Read The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe by D.G. Compton Lisa Tuttle Online


A forgotten SF classic that exposed the pitfalls of voyeuristic entertainment decades before the reality show craze.A few years in the future, medical science has advanced to the point where it is practically unheard of for people to die of any cause except old age. The few exceptions provide the fodder for a new kind of television show for avid audiences who lap up the exA forgotten SF classic that exposed the pitfalls of voyeuristic entertainment decades before the reality show craze.A few years in the future, medical science has advanced to the point where it is practically unheard of for people to die of any cause except old age. The few exceptions provide the fodder for a new kind of television show for avid audiences who lap up the experience of watching someone else's dying weeks. So when Katherine Mortenhoe is told that she has about four weeks to live, she knows it's not just her life she's about to lose but her privacy as well....

Title : The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780575118317
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 239 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe Reviews

  • Chris
    2019-03-20 09:45

    Most, if not all, of us have seen part of or even a whole episode of a reality show. Even though of us that avoid the Real Housewives series like the plague have watched shows on HGTV, a cooking show, or even a show like Deadliest Catch. Whether or not we still watch them is a different story, but odds are you have seen part of a reality show sometime. At their best, reality shows are educational – cooking show for instance, or blended with competition – like say some cooking shows or the Amazing Race. At their worst, reality shows reveal the lowest common denominator of human existence. It is not just the people who go on such programs (though why a father who goes on a show like the Bachelor isn’t considered unfit, I don’t know), but the audience as well. At some level, people watch reality programs to feel superior, to judge, to feel better about their lives. I may not be rich like so-so but at least my children are not spoiled brats and so on. At times, the audience may feel empathy, but that sense of superiority is usually present. What is worse, because the term cast is used to describe those on reality shows, there is a belief that everything about them should be made common knowledge. Even more damning in today’s age of social media that is starting to be true about everyone. At times, I am amazed at what some people post on sites like Face book. I don’t understand why the minute someone leaves home they have to tweet about how they just got on the bus. Who cares? Eventually, because people are human, the tweeter is going to do something stupid. Watch out for the human sharks then. People start to complain about the lack of privacy (and some of us joke at it, I sometimes use a network called NSA surveillance), yet, the more I think about it, it seems my friend is right as well. It is both a lack of privacy, but also a lack of empathy. I hated shows like Funniest Home Videos because for every truly funny cat or dog video, there was a video of someone with toilet paper stuck to his/her bum dancing at a wedding. Why didn’t the recorder tell the person? Why when someone falls, everyone pulls out camera so to record but does nothing? I can understand if there is gunfire, but surely helping the person out of the fountain would be the empathic thing to do. We are do embarrassing and not so nice shit. What gives anyone the right to broadcast us at a stupid moment? It isn’t even just letting the man die outside the 7-11 or in the street; it’s not helping the woman who crashed her bike. I’m not talking about “snitching” for that is a whole host of issues; I just mean common empathy and politeness. Holding the door open, saying thank you or good morning. Not rushing to judgment. Which in many ways is what this book is about. Written in the 70s, the Continuous Katherine describes a society that is not to far removed from our own. There have been reality “stars” that have died on television. In this book, one woman doesn’t want to die in public but in private. The media and its viewership does not want to let her do that, and in fact, the media has an ace up its sleeve. A certain network has discovered a very interesting way to use cameras. What then follows is a critical look at both media and the society that consumes it. The book does have its flaws. There is a road trip that goes on a bit too long, though it also includes a good bit about class and underclass. There are a couple of sequences that while the reader will understand why they are there, the novel could have also done without them. The most brilliant aspect of the novel is the use of two primary narrative points of views – Katherine’s and a reporter’s. One of the most well crafted aspects of the novel is the use of empathy or to be more exact the use of lack of empathy. This is something that Katherine herself at the start of the novel has. She isn’t described as the iconoclast or the rebel. She is simply a person, a cog. She is normal. She is every day. The story might under fold a slightly different way were she a he, after all society does judge the genders differently. The empathy theme is used most wonderfully and thought provoking with the use of the public, those that consume the media. After all, the media needs us. If we are going to blame the media for what we are, Compton seems to be saying, we must remember our role in it as well. Not only that but how those around a person respond to such fame. Of course, the book is also about how we respond to death as well as a look at how closely things become tied together. Seriously, this book will make you think and it is still timely. It will make you think about empathy.(Note - July 2016 NYRB Book of the Month)

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-02-18 08:28

    I saw that Jeff VanderMeer had written the introduction for this, so I snagged it when it became available in Edelweiss for review.I wasn't super into it. I think I was struggling to read it in the context of that time. Because reality tv is so pervasive now, it's almost a logical step to consider a reality show that follows a death. We have some of that already when people announce they are choosing assisted suicide, when news becomes reality tv. But considering that this is from the 1970s, it is very smart in predicting the future.To me, this felt a bit like Philip K. Dick in tone. If you like him you are likely to enjoy this!Thanks to Edelweiss for a chance to see the fresh release of this classic. I hadn't heard of the author before.

