Monday, January 05, 2009

A pint of Lazarus straight up

I've been a pretty good tear with the reading of Stuff that I've not read before. Had this major THING 'bout back in '06 where I found out that you can use the internet to point you to authors and books that You Haven't Read based on authors and books that You Have Read. Amazing, right?! So off I went.

Six months later I did a list of every book I've read since 2000 or so and was somewhat embarassed to find that I'd read as much in the last 2 years as I had in the 6 years before that. The basic problem was I was just re-reading the same books (anything by Gibson) or not even exploring a given author's complete works (Sterling, Shirley) and just not taking the plunge with authors I knew about but never read (Rucker, Effinger).

I've been meaning to sketch out some opinions on these books, to generate a sort of autobibliography.



THE DIVINE INVASION
Philip K. Dick
(1981)

I believe this book has been kicking it between my bookshelf and bedside table for 4 or 5 years and I never got around to reading it. Vintage wonderful late-period Dick, complete with VALIS reference. In an alternative universe, Dick would be a (more widely read) theologian, me thinks. This title includes a marvelous description of pre-Judeo-Christian divine justice (its mathematic) versus what came after (litigative, in a sense).



KAMIKAZE L'AMOUR
Richard Kadrey
(1995)

World's Biggest Rockstar fakes death at rehab facility to get back to basics. Set in a future America beset by a Green Apocalypse: the Amazon started (re)growing at a rate a hundred-fold faster than men could cut it down. California surrendered to the jungle. Strange consequences. Descriptions of mostly Amazonianized San Francisco are fun. Personally somewhat irritated by cyberpunkian tendency of male protags to fuck their female counterparts shortly after meeting them. I'm not saying this doesn't happen: people meet, fuck, and go steady for awhile all the time. But that doesn't mean it happens ALL THE TIME, y'know?



SLAM
Lewis Shiner
(1990)

Shiner's prolly the most criminally ignored of the Cyperpunk authors. I adore his characters and I think his prose rivals Gibson's, if not slightly better. Effortless, makes you smile. Like Sterling, a Texas native, Shiner sets this one in Galveston and environs. A paltry tax-evasion ex-con goes on parole and tries to get his life together. Skaters, early internet stuff, nice insights about little things, about those little transcedent moments in life. Can't express how much great stuff in this fairly quick read.



ON STRANGER TIDES
Tim Powers
(1988)

Powers is always a romp, and his historical research is spot on, without being baroque about it (looking at you, Stephenson). Puppeteer (sigh) goes to Caribbean seeking revenge, ends up a pirate cook, meets Blackbeard, learns magic, so forth and so on. Power's systems of magic are a strong point of all his novels, precisely because they are systems, because they make so much sense the way he lays them out.



THE DIGGING LEVIATHAN
James Blaylock
(1984)

California residents self-styled as gentleman scientists seek route to the center of the earth, accompanied by and dependent on, as it turns out, an actual fish-boy. Blaylock and Powers went to school together and both knew Philip K. Dick. I've read a bit of Powers, but my Blaylock is limited to this single volume, and my verdict would be that Blaylock's the one more akin to Dick. The characters are strong but more deeply flawed, and you're never quite sure if events are actually transpiring or if its just crazy people being crazy.

-d.d.

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