of the human mind's ability to understand things. Basically, humans need to know whether something is real or fake. This fundamental categorization of events is the foundation for the rest of our understanding. By depriving readers of this basic understanding between factual and fictional, Burgess makes the story much more unsettling and destabilizing.
Did language really cause people to kill and eat each other in Pontypool? The reader is left to decide. Pontypool Changes Everything is complex to the core, but this makes it fun and unpredictable. Many of the shocks and scares are incredibly surprising, and the story also contains touching and heartbreaking moments of desperate intimacy between people that are simply going to die.
The deadly fatalism of the story makes it one for contemplation. From the outset, it is known that many characters will not make it out of the book alive.
Like viewers watching Hitchcock's "Psycho" for the first time and seeing Janet Leigh get killed in the first third of the film, the reader of Pontypool will desperately grasp for characters and subjectivities to latch on to.
But there are none to be had.
Instead, the reader looks for why humanity is killing itself and how a human invention such as language can infect the brain. It is a book that has especial relevance now, with the ever-present manipulation of images and events by news networks. The corruptibility of language and the human mind is the main focus of the story, which is both entertaining and enlightening.
I imagine a lot of readers will hear the concept of the book Zombies are infected through language?!?! But to those readers who say that, I question the validity of any zombie virus -- can radiation REALLY produce the zombies that crop up in Romero's and many of his imitator's films? By bringing these works up, I do not mean to disparage the efforts of their creators. Instead, I intend to point out the intrinsic flimsiness of the zombie-horror genre.
And yet, the genre is thrilling and thought-provoking. If you cannot suspend your disbelief with this book, then you do not deserve Pontypool Changes Everything. View 1 comment. Apr 01, Lewis Rees rated it did not like it. Rarely do I find a book that affects me in the same way that Pontypool did. That is, rarely do I find a book so utterly terrible that I had to stop reading it. The thing is, the core conceit here is absolutely brilliant: A fresh, inventive take on a genre that's been played out in every conceivable way Rarely do I find a book that affects me in the same way that Pontypool did.
A fresh, inventive take on a genre that's been played out in every conceivable way, on every conceivable stage. However, I found Pontypool changes everything to be an utterly trying effort with characters I found impossible to sympathize with.
True, there was some decent imagery, and I can see a genuinely good book hiding beneath a surface of self-indulgent experimentation and trying post-modernism. Had the book been stripped to the bones and left us with this fresh idea, I would no doubt be raving about it.
Usually I can't stand it when a film doesn't stick to the story of the book, at least in some ways, but in this case it worked one hundred perecent to the film's advantage. I have never read a book so terrible that got made into a film that good before. I implore you all to skip this poor effort at a book and instead see the far superior film it inspired. I liked the movie and was fascinated by its premise that a deadly virus could be created by and spread through the spoken English language.
The book version, though, is kinda like if the screenplay contracted the virus it depicts and becomes a weird disturbing verbal slosh. The author apologizes for the book in the afterword with the "I was a heady young semiotician! This is a story that is difficult to describe in a few paragraphs. It is on one level an account of the spread of an infectious disorder across the area around a small town in Ontario, Canada.
It is on another level an attempt, I believe, to give an insight into madness. It works I feel on both levels. As a Zombie Novel if produces several new ideas, chief among them the idea that an infection can be spread by language itself.
This is an idea that was approached by Henry Kuttner in his short sto This is a story that is difficult to describe in a few paragraphs. However, Mr. Burgess plows enough entirely new ground in this book to be a good country mile from anything derivative.
This is not going to be a book for everyone.
I suspect that folks seeking a Zombie tale are not going to want to take the effort to get through this one. I also suspect that some folks will be offended by a goodly amount of gore and a bit of slightly warped sexuality.
But if you are up for a challenge, I would really recommend this read. I thought the story was good fun and give it an easy five for its value both as entertainment and as somewhat of a peek into what paranoid schizophrenia might be like.
As anyone who saw me reading this is well aware, this isn't really a book about zombies. I mean, it is.
But it's also about language. Burgess' fascination with language and semiotics underpins this entire work, a fact that endows the novel with a linguistic playfulness while allowing the author to toy and tinker with ideas of lanuage, concept and understanding.