  • Anna
    2019-02-18 12:37

    First something I must get off my chest: I heartily dislike the new goodreads homepage. It’s far too busy, I much preferred the less cluttered old version. Secondly, this is a short novel and only took me three days to read because it is, pardon my French, grim as fuck. A bitterer, more cynical sci-fi novel I have rarely come across. The conceit is as follows: Katherine Mortenhoe is diagnosed with a terminal illness that will kill her in mere weeks. As such illnesses are vanishingly rare, she immediately becomes a celebrity and is hounded by the media. A man with TV cameras in his eyes follows her around, trying to make a reality TV show about her. Although there is a dark humour about all this, it’s a nasty, angry sort of humour that isn’t really funny. The writing is at times witty, yet never in a light-hearted fashion. For example this moment when Katherine has just been diagnosed and phones a church."Vicar Pemberton speaking."So then it was too late for her to change her mind. "I’m going to die," she said."You wouldn’t have rung me if you really believed that. What have you taken?""I’ve taken umbrage."This novel (which has also been published under the name The Unsleeping Eye) first came out in 1974 and reads as unsettlingly prescient. The voyeuristic media obsession with unusual categories of suffering and the pervasiveness of reality TV are foreseen very clearly. Many background details of world-building seem entirely too convincing: tokenistic privacy laws, rampant inequality, and constant protest marches that are ignored and disregarded. The book has aged pretty well as the focus is on social change, not technological. It’s a particularly cynical analysis of social and individual psychology. Despite the proximity of Katherine to the reader - the point of view is split between her and the cameraman - it’s hard to sympathise with her as a person. The narrative places you in such a similar position to those watching her dying on TV that reading about her becomes uncomfortable. Knowing how she feels seems voyeuristic, a clever effect to pull off in a novel. (view spoiler)[I should also add that to me the most horrible incident in the book doesn’t involve Katherine at all. At one point when Rod the cameraman is driving, he comes across a protest blocking the road. Impatient, he tries to get through line of marchers by slipping after another vehicle. In the process he runs over two people, killing one. The callous atmosphere surrounding this murder (manslaughter?) is absolutely chilling and Rod recounts the episode with an air of self-justification, mixed with disbelief that his actions could have such serious consequences. The police pick him up then assure him there will be no charges and no-one will care. The dead woman and injured man are nameless, faceless, disregarded. I think this scene (which had no plot purpose that I could discern) demonstrated both the dangerous mindset that driving can breed and that media voyeurism is as much about what is not shown as what is splashed everywhere. Whereas Katherine’s illness apparently justifies a huge amount of media time and money, deaths in road ‘accidents’ and on untelegenic protests create no interest whatsoever. Plus ça change. (hide spoiler)]‘The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe’ is a smart book, albeit one shot through with both petty and grand cruelties and seemingly determined to undermine the reader’s faith in humanity. It is a powerful and memorable piece of fiction, but not at all pleasant to read. It was no surprise to find the ending just as depressing as the rest. Thus I can only give it three stars.

