Monday, September 30, 2013

Top ten classic bizarro Sci-fi novels #10 Proto-Cyberpunk kicks off the list!

My top ten classic Bizarro Science Fiction novels!

Over the summer I did a ten week countdown of my favorite horror novels of all time. I had fun doing it and seems based on the numbers that a lot of people were were reading them. I enjoyed the discussions and so I decided to do another top down. So here are some rules, one book by each author because in this list it runs the risk of becoming the Philip K.Dick list. The second rule is nothing published in the 21st century. There are great gonzo sci-fi novels released in the last thirteen years for sure, The Skinner by Neal Asher and Dr. Idenity by D.Harlan Wilson are great examples. They are great but we are talking old school now. The more weird the better, they can be serious or totally funny, the most important thing is that they are bizarro and awesome.

This list will have a more structured format. Enjoy.format. Enjoy. Number # 10 is:

Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

Released: 1976

The plot: Uh OK, here goes. This novel takes place in a digital America in the 21st century. There is a place and it is hard to tell if it is real or virtual, probably both called Tarnover. It is there that hyper intelligent children are brought up to hack the Data-net which is the computer system that runs throughout the world.

The main character is Nickie Halflinger who is on the run constantly changing his identity. Eventually he learns there is a resistance movement fighting against Tarnover.

The weirdest aspect: This novel is totally surreal. Not only does this novel take place in a highly surreal cyberspace it is one envisioned by a writer in 1975.

What does it say about our world? The most insane part is how much of the future Brunner nailed. The Data-net in the novel is basically the internet. This novel is very much about a computer virus, infact this book is often given credit for the use of the term worm. In this novel the wonders of a digitally connected world is explored and questioned. Privacy is gone as the Data-net connects the world on-line. In 1976 Brunner suggested the idea that Big Brother wasn't watching, that the citizens were plugging in and giving away all their data to Big Brother willingly. Sound familiar?

With Facebook, Twitter, and the connectedness of the Iphones it is amazing just how much Brunner has to say about today.

Bottom line is it good? Considered one of Brunner's three masterpieces Shockwave Rider is a great proto Cyberpunk novel. It is not light reading. It is so weird and surreal I found the first 2/3 of the book to be a bit of a challenge. The constant changing of the main characters identity and his adventures on the data-stream makes for a very surreal feeling. Not to mention the story is told in non-linear flash backs. I am not the only reader who wondered am I not smart enough to follow this? The last third of the book pays off your patience. There are many pieces of the story that don't seem to make sense that come together perfectly in the final act.

The Author: John Brunner was a British science fiction writer active from the 50's until his death in 1995. He has published MANY novels, ranging from thin cheezy pulp novels to highly regarded classics. Shockwave Rider is one of three novels considered to be his masterpieces. The other two are the epic Stand on Zanibar and the eco-horror classic The Sheep Look Up (8# on my favorite Horror novels list). Both of those are bizarro in their own ways, but his other most weird novel is Crucible of Time. That novel reads like a history text for a very unhuman like species. Very strange book as well.

Honorable mention of the week:

Final Blackout by L.Ron Hubbard

David Agranoff is the author of two published novels the Wuxia Pan style horror fantasy crossover "Hunting The Moon Tribe," and the satire "The Vegan Revolution With Zombies. He is also the author of the Wonderland award short story collection "Screams From a Dying World." His next novel Boot Boys of the Wolf-Reich is due to be released soon by Deadite press.

Book Review: Star Wars -The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Michael Reeves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

Del Rey 460 pages Paperback

Last year I had a bit of a Star Wars binge where I read one every other book that I was reading for a few months. Since SW was such a huge part of my childhood it was nice familiar feeling. I could hear the sound effects, the music. I think that is why SW books are popular in prison and the military for people away from home.

One of my favorite SW novels came as a total surprise. That was Reeves first SW novel Darth Maul Shadow Hunter. When I saw it on the shelf I wasn’t going to read it, but a friend said it was surprisingly good. Not only was it good, I thought it was a fantastic SW that while titled after The villain Darth Maul was much more than that. Yes Darth Maul is a major force, but the novel is more of noir tale of the universe’s capital city than anything. The novel introduces several new characters which were the highlight of that novel, but the action and pacing were also very well done. I became a Reeves fan and mostly he has proven me correct that he belongs along side Matthew Stover, and James L…. as the best authors working in the expanded universe. This is the third novel that he has teamed up with Fantasy writer Maya Kaathryn Bohnoff. It’s a good partnership, the novels maintain the pace and action.

