People will often bury and repress unpleasant memories as a defense mechanism against those memories haunting them for the rest of their lives. As ATLAS OF MEN demonstrates, sometimes it doesn’t take much to bring those memories back to the surface, oftentimes with less than desirable results.
Being a teenage Filipino adoptee, Robert Thames always felt a bit out of place during his high school years at his prestigious New England boarding school. Admitted to the tony school due to his adoptive father’s legacy and professorship there, he shied away from the privileged crowds that legacy would have granted him entry to. Instead he was drawn to friends closer to the edges of the social hierarchy, eventually finding himself a part of a circle of five friends whose bridge club games were the highlight of high school days past.
In the present day a highly respected doctor and researcher, Thames has fond memories of his time in the bridge club. But when he receives a shipment of hardcopy data from an old research study of his father’s, other memories of high school are painfully drawn to the surface. The study itself was in the field of the now pseudoscience known as constitutional psychology, a theoretical philosophy that maintained that a person’s body type could predetermine one’s success in life. Data from this study of body type collected during Thames’ school days included nude photos of every boy in the school at that time. Behavioral data included reports of disciplinary actions, indiscretions, and even illicit accounts of improper contact between students and faculty.
Attempting to come to terms with revived memories of events documented in the data Thames sets out to reassess his friendships with the other bridge club members. As he approaches each of his club partners with information about the study that was conducted on each of them, their reactions to the information adds to Thames’ overall recall of a particular incident that threw the entire school into turmoil. When one of these five friends is found to be terminally ill, the others all agree to gather at his bedside for one last game of bridge. During this game the ultimate truths about that one incident are brought into the light and the parties responsible for the incident are finally held to task.
Driven by a seamless movement between past and present, ATLAS OF MEN delivers a powerful story that is as unique as it is unsettling. As manifest in the technical nature of the storytelling, Sklar trusts in the intelligence of his reader and in doing so challenges those readers to immerse themselves in new realms of science and pseudoscience.
~Johnny Masiulewicz for IndieReader