The novel sort of meanders, occasionally becoming surreal and almost dadaist, and though this may detract from the work as a whole, it d As anyone who saw me reading this is well aware, this isn't really a book about zombies. The novel sort of meanders, occasionally becoming surreal and almost dadaist, and though this may detract from the work as a whole, it doesn't interfere with Burgess' main concerns If language creates the framework of conception, what is lost when our grasp of language disappears?
Do the specificities of syntax really root us in reality? Is language what prevents us from a life of zombiehood? If we cannot understand each other, will it help to try to crawl into each other's mouths? I enjoyed this book less than I anticipated, but I also found it more thought-provoking than I thought I would. Feb 12, Katie rated it it was ok.
This is a tough one. The use of language and writing style in this book is a bit overcooked for my taste I think. You know what it's like? It's like this one time I took this turbo kick class and it was so over choreographed that I spent the whole time just trying to figure out each move and by the time I did we were on to another one. So in the end I just felt confused and didn't get near the workout that I could have.
It's like that. Feb 05, ipso rated it liked it. Calling and author drunk and stoned, while being drunk and stoned. Talking about lack of structure in a style itself without structure — etc. I retract. View all 5 comments.
Dear Mrs. Burgess, As much as it pains me to write this letter, I feel I must. My son, Tobin, has now tried to play with Tony in Pontypool on two occasions, and each time, he came home much earlier than expected because I have, in fact, had to write simi Dear Mrs.
I have, in fact, had to write similar missives to the mothers of Tom Clancy , Chuck Palahniuk , and most recently, Nick Cutter who is, by the way, the nicest person, but my son simply cannot bear to have a play date with him anymore. You may be wondering why my son is acting like this. He said he spent about 15 pages with Tony this morning, and in that time, he said, while some interesting stuff happened, for the most part, he claimed that Tony just seemed to go on and on with a lot of "flowery, overblown description" and seemed to refuse to get to the point of anything.
I believe his specific term was, "Mom, there was a whole lotta feathers, and not much chicken. Still quotes him occasionally, though. Anyway, my impression--reading between the lines, you might say--of my son's issue is that he believes Tony is highly intelligent, and quite good at what he does, but what he does is simply not for my son. I know Tobin was supposed to give Tony somewhere between one and five stars after the play date, but because it was aborted, he's decided to not give Tony any stars at all.
I hope you understand. As I said, we'd scheduled a several hours long play date for Tobin and Tony, and, both times, Tobin left within minutes.
No hard feelings, but Tobin will not be having any more play dates with Tony. Signed, Tobin's mother. Jan 10, Robert Beveridge rated it liked it Shelves: One can't really say that the book is better than the movie or vice versa when comparing them against one another; they must be looked at as two entirely separate, or Tony Burgess, Pontypool Changes Everything ECW Press, And the award for most-adapted screenplay goes to Bruce McDonald's Pontypool, one of the best films of One can't really say that the book is better than the movie or vice versa when comparing them against one another; they must be looked at as two entirely separate, or at best tangentially related, pieces of work.
That said, the movie is better than the book and according to his afterword, Mr. Burgess agrees with me. While I'd recommend the movie to anyone, the book requires a certain mindset, as well as an ability to put up with or enjoy writing that can only be described as hallucinatory; you'll often wonder what it is, exactly, you're reading. Also in that afterword, Burgess mentions that he wrote the book just after graduating university with a semiotics degree.
Be warned, he uses it extensively, and not just in the inventive method of viral transmission that underlies both book and film. I should also mention as a side note for my American readers that ECW Press, despite its recent forays into the memoirs of professional wrestlers, has nothing to do with Extreme Championship Wrestling—though since those memoirs are the only ECW books widely available in America, one can be forgiven for thinking so.
In the movie, we see the genesis of the plague. In the book, the plague has always existed; it has evolved along with humans. As with many zombie plagues, no one really knows what triggered it, though a few hypotheses are offered by various people throughout the book.
Also unlike the movie, which focuses on Grant Mazzy who is changed from a television personality into a radio DJ , the book is an ensemble piece. Mazzy, in fact, is the only major character in the book to survive the transition relatively intact. You will meet very few people here you recognize, if you've seen the film. The book is divided into two sections. The first of them follows Les Reardon, a mentally ill drama coach, as he wanders through the beginnings of the zombie plague looking for his wife and infant son this section of the book is called Autobiography, by the way.
We have to wonder, though, given his mental condition, how much of what he sees is real. Then comes the second part of the book Novel , which focuses on two other characters, Julie and Jim. They are the children of the zombie couple Les Reardon stole a car from in Autobiography, and one of the few places the two parts of the novel cross is in showing that scene from a different perspective early in Novel.
