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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Bodies of Summer

Martin Felipe Castagnet

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To purchase Bodies of Summer

Title: Bodies of Summer
Author: Martin Felipe Castagnet
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 105 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Bodies of Summer - US
Los cuerpos del verano - US
Bodies of Summer - UK
Bodies of Summer - Canada
Les corps de l'été - France
  • Spanish title: Los cuerpos del verano
  • Translated by Frances Riddle

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Our Assessment:

B : quite nicely done futuristic vision

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Clarín . 25/3/2013 Diego De Angelis
Irish Times . 25/2/2017 Fred Sculthorp
World Lit. Today . 5-8/2017 J. David Osborne

  From the Reviews:
  • "Despojada de parafernalia tecno-científica, ni exagerada afectación, la escritura de Castagnet nos conduce suavemente hacia un infierno probable, desolador. En apariencia, sin alternativa posible. De todas formas, como un despiadado alegorista, nos presenta una utopía perversa, pero para significar con mayor potencia el espacio no iluminado por el desbordante reflejo de los monitores." - Diego De Angelis, Clarín

  • "Author Martin Felipe Castagnetís speculative idea is funny, absurd and intelligent. (...) (A) worthwhile and considerate take on the failure of technology to liberate us. A relevant and thoughtful debut from the up-and-coming Latin American author." - Fred Sculthorp, Irish Times

  • "The ability to place your consciousness into a new body, a new sex, a new race is ripe for investigation, and Castagnet writes through those rabbit holes with deft, spare prose that borders on the laconic. (...) The novel raises questions on every page, questions of race and gender and sexuality and propriety. It moves quickly, and itís very well written, but under all that pressure and heat there seems to be something of a shrug." - J. David Osborne, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Bodies of Summer is set in a future where immortality of sorts has been achieved: upon death, it is (generally) possible to put a person's mind into 'flotation' -- essentially uploading it onto what has become a greatly expanded version of the internet, as flotation is: "the maintenance of brain activity inside an information system". Beyond that, it is possible to take a mind out of flotation and re-implant -- 'burn' it -- into a new body, when one becomes available. Technological advances have helped in body-upkeep and repair as well, to the point where: "Every body has an average life span of three inhabitants until it finally deteriorates".
       The hive-mind exists, a vast connected internet-space where it is possible to live virtually (but, of course, not physically). Some, like the narrator's daughter Vera, opt to stay there, while his son Teo is one of the few who chose not to join in any part of this; they are 'alive' in very different forms here. The narrator, Ramiro Olivaires was actually one of the first to go into flotation -- and he took his time, many decades, before now finally trying out physical form again.
       His family could only afford the body of an older, overweight woman -- not quite what he had been used to -- but at least it allowed him to live in human form again, many decades after his first physical death. He moves in with his grandson, Wales, and wife, September, and their two children; Teo also lives in the household, but his mind is already pretty far gone,
       Bodies of Summer is a speculative novel of a future in which immortality is possible. Short and moving along at good clip in short sub-chapters, it is mostly a domestic story, Castagnet using the extended family (plus the presence of a helper, Cuzco, who offers yet another example of the choices people can make in this new world) to present many of the issues arising from this new state of human affairs. Ramiro also helpfully summarizes some of the changes that have (and haven't) resulted in the world at large, and following him as he adapts to the new world offers additional insights. Other connections between past and future are also explored: conveniently, a relative from his wife's second marriage lives nearby, and while he can't take up a position at the architectural firm he helped found (though it still exists) Ramiro does find employment (that neatly ties together past and present).
       The household alone covers a lot of this new territory: Teo is an example of familiar old-time decline and mortality, while his sister functions as a purely virtual presence. The roots of Wales and September's marital problems are ultimately revealed, adding yet anther identity-issue to the mix. Meanwhile, their kids eventually perhaps take the concept of immortality too lightly but: (almost) no harm done, since bodies are replaceable ..... And, above all, there are Ramiro's own adaptation issues (which includes the difficulty of weaning himself from being completely connected to the internet, as he was in flotation)..
       Adding a bit of mystery is why Ramiro chose to take on bodily form, as he has questions that have been gnawing at him all this long time -- specifically about his wife, and a betrayal by his former best friend. It is these two he is seeking -- with the confrontations with his former best friend the significant action in the novel.
       This is a world where:

Death still exists; what has disappeared is the certainty that everything will end sooner or later.
       Via Ramiro, Castagnet navigates it well -- including cleverly tying in the past, with Ramiro going to work for a 'cybernetic archaeologist', whose focus is on what has been lost: the deleted articles on Wikipedia ("more important than the ones that weren't"), or information that now only someone alive in Ramiro's time still has:
Can you tell me the difference between a Betamax and a VHS ? What sound did the first modems make ? Can you explain exactly what a .gif was ?
       All in all it makes for an enjoyable piece of speculative fiction, presenting a great variety of issues raised by Castagnet's premise of a world with limited death and the possibility of continued incorporeal (and, with a bit more effort, corporeal -- but, significantly, not in your old familiar corpus) 'life'. Castagnet does a good job of presenting this world and these issues without bogging down in the philosophical -- or trying to be too all-encompassing with his world-describing: the issues are apparent, and there is some discussion, but Castagnet does not force them -- or his opinion of them -- on the reader, who is left to come to his/her own conclusions: 'speculative' fiction as it should be (i.e. without too easy answers spelled out for the reader). There's also quite a lot of story here -- much of it relatively low-key and domestic, but interesting nevertheless.
       An enjoyable little read, thought-nudging more than truly pushily provoking (and all the better for it).

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 January 2017

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Bodies of Summer: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentine author Martin Felipe Castagnet was born in 1986.

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© 2017-2021 the complete review

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