Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Teleportation Accident: A Low-/High-Brow Romp Around The World

If you like your novels with a flavorful mix of dirty jokes, slapstick comedy, philosophy, history, and international intrigue, then Ned Beauman's The Teleportation Accident, is certainly the novel for you. It's a period piece describing 1930s Berlin. It's an American Pie-esque comedy about a dude's quest to get laid. It's a treatise on public transportation in Los Angeles. And it's a thriller about a battle to save the world from a mad scientist. It's just so much fun. I loved this book!

The plot is hard to describe —but suffice it to say, it's as inventively plotted a novel as you'll find. Don't worry, it's not too difficult to follow, but you do have to pay attention — there are a lot of moving pieces. (If you've read Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker, this novel has many similarities...but I liked this one more, actually.) The protagonist is a dude named Egon Loeser, who lives in Berlin, Germany, in the early 1930s. Loeser (loser?) is a down-on-his-luck designer of theatrical effects for plays, and is working on his masterpiece, a teleportation device that will change the scene of a stage instantly, modeled on a similar 17th century device...but that one had some tragic consequences.

Loeser soon develops a crush on a woman named Adele Hitler (no relation to the soon-to-be Fuhrer) and follows her all over the world, from Berlin to Paris to Los Angeles, to try to break his no-sex streak. Along the way, he gets caught up in with an American shyster in France, meets a bunch of scientists of varying degrees of sanity at CalTech, and falls in with a writer of popular novels whose wife may or may not be a spy. It's quite a ride, let me tell you! 

And, so, the humor — my God, the humor! It ranges from out-and-out slapstick (a scene in a Paris hotel room, where the American shyster glues some fruit to the neck of his mark, purporting it to be a trendy youth-restoring goat-testicle surgery. And then he nearly sex with her. I was crying I was laughing so hard) to witty line-by-line repartee ("He has a face like a four-year-old child's drawing of his father" or, my personal favorite, "He had a vocabulary the size of a budgerigar's...") to purported wisdom that's not really that wise, but is instead hilarious ("Love is the foolish overestimation of the minimal difference between one sexual object and another.").

When I finished this, I was shocked to find the somewhat mixed reviews of this novel. To me, this is a novel, for which, if you didn't like it, I'm not sure we can be friends. That's how much I dug it. (Just kidding — but if you didn't/don't like it, you probably have a very different sense of humor than I do.) It's one of my favorites of the year so far, and definitely a novel that deserves a wider readership. Please check it out!

(Side note: I read the e-book version of this, so I missed the flap copy. But, as someone on Goodreads pointed out, whomever wrote the following paragraph about the novel, deserves some kind of award. Fantastic! "From Ned Beauman, the author of the acclaimed Boxer, Beetle, comes a historical novel that doesn’t know what year it is; a noir novel that turns all the lights on; a romance novel that arrives drunk to dinner; a science fiction novel that can’t remember what isotope means; a stunningly inventive, exceptionally funny, dangerously unsteady and (largely) coherent novel about sex, violence, space, time, and how the best way to deal with history is to ignore it.")

3 comments:

  1. Oh no! We may no be able to be friends...so sad! Only kidding. I was not the biggest fan of this book, though I reallyreallyreally wanted to be. Maybe I'll have to reread it. FIngers crossed I just wasn't in the right mood for it. I wrote a mini review here; http://curatedbookshelves.blogspot.com/2013/05/3-short-reviews.html

    If its alright with you I'd like to put a link at the end of my blog post to your review to offer a different perspective.

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    1. Cool review - sounds, though, like for you, it was more of a reader's issue (being annoyed by a word choice and your interrupted reading) than an issue with the actual "quality" of the novel itself.

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    2. Thanks! And I'm hoping for a good reread and a different perspective on the story.

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