Axis Mundi Sum – D. A. Smith
A Mini Book Expo Review
Axis Mundi Sum
D. A. Smith
- Paperback: 484 pages
- Publisher: Invisible College Press, LLC (July 1, 2003)
- ISBN-10: 1931468168
- ISBN-13: 978-1931468169
Shipping within Canada & US sponsored by Invisible College Press
Brainwashing! Computer hacking! International intrigue! Psychedelic drugs! Female secret societies! Fringe science! Chinese beer! Walking corpses! The Goddess of Confusion!
Perhaps it was my heightened expectations (or perhaps I just expected something else entirely) but Axis Mundi Sum was in short, a disappointment. The plot, the characters, the style, and even the editing left me wanting more.
Without giving too much away, the novel follows several characters and several plots: from an over-worked assassin who cavorts with a legendary Chinese corpse and is visited nightly by Egyptian gods, to a group of overweight college students who plot to crash the computer systems at their school (and nearly every other academic repository in the country), to a couple of love-struck women who travel to Europe, avoiding attempts on their life at various locations, to the staff of a Los Angeles diner who are visited by beings from another dimension, to a couple disenfranchised nerds who dream of allowing everyone to discover the virtues of LSD and a girl who is brainwashed and the subsequent investigation by her best friend and a female reporter from a conspiracy magazine. Got that? Good.
Sadly, the plots (and the characters) never really hit a good stride narratively. You don’t really end up giving a shit about anyone in this book and with about 100 pages left to overcome before hitting the finish line, I started to actively dislike them. The sheer volume of characters (the hard drive crashing thread alone involves nearly ten) doesn’t allow the author to explore any of them with any kind of efficiency or depth. I think D.A. Smith might have been overwhelmed with the exposition involved in making his point. At the end of the book, however, I was left wondering if it was worth the journey. The characters aren’t particularly likeable (based on their lack of engagement with this reader), so their activities don’t come off as particularly important.
The absurdity and wackiness implied in every write-up I read about Axis Mundi Sum was there, but only scratching on the surface. Perhaps if more commitment had been made to the more off-the-wall things hinted at in the book, the novel might have been more successful (and interesting). The Vonnegut-ness of this piece wasn’t as prevalent as I thought it would be and by the time I hit the end (or perhaps sooner), I noticed myself reaching for an old, dog-eared copy of Cat’s Cradle.
As a footnote, I would also like to complain about the very haphazard editing of this novel. Several spelling mistakes were present, not to mention some layout problems that were jarring to the reader.