House of Apollo

By Maxwell Olin Massa

$16.00

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Description

If you could know exactly how and when calamity would strike, would you want to? And more importantly, would you tell your insurance company? What if it was something smaller, like the next time you were going to get a bad case of athlete’s foot… would you let them know then?

In House of Apollo, they already know. The actuaries have won: Big Data predicts it all. At Longshot Insurance, it’s been years since the last claim, and HR has happily eliminated every department but Marketing. But fate cannot be so easily conquered, and when a priest in this temple of rationality meets his Dionysian match, comic chaos ensues.

Like a thought experiment where Orwell drinks with Bukowski and Mervyn Peake transcribes, this novel of ideas is anything but predictable.

Maxwell Massa spent five years in China (including a year-long stint as a Mandarin TV star), only to return to the U.S. and find that — surprise! — intellectualism isn’t really a thing here.

Read the beginning and get your appetite good at whetted.

BOOK DETAILS

ISBN: 978-1-7329596-4-4

Publication date: 21 January 2020

Paperback price: 16

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

For those who haven't seen it, 'Brazil' has been described as '1984 on Acid' and thus is a better comparison to this book than 1984 itself. A strange little story about an office drone on the cusp of climbing the ladder whose chase for perfection falls into complete disarray when he meets chaos personified.

There is a classical or Greek sensibility to it all, the rich language, the social machinations and perhaps my own take on what the actual house of Apollo really is. Allegorically the house of Apollo would be Olympus, my interpretation of the Longshot building. The characters are gods compared to the faceless sheep far below, whose lives they scrutinize with the magic oracle of Big Data.

As in The Unincorporated Man, I get the sense that the sheep do not even own themselves, and we've entered the end-game where the Olympian gods are struggling among themselves for supremacy. One of the strangest things about this book is that we lack either a 1984-style Savage or the Kollin's Justin Cord to provide perspective. There is no outside perspective. There is no one remotely normal or sane. This is the House of Apollo rising from the ashes of the free market.

– Ender Wiggin

House of Apollo is a novel that defies easy explanation and superficial understanding. It follows the story of Caleb, a loyal employee of an insurance company named Longshot that has developed the capability to predict events with such accuracy that customers are never able to collect on their insurance policies. However, against all odds, a claimant has emerged and seeks to collect. How will Caleb rid Longshot of this inconvenience?

However, as its title suggests, House of Apollo is focused on much more than bureaucratic trivialities. It asks us to consider a single key question: what is the proper balance between Apollonian predictability and Dionysian spontaneity in the conduct of human affairs? In addition to the intellectual forebears named by the author in the acknowledgements section, I felt that the novel was also in conversation with Foucault. But where Foucault charted the historical introduction of order to processes such as penal discipline and medical diagnosis, Massa constructs a near-future scenario to ask whether we've gone too far in that regard.

Through an escalating series of clashes between order and chaos, punctuated by some truly excellent poetry, House of Apollo invites us to consider the strengths of each of these diametrically opposed modes of operation, as well as how the respective weaknesses of each might be tempered by the strengths of its counterpart.

Given its single-minded pursuit of this key question, it is to be expected that House of Apollo is in many ways not a typical novel. The author has eschewed traditional world building, such as any discussion of the world outside of Longshot or the course of history that has led to its existence. The characters are also given little in the way of backstory, and sometimes feel like blunt instruments created for the author's philosophical purpose.

However, the goal of House of Apollo is not to create a world in which the reader can live, but rather to inform how we live in the here and now. Read from this perspective and with careful contemplation, House of Apollo shines as a work of philosophy. I'm hoping to see much more from this emerging author in the coming years.

– Dana Lutenegger