Self Aware? Not really.
‘A Character in Reality’ begins with Robert Gladstone, a fictional detective who becomes self-aware. He realizes that his actions are controlled by a narrator. He starts to communicate with the narrator and enters the real world. The story follows his journey in the real world as he struggles to get used to alien concepts such as liberty, and unrestrained human emotion.
The writing is lucid and is often crisp with a distinct lack of desire to be descriptive and verbose. While this makes the story relatively easy to follow, the relative minimalism in the work is hampered by significant flaws. At several points in the narrative, the first word which springs to mind is ‘superficial’. The lack of character development makes the driving motives of several characters extremely sketchy. The narrator in the story, rather ironically comes across as a rather unimaginative, incompetent author who conveniently swing from compassion to abject selfishness on an ad hoc basis.
His monolithic plot lines seem to leave no space for normal emotional interactions, which conveniently places Robert Gladstone in a position where he is forced to confront unrestrained human emotion for the first time. Even if this were overlooked, the subsequent experiments with human emotion come across as wooden and forced. At several points, there are missed opportunities to develop incidents into a thoughtful exploration of the issues covered. The point at which Gladstone confronts the narrator, threatening to kill him if he doesn’t reflect and the subsequent reconciliation take place over the course of a mere paragraph or two, merely highlighting the superficiality of the narrative, rather than the minimalist approach.
The latter half of the book seeks to incorporate issues related to immigrant rights, and the plot shifts to an election cycle where the legal status of Robert becomes the most significant issue. This portion largely suffers from the superficiality which carries over from the previous half and comes across as a half-hearted attempt to incorporate a pressing real-world issue into the narrative. The author deals with the sensitive issues of the partisan divide and immigrant rights in a highly reductionist manner, playing up traditional dichotomies without ever furthering the plot convincingly.
A Character in Reality struggles with a lucid narrative that fails to adequately capture the essence of self-awareness. There are several interesting plot lines, which aren’t developed. It largely feels like a missed opportunity. A little more character development coupled with a coherent plot line would have gone a long way towards making Nicholas Bridgman’s book an excellent read.