  • Bbrown
    2019-03-06 13:42

    It's a rare book that has both an NYRB Classics edition and an SF Masterwork edition, but don't let that raise your expectations: The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe got reprinted by NYRB Classics because someone thought it could be pitched as one of those prescient works of science fiction that predicted a current trend, in this case reality television. It got the SF Masterwork edition, on the other hand, because the SF Masterwork collection is decidedly a mixed bag. The premise here is undercut by the setting, Compton fails at establishing the needed connection to the characters, and ultimately the work has nothing to say. People sometimes malign literary science fiction as pretentious and boring. I wouldn't offer The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe as a counterexample. Let's state clearly that this work isn't prescient in the least. Reality television had been around for decades prior to The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe's original publication in 1973, and there's never been a popular reality television show obsessed with the death of its subjects either. The closest you get is the schadenfreude of shows about hoarders and the morbidly obese, which as far as I'm aware have always had a small viewership compared to the competitive reality shows where people try to win fame, fortune, or love. So there's no real analogue to the show in the real world, and even in the setting of the book the premise of the show doesn't work. We are informed that people want to watch a show about Katherine Mortenhoe's final days because in the future people live to such old age and death is such a rarity that people have an insatiable unconscious hunger for death and suffering that the media caters to. But the book itself contradicts this premise with a setting that is still full of death and violence, with fatal car crashes, bombings, shootings, masked gangs wandering the countryside and assaulting drivers, and more. D.G. Compton evidently forgot the premise underpinning the driving plot of the book after the first fifty pages.So the reasoning behind making this reality show starring the dying Katherine Mortenhoe doesn't make sense, but the book could still work if it made you care about Mortenhoe's demise or if the book had insights into death or the media that it could share. Unfortunately the book fails on both counts. You don't care about Mortenhoe's demise because you don't really care about the fates of any character in this book. Mortenhoe is presented initially as a rather unsympathetic hypochondriac who doesn't really love her husband but settled for him, who writes up computer programs that write books but never writes herself, who is condescending regarding her employee/only friend, who just generally isn't likable. Roderick (Roddie) is the reported assigned to cover Mortenhoe's downward spiral, who has recently had cameras implanted behind his eyes without seemingly ever considering the downsides to such a procedure (downsides which include the inability to sleep or experience darkness, a detail that makes no technological sense and that is added to shoehorn in some inorganic drama near the book's conclusion). The book is rounded out by such characters as a couple media executives without consciences, a doctor willing to sacrifice his client's wellbeing for money, a selfish and ultimately unfaithful husband, and others. Outside of Roddie's ex-wife, who puts up with her ex-husband for no discernible reason, a gay BFF cliché, and an old guy who does puppet shows, all the characters are the type of people you wouldn't mind seeing die in a fire. This is a problem where the approaching death of the main character is supposed to be an affecting journey, and this problem is only made worse when a race-against-time aspect is shoved into the narrative as well. Even if it didn't make you care about Katherine's death, and sometimes in fact made you wish it could be sped up a bit, the book could still work if it had something interesting to say. But The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe has no wisdom to impart concerning death, or the media, or anything else that I can recall. We get a half-baked philosophy from Roddie on the need for continuous observation of a subject to truly know them, the natural endpoint for that philosophy would seem to me to be something like The Truman Show, but Roddie instead settles for following someone around for a week. The media in The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe is a nigh-all-powerful entity that can command the police to assist in its television shows, so it isn't very similar to an actual television network, and besides some general points about the immorality of the business and its participants there aren't any insights here either. If you're looking for a book that contemplates death in an insightful way, don't look here, go read Jerusalem by Tavares, or Aniara by Martinson, or of course The Death of Ivan Ilych by Tolstoy. Instead of interesting ideas, The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe gives you passages like this:“The word stopped her. Even the Dial-A-Vicar had preferred to talk of failure and success, rather than sin and virtue. But she’d crawled out of antediluvian mud on the legs of curiosity, and descended from ancient trees in search of something more than survival.”Did I mention that the writing isn't very good? After that passage do I have to? The book is also rife with too-on-the-nose names, like the late night spot called Night Hawk’s, after the Hopper painting, or of course the name Mortenhoe. How clever.Its main premise doesn't make sense, Compton fails to create the necessary bonds between reader and character, it doesn't say anything interesting, and it's not well written. It has other flaws too, but you get the gist. Despite the collections it is a part of, The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe is one you should skip.

