Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Review: The Black hole of Carcosa by John Shirley

Kamus of Kadizhar: Black Hole of Carcosa
John Shirley
1988 St. Martin’s press
(Out of Print)

I have not worked my way through every book that cyberpunk and extreme horror pioneer John Shirley has written, but I have read the majority. Black hole of Carcosa is the most bizarro one I have read so far. 1988 is way before the bizarro literary movement kicked off but this book has more in common with the likes of D Harlan Wilson than it does the vulgar insanity of Carlton Mellick III.

Set on Darkworld a future human colony where technology doesn’t work but magic does. This is the surreal setting where noir style Kamus of Kadizhar is the world’s only detective.

I wouldn’t say this book is a satire, but it is as tongue and cheek of a science fiction novel I have read in a long time. So even though the plots are very different that is why it reminded me of D Harlan Wilson’s amazing science fiction surreal comedy Dr. Identity. If you compare the two Dr. Identity may seem a little bit more gonzo consider the time and place in his career that John Shirley was at.

Rudy Rucker was in a lot of ways cyberpunk’s comedian, and Shirley was at the time in the middle of a dark trilogy of world war III novels. The Song Called Youth Trilogy was a brutal look at the growing conservative fundamentals, so a whacky tongue in cheek surrealist comedy at the same time was a bold move in 1988.

Now there is a movement and peers that support this kind of off the wall novel, but at the time I think this was a pretty bold novel. Bizarro fiction fans need to find this book if they can. Maybe if its cult status grows Shirley can write sequel set on the punk rock planet mentioned on page 43. That would be awesome.

1 comment:

roguedreamer said...

OMG-- the cover alone is the greatest nod to old school SF! i love it... reading John Shirley's ENTIRE body of work is one of those things that everybody probably needs to do in order to evolve as a human being! Okay, that's a grandiose statement, I haven't read his entire body of work, but he is definitely a guy who tells it like it needed to be said, and never pulled punches, at any era of his career.