Onyx reviews: K-PAX
III: the worlds of prot by Gene Brewer
K-PAX introduced prot, an alien from the planet K-PAX, who occupies Robert
Porter's body. Whether prot is really from outer space or a personality
developed to shield Robert from violently unpleasant childhood memories is an
open question. His appearances conveniently correspond with traumatic events in
On the other hand, prot has a special way with other patients at the Manhattan
Psychiatric institute, treating their psychoses with simple-but-effective
suggestions where years of traditional counseling failed. He also appears to
know things about astrophysics unknown to Earth scientists, communicates with
animals and claims to travel on a beam of light.
At the end of the first sequel, psychologist Gene Brewer (who shares the
author's name) has apparently resolved many of Robert's issues. Robert is
married and the happy couple has a young child.
Two years later, while Robert is bathing their child, prot reappears. This time,
Robert retreats so far that Brewer cannot make contact, even through
hypnotherapy. The alien plans to gather up one hundred beings—some human,
mostly animal—to take back to K-PAX with him at the end of the year, never to
return. On one previous occasion, when prot "left Earth," Robert went
into a long period of catatonia. Time is running against Brewer, who must unlock
the cause of Robert's latest regression in the few weeks remaining before prot
While the K-PAX books are nominally about Brewer's efforts to solve Robert
Porter's problems, they are equally about Brewer's attempts to unravel his own
puzzle. He's nearing retirement but unwilling to give up his daily routine at
the Institute, where each success with a patient only means there's place for
another, equally needy, person. He has grown children with whom he has varyingly
successful relationships and a wife who also recently retired. Brewer has
trouble envisioning life without the Institute that has given his life meaning.
With his "out of the box" approach to curing some of the Institute's
long-term inmates, prot forces Brewer to re-examine his training and look at
each patient as an individual in a new light. The book stretches credibility
somewhat when Brewer's colleagues, all serious therapists, readily turn their
patients over to prot for treatment.
The book is structured around Brewer's frequent sessions with prot, but these
segments are the least interesting parts of the novel. After the first two
books, there's little new ground to cover here. Brewer attempts to contact
Robert, occasionally converses with the other personalities Robert developed to
handle different traumatic situations, makes a few breakthroughs, but mostly
duels with prot, whose impressions of Earth and its populace haven't changed
over the years. Even mild-mannered prot appears frustrated with Brewer's
Some readers may be turned off by the novel's preachiness. The author uses prot
as a mouthpiece for his views about the way mankind treats the planet and its
non-human cohabitants. Each session inevitably returns to this subject.
A third book about prot may be stretching success a little too far. Like the
fictional Brewer, it's probably time for the alien to retire and give up his
lecture circuit. Maybe the next visitor from K-PAX (a fourth book is reportedly
being written) will have something fresh to say about Earth and mankind.
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