  • Steve Dewey
    2019-03-16 07:32

    Set in some unspecified time period in which people rarely die of illness, only of old age, such "unnatural" deaths are televised and have become a spectacle for an audience unused to such suffering. The book has been seen as a reaction to the intrusiveness of television and nascent reality TV programming; yet, in the end, it is predominantly a book about people and relationships in a particular near-future milieu.Indeed, Katherine Mortenhoe doesn't even appear on television until half way through the book; and then it becomes clear that this isn't some modern, intense, immersive 24-hour reality show, but more in the nature of an hour or half-hour nightly documentary in which the audience is provided with edited highlights of the gradual deterioration and death of the subject.Katherine Mortenhoe is to be filmed by Roddie, NTV's star reporter, who has made his own sacrifice to become even more relevant and useful in a televisual age; he has had his eyes replaced with cameras. Having secretly watched her when she was diagnosed with her - fanciful - terminal illness, Roddie is certain there is going to be more to Katherine Mortenhoe than a pitiful victim slowly dying in front of an eager audience; Roddie is eager to follow Katherine and discover the woman who will persist, despite the pain and suffering, over her last few days, the real person who continues to exist even through the horror of illness and death.Roddie and Katherine become closer than either would have imagined as Roddie chases the continuous Katherine Mortenhoe, who has accepted her ultimate fate in death but refuses to accept her fate as surrogate for suffering and pain.The narrative takes an interesting tack in terms of point of view. Roddie's point of view is told in first person; Katherine's story is told in third person. The continuous Katherine is distanced, as if seen through the lens; Roddie, the voyeur, the surrogate viewer, is immediate and here. When the novel is in third person, other, minor actors sometimes become the viewpoint character, as if they are also now part of the dramatised and continuous Katherine Mortenhoe; and towards the end of the novel there is a sense that sometimes an omniscient narrator takes over, who can see everybody in, and knows everything about, the unfolding drama. These movements between types of viewpoint play with the notion of subject and audience, of watcher and watched, of voyeurism and gaze in an interesting way.Both Katherine and Roddie are well-developed characters, and even the minor characters are filled out enough for us to understand their motivations; particularly Katherine's husband and Roddie's boss at NTV. I also found Compton's writing style easy and enjoyable, with interesting turns of phrase.

  • James Murphy
    2019-03-14 12:46

    I don't remember the word celebrity being used, but in some ways this novel is about celebrity, about how it's used for profit and how it's abused. Katherine Mortenhoe is a celebrity because she's going to die in middle age at a time in the near future when death by any cause except old age has been eliminated. She signs away her rights to privacy to a TV network that will broadcast coverage of her final days in exchange for a substantial payment leaving her husband comfortable. The personal and moral conflicts of the plot develop when she reneges on the agreement and flees the media attention.Katherine and her extraordinary situation is the subject of the novel. But I found those trying to take advantage of her death to be more interesting. The reporter detailed to record her dying is a cyborg whose eyes have been converted to cameras providing a visual feed to his network. His unique ability unknown to Katherine, he joins her flight from the frenzy of attention surrounding her condition. His pov in alternating sections is almost equal to hers, and his increasing sympathy provides a tenderness offsetting the moral ambiguity of almost everyone else. These include Vincent the TV executive and the novel's evil center. Katherine's doctor, Mason, wants to gain fame from his proximity to her unusual medical circumstance. There are Katherine's 2 husbands. And there are the many types of people she and Roddie the reporter meet as they try to hide in the countryside, from bohemian dropouts on the fringe of society to upperclass swingers. For me, Katherine's desperation and spiraling symptoms were less engaging than the people trying to use her and her celebrity. In the end it becomes a kind of road novel, a thrilling pursuit, with all the characters picking up or shedding various degrees of principle along the way.

  • Simon
    2019-03-16 12:45

    Pre-empting reality TV, an intrusive media and a voyeuristic and hypocritical public are the themes explored here.In the near future and most diseases have been eradicated, people only die when they get very old (or by accident). When someone actually becomes terminally ill before there time, they are of intense public interest and, to the right media tycoons, they are fit for exploitation. So dedicated to journalism and witnessing the truth, Roddie replaces his eyes with cameras so he is permanently filming what he sees and relaying it back to the office. Now he cannot sleep, must be kept permanently awake with drugs and must never find himself in darkness or else his inbuilt camera eyes will short circuit.Katie Mortenhoe must radically re-assess her life after learning that she has less than a month to live. Her initial plans get derailed as she becomes the subject of intense public interest and finds out who her true friends are.This story is both tragic and humorous, told with a good eye for character and human foibles. Definitely left me open to reading more of his work.

  • David
    2019-03-17 08:44

    This book is about a hundred pages too long. The first 2/3 was fascinating, utterly riveting. Then the main characters went on the run together and it deteriorated very quickly. The writing is good; the characters are excellent; the plotting is abysmal.This book is almost universally described by readers as "the best science fiction I have ever read." If you are thinking about reading it you should know that there is actually precious little science fiction in it. The speculative elements that are there are remarkably prescient (e. g. reality tv...the book was written in the 1970s) but are entirely non-essential--and somewhat intrusive--to the storyline itself.

