Friday, May 25, 2018

Five unforgettable prisons in science fiction and fantasy

Corey J. White is a writer of science-fiction, horror, and other, harder to define stories. He is the author of The VoidWitch Saga, containing Killing Gravity and Void Black Shadow. One of five unforgettable prisons in science fiction and fantasy that he tagged at
Camp Concentration, Thomas Disch

You could be excused for thinking that the title of Thomas Disch’s 1968 novel is a simple play on the term ‘concentration camp,’ but delve into the book and you’ll find it’s not as simple as that. Locked up at a subterranean prison called Camp Archimedes, Louis Sacchetti is tasked with monitoring an experimental program whereby inmates are infected with a strain of syphilis designed to break down mental walls and provide genius-level intellect. Similar to Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night, Camp Concentration uses the device of journal entries to tell its story, but where Vonnegut’s novel follows a free man who many consider a war criminal, Camp Concentration is the story of a writer imprisoned as a conscientious objector to an unpopular war.

While much of Sacchetti’s journal chronicles his efforts to hold onto his sense of self while in prison, he also details the actions and aspirations of the other prisoners, and even the staff of Camp Archimedes. Some of the prisoners use their newly-gifted intelligence to re-examine alchemical theories abandoned centuries earlier, but their objectives seem to pale in comparison to one of the warders whose goal is nothing less than the destruction of the entire human race.

It’s a dryly and darkly funny book, filled with references to Dante’s Inferno, Faust, the Bible, the operas of Wagner, and much more, with the pomp and prestige of these works standing juxtaposed against the depressing grimness of the prison’s underground setting.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue