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(Some cut and paste from my film review on account of laziness)
The premise of this book is simple enough. Prot is picked up by the police at Grand Central Station after an old woman is robbed and based on his reactions taken to the Manhattan Psychiatric Centre. He states that he is from another planet - specifically the planet 'K-PAX'.
The rest of the book is based around his time in the psych centre and his relationship with the various residents and staff there. We are taken on an emotional and revelatory journey as Dr Powell tries to cure him of his delusion. There is no definite indication of whether Prot is delusional or actually from another planet so you the reader are left to decide for yourself which view you find more convincing (or which you enjoy more). Prot is a delightful character, full of gentle kindness and very innocent. I think it's for this reason that I personally prefer the alien theory - I don't want to spoil a perfect being by making him simply an unwell man.
If you've seen the film this book will be very rewarding (although you mayl find yourself thinking the Prot bits in a Kevin Spacey voice) as it goes into a lot more depth and has many more unexplainable mad/alien moments. The various characters in the book are interesting and I found myself caring a lot about what was happening in relation to some relatively minor people. Although there isn't a lot of suspense here, the story is more than interesting enough that I went through the book very rapidly indeed, and everyone I've forced into reading it has very much enjoyed it too.
K-PAX is a book that defies prediction while tempting it on every page. I think that is why the book is so impossible to put down and ultimately so satisfying to finish. When I first read K-PAX it had already been given two follow ups, I see that Gene Brewer has written a fourth though the first was always the best so I don't expect much fanfare for the new book.
K-PAX presents the case notes of psychiatris, Dr. "Brewer" (named after the author) as he attempts to discover the secrets of a patient who believes himself to be an alien. Brewer is also compelled to work to a deadline as the alien, "prot" claims he will soon be leaving the planet. Meanwhile prot's calm and insightful manner is having an effect on the other patients.
K-PAX is at its heart, a book about insecurities and confidence. Brewer (author) has written characters that reflect our own insecurities and uses the backdrop of a hospital to magnify them. The alien, prot's unwavering self confidence providing an interesting commentary on how we define sanity. Brewer also populates his hospital with fascinating background characters, each a consideration of human psychology. Clearly inspired by Oliver Sacks' "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," the hospital is thoroughly absorbing and providing the reader a real interest in the future of each supporting character. The mark of an excellent novel.
K-PAX is highly readable, the clinical "notes" style is also warm and creative. It is also gripping from the first page to the last and highly recommended.
Do you know who you are? How do you know that your persona is actually you? How do you know that this really is Earth that we are living on? The most probable answer is that none of us can be entirely sure - of course we are all told that this is Earth and we are informed what is sane and insane, but who is really to judge what is sane and what is insane? Who are we to tell certain harmless people that they are mad and we are sane? Well of course society is the judge of that, just as society says that you are strange if you do not conform in your dress sense or way of expression - the sanity stage is just a more extreme version of a group of people's idea of what is or is not acceptable mental behaviour. In his novel K-PAX, Gene Brewer, explores the notion of sanity and the power of the mind in ways reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - K-PAX never quite hits the levels of this great book, but it is still an interesting, entertaining and thoughtful read. Prot claims to come from the planet K-PAX, woooo hang on their buster, this is a chap with mental problems - people from other worlds, no not at all, not possible, are you mad - this guy is insane. Accordingly, prot ends up at the Manhattan Institute, a small and specialist psychiatric hospital. It is there he ends up under the care of Dr. Gene Brewer a psychiatrist determined to get to the bottom of this interesting and ultimately special patient. The question is, just who is prot? He has no apparent traceable background and appears to know an awful lot of detail about this planet K-PAX that rings true, with an astronomer contact of Dr. Brewer's, knowledge and this knowledge is not available beyond a select group of astronomers. Is prot an Alien? Is prot a savant in the midst of a delusional fantasy? Is prot simply a different personality of the real man, the real man who is not an alien and is an ordinary American with severe mental problems? K-PAX is m
