The Pains

The Pains

By John Damien Sundman
Book Description

Say you’re the Savior, Fred Christ. Would you want your frozen head to be reanimated in 1984?


The world is going all to hell. Wars loom. Earthquakes strike with increasing regularity; weather patterns are awry; birds are in the water, fish in the air. Old ways wither; old languages are lost as the memories of their last surviving speakers dissolve like cobwebs. Something rotten this way comes. Governments collapse around the globe, leaving only the Party to rule over all.


In a prison cell, a madman spins theories of the mind, conjuring his own freedom. In cars and bars and shopping malls, proles obediently obey the insipid pronouncements of Big Brother, Ronald Reagan, and Oliver North that emanate from the irony machine they call the telescreen. In a subzero laboratory, a scientist stares at an imprisoned god. And in a lonely bare room in a vast and nearly empty monastery, a young novice studies and prays and contemplates the idea of simple goodness, trying to comprehend chaos. For which his only reward will be the pure torment of The Pains.


In a world that is part Orwell, part Cheney, and part who knows what, a holy man tries to find a way to give meaning to his suffering, and perhaps thereby save us all.


Cheeseburger Brown, the creator of Simon of Space brings this universe to life with twelve vivid illustrations.In a deranged world, what will save us: science or faith? Open your mind and — Fred willing — you will find release from your own pains within these pages.


What is The Pains?

The Pains is an novella-length illustrated dystopian phantasmagoria that  forms one third of the Mind over Matter trilogy along with Cheap Complex Devices by John Compton Sundman and Acts of the Apostles by John F.X. Sundman. It's heavily influenced by Orwell's 1984, Gleick's Chaos, and The Book of Job. And Cheesburger Brown's illustrations are out of this world creepy-cool. 

The Mind Over Matter trilogy

Mind over Matter comprises the novel Acts of the Apostles by John F.X. Sundman and the novellas Cheap Complex Devices by John Compton Sundman and The Pains by John Damien Sundman (with illustrations by Cheeseburger Brown). These three books, although different from each other in genre, literary technique, authorial voice, and so forth, share a common theme of exploring how mind arises from matter. As a set they embody a "strange loop" as expounded by Douglas Hofstadter ( very crudely summarized, Hofstadter postulates that self-aware minds arise from strange loops that reference themselves). As to the reality or fictitiousness of each of the three John Sundmans who ostensibly wrote these books, (and how they relate to me) readers are advised to read all three books and form their own opinions. 

The Pains as a Meditation on Suffering

Although the book is short, and although it was very well-formed in my head for a long time, it took me a long time to write it. Or to be more accurate, it only took me a short while to write it, but before I actually wrote it I wrestled with it, as Jacob wrestled with the angel, for several years. My younger brother Paul died of ALS in April, 2008, and my sister Maureen died of brain cancer that September. Both of them had borne their fates nobly, hanging on bravely for the sake of their spouses and children. It was only after Maureen had gone that I realized that my little book was in some ways a meditation on their suffering. 

The Pains and Creative Commons

The Creative Commons license was formally introduced to the world at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference in 2003. John Sundman was present at the conference, and put his two then-existing books (Acts and Devices) under the license immediately. The Pains was licensed under Creative Commons shortly after its initial publication in 2008. Thus these books been available for free download from various servers for more than a decade. Who knows how many people have already read the books this way? Not me.

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