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From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain
Minister Faust
Del Rey, 392 pages

From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain
Minister Faust
Minister Faust (aka Malcolm Azania) is an Edmonton public school teacher, union activist, novelist, community organizer and public broadcaster (CJSR and CBC). He has taught English and Social Studies in Edmonton junior and senior high schools since 1994, most recently at Harry Ainlay Composite High.

Minister Faust Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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Once the final battle has been won, and the villains have all been defeated, what is left for a super-hero to do? Time to confront all the neuroses, character flaws, and relationship problems covered up by a lifetime of chasing bad guys and saving the world. At least that's what Omnipotent Man, The Flying Squirrel, Iron Lass, X-Man, The Brotherfly and Power Grrrl discover as they gather for a group therapy session with Eva Brain-Silverman, better known to the world as Dr. Brain.

Soon the super-heros are getting in touch with their true feelings and acting out their traumas in private psycho-dramas. Things are going fairly well when real life intrudes. Hawk King, the greatest of them all, and leader of the Fantastic Order of Justice, is dead. Amidst suspicions of murder, a power struggle breaks out over the question of who will succeed Hawk King. Fearing that the positive effects of her therapy will be lost, Dr. Brain follows her patients as they battle each other while confronting their own problems and the possibility that evil has not been vanquished after all.

That's just the beginning of From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain; from there, things get more and more complicated. And funny. The world of Dr. Brain is a pastiche of our own and the comic book world where heros and villains slug it out in the streets, and accidents of place and/or genetics can endow mere mortals with god-like powers, for good and bad. Minister Faust uses this world and the observations of Dr. Brain to unleash a whirlwind of jokes, satire, obscure pop references, devastating cultural analysis and prose poetry that never lets up from beginning to end.

As readers of Faust's previous novel, The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad might suspect, there's a darker story lurking underneath all the comic book violence and plot twists. Super-heros are, in one sense, an embodiment of the ideals and fears of the culture that creates them. As Dr. Brain delves into the hidden psyches of her patients, she also exposes the darker trends of a society that both values honesty and courage and indulges in racism and hate. Then, just as the reader is absorbing these lessons, the book's ending sets up a scenario that gives new meaning to the word paranoia.

One trend continues with From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, Minister Faust is following no one's lead but his own. Coyote Kings and Dr. Brain are wholly original in their style and use of the traditions of SF and pop culture. Like Coyote King, Dr. Brain uses humor and insight to expose an underlying horror, the horror all the worse for the comparison. The jokes and commentary are fast, funny, and furious. This is political and cultural satire of the highest sort, and Faust is earning a place among the masters of the craft. Read, laugh, wonder, and worry.

Copyright © 2007 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson has come to the conclusion that gaining super-powers is just plain more trouble than it's worth. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.


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