Saturday, May 5, 2012

False Memory: Chapter 9, pp. 53-58

Then, after building so much tension as Martie and Susan approach Dr. Mark Ahriman's office, he suddenly breaks it when they and why not?  Throwing a curve ball is a perfectly good literary technique and keeps readers guessing.  Dr. Ahriman is tall, handsome, athletic and very professional.  He exudes "affability, genuine interest in people, and relaxed self-confidence."  He is also a celebrity therapist with best-selling books. Susan goes into his office, undisturbed by his huge picture window.  Martie talks with him, and he seems entirely compassionate and professional, saying the sort of things you would expect a psychiatrist to say, assuring Martie that even if Susan is getting worse, it may just mean she is on the verge of a breakthrough, and telling Martie how valuable her friendship is to Susan.  If anything about the scene seems creepy, it is perhaps that Ahriman is too calming and too reassuring.  But on the whole, he calms and reassures the audience as well as Martie and Susan.

Koontz introduces two clues which do not seem sinister now, but turn out to be altogether relevant to the story later on.  There is a main reception area and waiting room when they come in, but down the hall, outside Ahriman's office is a second waiting room with a door directly to the corridor outside the office suite.  This arrangement ensured privacy for anyone accompanying patients to the office, so that they do not run into other patients or their companions.  It also, as we discover, allows Ahriman to step out of his office and bring people in the waiting room under his control without being observed.  Jennifer, the receptionist, gives Martie coffee and a biscotto.  The coffee is excellent.  It is also the perfect opportunity to drug unwary non-patients.  But we only learn any of this later.

Next comes a sequence that is a perfect clue for a generic brainwashing and mind control novel, but just doesn't fit the premises of this brainwashing and mind control novel.  It creates yet more clues that are never explained and (perhaps) gives the audience too many clues, too early as to what is going on.  Once again, I will have to quote it in full, with interspersed comment, to do it full justice.  Martie has brought a book with her to read while she waits.
After a while, she was able to concentrate on the book.  The writing was good.  The plot was entertaining.  The characters were colorful.  She enjoyed it.

The second waiting room was a fine place to read.  Hushed.  No windows.  No annoying background music.  No distractions.
Okay, none of this sounds particularly disturbing.  But consider what follows.
In the story, there was a doctor loved haiku, a concise form of Japanese poetry.  Tall, handsome, blessed with a mellifluous voice, he received a haiku in while he stood at a huge window, watching a storm:
Ok, so who is a tall, handsome doctor with a mellifluous voice?  And who as a huge window in his office, with a storm outside?  Of course, the novel could parallel what is really happening right now, but the coincidence seems like a bit much.
Pine wind blowing hard,
quick rain, torn windpaper
talking to itself.
 Although it is not yet apparent, this is the first introduction of haiku into the story.  Haiku turns out to be highly significant.  This haiku, however, never has any further significance and is never seen or heard again.  So what is it doing here?
Martie thought the poem was lovely.  And those succinct lines perfectly conveyed the mood of this January rain as it swept along the coast, beyond the window.  Lovely -- both the view of the storm and the words.
 Okay, this makes clear what what previously just hinted.  This scene is not a scene from the novel.  It is a real life scene.  Martie is looking out the window in Ahriman's office, at the storm outside in the here and now.
Yet the haiku also disturbed her.  It was haunting.  An ominous intent lurked beneath the beautiful images.  A sudden disquiet came over her, a sense that nothing was what it seemed to be.

What's happening to me?

She felt disoriented.  She was standing although she had no memory of having risen from her chair. And for God's sake, what was she doing here
 Clearly something is the matter.  She can't quite make out what.  She was just in Ahriman's office, and now she is in the waiting room again.  She is standing, even though she has no memory of getting up.  And something feels hostile for reasons she cannot explain. 
Then she closed her eyes, because she must relax.  She must relax.  Relax.  Have faith.

Gradually she recovered her composure.

She decided to pass the time with a book.  Books were good therapy.  You could lose yourself in a book, forget your troubles, your fear.

This particular book as especially good escape reading.  The writing was good.  The plot was entertaining.  The characters were colorful.  She enjoyed it.
 Okay.  Obviously Martie is not reading the book, although she thinks she is.  So if she is spending an hour in the waiting room twice a week and thinks she is reading a book but really is not, what is she doing?  The scene in the book, that is really a scene in reality, appears to suggest that she is actually in Dr. Ahriman's office, and that he is reciting haiku.  I can see two problems here.  Already creepy and inexplicable happenings are specifically being associated with Dr. Ahriman's office.  It is fair to ask, is Koontz getting ahead of himself, directing suspicion to Dr. Ahriman too early?  But maybe Koontz has decided that people will start suspecting the psychiatrist anyhow, so he might as well encourage them. 

The more serious problem is that he seems to be suggesting that Martie is having real memories of the time in his office, vaguely glimpsed as part of the novel she thinks she is reading.  There is only one problem here.  Never at any other time in the novel is it so much as suggested that people might have sort of ghost memories of their time under his control, disguised as scenes from a novel or anything else.  We later learn that forbidden memories can sometimes arise in the form of dreams, although not directly, but only through symbols.  Here, by contrast, she almost certainly remembers the scene exactly as it was, but is not aware that it was a real scene.  Nothing else in the novel so much as suggests that this is possible, let alone gives any explanation how it could happen.  Once again, Koontz is dropping a huge clue that is never repeated, followed up on, or explained.  Once again, what he suggests here does not seem to fit the premise of the rest of the novel.

 The good news is that we are almost to the end of the hanging clues.  Soon the clues will, indeed, be highly relevant to the story as it develops, though with a few anomalies.  The last of the big hanging clues is coming up in the next segment.

No comments:

Post a Comment