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I must warn you that this review contains a SPOILER. As a rule I hate reviews that contain elements that will ruin the experience for others, but in this case I must do it to try and make you understand why this book is broken. It is not a SPOILER that affects the story in any real way and you can easily read my review and have no idea where the book is going. It is just something that happens as an aside that blew my mind. If I inform you about the blatant stupidity in K-Pax II On a Beam of Light you may avoid the anger that welled up in me!
Prot is back. He is an alien that reportedly comes from a planet called K-Pax and visits Earth regularly. Once again Dr Brewer is on hand to write in his journal the events that occur with Prot's time on Earth. Prot still has the power to understand mentally ill people and animals, but this time Robert, the man in whose body Prot inhabits wants to be free. Will Robert or Prot become the dominate personality?
K-Pax II is at heart a good book. It follows on 5 years after the original with the exact same style. The first book was very good and was made into a feature film and this is perhaps why Gene Brewer decided on writing not one, but two sequels. I really enjoyed the set up of the book as an academic text about the sessions that Robert/Prot has with Dr Brewer. This gives the book an interesting structure and allows Brewer to explore Prots visit from an outsiders perspective. If the book had been told from Prots point of view, I do not think that the impact would have been as good.
I loved the central theme that ran through this book of American society waiting for the return of Prot. At the end of the previous book he promised to return in 5 years. K-Pax II opens with his return after Robert has been in a self induced coma for 5 years. The media and public have been inspired by Prot and the wonderful things he seemed to be able to do in the first book. Gene Brewer writes these books as if they actually exist in the world as academic text. By doing this Brewer is able to take the reader on a very interesting journey.
The other area of the book that works well is the psychological sessions themselves. I found that the interaction between Dr Brewer and Prot/Robert seemed very lifelike and gave a true insight into the mind of a person that may have multiple personalities. Although this book is classed as science fiction it is more a psychological mystery as you are never sure where the truth lies. By keeping Prots origins ambiguous Brewer is able to explore both real world and fantasy ideas.
So for all intents and purposes K-Pax II is not a bad book. I do have an issue with the fact that none of the characters developed enough, except for Prot/Robert. Dr Brewer is an interesting creation by the author Gene Brewer, but I do not think he is anything more than a vessel in which to discuss Prot. Prot does develop in the book, unfortunately some of the majesty and magic of the character is lost as Brewer insists in uncovering the deeper truths of the character.
I also have an issue with the structure of the book. It does not feel like a full story, but more of a stopgap between the first and third books in the series. There is no satisfactory conclusion here; instead we are left hanging in a quite cynical way waiting for the third book.
These issues would have been enough for me to make this book 3 stars as they lead to an interesting but slightly unfulfilling story. However, it is not these factors that made me dislike this book it was this
Prot character is known to be able to communicate better with the mentally ill than the doctors so when Dr Brewer asks him to look at several patients he does. One case is of a gay man who believes himself to be pregnant. Turns out that this man actually has a womb that is linked via his anus therefore he was actually pregnant. What a lot of rubbish! Would no one in a psychological hospital actually do a physical? This is meant to be a serious book which looks at serious issues. The fact that a man gives birth to a baby via his bum is not seen as shocking and is brushed under the carpet in two pages. HELLO! This does not happen and was a stupid thing for Brewer to write and then choose to ignore. It was such juxtaposition with the rest of the book that it ruined it for me. I spend the remaining 100 pages going what, what, what?
In conclusion, this book is a perfectly acceptable read that is ruined in part by some poor narrative by the author. The story is an interesting one and I liked to see the character of Robert/Prot develop from the previous book. However, the fact that the book was just filler for the third novel means that the book shoots itself in the foot again. I would recommend this to people who have read the first book, or seen the film. Try to ignore the glaring impossibility and see it for what it is flawed, but entertaining psychological science fiction.
Author: Gene Brewer
Price: amazon uk - £5.59
play.com - £5.49
2 out of 5
In a nutshell, crazy man thinks he’s an alien. Crazy doctor thinks crazy man is not really an alien but is instead a different crazy man. Lots of craziness ensues. Imagine waking up one day, with an idea for a book. Then imagine, writing the book and watching it become successful almost over night – so successful that not only does it sell a great number of copies, but the film rights are snapped up just like that. Wanting to cash in just a bit more on the success, it’s not surprising that the word “sequel” might spring to mind. K-Pax 2 is, in some ways, just K-Pax with a 2 stuck on the end. The main characters are the same – prot, Robert, Dr Brewer and family, the staff at the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute. Some of the background faces remain, and some have moved on and been replaced by new people, just as you’d expect after five years have passed. The general principles haven’t changed in the slightest - prot, back once more from a trip to K-PAX (his home planet and a far more desirable place to live than smelly old EARTH) is still claiming to be prot, the being from another world. Dr Brewer, one of the head honchos at the Institute is still intent on proving that he isn’t. This time, thought, Dr Brewer gets a bit deeper inside prot’s mind, uncovering some nasty goings on of the child abuse and murder variety. Brewer gets Robert, prot’s alter ego, to make more and more appearances, and while the first book discussed Brewer’s relationship with his father (which tied in with his treatment of prot), this one changes the focus to his son, a medical student (whose presence in turn relates to his handling of Robert). Confused? Don’t be. The book is easy to follow, I just don’t have my best writing cap on today. While the overall book isn’t bad, some aspects of the story don’t quite click. For example, though I’m not a psychologist, I do th
ink that over a course of 5 years, patients might come along who would be just as odd in their own little ways as prot. And yet, on the day he “returns” (just when he promised he would half a decade earlier), Brewer is practically sitting there waiting, with nothing to do but see to him. At times too, the book seems almost padded out, for example with tales of the Institute director’s strange wife who never goes out and who eventually dies. It just didn’t seem to fit into the story at any point, apart from providing an utterly un-connected chapter towards the end where the cremation takes place. I received this book for my birthday (hurray for Amazon wishlists and 3-for-2s at Waterstones) and read it during one of the few days I was in the UK over summer. It was an interesting read but a little disappointing because the story didn’t really seem to go anywhere. It’s well written though, and if you hadn’t read the first book, it wouldn’t really be a problem. Indeed it might be better, because the ideas wouldn’t seem so stale. The book poses a lot of questions (although many of these are duplicates of those presented in book one of the trilogy) and at the end many remain unanswered. In some ways it’s an excellent example of the problems why sequels – they just can’t generate the same excitement as originals, nor keep the momentum going. When I got to the end I did feel a bit cheated because it is so similar to the original, but that being said, I still want to read the final book in the trilogy when it’s published. Just like prot’s friends on EARTH, I ‘m starting to believe there will always be something better out there. *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*- *-*- K-Pax 2 – On A Beam Of Light by Gene Brewer RRP £6.99 272 pages Published by Bloomsbury ISBN: 0747
On a Beam of Light is Gene Brewer's brilliant sequel to K-Pax, the novel in which a man called 'prot' (rhyming with goat) claims he is a perfect being from the planet K-Pax-an idyllic world without wars, government or religion. On a Beam of Light is the tale of prot's return to earth and his plan to take some beings back with him, the next time he goes home. For Dr. Brewer, as well as for the patients who are desperate to win his favour in the hope that they might be chosen, it is a race against time, for this visit prot claims, will be his last.