Book review: Inspection by Josh Malerman
The children of Inspection live in the dark.
In an effort to spur their creativity and potential, their adult leaders have sequestered them based on sex. There is a boys’ camp and a girls’ camp, and ne’er the twain shall meet.
Girls are just a distraction, they believe, keeping boys from reaching greatness. If they are raised unspoiled, not even knowing of the existence of another sex, then perhaps they can unlock it. And the same philosophy goes for the girls’ group.
This test group of 26 girls and 26 boys are raised in captivity, every part of their environments crafted to encourage targeted learning and discourage knowledge of the others.
Of course, this entire setup is a proverbial Chekhov’s gun. Anton Chekhov famously declared, “If in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act.”
This societal setup positions the boys and girls for an explosive meeting. We know from the outset that this type of social experiment can’t last.
Interestingly, gender norms hold true.
Even when separated from the boys, even when not knowing of one anothers’ existence, the girls are still socialized to be girls, with long hair and lithe movements.
This could be a shortcoming by the author. Take a look at the men writing women subreddit r/menwritingwomen/ and you’ll see that there are many men who think they can write what it is to be a woman and sorely miss the mark. perhaps Malerman didn’t even think about what girls would be like if they’re not socialized to act like girls.
Or, and this is the scenario I think is at play here, it exemplifies the flawed logic of MOM and DAD, the adult leaders of thee camps. They thought they were entering into this grand social experiment, but didn’t think about the subtle ways they would still socialize the children to act and look like the typical western gender roles.
It’s a clever move on Malerman’s part, showing how foolish the adults are in this story.
Published March 2019
Music credit: YouTube