“The Calcutta Chromosome” by Amitav Ghosh

This was a random pick from a while ago. I picked it up because its cover is yellow – not your usual Sci Fi section black – and bought it because it mentioned something about medical mystery on its back cover. (Medical mystery novel, you say?)

It is very very good, understated, collage-y, and mocks Western science and colonialism.

At first I didn’t feel like surrendering to a very gloomy atmosphere of New York in a toxic near-future, but that’s not the only story – the stories are set in many different times and surroundings which are subtly connected, and the mode of story-telling changes all the time. There are different auctorial voices, long dialogues, reported dialogue, irreverent summaries of years of one character’s research, something that almost reads like folklore or fairytale/ghost story (and what a great ghost story it was!); and my favorite: the (partial, as she points out) reconstruction of a most crucial piece in the puzzle of this novel’s mystery by an artificial intelligence, who warns her user – and the reader – that the reconstruction might not be accurate. The story might not be accurate.

I think if someone ever challenged me on Borges’ writing being Science Fiction, an argument could be made via this book: dissolving time, dissolving identities, shadowy figures or demiurges in whose imagination everyone else exists (or doesn’t).

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