ore than just a journey of is prot an alien or not - in describing life on K-PAX to Dr. Brewer, prot seems to shine some light on the problems of our own world. Is religion really a force for good? Do we really need the democratic capitalist system viewed by the dominant group as the best way for societies to function? Are humans really superior to other life forms on our planet - or are they just arrogant pigs? Do humans really need to engineer so many synthetic medicines when there are countless herbs used by societies more in tune with their natural environment that do the same job? ""What about psychiatry? I suppose you are going to tell me there is no need for it on K-PAX." "Why should there be, we don't have religious, sexual or financial problems to tear us apart."" It is on religion that Brewer (the author) is most scathing: ""Then you don't believe in God?" "The idea was kicked around for a few hundred cycles, but was soon rejected." "Why?" "Why kid ourselves?" "But if it gives comfort?.." "A false hope only gives false comfort."" You just wait until he gets stuck into religious bigotry and the prejudices of one religion to another, then the exchange above just seems soft! K-PAX is written in the first person from Dr. Brewer's perspective and it has a structure that feels like a case history as written by a psychiatrist, with each chapter being a separate session with prot and the events that have surrounded that session. Whether prot is alien or not, the unique way that his mind thinks and his unique gifts soon bring benefit to the other patients as a fresh approach is tried to relieve them of their mental problems that mean they cannot function in what we call society. This structure makes K-PAX an extremely easy book to read and the ideas within the book are expressed v
ery clearly, there is no subtle message for humanity in the book, it is rammed down the reader's throats. Have an open-mind; what we perceive as correct and the truth may not be as infallible as we think; our beliefs and our perseverance by our beliefs does not make them the truth; the ridiculous may not be ridiculous but just another form of existence. Furthermore, K-PAX is an illustration of just how little we really know about the human mind and what it is capable of - as for prot and whether he is human or alien, in the end the judgment is left up to the reader. I have not got to the bottom of whether K-PAX is based on any of Gene Brewer, the author's work, I have no idea if he is a doctor, I guess this may just be another conundrum and twist to the book's plot. Is this the book that the Dr. Gene Brewer and doctor and friend of prot was intending to write? Is it based on a real life prot? Even if it is, is this just fiction? There is nothing to be gained from the answers but it is an interesting conundrum, is Gene Brewer, Gene Brewer? Who knows - but who are you? K-PAX is an easy book to read, it flows, it is carefully structured, is well written and has a powerful if unoriginal message. There is a certain off beat humour to the story and in the end the tale is uplifting, in certain ways refreshing and optimistic about humanity and the human spirit. This is a good relaxing read, with just enough to keep the mind ticking over without making it hurt - it will make the reader think about their beliefs and perceptions, which in today's bigoted world is no bad thing. There was a recent film version of this book, with Kevin Spacey cast in the role of prot - to be honest, I think the casting was perfect and I will watch the film with interest. Published by Bloomsbury paperback. ISBN: 0-7475-2547-1. 226 pages long and very easily they slip by as well. Priced: £6.99. <br>
Further details of all Bloomsbury books can be found at www.bloomsburymagazine.com. Now just don't go telling me that my young flat mate Geoffrey the mohican giraffe is just a delusional fantasy of mine.
