Monday, March 18, 2013

Clive Barker and Wes Craven on Dr.Ruth?

Book Review: The Blue Heron by Gene O'Neill

The Blue Heron by Gene O'Neill

87 pages Bad Moon books (Hardcover limited/Paperback)

Gene O'Neill's novella “Jade” was my number six read of 2010, I wanted another 100 pages. It was a charming post apocalypse story, yep you read that right. O'Neil is a talented story teller through and through and that story set in the ruins that had once been San Diego was emotionally gripping from the first page to the last. I also read and loved his Bram Stoker award winning collection of stories taking place in San Francisco called “The Taste of Tenderloin” So I jumped at a chance to review another novella from him, this one is also Stoker nominated and is called The Blue Heron.

It is the story about the surviving members of a Marine recon unit that were apart of a tramatic attack on a small arms depot in vietnam where they were involved in the killing of innocent pregnant woman. The members of the team begin to die, each one is found with a small blue Origami meant to look like a Blue Heron. This has meaning to the still living members of the team as they saw a Blue Heron out of place in SE asia on the the day of the murder back in 1962.

This is quick excellently paced horror novella that jet sets with with characters as they try to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill them. I certainly can see that O'Neill had enough for a much longer story but it is perfectly paced with no fluff, making it a great read. I am sure I enjoyed Jade more, but I have become a fan of Gene O'Neill whose strongest asset is consistently strong story-telling abilit and pitch perfect pacing and prose.

He is not flashy, but solid and has made a fan out of this reader. I think this strong entry in the Dark Regions novella series should be in any collection that takes horror fiction seriously.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: The Departure by Neal Asher

The Departure by Neal Asher

390 pages Nightshade books

As an adult political Science Fiction is my favorite kind of Sci-fi novel, when I was younger Del Rey paperbacks with Science Fiction Adventure were often my favorites. One amazing thing Neal Asher has done here is marry those two styles in one fantastic 21st century speculative work of fiction. The first of a new series called the Owner trilogy is not a totally new universe to Asher, there were a few stories about a character called the Owner, but it is the first novel in in this setting and a origin story. The majority of his work take place in the universe of his polity novels. I have reviewed the first two Gridlinked and the amazing novel Skinner on my blog already. If no other reason this novel earns it's title for being a bold Departure from the novels Asher has found so much success with.

The Owner series is set in our solar system only a few centuries ahead on a overpopulated Earth and a fledgling Mars colony. The lazy comparison will be to the Bourne Identity space opera as the main character Alan Saul wakes up without any prior memories of his attempts at a failed revolution. He has the help of an AI implanted in his skull and an engineer named Hannah. Saul has to re-learn quickly why he was at odds with the Committee the one world government, who is dealing with a overpopulated and under resourced world coming with a system to determine which citizens are of value and which should be killed.

Saul augments his brain, so he can interface with the committee's source of power, a mega satellite colony on a asteroid in orbit of earth. Thus begins a a battle for the control of Argus. This is a powerful Science Fiction novel filled with lots of high concepts. I think there has been some disappointment with some Asher fans, but if this was his first novel I think it would rated higher, the problem is Asher has put the bar very high. I can only speak for a couple of novels but there is nothing here that compares to the setting, tone, characters, hardware and quality of writing in Asher's second novel “The Skinner.”

As it is a Neal Asher novel there is all kinds of insane kinds of future tech designed for brutality and warfare. I read this right after the very intellectually strong, action weak and left leaning 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson which shares a similar setting. This novel felt like Cannon films bought the rights to adapt that novel and made a libertarian mega action version. Anyone who knows me knows that is not exactly a turn off as I love Cannon movies.

The majority of Science Fiction novels with a political message are written by left leanings writers (like John Shirley, John Brunner or Kim Stanley Robinson) or straight-up radicals (like Ursala K.Leguin and Norman Spinrad). I would be lying if I didn't admit that I like to agree with my favorite novels. However as a political writer myself I don't want or expect all my readers to agree with me. So in return it is only fair that I read enjoy authors I don't agree with.

That is the thing, this novel feels very Ayn Rand influenced and seems to call for little or no government. Probably the opposite of John Shirley's recent anti-libertarian novel “Everything is Broken.” I don't really agree with a lot of the message but I enjoyed the story throughout.

I spent a lot of time thinking about and considering the message of this book, mostly after it was done. Unlike my bad experience with Dan Simmons novel Flashback I was able to separate my personal feelings and enjoy the story. Simmons may be one of the most brilliant minds working in genre but once he decides to make a point he often forgets to be a genius. Flashback felt like it was written on a soapbox, and that often pulled me out of the story. Asher didn't do that.

I was busy reading about giant space battles, spider gun robots and 23rd century warfare and revolution. It was a fun wild ride and only after it was done did I realize that Asher and I see a lot of the same problems coming in the future we just don't agree on the root cause. In the end I enjoyed The Departure and I am interested enough in the story that I am going to read the second book when it comes out.