I suspect that a great many readers will not appreciate the dense language and the non-linear structure a this loose prequel to Borne. Borne, for all of its hallucinogenic qualities, has a fairly straight forward plot that could be turned into a film, albeit one by Jodorowsky. Dead Astronauts, though, revels in its textuality. It can’t be filmed. Though it’s an ecological science fiction novel that plays with theoretical concepts like Time Travel and parallel Earths, it operates with dream logic. Vandermeer plays games with typography (though not in a House of Leaves way; it’s more like the beginning of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye with its use of repetition and claustrophobic line spacing) that underscore the surrealistic nature of book. The novel—prose poem?— is closer tone to Delany’s DHALGREN or even Lautremont’s Le Chants de Maldoror. This kind of visionary writing—full of beautiful nightmarish imagery—is one of my favorite forms of fiction. I hope it finds the right audience.
I just received my author copies of A Spectral Hue, along with some swag. Including bookplates that I will sign–and signed copies will be available from the publisher if you order directly from Word Horde!
I am over the moon to announce that my novel, A Spectral Hue, will be published next year by Word Horde. Thanks to the publisher, Ross E. Lockhart, for taking on this weird novel of Outsider Art, ghosts, and divine inspiration. I would also like to thank the participants of the Wyrd Words workshop for their valuable suggestions and insight.
Huzzah! I’m joining the Horde!
Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng.
In spite of being flawed in its pacing, this debut novel stuck with me. It is a gothic novel given a fantasy makeover. It deals with forbidden passion and is mostly set in a gothic castle in fairyland (here called Arcadia). Ng’s evocation of fairyland is sinister rather than whimsical, full of mists and confusion. The Fae are cruel, capracious creatures, given to mindfuck games and illusions. Their alien morality is tantalizingly disguised behind a thin veil of beauty. One of the central themes of the novel is: do these creatures have souls?
The Waterborn by Greg Keyes
A colorful play on sword and sorcery tropes. Very action-filled with a ‘sensawonda.’ The worldbuilding is non-western even if the tropes (the Chosen one, the princess in peril) are. Bits of Native American and South American (Aztec and Mayan) influence are filtered through this take on the Hero’s Journey. The rich imagery and characterizations (particularly the princess) make this a ‘page-turner.’
I Am the River by T.E. Grau
I’m reading the ARC of this novel (soon to be out the publisher of my first collection Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories). It’s a Vietnam War novel with supernatural elements, well researched and with a somewhat experimental style. The shifting timelines technique takes a bit to get used to, but it works well with the disorienting narrative. It’s a textual representation of PTSD, very effective, very uncomfortable.
What are you reading?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The specter of AIDS haunts this star-studded, themed collection which is set in the early 80s, just at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. The cast includes Keith Haring, Sylvester, the Reagans, Jackie O, and Little Edie Beale. The settings veer from New York Bathhouses to the Castro to Fire Island to the White House. The brief book exudes a unique mixture of camp and nostalagia, shot through with a prophetic melancholy.
Forthcoming Interview with the author….
Robert Levy’s supernatural thriller debut, THE GLITTERING WORLD is a sinister reinterpretation of the changeling child myth set in the ruins of a remote Canadian artist’s community. Levy is trained as a psychologist, and this insight into various mental states and disorders underpins the tightly-drawn character portraits. The story is told from four distinct view points, and the grounding in the ‘real’ world (hippy artist’s communes, 90s-era club scene, the professional lives of chefs and a working psychiatrist) makes the intrusion of the counterfactual more chilling.
Levy’s novel reminds me, tonally, of the movie UNDER THE SKIN. The works share themes of otherness—true otherness (think of Starfish Aliens)— existential despair and both works use the landscape-as-character (the highlands of Scotland in UTS, the Canadian wilderness in TGW) effectively.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Big Machine by Victor Lavalle is an ambitious horror novel about secret societies with subtextual issues about race and class that is full of laugh aloud moments. It’s a sort of tonal patchwork of A Confederacy of Dunces, The DaVinci Code and The Intuitionist.
Ricky Rice is a bus station janitor who receives a mysterious summons to someplace in remote Vermont. Because he’s an itinerant ex-junky, he uses the free bus ticket and arrives at the Washburn Library along with other African Americans misfits and petty criminals who all seem to have turning points of Epiphany buried deep in their checkered pasts. They are branded collectively as the Unlikely Scholars and charged with collecting and cataloging reports of esoteric phenomena. After a period lasting perhaps a year, Rice manages to crack the code, and is sent on a quest to Northern California to track down a heretical Unlikely Scholar.
The wild plot, full of incident and conspiracy and supernatural occurrences is as expertly paced as a Stephen King novel. But it was the narration and characters that kept me glued. Rice tells his story in the first person, full of quips and asides about lower class African American life that ring true. The repartee between Rice and his partner the Gray Lady (aka Adele Henry) zings like the best of Nick and Nora. The scenes of horror and degradation, both personal and environmental, are chilling. It’s a pleasure to read this kind of fiction with such well-realized characters that you don’t often see on the printed page.
Ultimately, I don’t think Big Machine succeeds as well as Lavalle’s most recent novel, The Devil in Silver. The ambition and scope of the plot gets the better of him. But it’s a fun ride, full of beautiful writing.