I have not tried to outline a plot in that synopsis because a the plot of each section of the book is entirely different though both do move toward a single point; pay attention, however, or you'll miss the single sentence that connects the two , and b plot is, at best, a tertiary consideration in Pontypool Changes Everything.
This is a book that is about its language more than anything else kind of the literary equivalent of a Godard film. This is, of necessity, going to make it a vertical-market item, and I should stress here that you shouldn't by the book just because you liked the movie, in case you haven't already gotten that from what's above.
That said, of the writers who engage in this sort of literary masturbation, Burgess is one of the most readable I've come across; he's certainly orders of magnitude better than, say, Claude Simon. Actually, now that I think about it, there are some parallels to be made with Georges Bataille especially in Novel , and because I'm thick, I completely missed the fact that the entire Novel section is an allusion to Truffaut until just now Jules and Jim?
Yes, I caught the reference, you'd have to be an idiot not to, but I never made the structural connection until I started writing this paragraph. Given that, while Pontypool Changes Everything is probably a serviceable introduction to this kind of writing, you may be better off starting with a book whose shock value is up front and in your face the classic example, and my strongest recommendation, would be Bataille's Story of the Eye ; Burgess is just as interested in transgressive realms here, and if you can't make it through Story of the Eye there's stuff in Novel that's guaranteed to squick you out, but Burgess' aim is to seduce the reader with Autobiography, a much more conventional as regards its conformation to societal norms piece of writing.
There's a lot to be said here about the breakdown of society and how humans go back to being savages, but I'm probably not the one to say it. My rating for this book has been all over the place; I've changed it four times as I've been writing this review, in fact, as I understand more about what I think, anyway Burgess was trying to do.
Thank your lucky stars Pontypool was directed by Bruce McDonald instead of Godard or any of the other New Wave directors who may still be alive and working ; he probably would have tried to make a film out of the book, rather than Burgess' endlessly-modified screenplay. There are very few books I've read that I'd consider unfilmable, and this is one of them.
I'm still not entirely sure I liked it, per se, though I respect what Burgess was trying to do with it more so now that I've made all those connections.
Pontypool Changes Everything
And now I think it's even more of a vertical-market book than I did originally; it's not for semioticians, it's not for zombie fans, it's for semiotician zombie fans. There can't be all that many of those around. Nov 10, Brendan rated it really liked it Shelves: Somewhere in Northern Ontario, near a town called Pontypool, a rabies-like virus has made the jump from biological threat to meme, riding existing sounds from one person to the next and driving them mad.
The poor bastards who get infected first lose touch with reality, and then, in frustration, they attack the people around them in a horrorshow of gore and sudden violence. But before they become violent, they spend a lot of time walking around, speaking words that are more or less nonsense, but Somewhere in Northern Ontario, near a town called Pontypool, a rabies-like virus has made the jump from biological threat to meme, riding existing sounds from one person to the next and driving them mad.
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But before they become violent, they spend a lot of time walking around, speaking words that are more or less nonsense, but carry the same infectious meme that overwhelmed them.
Oh, in case I'm being too cryptic, they're zombies. It's a compelling read, but a challenging one. A few thoughts: The book tells the story of the outbreak from a variety of viewpoints, following several different characters as they descend down the rabbit hole of the disease, then shifting to the omniscient narrator to provide rapid-fire descriptions of the wide-spread ramifications of the outbreak.
Burgess' writing style employs a deep vocabulary and a sudden brutality that serves the mesmerizing nature of the story and the disease well. It also uses a free-wheeling narrative style that's pretty disconcerting and difficult to follow.
I understand this to be the idea that the book's story is breaking down in sense the same way the zombies' minds are breaking down. One of the driving horrors of the book is the invisibility of the disease -- there are several characters whom we suspect are infected, but may in fact just have gone mad in a kind of contact high.
Some of the events toward the end of the book are so bizarre that it's difficult to tell what we're supposed to make of them: If so, not enough explanation.Trippy, unnerving horror. A broader look at I was amazed at the film, Pontypool. I was interested in novel because it was written by Burgess who also wrote th I discovered this novel from watching the film based loosely on the novel.
Readers Also Enjoyed. I wish I had the words to tell you how wonderful this book really is. I have to applaud Burgess for having the vision to try something so unconventional as Pontypool Changes Everything.