In 1973, affection-starved Jennifer Several takes two lovers: Judd Axelrod, shy prepubescent son of a Hollywood starlet, and Joel Kluge, an ex-Hasidic math genius. As Judd becomes a supernaturally gifted gambler, escaping the bungling of his psychoanalyst, Joel's search for meaning leads him to create a computerized golem, to repair the world of evil. Meanwhile, in Jennifer's womb a genetic anomaly takes root--a child bearing the DNA of its two fathers. Above them all circles the serenely conscious figure of Laika, first dog in space, feeding on the outpourings of the digital age.
Habitus teems with ideas. As if in mimicry of the global village, we spark from one location to another, as the author boldly captures their essence: L.A., Cambridge, Stratford-upon-Avon, even Dachau and Sobibor. The prose leads stimulating forays into a wealth of disparate subjects, deftly illuminating their connections. There's a smattering of kabbalah, some advanced mathematics, even a tract on gambling. Unfortunately, this often occurs at the expense of story. Complex scientific segues frequently force us to disengage and switch drives from "audience" to "student," just as we begin to care about Flint's characters. A book with humor and heart, certainly, but one slightly too concerned about proving its cleverness. --Matthew Baylis, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
British writer Flint's first book is an allegorical meditation on the nexus of flesh and machine, an eclectic essay on math, physics and Kabbalah--and only secondarily a novel. It abounds with gorgeous panoramic prose, yet totters irritatingly through self-conscious metaphors in service to the author's grand theme. As the forgotten space dog Laika orbits the earth, peeking in and out of the text, aware of humanity via electronic transmissions, a grotesque drama unfolds in England. Thirteen-year-old Jennifer, conceived when her brain-dead mother was raped in a mental hospital, and now living with her mother's husband in Stratford-upon-Avon, discovers she has a precocious interest in sex. Separately impregnated by Joel, a savant mathematician and Kabbalist Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, and 10-year-old Judd, child of an English actress and an African-American computer salesman, Jennifer carries Emma, a child with two fathers, for two years. When the baby is born with a double heart and various other abnormalities, she is taken away from Jennifer. Though isolated in a hospital ward, Emma, like Laika, is psychically connected to the outer world, and she manipulates her three parents from afar, years later engineering her rescue by Jennifer. Meanwhile, Joel searches the world for the mystic underpinnings of apparent chaos, believing that if he collects enough data he can explain the Holocaust, and Judd nurtures a talent for gambling. Though masses of data on cybernetics, chaos theory and cellular biology flesh out Flint's intriguing if arcane theories, they often disrupt the narrative. There are too many grand epiphanies for the story to bear with credibility; the narrative hemorrhages at last into an apocalyptic finale, which is too easy, too broad a cap for such an elaborate edifice. Nonetheless, this highly unusual novel has a certain undeniable sweep and a muffled aura of significance.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.