Wednesday, April 6, 2011

'Body Surfing' and the Demonic Within

“Body Surfing” manipulates the traditional constraints of the body in order to make interesting points about identity and sexuality. Its characters often change embodiments so quickly that it is difficult to remember who is who, and who is within whose body. Gender, race and sexual orientation are rendered fluid; at several points, the demons of the novel have sex in bodies that bear no resemblance to the ones that they initially inhabited.

I was intrigued by the possibilities that ‘body surfing’ allowed, but troubled by the ways in which it was executed: most of the sex in the novel is graphic rape, and the consequences of brutal sexual assault are often described in a very depersonalized manner. ‘Body Surfing’ describes a universe where bodies are disposable; this universe produces characters that are easily replaceable and treated in manners so horrific that it is difficult to make any sense of their torment, or of the motives of the demons which inhabit them.

The demons of ‘Body Surfing’ seem to be an extreme look at many of the embodied disciplinary measures that are currently at work in the world, including the structures of institutional racism and sexism. Patriarchy, for instance, seem to operate under the principle that a woman’s body is not her own, but the property of men, to be used and controlled. This symbology is particularly powerful during Ileana’s rape scene, where a Mogran hides among a group of soldiers. The Mogran are the target of the legion, but in this scene, there seems to be no practical difference between the bloodlust of humans and the brutality of demons. This is, in my opinion, the truly horrifying part of the novel. It’s easy to dismiss the actions of the Mogran as aspects of fantasy, but the actions of the soldiers have historical precedent, and are deeply embedded within the fabric of war. Can a member of the Legion really justify hunting the Mogran, when there are aspects of the demonic within us?


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