  • MichaelK
    2019-03-18 09:38

    The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (1973) by D.G. Compton is the best SF Masterwork I've read in months.Reality TV is very popular these days. We can, if so inclined, choose to watch real people: competing over performance skills (The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent, etc), being affluent housewives (The Real Housewives of Cheshire, etc), working in a kitchen (Jamie's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, etc), working in a tattoo shop (Miami Ink, etc), driving on icy roads (Ice Road Truckers, etc), coping with teenage pregnancy and motherhood (16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, etc), buying and selling antiques (Bargain Hunt, etc), being affluent youngsters (Made in Chelsea, etc), going on dates (First Dates, The Undateables, etc), cleaning houses (How Clean Is Your House?, Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners, etc), being poor (Benefits Britain, Benefits Street, Skint, etc), sharing a house (Big Brother), being in an airport and or on a plane (Airport, Airline, etc), buying and selling houses (Location, Location, Location, etc), being in hospital (24 Hours in A&E, etc), losing weight (The Biggest Loser, etc), or coping with medical problems (Embarrassing Bodies, etc). If that's all too exciting for us, we can instead watch people watching TV (Gogglebox).I don't watch much TV; I don't have a TV license; I use DVDs, Netflix, 4OD, and BBC iPlayer if there's something I really want to watch. I had to use Wikipedia's lists of reality TV shows to research the above paragraph.Back in the 70s, when Compton was writing The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe, reality TV was only just appearing with a few experimental shows. These had a powerful effect on the popular imagination of the time, inspiring a range of SF writers, such as Compton.In Katherine Mortenhoe's world, medical science has cured most illnesses, so most people die of old age or serious injuries (such as car crashes). Terminal illnesses are rare anomalies, and there's money to be made in filming rare anomalies and selling it to the public. Katherine is diagnosed with a terminal illness at the age of 44, giving her only 28 days to live, and must make tough choices about what to do with her remaining days, knowing that her privacy will be destroyed. It's quite a bleak book.Compton writes well, and - to make a good point about the fake reality of reality TV - switches between third and first person narration: Katherine's story is narrated in the third person, telling us her actions but little of her thoughts; Roddie - 'The Man with the TV Eyes', a reporter with cameras in his eyes - narrates in the first person, giving his thoughts and his interpretation of Katherine's actions. Thus, Katherine's true character, her thoughts and goals, her inner life, are hidden from us: we have to figure it our for ourselves. The reader, like Roddie, like the viewers of reality TV, see only the external reality, missing out on all the inner complexity that makes people who they are. Our eyes may process the same images, but how we interpret them will differ.'You see, beauty isn't in the eye of the beholder. Neither is compassion, or love, or even common human decency. They're not of the eye, but of the mind behind the eye.'The story is gripping and well-written. The premise is brilliantly bleak. The main characters are well-rounded and memorable. The anti-TV message is one I can get behind. It is a very good book.However, the novel's world is rather shallow: there are brief mentions of Privacy Laws (relating to when and where reporters can film), fringies (people who live on benefits on the fringes of society), Computabooks (computer-generated books), and various political protest marches occurring, but it is not explored in depth. We are given no clues as to what country, or how far in the future, the story is set. Beyond the TV Eyes, advanced medical science, and Computabooks, there is little to no mention of technological progress. This all dates the novel: with those few exceptions, our dystopian present looks far more futuristic than Mortenhoe's world. Perhaps the list of reality TV shows above demonstrates that our dystopian present is also more terrifying than Mortenhoe's world...But this is not a book about a dystopian society, and should not be read as such. It is, and succeeds as, a story about a woman coming to terms with her imminent death, and a man trying to understand her. Recommended

