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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka, Stanley Corngold “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

This very effective opening sentence entirely encapsulates everything I knew about this story prior to reading it. I remember as a teenager watching a few minutes of Steven Berkoff’s televised adaptation and shortly changing the channel for some greener posture. I remember there was this bloke contorting on the floor pretending to be an insect and I just did not want to know any more.

Before I read The Metamorphosis had no idea what to expect, I thought perhaps some PKD weirdness, something surreal, probably with some kind of message. The weirdness is definitely there (though not in PKD style) and Gregor’s cavalier reaction to his transformation is quite surreal. What I did not expect though was how sad, poignant and tragic this story is. In spite of being amply bizarre, the strangeness of the situation almost seems to be beside the point. After waking up to find that he has morphed into a horrible giant insect overnight Gregor seems to take it all in stride. Not one to waste any time WTF-ing Gregor rallies like a champ and simply gets on with his insectile life. He worries more about how his situation will affect his family’s welfare than how horrifying his predicament is. What a guy. Gregory lives in a shabby apartment with his parents and a younger sister. Initially they are all sympathetic of his condition, but as time goes by and their financial position deteriorates their patience and sympathy begin to evaporate.

I don't want to elaborate any more on the plot as it is a short story (novella). Throughout the story Gregor retains his goodness, even through the gradual loss of his humanity. The opposite seems to be the case for his family. His sense of alienation and isolation is very palpable (especially as I was reading the story in a very quiet environment). What befalls Gregor is so tragic [a:Thomas Hardy|15905|Thomas Hardy|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1189902685p2/15905.jpg] probably wishes he had thought of it. Even the “happy ending” makes me sad. Of course the entire thing can be interpreted as an allegory, there is a school of thought that it is all in Gregor’s mind and he has simply gone completely cuckoo one fine morning (working in textile will do that to you). As a sci-fi nerd I reject this hypothesis and choose to believe that the poor fellow does metamorphose during the night. Probably due to a stray cosmic ray from another dimension, or just a demented Dalek having a laugh at his expense. In any event this is a story that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Note: Thanks to Glenn for recommending this book to me.