A Modern Candide
Kent Mullins asks questions. Kent can’t read because of a learning disability, so he asks questions to assuage his insatiable curiosity. After his parents’ untimely deaths, Kent begins to ask questions about the afterlife. After receiving unsatisfactory answers from his town’s clergy, Kent turns to his high school science teacher. Before dying, the teacher tells Kent to ask a former classmate, the smartest student Harkerville ever produced. Unfortunately, Tommy Tennyson holds a grudge for childhood bullying, and, instead of answering Kent’s questions, poisons him. If Kent doesn’t return to Tommy within a year with a homopragmatic truth, “a piece of knowledge so enlightening…that once you possess it, your life is forever changed,” then Kent will die without receiving the antidote. Thus begins Kent’s quest.
Kent meets a variety of quirky characters and finds himself embroiled in one improbable situation after another. Some of the situations are humorous as intended, but most are simply absurd. I had trouble relating to the characters because there were so many, and Uhlig focuses more on plot than character development. Like the original Candide, Kent suffers from horrible bad luck and witnesses a ridiculous number of untimely deaths, but manages one lucky escape after another. Though entertaining, A Modern Candide does not answer any of the big questions Kent asks.
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