Sean Benham's debut novel, Blope, was published in September 2012.
Information about Sean Benham:
Sean Benham is a Toronto-based entertainment industry professional who has worked as an art director, graphic animator, writer and producer on everything from Emmy award-winning children's television programming to heavy metal music videos. Blope is his first novel.
Information about Blope:
Son of Satan and Grandson of the Messiah, Billy Lopez was born with a sordid lineage, an ancestry that has been veiled since birth. Now, he's a wanted man, forced to flee the only life he has ever known... and where he's headed isn't pretty.
Born into The United Prefectures of America, a colony doubling as an experiment in severe racial segregation, Billy was destined for a life of state-controlled mediocrity until he let the most benign element of his forbidden heritage slip. As a white teenager surreptitiously raised in an all-brown Prefecture, his cover has been blown. He has to leave the upper crust privileges of F Prefecture behind and make his escape into M, a dirt poor, bone white Prefecture. One that isn't listed on any map.
Forced into a harrowing new world of extreme plastic surgery, black market pornography and organized religion gone horribly awry, Billy has to keep his wits about him in order to keep his head on his neck. M Prefecture is best known for two things: cheap life and grisly death. Driven by the mix of divine and profane blood that courses through his veins, he strives to learn the truth about himself and his new surroundings, truths his sheltered upbringing kept hidden. What Billy finds out about M Prefecture is ugly. What he finds out about himself is downright disgusting.
A REVIEW OF SEAN BENHAM'S BLOPE
Sean Benham's Blope was an interesting reading experience, because it turned out to be a twisted vision about what could happen to humankind and how things could be different from what they are now.
Blope is almost like a pitch black science fiction satire about the human condition, brutal politics, bureaucracy and religion. It's definitely "something different", because certain weird scenes will remind readers of bizarro fiction (I don't remember reading anything quite like this before). Blope is pure science fiction, but in my opinion it's best to categorize this novel as a science fiction novel, which is partly bizarro fiction and alternate history.
Warning! I think that at this point it's good to mention that Blope contains plenty of disturbing material, so it can't be recommended to those faint of heart or inexperienced readers who aren't used to adult material. (In other words, Blope may not be to everybody's liking, because it contains quite a lot of disturbing and perverse material, but readers who are used to reading brutal and controversial science fiction will probably be intrigued by it.)
Blope has a subtitle "A Story of Segregation, Plastic Surgery and Religion Gone Wrong". This subtitle is a perfect short description of the novel, because all of the mentioned things can be found in the story.
Sean Benham explores several different themes in Blope and he takes an interesting look at humanity's development and future. Blope addresses such difficult and controversial themes as sexuality, pornography, perversions, plastic surgery and religion in quite an unforgettable way. Plastic surgery is taken to new heights in this novel, because it's possible to do almost anything with it: human body can be modified in every possible - and impossible - way. The author also writes about the sterilization of the population and other unsettling things (he has created a brutal vision of a world in which human life doesn't mean much and where bad things can - and will - happen to people).
In this novel's world human skin tones have been divided into 13 Chantone ranges. The darkest Chantone range is "A" and the lightest is "M", and humans are sorted by their skin colour to the 13 Prefectures (A to M). M Prefecture is the worst possible Prefecture, because life is cheap there and all kinds of things happen to people.
It's surprising how uninhibitedly Sean Benham blends a classic coming of age story with organized religion, sex, pornography, violence, death, philosophy, bureaucracy and bizarre elements. The coming of age story in this novel differs a lot from normal coming of age stories, because Billy Lopez isn't a normal human being and what happens to him is far from normal.
Here's information about the characters and also a bit of information about the plot:
Billy Lopez is an interesting character, because his lineage is more than a bit sordid. Billy's childhood is different from normal childhood and when he grows up, he has to flee from the F Prefecture to the M Prefecture (he knows nothing about the M Prefecture). His escape is eventful. When he reaches the M Prefecture, he meets all kinds of people (Clint, Mona, Dr. Timothy etc) and has to deal with several new things.
President Zhang of the Eternally Free Taiwan is a fascinating character, because he rules with an iron fist and strong will (The United States of America has been turned into The United Prefectures of America). He has made a deal with Satan and is quite happy with the results.
The sinister Dr. Timothy is also quite a character, because he is fascinated by human modification. He makes weird surgeries and experiments on several humans. He even invents drugs that are being spread among the people of M Prefecture - it results in moral decline and loss of inhibitions.
Jonathan Wright is an interesting character, because he gives into his desires and begins to preach new religion which concentrates on self-gratification and pursuit of pleasure. He becomes the Black Pope and his perverse vision of God's true will gradually becomes real. His immoral and bizarre actions make him a dangerous man. When the Black Pope and Dr. Timothy begin to work together, the results are disturbingly perverse and weird.
In my opinion Sean Benham writes fascinatingly about a religion gone wrong, because religion is twisted into a new form in this book (the Four Friars, the Black Pope etc). He has used quite a lot of imagination to create a twisted new religion.
The author also writes boldly about pornography. It was intriguing to read what Billy thought about pornography when he was introduced to it.
The author's strengths lie in twisted storytelling and imagination, because Blope is full of bizarre and interesting elements. The prose could be a bit better, but the striking prose serves nicely the purpose of driving the wild and furious story forward as fast as possible.
Before I write the final sentences of this review, I'll mention that Sean Benham has lots of imagination for a debut science fiction author. Because he dares to write boldly about almost anything and isn't afraid of shocking his readers, it'll be interesting to see what he writes next.
Sean Benham's Blope is a hardboiled, perverse and disturbing science fiction novel. It can be recommended to readers who are interested in alternate history, dystopic science fiction and disturbing stories. I'm sure that this novel will be of interest to readers who enjoy brutal and fast-paced science fiction.
Interesting science fiction!