Edgar…picked up a funny-looking device rather like a bar-code reader.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
‘It’s a Geiger counter. Notice how the needle doesn’t move. How would you explain that?’
‘There’s no radiation in here?’
‘There are no batteries in it.’
Books are piling up on me but Scepticism Inc. jumped the queue and I finished it in two days. (Not fast for some of you, but pretty quick for me.) It’s an easy book with loads of white space, so I shouldn’t be impressed with my new found speed-reading skills, but I don’t think that’s what made it such a quick read. I zipped through this book because it was easy.
Bo Fowler created a crazy and funny book which imagines the next century world narrated by an artifically intelligent shopping cart whose programming forces it to believe in God. The shopping cart tells about his best friend Edgar Malroy, the main character, who is the founder of Scepticism Inc., a company which takes metaphysical bets. His shops will take your money on anything you can bet on but can’t prove, such as the existence of God and since he never has to pay up he becomes the richest man in the world as religious leaders and followers alike put their money where their beliefs are and demonstrate their faith.
What makes the book so easy, though, isn’t the humorous, whimsical and entertaining writing, it’s that there’s nothing new here for me. Fowler is singing to my chior. How many times do I get to have a gratified laugh where his characters say things I would say or do things I would do before it actually becomes a bit boring? This book offers me no challenge to think new things or question my ideals. No effort other that complete mind-candy was expected of me. Alas, I think this would be true of nearly all of his readers, too. The satire is so in-your-face that it is unlikely that anyone who doesn’t share Fowler’s views will get very far in the novel and the rest of us don’t really need to read it unless we’re bored with time to kill.
There’s nothing wrong with killing time, of course. I like TV and romantic comedies (whoops, did I just say that out loud?) It’s just that I felt so empty when I was done. What had I gotten out of this? What new insight, even if only a humorous one, had I acquired? Is it worth it? There’s something compelling about being told what we already know. It strokes our ego when authors repeat back to us what we already think, but how useful is it? Is it maybe a bit dangerous to read things that make us feel smart by saying what we want to hear? Isn’t that what, for example, some presidents are famous for? Look where that’s gotten us.
It’s definitely entertaining though….