I’ve been meaning to write for a while about Tricia Sullivan’s SF novel Sound Mind. But now it is too long since I read it, and I’ve forgotten too many details, so (pending a rereading, which I don’t have time for now) I can only comment on it vaguely and briefly. The novel is a sequel to Double Vision (which I wrote about here), and is probably incomprehensible if you haven’t read the previous volume. (For an excellent account of both books together, see Timmel Duchamp’s review).
Sound Mind is hard to describe, because it is a strange visionary novel which is nonetheless rooted in the mundane: both the details of everyday life in suburban New Jersey (where the author grew up) and at Bard College in New York state (where the author went to school), and the details of television. Basically, there is a cosmic struggle between forces of integration and disintegration, or concreteness and abstraction, or system-building and system-breaking, and a set of experiences reflecting at once a sense of impending catastrophe (as a small region of upstate New York) gets hit by a violent destructive force, and then enclosed in a bubble that does not and cannot communicate with the rest of the world, or indeed the universe), and a sort of Dungeons-and-Dragons derived videogame; and (like the previous novel) a kind of scenario in which televison-induced hallucinations control behavior and fulfill various corporate agendas including, but not limited to, selling consumer products. The way in which commodification and advertising feed into all other sorts of self-referential loops and psychotic-breakdown modes of feeling is of course the part of the novel of most interest to me, but it really cannot be separated from some of the other themes, involving avant-garde improvisational music as a means of “cross[ing] the boundaries between systems” (332), and synaesthesia, and lots of other things I can’t quite remember.
The point is, Sound Mind is mind-fuel, with such a density of cultural references, slippery almost-theories that tease and allure and never quite coalesce, that it is quite mind-blowing, even as it weaves and bobs and evades your grasp in the way martial arts (one of the subjects of Double Vision) at their best are supposed to do.