Rats Nest by Mat Laporte
BookThug, 2016; 164 pp
Reviewed by Jack Hill
Mat Laporte's debut full-length book, Rats Nest, follows the first 3D printed kid in an overwhelming, slimy future of fragmented micro-worlds piled/layered on one another and occupied by strange creatures and familiar scenarios turned on their heads that, as the back cover promises, make us re-think our human identities and how we view the world. Laporte is adept at reworking speculative tropes so deep-diving into the human condition is at the least written with a fresh eye: “You have to understand that after 666 years of only being able to store up enough energy to stay awake for longer than 3.5 seconds, of being afraid because we think electricity is scarce, and then to find the place where it's made and then to realize that there is more than enough to go around? I went insane” (29).
Rats Nest is much more than fresh prose/voice, though. In line with Philip K. Dick, an apt comparison by Liz Howard, or like Peter Wortsman's underworld in Cold Earth Wanderers, Laporte defamiliarizes our understanding of the status quo through a dizzying, punk-vibed, and relentless layered universe, burping, throbbing, oozing, and bristling. For instance, in “Content Worms,” one of twelve sections, Providence, a person “known as the first person to return from the ether relatively unscathed,” runs into a vape creature on his way to work through a part of the city kept dark at night to conserve electricity (80). Providence considers ignoring the creature, but notes that it has an ulterior motive because it “excreted a green jelly from its shrivelled lips, which, as it got closer, it globbed it onto the back of Providence's cheap windbreaker. This stinking splat landed on Providence's collar, slathered his neck and stuck to his cheek. He turned to face the vape; its green cloud of breath, and the jelly it excreted were harmless, but approaching a non-vape, touching them, breathing on them, were strictly prohibited according to the law that Providence was paid a meager wage to uphold” (81).
Rats Nest is, as the title suggests, a dense collage of parts and pieces of a complicated life. In part, Rats Nest reflects intensely on the tensions/breaks/strains in the web, as deep ecologists maintain, that considers human life to be one of many equal components in the global ecosystem. Even more so, Rats Nest gives us another way to perceive our day to day operations and the micro-actions that build upon each other sometimes before we have a chance to see what our life has become.