John Reyer Afamasaga’s “WIPE” is the story of the video game named WIPE whose players’ thoughts are able to self-create the game while it is played. While WIPE acts like a virus, it also becomes a worldwide phenomenon and draws people together from across the globe in its fantastic power to entice people with its possibilities.
The process of how WIPE works is described in the novel in reference to the character Kevin and how he helps to create the game:
He has some sort of vibe that WIPE feels and then it takes his idea and makes the level…It’s a chemical imbalance that is an ideal incubator for ideas. His brain activity equals the sum of neurons it takes to compose a file size recognizable by WIPE’s compiler, which it uploads through the controls and uses as the template for the rhythm of the logarithm, which then populates the base of the program, giving it its beginning, end, parameters and eventually its level.
While WIPE the video game is at the center of the novel, the theme is also about the power of the human mind and the ability to turn a dream into reality.
The novel centers around three characters, beginning with the children, Polina Rada, an orphan in Russia, and her London pen pal, Alexvale Rokov III. Polina and Alexvale are not players of WIPE, but they are responsible for its creation. John Page is a player who has the opportunity to win in the online phenomenon that is WIPE as he finds insight into how it works. Meanwhile, the world’s largest video game manufacturers compete to discover who created WIPE.
The plot is somewhat convoluted, and as I stated when I reviewed Afamasaga’s novel “Illicit Blade of Grass,” the author is demanding of his reader’s close attention. Reading Afamasaga’s novels is often like being in a maze or being intoxicated by language. I find myself getting caught up in his writing style, enjoying the rhythm of his words, only to find the lyrical and hyperbolic style has distracted me from the plot. But the joy of the writing style is worth the distraction. Afamasaga is extremely fond of rhythm and repetitive sounds. He has stated in interviews that his writing is influenced by techno music, which he references in “WIPE.” He refers to his genre as Emotional-Techno (ET Fiction). Here are a few examples of his use of rhythm and repetition in the novel:
GEE-LEEZ’s ritual hexes the sexes.
L-SOMASTIC, the 23-year old-nurse in South Africa, advances with her needle dripping with techno, technically enhancing the fruit from the funk of sweating and bodies grinded.
…the passersby stop passing by to watch…
Afamasaga is equally good with humor and metaphor. More than once I found myself laughing out-loud. The fast-paced energy of his humor reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut’s style. Again, here are a few examples:
Also involved are three respectable businessmen who can be traced to narcotics in the Golden Triangle and the trade in humans across the former USSR, London, and Asia.
On the ceiling-high screen, the nurse and her needle walk the slippery floors of a hallway in a hospital for insane billionaires who have seen the silver-spoon spaceship.
In talking about the language, I realize I have been distracted from discussing the plot. Afamasaga’s plots are highly original while relying on metafiction and intertextual techniques. His characters appear in multiple novels, although the books do not read as a chronological series. Notably, the LMLA-ink group (LMLA stands for Lazoo, Metofeaz, Le Mac, and Afamasaga) makes several appearances, and note that Afamasaga writes himself in as a character.
Afamasaga enjoys playing with the borderline between fiction and reality. Suspension of disbelief is a must-have for his reader, and just when the reader may start to think the book is an unsolvable maze, its humorous lyrical lines and fast-moving plot about to cross the threshold into a nonsensical Alice in Wonderland world, the author steps in to remind us he is in control and playing a game with us. At one point, he intrudes into the storyline to tell us he has decided to change the margins and font of the book when he is going to write a conversation:
As they eat, the following is worthy of special formatting techniques, like the one used to present the same idea for those who prescribe on celluloid to enhance a vision. This format will be used again during the course of events as the scribbler sees fit.
At other times, Afamasaga considers the possibilities of what another creator might do with his storyline:
If Tarantino were to recognize the riff, he would send Samuel L Jackson with his fucking fro, complete with a bible chapter in a dialogued verse...
I am not a fan of most postmodern writers. I often feel their attempts to play with the reader reflect some insecure need to prove how clever they are, and in the process, they forget the real job of the writer—to entertain. I do not have that issue with Afamasaga’s work. I may occasionally find myself confused, but I am never bored. I never, as with other authors, have felt the need to tell Afamasaga, “Shut up with all the mechanics about novel writing and get on with the story.” While his theme or purpose is not always crystal clear to the reader, Afamasaga is definitely one who enjoys words, writing not because he tries to be clever, but simply because he has so much fun—the sheer easy flow of many humorous passages reflects how much he enjoys his craft and how diligently he has worked to craft his words into ironic humor that flows effortlessly.
If anything is lacking in Afamasaga’s writing, it may be descriptive character development, and yet, he labels his writing “emotional-techno” fiction—intended to create an emotion in the reader. He easily creates the feeling of humor in his reader, but he can also make us feel something deeper: “From a place without any reference of being wanted, she recalls the way he made her believe in a home, a mom, and a dad.” The moment of feeling is quick, like a sad note in a joyful song, but it has its affect. As Afamasaga continues to develop his craft, I will be interested to see if his works come to create a significant catharsis in his readers—something I have no doubt he will learn to play with to his advantage.
I previously suggested “Illicit Blade of Grass” was a good starting point for reading Afamasaga’s works, largely because of its short length. However, I enjoyed “WIPE” even more both for its greater accessibility and its humor. I recommend the reader visit www.etfiction.com to download “WIPE” and Afamasaga’s other novels for free. The website includes several additional resources including a timeline of the novels’ events, press releases and reviews, and the intended development of future books that will compose this intertextual, fictional maze. Never before have I seen anything like these novels. I doubt you have either.
- Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. and author of “The Marquette Trilogy”
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