|publisher||Insurgent Productions/No Media Kings|
|summary||Clandestine chemists accidentally open the doorway into new modes of human consciousness.|
April 16th, 1945: Dr. Albert Hoffman's work on obstetrics pharmacology at Sandoz Laboratories is unexpectedly interrupted by a "stream of fantastic pictures and extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors."
The following weeks saw Dr. Hoffman and his colleagues perform a series of self-experimentations which led to the discovery of the psychotropic effects of D-lysergic acid diethylamide 25, the most potent hallucinogen yet discovered -- and better known as LSD. The doors were suddenly flung open for a new age of exploration into the human mind. Government sanctions however quickly put an end to this line of research. Lysergically Yours, the first novel from Toronto-based author Duff supposes that this research program is still going strong, but not in the places one may traditionally think to look for it.
The reader is first introduced to Johnny, a computer science student at the University of Toronto and one-time high school acid dealer. It is through the lens of Johnny that the reader meets the book's delightfully diverse cast of supporting characters. From Lyle the punk-rock chemist to Tinka the manic witch and surprisingly affable career criminal Ivan, Duff continuously delivers with characters that you almost expect to run into the next time you're on campus despite the fact that they are so eccentric as to verge on unbelievable. As a former University of Toronto student myself, I must admit that the setting of the book was also wonderfully realized. From Convocation Hall to Lash Miller Chemical Laboratories to the basement of Hart House, Lysergically Yours romps across the university and the city bringing to life each locale that it touches.
The story itself is somewhat hard to classify. The opening throws Johnny and the reader into a very tense scene in which Johnny is the prisoner of Korean and Vietnamese mobsters and the building in which he is being held is being assaulted from outside by unknown forces. From this action-movie introduction, the story flashes back and begins to relate a decidedly non-action-movie drug culture caper story wherein Lyle and Johnny attempt to fund illegal research and a hedonistic lifestyle through the synthesis and sale of LSD. By the end however, as Johnny and Lyle find themselves deeper and deeper in trouble, the plot of Lysergically Yours verges strongly on the science fictional, yet Duff manages to wrap it all up into a bundle which leaves the reader feeling both entertained and satisfied.
At times the discussion of the technical details of drug synthesis and of various less than legal money-making schemes seem unnecessarily verbose, but perhaps they will be appreciated by those who are more familiar with the fields or even looking for a few pointers. In general however, Duff's prose is poetic in its spareness and simplicity. His dialogue also is unflowery and believable, conveying a real sense of character and situation. Even the far-sweeping conclusion of the novel, suggesting a world forever and fundamentally changed by the actions of a couple of punk rockers, is presented in a crisp and unapologetic style. As a reader, I could not help but be reminded of Neal Stephenson and, to a certain extent, Philip K. Dick.
My largest complaint with Lysergically Yours is that it is too short. Weighing in at 120 pages, the book is an easy read but leaves you feeling that it could have easily been expanded to fill twice as many. Still, in a time when most books seem to be guilty of the opposite sin, I am willing to forgive Frank Duff this indiscretion.
Another thing which makes this novel worth noticing is that it is released in affiliation with No Media Kings, an organization started by Toronto-based author Jim Munroe to promote a return to grass-roots media. In accordance with this "media of the people, by the people and for the people" ethos, Frank Duff has released the novel as a free e-text under the Creative Commons Attribution/Non-Commercial/Share-Alike license. This license not only allows the text of the novel to be freely distributed in any medium, but also explicitly allows for anyone to create derivative works from the novel for any non-commercial purpose. The use of this contract follows in the footsteps of successful science fiction author Cory Doctorow. The book is available as a physical artifact at a variety of small bookstores or directly from the author via his website where the e-book and several of his other shorter works are also available for free download.
 Hoffman, A. (1980) "LSD: My Problem Child," New York: McGraw-Hill.
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