M, like the books of Robert Anton Wilson, belongs to a genre called "encyclopedic narrative" but I think of as "acidhead metafiction." The book makes reference to various psychedelic states, but more than that, the book is a attempt to elevate the consciousness of the reader through laughter, recursion, and bizarre associations: in short, an acid trip. M combines the logic of Western occultism with Buddhist metaphysics with science fiction. The "plot," which is often used as a vehicle for jokes and parascientific musings or simply temporarily abandoned, focuses on a shadowy corporation which intends to use the AI-loving "world's smartest man" to destroy the universe in order to make its board's members immortal, and the multidimensional alien which takes residence in the title character's penis to foil their scheme (though Nietzsche and Barbie have the situation well in hand and the magical plant has a better understanding of what the destruction of the universe will entail, anyway).
The plot fades in and out, but does build to a climax, and resolves itself in a way that, upon first read, I found anti-humanistic. I missed the point. M is about the big picture. It is about the need for humans to acknowledge the immensity of the universe and the full complexity of the space-time continuum, and acknowledge the primitive degree to which we can actually understand it. It seemed anti-humanistic to me because it puts humanity in its place, in harmony with the universe of which we are a tiny part.
The book is hilarious, complicated, and ultimately succeeded in expanding my matrix of assumptions, and I give it five stars. I feel obliged to mention its weakness: flattering but bizarre assumptions about human females (they're inherently good with plants, apparently). It's very much worth reading past the well-meaning genderisms.
M is for Marvelous. Nov 16, 2007
What an adventure. It pushed me beyond the limits I imagined my imagination could ever go. It's deep and wide, encompassing a whole universe of literature, philosophy, science, art and technology.