  • Martina
    2019-03-13 06:31

    It surprises me that The continuous Katherine Mortenhoe is not more widely known. I've only recently found out about it (while browsing the shelves in a local bookstore, to boot), but the interesting blurb incited me to read it. Boy, am I glad I did. Now I totally understand why it's a part of the SF masterworks collection. D.G. Compton had written this book in the advent of reality TV. He extrapolates that phenomenon to such lengths that may have been outrageous in the day, but alas, today it only shows how much foresight he had. The reality show Katherine Mortenhow is immersed in (basically by coercion) is only a step or two away from the usual fodder that is on the programme today. But what struck me the most is how underhandedly sinister this novel is. I saw that reflected in several elements:1) The whole idea of the reality show. It's not surpising that people in charge of large TV networks crave high ratings, so they supply the programme which is most demanded. In a world where the vast majority of illnesses are eradicated, a terminally ill person becomes a spectacle, a circus sideshow. Everyone, from the press to the general populace, thinks that they have a right to intrude upon the person and their family. A clever TV executive can use that general pressure against the ill person to secure exclusive rights to film his/her dying. 2) The fact that (view spoiler)[Katherine's illness is most probably fabricated (hide spoiler)].3) Roddie. With the character of Roddie D.G. Compton propelled "eerie" off the charts. Roddie's choice to have cameras instead of eyes installed in him is not only creepy, but also a fantastic device the author used to further explore the themes of privacy, ethics and the cost of ambition. 4) The strange laws and mores in the society Katherine lives, which are never explicitly mentioned, but seethe under the surface. I love how the author chose to show those things, rather than state them, because even though the reader might not have a complete picture, it packs more of a punch to see "Three day grief" invoked, fixed marriage contracts and so on. Katherine and Roddie, as the main characters, are well fleshed out and it's interesting to see how their journey (both physical and psychological) unfolds. However, I don't know who's sections made me more uncomfortable. The sense of being observed pervades Katherine's parts, while being in Roddie's head and knowing that the TV executives can see everything he sees all the time... was quite disturbing. And I think that's the point of this novel - to disturbe, but at the same time to make the reader think. If that's the point, then D.G. Compton succeeded.

  • Daphna
    2019-02-20 13:23

    I bought this book because I am always looking for reliable reviews that will broaden my reading experience. The New York Review of books referred to it as "a thrilling psychological drama that is as wise about human nature as it is about the nature of technology". Well, sorry NYRB, but it is neither. It was published in the seventies and the technology aspect is anachronistic and irrelevant. And yet, it didn't have to be. Reading Orwell's "1984" published in the late 40s and Zamyatkin's "WE" published in the early 20s of the 20th century, there is no sense of anachronism even in this day and age. They are both still masterpieces notwithstanding the technology aspect and they both still captivate the reader. In "The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe" nothing works. The reading is flat, the characters uninteresting creating no empathy or antipathy, and the issue, because of the way it is handled, has not withstood the passing years as did other novels in this genre.

  • Terence
    2019-02-18 08:29

    While it take a bit to get the pacing of the characters perspectives in each chapter, and it isn't made any easier by a character with TV eyes, this is an extremely innovative and forward thinking piece of speculative fiction. There's so many ideas in here it's a bit much, reality TV shows, and an ethical dilemma of euthanasia. Definitely fits next to Ballard and the other New Wave SF, but not exactly SF, which makes it oddly compelling.

  • fromcouchtomoon
    2019-03-15 11:33

    A new take on making love to the camera. (Kind of.) (Not really.)

  • Christopher
    2019-03-07 05:38

    What begins as a critique of media oversaturation ultimately becomes a stealthily touching rumination on the need for human interaction, understanding, and compassion. The narrative unfolds from two simultaneous perspectives, those of the eponymous Katherine Mortenhoe, diagnosed with a terminal brain disease brought on by sensory overload, and Roddie Patterson, a newscaster who has recently been implanted with an optical circuit which transmits his own vision back to the network for broadcast. Compton cleverly writes Roddie's chapters in the first person and Katherine's in the third; aside from making it easier for the reader to quickly orient him- or herself, the technique emphasizes the fundamental unknowableness of Katherine, aligning the reader with the viewers of Katherine's unwanted reality show and holds her always at a slight remove, always objectified. It's a fitting time for NYRB to reissue the book, as social media culture has made its consideration of self-knowledge, self-perception, and self-presentation more timely than ever.

  • Edward Davies
    2019-02-28 05:35

    This is an interesting look at how society has sadly become over the years, with a true fascination with celebrity and the unusual, a concept which has been used in such movies as The Truman Show and edTV. With this novels focus on a world where death is not common place, the illness of a seemingly ordinary member of society can quickly turn their lives into a living hell. The fact that the woman in this book may not in fact have the illness she has been told she has just adds to the overall pathos of the piece.

  • Alison
    2019-02-26 13:18

    A thoughtful, interior, dystopian story that satisfies my literary demand for both a story that has interest & a story that has heart. How have I never heard of this book? This author? I closed the book & then, from my recumbent love-seat state, I stared out the window for a long time, barely aware of the lush June foliage, my mind holding up the images of those final pages for a last inspection & appreciation.

  • Mark
    2019-03-16 11:28

    An alternate present more than a science fiction, and a biting attack on the tv world that should have been tired but in fact had only become more true. I was expecting mortenhoe to be shallow and comical but she was a charm.

