Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: Jim and the Flims by Rudy Rucker

Jim and the Flims By Rudy Rucker
247 pages $24.99
Nightshade books

Rudy Rucker is a well know cyperpunk Science Fiction author and he is also well know for being a mathematician and computer science professor. He is also the editor of Sci-fi's best web-zine Flurb (I may be bias because flurb published a story of mine). Fiction wise he is best known for a series of four cyberpunk books that were kicked off by the classic novel Software. (I reviewed Software back in October 2010 on this blog). To say that Rucker is a genius to me is a understatement. He writes stunningly original, funny and above all smart Science Fiction.

His observations on the craft of writing Science Fiction are well documented in interviews done over the years with the amazing Agony column podcast. One of my favorite concepts Rucker introduced in one of those interviews was the Sci-Fi Power cord. He talked about how certain tropes in speculative fiction such as androids, flying saucers, Alien invasions should not be looked upon negatively as cliché, no more than the power cord in a AC/DC or Ramones song. Through his long career Rucker has explored these power cords always putting a unique spin on familiar topics.

I knew I wanted to read this book when Rucker said after recovering from a health scare he decided to write a book about traveling in the afterlife. Rucker didn't see any light at the end of the tunnel, but was inspired to explore the idea. What we end up with is a novel that is kind of like Matheson's What Dreams May Come' meets Slacker.

It is the story of surfer slacker Jim Oster, a former bio-tech engineer turned mailman who accidentally cuts a hole in a electron and sets off a chain of events starting with the death of his beloved wife Val. In this novel the after world known to it's residents as Flimsy is not above us in the heavens but all around us in each and every electron. This leads to my favorite dialogue from the novel, “Heaven is everywhere. It's a hall of mirrors, but over here only one electron has a nick, thanks to you fuckhead.”

You see, Jim created a tunnel, not only has he some of the various species of flims escaped to earth, but he is given the chance to leave his body and search for his wife in Flimsy.

This is where things get weird, really bizarro. Rucker takes us on a wild adventure across flimsy, a land made up of strange creatures and landscapes. I can hardly do them justice in this review. In Flimsy water flows across the sky, flying intelligent beets, and blue baboons run amok. The characters travel across the land on a cruiser couch that Jim makes with his mind out of a material called Kenessce which all flimsy is made out of. Along the way the book also has has one of the most bizarre sex scenes between Jim and a woman also discovering her astral body.

Jim has to navigate the strange community of Santa Cruz surfers and flims so he can not only find his wife but of course save the earth. Rucker's strength is an amazingly bizarro creative imagination that matches his obvious intellect. Unlike many bizarro books Jim and flims finds humor without appealing to the gutter. The prose has a whimsy, that a lot of science fiction lacks, and frankly could use. It reads like a lucid dream, the kind where you wake up laughing and wondering how your brain came up with that.

So yeah, Rudy Rucker strummed this power cord with a lot of gusto and I think if you have not read his stuff before it's a excellent place to start.

Book Review: Tattered Souls 2 (due out Aug. 2011)

Tattered Souls 2 Edited by Frank Hutton
Chopping Block press
218 pages

I reviewed the first book in this series and based on the strength of the first book choose to read this one. While the first book was not a perfect collection it was a great introduction to several authors I had never heard of before. I was very excited by a novella in the first book that I thought should have been a stand alone novel, and have followed and looked for the work of it's author Matt Wallace ever since reading Tattered Souls 1. That is the greatest function of an anthology, introducing us to authors we have not already found. This is usually done by splitting books between well known authors and new authors.

TS seems to be focused on newer authors as I had only heard of Forrest Aguirre before reading this book. That being said I found Aguirre's story to be the strongest of the collection. His story called The Arch:Conjecture of cities was somewhat Lovecraftian, not in the tired mythos tropes style but in the way the story unfolded.

The book opens with a very Phillip K. Dick inspired dark Sci-fi tale called “Yellow called and Mom was there.” by Tim Burke. Most of the stories are on the longer scale coming close to the line where short stories become novella. This worked in Aguirre's story but made a few of the stories such as Stephanie Shaw's Mademoiselle Guignol drag. A few of the stories could have benefited from being shorter.

TS is a great concept, and should be supported for bringing new authors to the table. I think the first book did a better job, but I can tell you I will read the third when it comes around. Libraries with a focus on horror in their collection should have this for sure.