Buzzed Books #21 by Leslie Salas
Pat Rushin’s The Call
The Call: A Virtual Parable, is the novella that inspired the screenplay for Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem.
Both novella and screenplay, penned by Pat Rushin, explore existentialism and causality through the exploits of a certain entity-cruncher who refers to himself in the first-person-plural perspective.
The shared protagonist in these two stories encounters three helpers on his quest to receive a transformative phone call that will bring his life purpose: an honest yet crass phoneman, a tech-savvy dominatrix troubleshooter, and a prodigy adolescent known simply as “Bob.” Like the magical donors in fairy tales, these three helpers assist the protagonist in his quest to find meaning in his life, but not without great risk or promise of rewards. Here is where the similarities between the novella and the screenplay end.
The Call reads as a darker, more concrete telling of events similar to those that occur during The Zero Theorem, with more tangibility and realism at every step of this science fiction adventure. The world the protagonist lives in more closely mimics our own, and the brutal parallels drawn by Rushin are biting in their satire. The explorations of the ramifications of the interconnectedness created by the Internet and a culture that sells sex through the lens of a hermitic, awkward protagonist further illuminate the irony of post-post-modern society.
Written from the perspective of the protagonist, The Call provides strong insight into the role of faith and the interior conflict of finding one’s place in the universe. Rushin’s masterful juxtaposition on the protagonist’s plight and the reactions of those around him creates a wealth of humor and cynicism punctuated by one-liners and running gags. The use of extravagant language and witty dialogue throughout the novella make for an engaging and enjoyable reading experience.
Pair with: Anything you are not at all interested in, but have chosen to prepare and drink nonetheless. It should not especially please you, especially if you are presently watching your weight, as that diet dictates against all drinks with perceptible flavor. A Diet Sprite will do—in a pinch.
Leslie Salas (episode 75, Gutter Space) writes fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and comics. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida and attended the University of Denver Publishing Institute. In addition to being an Associate Course Director at Full Sail University, Leslie also serves as an assistant editor for The Florida Review, a graphic nonfiction editorial assistant for Sweet: A Literary Confection, and a regular contributing artist for SmokeLong Quarterly.