Mat Laporte defamiliarizes our understanding of the status quo through a dizzying, punk-vibed, and relentless layered universe, burping, throbbing, oozing, and bristling
Mat Laporte, Rats Nest, Book Thug, 2016.
Mysterious and sometimes hallucinogenic, RATS NEST builds a narrative out of the complexity and dialectical uncertainty that many people feel about being alive in the 21st century.
This debut book of sci-fi stories by Mat Laporte introduces readers to a protoplasmic, fantastical underworld, as navigated by a self-reproducing 3D Printed Kid made especially for this purpose.
As the Kid descends the layers of a seemingly never-ending pit, its nightmares and hallucinations—recorded in stunning detail—unfold in twelve chilling stories of unreality that will make readers think twice about what it means to be a human (or humanoid) on the planet we call home.
“RATS NEST is a fragmented and extended transmission from ‘the world’s first 3D Printed Kid.’ It is a dissident, noir, cyberpunk diary that recalls the monotony of service/ office labour and projects that struggle onto the failed tropes of ‘what the future may hold.’ Here, the future is a recursive failure of both affinity and empathy, launched from the outer reaches of a space-time where both identity and narrative are in flux. This is a work that simultaneously calls to mind Ovid’s Metamorphosis and the prose of Philip K. Dick, both Alice Notley’s Descent of Alette and the riotous ‘cut-up’ novels of Kathy Acker. Has Mat Laporte eaten our dreams? Are these texts the cognitive-enteric-cybernetic remnants of a necessarily alienated posthumanity? ‘Bursting forth from the primordial/ id itself … a flickering/non-linear flood of fact and sensory data,’ Laporte has engendered for us an austere and gorgeous horror.” —Liz Howard, 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize winner for Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent
Feeling almost as if spilled onto the page, in a fragmented dusting of information that spirals deep into an abyss comes Mat Laporte’s Rats Nest.
Data captured from the world’s first 3D printed boy as he descends into bottomless pit where he encounters globular creatures and he learns pain. Sluggish potato things and vomitous creation, oh my.
Every chapter is a new flash of existence. Science fiction, fantasy and magic realism dip darkly as the author spills forth oddities of the lives collected within the lines. There is grave detachment that at first can feel somewhat confusing, though eventually settles as the norm. Most scenarios lack a beginning or an end, they just are. The only connections are breaths and even then in some cases it a little less than that.
Disjointed or not, the horizon dragged me forward in an amalgamated rhythm of fascination. Sometimes feeling like a Greg Bear tale, at other times feeling like a Philip K. Dick and then going completely sideways to convey something like a literary translation of a Quentin Tarantino film on space mission, this story somehow manages to not only work, but work well.
To suggest a heavy dose of scattered lives under a magic microscope would endear in such an effective way should seem unlikely. Oh defeater of likelihoods!
It is difficult to describe what exactly went on for those 166 pages (even then with a goodly sum of white space). I know that what I read was intriguing. I know that what I read had an addictive quality. I know that I read this in an evening because -strangely given the narrative’s lack of hanging suspense- I was enthralled and absolutely had to see where it went.
This is Mat Laporte’s first standalone length work and it is a triumph of oddity, pacing and imagination. Rats Nest is the kind of story that upon completion leaves behind a ponderous sticky residue while simultaneously invoking the urge to lie back and light a cigarette. This story rocked in a way much larger than its page count.—Eddie Generous, Unnerving Magazine
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. —Jack Hill, American Microreviews and Interviews
“These 12 short stories, so thinly connected by a luminescent green thread, are written to make the reader think, to elicit a feeling, often discomfort, and to examine our own lives in the 21st century and it must bare repeating is not for the faint of heart.”—Exeter Examiner
Loosely framed as the nightmares of a self-replicating 3-D Printed Kid, the 12 stories in Mat Laporte’s debut collection are united by their thickly surreal premises. “Circle of Pigs” follows a mysterious group of cowboy hat-clad men—named Colorado, Texas, New Hampshire, and Vermont—through two rituals: pancake breakfast at the local diner, and a naked baptism by actual swine. In “Total Horror,” a blinking light forms a society with other blinking lights over 777 years. Each vignette is fantastical, thought-provoking, and deeply cynical—something like a cross between a René Magritte painting and an episode of Black Mirror.
Rats Nest’s greatest strength is its style: despite his bizarre scenarios, Laporte maintains a direct, journalistic voice that’s alien yet inconspicuous. This straightness allows room to reflect on how the events act as allegories of contemporary life—which is what makes the book truly frightening. Like the best dystopian sci-fi, Rats Nest instills the sense that things are progressing normally even as everything goes horrifyingly wrong.
While Laporte takes cues from plot-heavy genres like cyberpunk and hard-boiled detective fiction, his stories tend to shirk narrative continuity. Instead, Rats Nest treats us to exquisite portrayals of existential paralysis, otherworldly ultra-violence, and mind-blowing dei ex machina. It’s clear that Laporte—previously known for his subversive and experimental poetry chapbooks—hasn’t lost the impulse to interrogate the conditions of storytelling itself.
Luckily, the fruits of that impulse are satisfying as hell. Take, for instance, the 3-D Printed Kid’s report that “the word ‘pen’ I extrapolated as: 8% polypropylene, 1% tin, 5% ink, and so on. Of course, I wrote that with a pen and I must say I find that strange as well” (150). Blatantly visceral yet relentlessly cerebral, Rats Nest is not for the weak of mind or stomach. (John Nyman)
John Nyman, Broken Pencil Magazine
I am never disappointed by the books put out by Canadian publisher BookThug, and RATS NEST is no different. I picked this book up one Saturday morning and had it finished by noon. I just couldn’t put it down. It’s a story about a 3D Printed Kid who is descending into a bottomless pit and is sending recordings back to scientists of all the fantastical things it uncovers as it travels further into the ground. It’s nightmares and hallucinations become worse and more powerful the further it goes, affecting the world above ground as well. Although a fictional novel, through sci-fi and fantasy, this book reflects on the apprehension that many feel in modern society, the fears surrounding what the human race has become and where it is going. It almost reads as a series of short stories, but is in fact, a complete novel. Each chapter presents as it’s own unique experience, but is tied together in a hallucinogenic way, both real and unreal simultaneously.
It is hard to put into words what this story is about overall. It’s a very visceral book that evokes a sense of feeling throughout, rather than overarching plot. It’s incredible imaginative and moving in it’s commentary. It’s a story that provokes thought and asks the reader to ponder it’s creations and their reflections on our own reality. Laporte’s writing is so unique and beautifully crafted. I know for a fact that this is a book I’ll be returning to in the future. I’m trilled to have it in my collection.
—Jaaron Collins, Worn Pages and Ink
Mine for yours: My favourite fiction, poetry, nonfiction, film, art and internet of 2017 so far —Dennis Cooper’s blog
The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Mat Laporte —Open Book
‘Being alive is hella complex and I want art that reflects that!’ In Conversation with Mat Laporte —BookThug Blog
Short Story Month: RATS NEST, an excerpt and interview with Mat Laporte —All Lit Up
Mat Laporte, born in Sault Ste. Marie, is a Toronto-based writer and co-founder of the micro-press Ferno House. Laporte is the author of a tetralogy of chapbooks: Demons, Billboards from Hell, Life Savings (nominated for the 2013 bpNichol Chapbook Award), and Bad Infinity. His poetry has been featured in numerous publications, including Poetry is Dead and Lemon Hound. RATS NEST is Laporte’s first full-length book.