A Fine Vintage: The Boys From Brazil by Ira Levin

on Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Nothing scares the bejesus out of a nice Jewish boy (yes, yes, I know... Jesus was a nice Jewish boy) quite like a room full of Hitler clones; even ones who are just starting to grow enough pubes over that one ball to cut off and paste on their top lip (the clones that is, not the nice Jewish boys). Having grown up in the immediate shadow of the Holocaust, Ira Levin must have been well aware of this genre fiction goldmine. So while Frederick Forsyth was busy freaking people out with the ODESSA group, making my parents believe there were ex-Nazi war criminals living next door (to be fair, there was one a few houses up, but that's a whole other story), Levin played the paranoia trump card by hijacking the Mengele mythos to create the ultimate neo-Nazi conspiracy: A genetic clone of Hitler who would usher in the Fourth Reich and take over the world. Stuff that, he went one step further in The Boys From Brazil - he made a whole gaggle of them!

It's been a long time since I read an old fashioned thriller (not counting the dross I suffered through in February's Books I Swore I'd Never Read challenge), so The Boys From Brazil came as a refreshing change. It is a slave to its genre and is populated by wafer-thin caricatures (the Simon Wiesenthal clone is particularly silly) but heck, it brings on the fiendish conspiracy theorising and graphic cartoon violence in spades. That's not to say that a lot of it isn't hilariously absurd. Levin was no geneticist, and he sort of avoided any discussion of the plausibility of his entire plot device. It is, therefore, kind of ironic that now, in a post-Dolly world, what seemed as plausible as intergalactic travel in 1976 might just be doable. Yep, Little Adolf may just turn out to be more than the sci-fi scaremongering of a horror writer's imagination. That is, of course, if they can find a scraping from the original's one nut...


Quijotesca said...

That opening sentence is one of the most beautiful things I've read today. Of course, that's mostly because I haven't read much today, but it was still really funny.

Post a Comment