Member by Michael Cisco. Book review

Member by Michael Cisco, Chômu Press, p/b, £12.50, Website

Reviewed by Dave Brzeski

Were I confident that this review would only be read by those already familiar with Michael Cisco’s work, then I would simply say that it’s a Michael Cisco book. No further information would be needed. Michael Cisco is unique and comparisons with any other author seem somehow trite.

This, of course would be of no help whatsoever to those who aren’t familiar with the author’s work. Comparisons will have to be made, to at least give some idea of the book. So, here goes…

I was reminded at various stages of several works, which border on the surreal: Alice in Wonderland, The Yellow Submarine, the works of Franz Kafka.

Like Celebrant, which I previously reviewed, Member involves a quest of sorts. The narrator, who is named Thanks, is an outsider. He doesn’t fit in with modern society and doesn’t want to. He’d rather be left alone. On one of his night time walks (carefully timed with the purpose of minimising any human interaction) he accidentally finds himself in possession of a bag, which contains a dimensional portal. He finds himself in the position of a courier in a cosmic game he doesn’t understand. He’s not alone there. The reader is definitely going to be confused, but they will also be fascinated. I’ve never come across another author who can tell such a complex, weird, confusing story, and yet still make it a page-turner. Somehow, Michael Cisco’s prose is so easy to read that you find yourself simply pulled along in this peculiar dream-like world, where no one will actually tell Thanks what, why, where, or to whom the contents of his bag should be delivered.

There’s a useful glossary at the back, which as often seems to be the case, would have proved more useful had I realised it was there while I was actually reading the book. I’ll quote one entry from that glossary here…

Chorncendantra—the current phase of the cosmic game originating on the artificial planetary system; the game is played by two arbitrarily determined teams across many planets. Chorncendantra is the universal systemmechanism. It is the human game.

Weird, thought-provoking, fascinating, but delicious. If Michael Cisco was a restaurant, he’d be The Fat Duck.