The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 11 Oct 2012
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Now on the acclaimed SF Masterworks list, D.G. Compton's extraordinary novel is a forgotten classic of British SF that exposed the pitfalls of voyeuristic entertainment decades before the likes of THE TRUMAN SHOW.
About the Author
David Guy Compton (1930-) was born in London. He is a British science fiction author who publishes SF under the name D.G. Compton. His earlier crime novels were published under 'Guy Compton', and his Gothic novels under 'Frances Lynch'. He is best known for THE CONTINUOUS KATHERINE MORTENHOE, a classic of British SF.
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Katherine Mortenhoe is in her mid-40'S and has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, something which is unheard of in the future world. The pressures are on her to play out her last days under the scrutiny of the cameras. We are presented with a world full of future social predictions; fiction generated by computers, marriage to be re-newed at five yearly intervals, a ocial unclass, and death before senescence a thing of the past. Katherine Mortenhoe, unbeknown to her, is followed through her last days by Rod, a TV presenter with cameras implanted in his retinas - the ultimate in 'Big Brother' TV filming. But his conscience about the intrusion proves too much for him, in contrast to Vincent, the TV company chief, for whom everything is allowed for the sake of great TV.
This is a novel that is both prescient and ahead of its time in terms of themes, and at the same time deserves the title of 'literary SF'. It can be a challenging read at times, but well worth the journey. Despite its obvious predictive success, it seems strangely overlooked.
The narrative takes an interesting tack in terms of point of view. Roddie’s point of view is told in first person; Katherine’s story is told in third person. The continuous Katherine is distanced, as if seen through the lens; Roddie, the voyeur, the surrogate viewer, is immediate and here. When the novel is in third person, other, minor actors sometimes become the viewpoint character, as if they are also now part of the dramatised and continuous Katherine Mortenhoe; and towards the end of the novel there is a sense that sometimes an omniscient narrator takes over, who can see everybody in, and knows everything about, the unfolding drama. These movements between types of viewpoint play with the notion of subject and audience, of watcher and watched, of voyeurism and gaze in an interesting way.
Both Katherine and Roddie are well-developed characters, and even the minor characters are filled out enough for us to understand their motivations; particularly Katherine’s husband and Roddie’s boss at NTV. I also found Compton’s writing style easy and enjoyable, with interesting turns of phrase.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The basic plot is deceptively simple. In the future medical science has cured almost everything. People only die of extreme old age and do so in a antiseptic hospice under the sweet blessings of excellent medical pharmaceuticals. Pain, suffering and grief are mostly absent from people's lives thus creating what one character calls a "suffering deficit"
Enter Katherine Mortenhoe. An ordinary middle aged woman who is diagnosed with a rare terminal illness and given just on a month to live. Certain vultures in the media decide this is too great an opportunity to be missed and want to make a reality tv show of her last days.
There are all kinds of deep and resonant ideas in this book. The moral cancer of voyeuristic tv shows, the private nature of suffering and death, the necessity of death and grief in our lives and the fundamental human dignity that even a dying person deserves. This is how I like my SF, entertaining and full of ideas.
Does that sound like words for words sake? This is very much a character driven novel and well worth the read.