  • Carol Peters
    2019-02-27 12:22

    It's only not a 5 because Moby Dick is a 5 & this is not Moby Dick, but it is quite fine, Compton's imagining where we are going with our live-streaming & vicarious life streams. Thank you, whichever goodreads person suggested this one.

  • Michael
    2019-03-19 13:40

    A fine and prophetic novel of reality tv and celebrity culture that reads like it could of been written only a few years ago and not the nearly 40 that it was,The only thing that stops me giving this 5 stars is the slightly lame ending, but a fine piece of early 70s british sci-fi none the less.

  • Williwaw
    2019-03-18 06:37

    There's something hollow and dissatisfying about this novel. I must admit that I stretched it out a bit by taking a long break and then coming back to it. So perhaps this review is premature.Another reviewer here wrote that the characters are all unlikable. I'm close to agreeing with that, but I'm not sure that this, by itself, is legitimate grounds for failing to appreciate a work of literature. There's so much more to consider: style, structure, concept, and narrative flow, to name a few elements that can make or break a novel.Compton is certainly a capable writer. He has a clean and economical prose style. There's definitely a nice flow to the action. The book sustained my interest just enough to pull me through to the end.The concept is interesting. A reporter undergoes surgery to implant a camera in his head, so that what he sees and hears can be beamed directly to the news room. His first assignment is to befriend and follow a dying woman without divulging his "implants." Her last days are to be the subject of a reality TV show. The idea of the public eavesdropping on a person's last days is morally repellent. But there's a catch here: Ms. Mortenhoe has agreed to be a TV subject and taken a generous payment. Nevertheless, she leaves the money with her husband and flees.Consequently, the moral calculus does not entirely favor Ms. Mortenhoe. The story is told mostly from the point of view of Roddie, the reporter with the implants. Roddie chases her down and pretends to be a random stranger who is offering companionship and assistance. It's mostly about his discomfort with his mission and his struggle to confess to Ms. Mortenhoe that he is, in effect, a walking TV camera. As he becomes increasingly attached to her, he finds his mission increasingly unpalatable and untenable, and the results are tragic.I suppose that I never understood why Roddie agreed to put himself in that position. And there's some ambiguity concerning whether Ms. Mortenhoe could have been saved if she had not absconded and if Roddie had not ripped out his prostheses. Perhaps this is the key to my dissatisfaction: that these questions still linger at the end. On some level, I believe that Compton captures the cruelty of the "professional" whose daily work can be disruptive to the lives of others. To keep his sanity, the "professional" must in some sense deny the humanity of his victims and see his work as a mere game. Once the humanity of his victims is revealed, the game is up and the profession is exposed as a cruel sport. This is what happens to Roddie, and the books ends with his disfigurement and professional demise. This, along with the possibly needless death of Ms. Mortenhoe, make for a deeply grim read.

  • Michael Whiteman
    2019-03-18 07:23

    This is a look at a possible future seen from the 1970s, where death is so rare that the dying become celebrities, smothered by voyeurs wanting a taste of the pain and with companies offering protection in exchange for endorsements. Roddie, a tv reporter with eyes replaced by cameras, is tasked with following Katherine, who has been told by her doctor and a tv company that she is terminally ill, to document her last month before death.Roddie's focus is on discovering the "continuous Katherine Mortenhoe", i.e. observing her at all times and putting together a picture of her in the round, as opposed to the facets she would present to reporters, friends, co-workers etc. Compton's writing gives us that picture of Katherine (and Roddie to some extent), showing how her thoughts shift from moment to moment. She has hopes and fears and frustrations but is mostly just trying to get along. There are some nice dystopian touches, such as Katherine having to apply for three days of "Private Grief" after being told of her condition to prevent reporters harassing her at all times. Of course, it doesn't apply to her husband, who immediately becomes the target. There are constant protests which go ignored and many groups have removed themselves (or been removed) from general society. Particularly towards the end, once her show is being aired, we get a good reflection how things look differently to those that are involved and those who watch on tv or from behind the camera, and how people change their behaviours once they know they have an audience. One weakness, yes it was written in the 70s, but the book's treatment of its one gay character still sticks out. Things get a bit slow in the final third but everything builds and develops to a natural conclusion, Katherine and Roddie having both grown and changed along their journey to find some dignity in death, and in life.