K-Pax is, in all honesty, one of the worst books I have read. I don't just mean worst in terms of pulp-fiction, in this case it is simply the Gene Brewer's inability to write in a style that will engage with his audience. Sadly he has chosen to write a sequel to it which probably means another printer somewhere has to waste their precious ink in producing what will most likely be another 200 pages of egotistical, indoctrinating drivel. Amazingly, this book has made it as a high-profile film starring Kevin Spacey, in this case I hope the director murders the story line and comes up with something interesting. K-Pax is a novel based on a series of interviews in a psychiatric hospital with a patient calling himself 'prot' who claims to come from the planet K-Pax. Personally I wish he had stayed there. As the interviews progress it becomes more and more apparent that 'prot' is a mentally disturbed individual who suffers from either a multiple identity or is suppressing something horrendous that has occurred in the past. In the course of these interviews, the author bullies, patronises and tries to trick the subject into revealing his true character whilst lulling the audience into the false belief that something worthwhile may be about to happen in the end. As it happens there is not so much a happy ending as an uncertain finale to this novel, more of a relief than anything else but we are still left with the continuous moralising and social comment that is made even more irritating when it is surrounded by another 210 sheets of trashy, badly thought out, inadequately expressed writing. I'm guessing that the writer intended this to be some sort of satire since if there was a serious moral point lurking in the depths of his writing then he either forgot all about it and replaced it with some Freudian psychology for good measure or I'd given up with it by that time. Unfortunately this is the type of book that someone is ei
ther going to love or hate and I suspect I may be in the minority of those who didn't like it. I received this book free as part of a book-shop offer and I'm surprised they didn't pay those who took it up to remove it from their bookshelves as there is no way it would have sold otherwise. Avoid this at all costs, I don't intend to even contemplate how bad the sequel is, it was horrendous enough wasting 2hrs 30mins of my existence reading the first.
Book reviews are kind of like film reviews – hard to write. This review is possibly going to be even harder. I do not want to give away too much. I do not want to over analyse (you will soon see why) and, to make matters worse, it has been made into a film which comes to cinemas on 12 April! K-PAX is humorous sci-fi. Not really my cup of tea at all – usually. I was sent the book free as part of a promotion and in keeping with my reputation as a wordy I had to read it. I never let a book beat me and this was going to be no exception. Why did I worry? This is possibly one of the most compelling books I have read. It is almost impossible to categorise. Sci fi it certainly is, but not your usual type. Humorous? Yes, but possibly not intentionally so. Soul searching? Very much so. This is a thinking man’s book. A love story? Not in your traditional sense but yes, I think so. The story centres around prot (intentionally uncapitalised and pronounced as in vote). prot has been admitted to the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute claiming to be from the planet K-PAX. He arrived on EARTH (intentionally capitalised) on a ray of light, a journey taking 7 EARTH months, yet in his reality no time at all. He is the patient of the “author”, Dr Gene Brewer, and this book is written in the first person by Brewer, containing a mixture of his reports, transcripts of conversations and other observations. The method of writing is strangely compelling. Brewer as an author had great insight when he decided to write the book as though he were the doctor. It injects a level of believability into the story which might otherwise seem far-fetched. As we are led through the examination of prot we learn of Brewer’s disbelief of what his patient is telling him, leading Brewer to question himself and us to question both Brewer and ourselves. Many of the thoughts that are conjured up throughout the book
are created as a result of the world of K-PAX. K-PAX would be to many, the perfect world. There are no politics, no religion, crime or schooling. K-PAXIANS do not work, the family unit does not exist, the world takes care of you. With a backdrop such as this it is relatively easy to create a character that develops with almost simple naivety, yet coupled with amazing intellectual background. As Brewer seeks to analyse and to rationalise prot’s behaviour we, as the reader, are forced to question what is happening. I find myself analysing alongside Brewer – do we force people into behavioural patterns? What would happen if we didn’t? Would life be like K-PAX? Reading back over what I have just written I find that I have made the book sound confusing, almost overly intellectual. This book has really got me thinking, but it raises far more questions than answers. I do think that it is a book that can be enjoyed on all levels. You could read it, easily and unquestioningly and enjoy it for the printed word, or as you read you can think and join in the analysis of the unknown. This book could almost be made the subject of a psychology course as much of the analysis taps into well founded psychological theorems. What is almost guaranteed is that, upon reading this, you will be lead into a world that will be turned upside-down. In a way not unlike that seen in Monster’s Inc, it takes an outsider (in that case the little girl Boo) to show a system what is wrong with it (in that case scaring instead of laughter). I could analyse but out of context this would add nothing to the review. K-PAX is part of a trilogy and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next one in the series (K-PAX II on a beam of light) as soon as my husband has finished it! The third book in the series is due out this summer (K-PAX III the worlds of prot). As yet I am undecided as to whether to go and see the film. Kevin Spacey (apt
or what!) and Jeff Bridges star. The website (www.k-pax.com) is well worth the visit, but if you are going to read the book, I would do that before visiting.
