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The Last Redhead, by L Jay Mozdy – 4 Stars
Posted: 13 Dec 2018 07:00 AM PST
“In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king”, Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus said in about 1490 and what he was getting at was the eternal truth that if a commodity (talent, knowledge or object) is in short supply or perhaps even unique, it becomes priceless.
This is an author who has heard the common idea that the number and the proportion of redheads in the world is diminishing because when you mix that gene with a partner with another hair colour, the brown, black or blonde dominates the red. The author seems to think the gene itself is not copied across (characters in the story are unable to find carriers of the gene through DNA testing) but a more accurate extrapolation is that as people move between communities and genetics mix, redheads will vanish from the population even though the gene continues to be carried (they won’t vanish from the gene pool because the gene will still exist in its switched-off form, undercover – only it won’t be manifested). Have I just said the same thing twice?
This explanation is no longer scientifically accurate either because the UK Biobank survey announced (December 2018) that our understanding of how the red characteristic is passed from generation to generation has changed. Up until now, we believed the Mendel genetic model that there was one gene responsible for red hair (MC1R) and a child would only have red hair if they received one copy of that gene from both parents. The exceptions to this rule were not understood until Biobank’s latest finding that 8 genes are responsible for red hair, most of which turn MC1R on or off.
Anyway, forget the science because that gets in the way of a good story. Imagine, if you will, that there is one redhead left on the planet and the public are obsessed with finding someone, anyone else, with an MC1R gene. It’s a frenzy. This is also set in a world that is intensely shallow and celebrity-conscious, where the public hang on every word of famous models and buy every commercial product they plug. This advertising industry has become dominated by a pneumatic blonde who has become a caricature of herself, then The Last Redhead drops like a stone into her pond and everything goes splendidly out of control.
The writer works in the Bizarro school of fiction and uses a lot of free-association-thought images, which may be a difficult form to relate to unless you relax and go with the flow, so don’t resist the wave, dive through it. The events of the book are often absurdist, expanding mundane people into extraordinary butterflies that the reader can follow to see what they flap into next or whether they explode in a gas bubble of goo. Many of the characters get damaged in fascinating ways and some literally change form and blur the definition of the homo sapiens design. Some of the description is gynecological, more than some, then that becomes absurd as well with men spurting out very small flying fish. There is an explanation but…
This book is unique. I really believe that if you are looking for something different and don’t mind stepping in occasional fluids, this is the story for you.
I liked the training of the crows, which can be filed in the mind alongside Hitchcock’s The Birds, Thomas Holt’s Poldarn and Peter Cook’s Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, who trained crows to fly underwater. At least these birds survive the novel, but it all adds to the glorious history of crow entertainment. The writer broadcasts his enthusiasm for madcap images and strange counterpositions like a one-legged man propped up by a dog because it was made too difficult to apply for financial/welfare support to be issued with an artificial leg, so he filled out all the forms until they issued him with a sight dog, so he used that to fill the gap. This particular idea is Monty Python-quality social commentary, not nonsense. There is a difference.
I also liked the strange device of not giving characters real names (apart from Amelia) but instead naming them for what they actually are, e.g. The Last Redhead, Herfather, Better Blonder Blonde and Jumper (who jumped out of a window to get a job). This reflects how people think of other people around them, e.g. “Cow from the paper shop”, which in turn reminds us that birth certificate names are artificial appellations. Nicknames might be half way between the two processes.
As an engineering idea, I absolutely loved the hyperloop tunnel along the floor of the North Atlantic Ocean, linking Scotland to the US. This is ordinary practical engineering, not science fiction, as it would be full of air (low pressure on one side of a carriage and high on the other) and therefore self-supporting. Flexibility? No problem. Pressure? Regulated. Cost? Ah, well it could be a modular design constructed gradually. Yes, let’s do it. This should definitely be built and The Law of First Dibbs says it should be called The L Jay Mozdy Expressway.
There’s a lot to like in this book. It is slightly too long and surprisingly gooey but increasing the count of redheads in the world will need a bit of that.
From The Iowa State Daily Mar 18, 2016
The Last Redhead is a story about a young woman who is assumed to be the last living redhead on planet Earth. Hers is a story about beauty and corruption.
The Last Redhead is a dark and twisted adult novel by L. Jay Mozdy about the last living redhead on planet Earth and her painful search for her father.
The Last Redhead’s mother died in labor, and with no identification or a parent present, she was shipped off to an orphanage.
Coveted for her copper locks, The Last Redhead is kidnapped the moment she walks out of the orphanage on her 18th birthday by a man who plans to inseminate the young woman and create redheaded offspring to turn a profit.
The novel is a confusing puzzle of several stories, which are lost in translation and take away from the main storyline of The Last Redhead.
Each story highlights the insecurities of each character and the ways in which they are perceived by society. The Last Redhead focuses on physical traits and refers to characters by their individual characteristics.
Many of these characters are female and have been exploited for their beauty.
One of the first characters that we meet after The Last Redhead is Better Blonder Blonde, a beautiful woman who appears in hundreds of advertisements and struggles to escape from the public eye.
With names that focus on physical traits like Better Blonder Blonde, Dr. Squishy and Brunette, it is clear that this fictional world is very concerned about appearances.
Using names based on appearances was actually very helpful in understanding the story and the way that the fictional society of this book feels about beauty and physical features. It also helps readers to imagine the way that these individuals look.
The fictional society’s perceptions of beauty magnify today’s values. The idea of beauty and perfection is something that society is extremely concerned about, and the story of The Last Redhead may provide a view of how our future could look.
The story touches on the possibility of the recessive gene for red hair disappearing, and turns that chance into an interesting story about beauty and corruption, and one brave woman’s search for her father.
As the story continues, The Last Redhead endures challenge after challenge and is finally reunited with her father, who feels that his…
How will The Last Redhead’s life turn out? Buy L. Jay Mozdy’s novel.
“judging books by their covers”
7/23/2017 · 5:49 pm
The Last Redhead
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author.
“The Last Redhead” by L. J Mozdy is a science fiction novel set in an alternative world ruled by advertising campaigns and high-speed trains. After her mother dies giving birth to her, the Last Redhead, the only known redhead in the world for 20 years, lives her entire childhood in an orphanage. On her 18th birthday she’s kicked to the curb and picked up by the Spermicidal Maniac who informs her that they are going to have lots of redheaded babies and make lots of money. However, he’s not the only one who wants to find the Last Redhead and make some money off her, regardless of what she wants.
This is quite a surreal story, set in a strange world even more obsessed with beauty and advertising than our own. Mozdy is quite a creative writer with a similar writing style to Tom Robbins. He takes a particular interest in the grotesque minutiae of human existence. He weaves in social commentary, biology and pseudoscience to shed light on a society gone mad with the idea of red hair. This is quite a dense book though with a rather rambling story line, so it’s definitely more of a slow burn than a fast-paced book.
An interesting story with clear parallels to our own world, this book takes the myth of redheadedness going extinct to its most extreme.