Thursday, January 29, 2009

press my face up to the screen

A Circular of Recent Literate Goings-On, or, D.D Tinzeroes Reviews the Recently Read, No. 4. This batch comes highly recommended.

The Anubis Gates
Tim Powers

There is no better introduction to Powers than the Anubis Gates. 'Course, this one won some awards and stuff, so I suppose it's arguably his best. Academic type specializing in the poetry of Lord Byron and the like gets to go back in time to meet Woodsworth. Get's stuck. Turns out ancient Egyptian magicians are running around England, burning down London and the such. Puppets (sigh) and a seriously messed up clown puppeteer. Good London stuff. Magic. More time travel. The fictitious poet William Ashbless, whom was co-created by Powers and Blaylock in university, factors heavily. Powers' signature style of systemized magic is present: in this case magic can be negated by one's feet on the ground.

Lost Cities of the Heart
Lewis Shiner

I really adore this book. Shiner's prose and characterization are strong as they were in Slam. A rock star (Eddie) leaves it all and goes to the Yucatan to be with Maya Indians.1 His more straight-edge brother (Thomas) did college research at Mayan ruins in same vicinity. The unrest of 1980s Mexico intervenes to send Thomas in search of Eddie, joined by Eddie's estranged wife, who Thomas has a major hard-on for. Love triangle develops. Jimi Hendrix cameos. Mexican rebels. American mercenaries. Mondo hallucinagenic mushrooms in the shadow of the Mayan pyramids. Time travel. Helicopter combat. The ending's perhaps a little hectic and messy, but it early work for Shiner, really, so the overall strength outweighs the demerits.

Holy Fire
Bruce Sterling

I hadn't read much of Sterling's later works, but Holy Fire surprised me. In a future where near immortality is common, and the world is governed by the medical establishment (when you can live forever, or very close to forever, things like money, governments, wars and the like become irrelevant), one member of the elite tries a new, experimental procedure that literally strips you down to your brain and spinal cord and builds a Brand Spanking New body back up around you. The side effect, however, is that you regain that youthful recklessness – the experience of old age is mostly forgotten. What follows is a sort Candid-esque tour of a future full of Sterling ideas.2 Gossamer jetliners. Post peak oil need for plastics met by landfill mining and recycling plastics found within, so that there are landfill millionaires, as it were. Laptops built into smart-fabrics. People experiment with the potential of their medically mastered world. An artist takes a drug to sabotage his memory so his style stays fresh: no two pieces are the same. Another guy goes to a sort of reverse-evolution resort: they'll regress you into the missing link and you can spend your days scavenging for shellfish on a beach somewhere. Even the ending doesn't bug me.


1 A strangle parallel to Kadrey's Kamikaze L'Amour
2 A familiar model for Sterling.

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