Moron by Alan Johnson – review

Some visitors arrive in this village dressed in coloured clothing and carrying a cane. (I know this because they’re not real, of course.) Some of the people who live in this village dress in their brightest clothes and carry no cane, but no one says anything. They may be giants who show up to carry loads, or maybe they’re suicidal.

This scene might be the end of this book, except that a robot wanders by the book and writes about people, places, things, and metaphors.

Some of the phrases in this book are funny (the robot could write “Humor Monkey”), or interesting (two people fly over a tree-line in a toy helicopter, a tree trunks “Herchoid”), or sad (when the two people try to tell the people what happens when they burn a tree and the robots lead them away screaming. The robot’s voice turns into I-penny and draws the people away from the tree in tears. The people then ignore each other until they are back in the tree. The narrator points out that all those people are going to burn every tree on the forested tract they are working on – except the one that houses the robots, the only tree on the forested tract that gets blown away.

Some of the sentences are fairly exciting (sans robots): “when two people get tangled up in each other’s chain,” “in the end, only one man survives the sequence,” “it is by believing in the impossible that we triumph,” “a lot of people would get the idea that anyone wearing bright clothes and carrying a cane is trying to kill them.”

If I hadn’t known that this book was not a true story, I would have assumed that the narrator was told all the sentence fragments and might have changed things here and there in order to fit the truth of the book. If I knew this, I might have been tempted to wonder why the robots could not only come to life, but also write books, radio plays, or something else absurd and wonderful.

As written here, however, the sentences in this book make no sense at all, and it may not be possible to understand anything that’s said here, or what may be said here at all. Because a robot had just written this book, it was possible to come up with all sorts of new, unreadable phrases for its characters to say and phrases for its robots to write. The purpose of this book is to help people learn how to write, not just to make them know how to use as few words as possible to fit a point, and like all good words, the words here are “probbleme” (lame), “nonum” (hopeless) and “out” (a remark so lame that you wonder why anyone would think of using it).

If you’re looking for a story about aliens, a man chained to his chair, and a half-buried body, I suggest you look elsewhere. If you’re looking for intelligent machines, best you don’t look here, but at, where you can see how close to scientifically average machines really are (although knowing the type and quality of machines on the commercial fiction list is usually more informative than reading fiction about really smart robots). If you’re looking for a book about robots and their roles in our lives, try out The Lorax instead.

I found this book to be kind of rubbish, and I’m sure you will as well. Reading this book was a waste of your time and other people’s money.

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