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Matt Ruff’s “Set this house in order” (german title: “Ich und die anderen") is giving his writing a new direction and will certainly endear him to an audience that dismissed him before: He leaves the science fiction and fantasy genre behind and writes a novel without dragons, without fairies, without submarines and androids – exploring a much stranger place: the human mind.
STHIO is about two people with multiple personalities, or, in current psychotherapist lingo, suffering from dissociative identity disorder. One of them – Andrew, the narrator – is in therapy, but he is content with having multiple personalities. One of his personalities has been assigned “housekeeper", keeping the others at bay and assigning each soul its share of “body time". The other – Penny – is still unaware of the fact that she’s multiple, and suffers from frequent blackouts when other souls take over.
The meeting with Penny prompts Andrew to further investigate his past and find out more about the cause for his multiple personalities. A nervous breakdown sends both of them on the road from Seattle to Michigan, Andrew’s home, in order to finally settle the accounts and “set this house in order".
The book is extremely well written, and Matt Ruff certainly has a knack for telling complex storylines while causing a minimum of confusion. The portrayal of the two bodies with their numerous souls, each with its own unique character, is very sympathetic, and more often than not with a tongue in cheek. As regards realism, the author himself describes the book as a kind of what-if scenario: What would it be like if multiple personalities worked in such and such a way?
I found the book thoroughly enjoyable. Many thanks to my uncle Peter, who gave it to me for christmas; he did a very good job when picking this book.
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