12-06-03: John Shirley Interview, Philip Reeve Evolves
John Shirley Interview
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of talking to John Shirley in a live
broadcast interview for NPR affiliate KUSP. As it happens, it turns
out it was the first time I had spoken to him in 14 years.
Amongst them, apparently
is my ability to be pleasantly dense. That is, I had prepared a series
of questions for Jon about the early days
of cyberpunk with all sorts of stuff along the lines of asking if
the famous quote by a president of DEC that "Nobody will ever
need a computer on their desk, they'll all be terminals connected
to a server" played
a part in their conceptualization. Turns out they didn't give a hoot
about computers really; these gents were the guys at the conventions
who wanted to talk about Kerouac and Rimbaud. It's always nice to
ask a question and get an answer you don't expect. John talked about
new novel, 'Crawlers',
(a wonderful novel that's as good as the iconic-to-me 'In Darkness
Waiting') and his forthcoming work, which sounds positively
radical -- religiously radical. Again, not the direction I expected
-- and that's why the interview was such fun. I have both MP3 and
RealAudio versions online
A New Kind of Evolution
While I'd love
to be utterly snooty and display complete disdain at all the genre-based
YA works waddling in the tracks of the world's best-selling series,
I just could not help but be interested in Philip Reeve's 'Mortal
Engines'. The scenario is admittedly fascinating: the great cities
of the world have mounted themselves on huge tractors and move across
a depleted globe, pirating supplies from stationary and lesser cities.
London is a once proud predator that has fallen on hard times. A
young third-class apprentice finds himself stranded in the out-country
and is forced to survive. OK, so far, so good. But what really caught
my eye was a two-word phrase: "Municipal Darwinism". Funny
how something like that can move a book into one's must-buy pile.
I made the mistake of reading the first page or so, and had to force
myself to put it down; it's quite good. As usual, look for more later!
12-04-03: Pelecanos Signing and Remainder Table Alert, FT177, Lambshead First Printing Nearly Gone
Time to Buy Pelecanos
Readers might want to take a peek at the remainder tables in their local independents. One of my local hangouts, Logos Books, has first edition, first printing hardcover copies of the first two books in the Quinn/Strange series recently covered by Terry D'Auray in a column on Pelecanos' vision of Washington DC. For a mere $9.97 (including tax), I scored both books. I've seen them about for a while, actually, and not acted on it, until I heard tell of an imminent Pelecanos signing tour early next year. This would be to coincide with the release of his new novel, 'Hard Revolution: 1959-1968'. Dennis McMillan's version of this is just around the corner, but if you don't know this already, you may be too late to score a copy.
and hope is that before he makes it round here, 'Soul Circus'
will show up on remainder tables as well, though I may have to shell
just because I want to read the first three books in this series
before I settle back and enjoy my McMillan Publications deluxe
the latest, which is a prequel that looks at the life of Derek
those who watch TV, it might add spice to know that Pelecanos
produces HBO's 'The Wire', which is a rather good, gritty police
Dreaming of More Fortean Times
Lambshead First Printing Nearly Gone
12-03-03: The Etchings of KJ Bishop
A detour through The Etched City
This book has been recommended to me by all sorts of readers and writers -- including Jeff VanderMeer and Jeffrey Ford. It's also a Prime Book. Prime is a fascinating publishing company, with lots of very interesting and eclectic titles to their credit. In a perfect world, I'd simply subscribe to their books. The world being what it is, I'm forced to get what I can get however I can get it. This novel looks to be a bit like Clark Ashton Smith's fantasy -- ornate, obscure and deeply unsettling. However, I think it's my next title, so you'll find out real soon what precisely I think of it.
12-02-03: Richard Morgan's Brutal Mainstream and DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little
Richard Morgan's Brutal Mainstream
is one of the best authors to surface in recent years. His first
Carbon', set a satisfyingly dense mystery in an intensely
imagined future. The tough-as-nails PI prose was perfect for his
horrific vision of the 23rd century. Takeshi Kovacs wakes up in a
new body, resurrected by a wealthy man who was told he committed
suicide. He gets to keep the body if he can find out what happened
to his client. Set in San Francisco, Morgan created a vivid future
that felt utterly real. But the mystery aspects of the novel were
so good, it almost seemed a shame that it was SF; on the other hand,
the mystery was very closely tied to Morgan's vision of the future.
It was certainly one of my favorite books of 2002. With a bit better
spin, there's no reason it couldn't have been a US bestseller.
DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little
The UK seems to
love Texas best of all; at least as a demonstration of America's
ugliness. If you've ever watched a UK drama where an English
actor plays an American, chances are you'll hear them speak in a Texan
drawl, especially if the character they're playing is something of
a jerk. Here's the literary equivalent. DBC Pierre's 'Vernon God Little'
won the Booker Prize this year, and who better to lampoon the excesses
of American culture than a wandering Brit conman and reformed drug
addict? DBC ("Dirty But Clean") Pierre spent enough time
in the US to have a clue and his novel got a great review from no less
than Joyce Carol Oates in The New Yorker. The original edition was
published by Faber and Faber in the UK. In the US, Canongate books
is handling the publisher's duties. I got intrigued by the old first
page test. Told by the best friend of a teenager who shot some classmates
then himself, 'Vernon God Little' has a nasty, fun feel: "I mean,
what kind of fucken life is this?" Add to that his Booker Prize
acceptance speech: '"I think I picked the wrong week to give up
sniffing glue."' It's in the queue and when it pops up, you'll
be among the first to know. And, yes, I'm behind in my reviews, but
there are lots of thanksgiving leftovers waiting to be served…
12-01-03: Victorville's Book Secret and How to Keep Dinosaurs
Checking in at the Book Exchange
Visit to Victorville's Book Exchange & More
have a huge selection of used horror, SF and mystery
that could yield up some nice reading copies of books
you might have in more precious editions, or some
cheapo experiments with new authors. The horror author
selection is impressive, with large number of books
by Campbell, Rickman, McCammon, Clegg and others.
Book Exchange is literally crammed into a strip mall between what was once a grocery store and an Insurance office. The ex-grocery store now houses a continual "swap meet" a prospect I find so frightening I cannot make myself enter the now emptyish cavern. This is not the most propitious location for a bookstore, but they've been there for some years now, and they're so stuffed with books it seems that they must be doing a good business. I don't what might take my readers through the upper desert, but I'd suggest if you're ever in the area that you check out Book Exchange. It's one of those odd little stores where you never know what you might find.
How to Keep Dinosaurs – 21 Years Later
we've been keeping dinosaurs as pets for the past
twenty years and nobody told me. I never
would have found out, either, not being inclined to
ask, until recently when I found Robert Mash's delightfully
digitally updated 'How to Keep Dinosaurs'. This slim
volume, ostensibly for children, but more likely for
the adults buying the book for their kids, is amply,
lushly illustrated with all sorts of photos wherein
dinosaurs are inserted to cavort playfully with the
kids, herd sheep on the high plains or play the part
of enormous lawn ornaments for the fabulously wealthy.
a lot of very understated humor happening here, from
the collection of icons attached to each species (a
broken rattle signifies "Iffy with babies")
to the tool kit for the prospective owner, which includes
a "stout shovel" and a thermometer because "Unfortunately,
it is often necessary to take the temperature of sickening
or broody dinosaurs."