  • Noel Coughlan
    2019-02-27 10:19

    Katherine Mortenhoe has a terminal illness at an age that is extremely rare in her time. This makes her fodder for a voyeuristic reality television show determined to track the final weeks of her life in humiliating detail. Roddie, whose eyes have been replaced with cameras, is the man charged with this task.Written in the mid-seventies, this book is haled for its prescience. It certainly is insightful, if bleak. Even the humor that peppers it is grim. Most of the characters are unlikable except for Roddie's ex-wife, Tracey. Neither Katherine or Roddie are particularly likable well into the book, but they grew on me as they grew on each other.The narrative view point moves between Roddie's first person and the third person of the other characters (predominantly Katherine). Most of these shifts are highlighted by section break but towards the end, a couple of these are missing, presumably in error.The ending puzzled me. Mulling it over, I've come to the conclusion that the book is less about Katherine than Roddie's rediscovery of his humanity through his relationship with her. He's the only first person viewpoint, he has the first word and the last. At the start, he wants to build a 'continuous' (complete and objective) picture of her, but he (and the reader) are only given glimpses of the connective tissue that binds all the versions of her into a cohesive whole (symbolized for example by the different versions of her name other characters are in the habit of using). In that sense, the original title of the novel, The Sleepless Eye, is more apt.

  • Ashley Lambert-Maberly
    2019-03-12 10:31

    Ugh. What a slog. I gave up more than 50% of the way through because, fundamentally, I was not enjoying this book (and, at more than 50% of the way through, I felt it still had not begun, quite ... if it were a 600 page opus, that might be acceptable for the same page count (100ish pages of set-up) but not in a 200 page book.On the front flap, in an effort to drum up interest in the book, it describes plot events that still have not happened, despite my being more than 50% of the way through. No, just no.I love the title (when am I going to learn that books only sometimes live up to their title!) but the characters were dull and uninteresting, the plot was dull and uninteresting, the future setting was scarcely described and unevocative, and I imagine, if it weren't for the "reality tv" aspect of it (basically unexplored, at least to the point I got to in the book, and with every indication that they were never going to explore it) I'm sure this would be a dusty forgotten tome.I will be reading Jack Vance's Lyonesse next instead! Life's too short, and (if I live to my father's age) I only have another 26 years of reading left, and (at current rates, though I hope to pick up speed in retirement) that's only about 3,000 books. They better all be good ones!(Note: 5 stars = amazing, wonderful, 4 = very good book, 3 = decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. I'm fairly good at picking for myself so end up with a lot of 4s).

  • Megan
    2019-02-18 07:30

    Welcome to the world where disease almost doesn't exist and privacy is scarce. Now imagine that you're that unlikely woman who gets diagnosed with an incurable disease and expected to die in a month. How would you spend the rest of your life? Would you agree to turn yourself into a morbid reality tv show if offered a lot of money. It's a reissue of classic SF novel from 1973 but it just did not work for me. The premise was not adequately developed and the language slowed my reading.

  • Austin
    2019-03-12 12:20

    The first half is incredible, but once the two main characters meet it seems like the author has to invent a bunch of wacky stuff in order to continue the forward momentum. The characters were vivid, and surprisingly varied. Really enjoyable, weird, and a little sad.

  • Christopher
    2019-02-24 13:23

    There are several profound moments of transcendence that make the otherwise clunky, ill-paced novel worth reading.

  • Antonio Lopez
    2019-03-17 08:27

    Very prescient view of our future of reality TV and voyeurism. Witty and brilliantly sarcastic in a very British way.

  • Kim Zinkowski
    2019-02-26 10:21

    I enjoyed this book

  • Lisa Allen
    2019-03-09 05:42

    An interesting work of speculative fiction.

  • Peter Landau
    2019-03-15 11:27

    The premise of this sci-fi book, THE CONTINUOUS KATHERINE MORTENHOE, from mid-1970s England gets all the attention: in the future, where most disease has been eradicated, the middle-aged woman of the title is diagnosed with a terminal illness and given months to live. The novelty of her condition is broadcast nationwide as a reality-TV show. It must have sounded wacky back then, even though this was the era of movies like NETWORK, and current reviewers note how precedent it is in retrospect. But the real star of the story is death, its inevitability and the need to come to terms with the fact that we all die. I wish there was more for me to say, but I have to admit reading this in a state of constant anxiety. I'm in the midst of selling my house and finding a new place for our family to live. I thought this book would prove a needed distraction but instead it has intensified my feelings of unease and I feel as if I've only skimmed the surface of the story, speeding towards the end, like a welcomed death, where I could finally close the covers on the fantasy of fiction.