Because as we will all soon learn, that’s the *only* way to travel intergallactically…. Meet prot. Nope that’s not a typo, that’s just how he spells it. Recently admitted to the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute, prot (rhymes with tote) isn’t that different from a lot of Dr Brewer’s other patients. Like many of them, he has dillusions, but rather unusually, these beliefs are shown by hypnosis be incredibly deep-seated, stretching as far back as his early childhood. In his mind, at least, prot does not come from EARTH but from a rather different planet called several light years away. K-PAX, as it’s called, seems to be the perfect world – there are no wars, no schools and no governments. With no religion and no crime, it’s a world where a range of fully evolved life forms can coexist in perfect harmony. Sounds nice, huh? With no jobs and no formal educations, K-PAXIANS are free to do whatever they want, whenever the mood takes them. With a vested interest in the universe as a whole, prot travels all over the place just as he pleases, and for this reason, has ended up on Earth. The story mainly takes the form of a report produced by Dr Brewer. There are transcripts of conversations, observations of port’s behaviour and descriptions of other patients in the hospital. Set over maybe 6 months, the book charts prot’s story, treatment and progression there. Dr Brewer believes he is severely deranged but not beyond help. Needless to say, he does not believe that his newest patient is the extra terrestrial he claims to be. Through the novel there is the date – 17th August of that year – the day on which prot claims he will return to K-PAX, and when this day arrives there is a surprise in store for staff and patients alike. The epilogue is set almost 5 years later, nearing the date on which prot claims he will return to our world. Whether or not he ever does is unclear, al
though the fact that this is only book one in the trilogy suggests something to me at least. I don’t usually read sci-fi, but this book was sent to me free from some website or other and I needed a new read, so I read it. It was pretty compelling when I got into it and at times I couldn’t I put it down – in deed, I ever forgoed (forwent?) the tempting copies of Metro one morning on the bus, favouring the chance to read this instead. All the way through, Dr Brewer is attempting to rationalise port’s behaviour, and all the way through, the reader has a hunch that a health care professional has got it wrong once more. The explanations sounds good in theory, but that doesn’t make them right. Throughout the book there are strong psychological as well as psychiatric overtones – what Freud would say about how Brewer treats prot since he sees him to be like his father is something we might have discussed at A Level has this book been real news at the time. Told mainly in the first person with only slight variations to this, the book reads like fiction most of the time, and is not as jilted and bitty as one might expect from a scientific report. It’s a good read – so simple in many ways, and yet intriguing enough in places to get the reader really thinking. *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*- *-*- K-Pax by Gene Brewer RRP £6.99 231 pages (paperback ’96 edition) Published by Bloomsbury ISBN 0747525471 Film of the book, staring Kevin Spacey, soon to be released here in the UK. More info at www.k-pax.com Final interesting fact – a search for K-Pax on Yahoo brings up a link to dooyoo.
When a man who claims to be from outer space is brought into the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute, the mental ward seems to be just the place form him. However this patient is unlike anyone Dr Gene Brewer has had to interview before. Calling himselft 'prot' (to rhyme with goat), he has no traceable background but says he is an inhabitant of the planet K-PAX, an idyllic world where there is no war or famine, and where every being coexists in harmoney. Setting a departure date - August 17th at 3:31 am - on which he plans to return home on a beam of light, 'prot' keeps us guessing right up ot the last minute.