By William Pauley III
Publisher: Doom Fiction
Pub. Date: August 15, 2016
Rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 5 stars
Have you ever read a brilliant piece of work but came away unsettled? That is how I felt after reading Automated Daydreaming: The Five Lives of Bricker Cablejuice. William Pauley III is clearly a brilliant writer, His words have both complexity and intimacy. They are intelligent and powerful. Yet somewhere along the beautiful sentences the sum doesn't quite equal the parts.
In Automated Daydreaming we are confronted with a grisly crime, the torture and killing a somewhat celebrated person called The Television Man. Shortly afterwards, the man accused of the crime sends the police a letter stating that the tortured man, Bricker Cablejuice, wanted these atrocities to be done to him, is not actually dead, and explains a way that one can not only verify that claim but also tap into his thoughts. The rest of the book involves the thoughts and experiences of Bricker, the five lives that he is living simultaneously, and eventually points to a very troubling possibility regarding reality.
What entails is an almost free association, psychedelic mixture of lives, thoughts, and time blended together. Other writers have done similar things, I am reminded while reading this of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and, slightly less so, Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun. Pauley's take involves a literal switching of channels that brings in focus various lives, hence the Television Man nickname. But in real life, if one switches channels too quickly it just becomes a jumble of sound and images. I think that is what happens too often here.
I am told that this book was originally five different short stories that were published previously but originally written to eventually come into existence as this novel. If that is true, it makes sense. I especially loved the segment about the mermaids and found it the most moving part of the book. Yet when the stories are placed together as one, it just doesn't equal the brilliance of the parts. I think it gets lost in the complexity of the idea.
William Pauley III is a writer to watch out for. But I think I would have preferred to read these stories separately than in this intricate but disorienting work. It is still excellent and I do recommend it, hence the wavering over 3 & 1/2 vs 4 stars. It is a challenging novel to read, which is a plus by the way, and takes a commitment despite the relatively short under 200 pages length. If one is willing to do that, it is worth the reading and, most importantly, will lead the reader to wonder what else this skillful writer can throw at us.