This novel follows the adventures of Jax Pavin whose droid I-five was introduced back in the Darth Maul along with Jax’s father. These are my two favorite EU characters and it was the main reason I wanted to read this novel. Taking place during the dark days of the rebellion and involves the after math of a terrible defeat for the rebels. Darth Vader has captured one of Pavin’s best friends and a leader in the rebellion. Jax decides he has to rescue his friend or risk a planned assassination on the Emperor.

I am a sucker for anything Jedi and Sith related and this story takes a neat angle on force spirituality. Pavan has to explore his feelings believing he is the last jedi, survivor of Order 66. He has to confront his feelings toward Darth Vader(being one of the few who knows the truth).

You have to be a star wars nerd, to read an expanded universe novel. This book is a great one but it builds off of Darth Maul Shadow Hunter and the Coruscant Nights Trilogy. So start there if you are a fan of Jedis.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review: Cold City by F.Paul Wilson

Cold City By F.Paul Wilson

Repairman Jack early years book one Tor hardcover 365 pages

Last year I read all the novels in the secret history of world saga by F.Paul Wilson, That includes three different novel series and with this book you can include a trilogy that makes four, count them four different series that weave into a story that starts in Wilson's classic novel “The Keep,” and concludes in his end of the world novel “Nightworld.” If you want to read the story and I advocate fans of horror and weird crime you do just that you'll have to commit to at least two of the series including the six books of the Adversary cycle series and the fifteen novels of Repairman Jack. I know it is a lot but I was quickly hooked and they read quick thanks to Wilson's lean prose and excellent world class plotting.

You have to be a master of plotting to weave one story through this. Let me break it down.

3 Young Jack YA novels

3 Repairman Jack early years novels (two and three forthcoming)

6 Adversary cycle novels (but Wilson's WW II epic black wind connects strongly to the saga as well)

15 Repairman Jack novels (but keep in mind Adversary cycle #6 and RMJ #15 are the same novel.)

OK follow that because Wilson perfectly weaves the plot together over 26 novels (or at least 24 already released) Fans already know how it ends but the early years when Jack left his life and went off the grid in NYC becoming a extra legal problem solver were the one gap in his story. After huge fan demand (these books are quiet bestsellers) Wilson agreed to tell that story over three books.

This is clearly a Repairman Jack novel, fans of the series will be happy. It is a classic Jack story which explains how he became friends with a gun dealing lonely Jewish man. A Latino lower east side bar owner and found a robin Hood-ish life of crime. The only challenge for Wilson and this novel is that as a prequel the novel could not explore the supernatural and otherness story line as deeply as the classic novels.

Wilson has knack for surprises that often include misdirection in the plot. I was surprised how much this novel connects to the saga much in the way the young jack novels do. While it is not even close to my favorite Jack novels (Harbingers, Legacies and The Haunted Air are my favorites) but I enjoyed this novel.

It is background on a favorite character. I wouldn't suggest starting here, but some day down the line of your Jack reading come back to this one. Trust me you'll miss Jack at some point.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book Review: Hellblazer Warlord by John Shirley

Hellblazer: Warlord by John Shirley

Pocket books 331 pages

I read this book in 2006 when it came out, but saw it on the shelf last week and decided to give it another spin as I re-read several Constantine Graphic novels in the last year. At the time when this was released I was very excited as Shirley is my favorite author and Constantine is my favorite comic book character. Shirley was a great choice to bring this character into the prose world as they have a lot in common. Vets of 70’s punk bands, Shirley fronted Sado-nation and Constantine fronted Mucus Membrane. Both are masters of dark arts. I think it is clear quickly in the book that Shirley relates to the aging dark magician who has cheated the devil and fought demons for decades in the pages of DC comics since he was introduced by Alan Moore in the pages of Swamp Thing.

Shirley really went to great length to honor the cannon, and respect the timeline. Even though the book takes place away from Constanstine’s native England there is a neat prologue that cameos major Hellblazer characters like Chaz. There are many excellent references to back story which add depth and ground you to the world Constantine lives in.

The novel starts with Constantine astral projecting from the middle east, you see he has been on a spiritual quest in an Iranian monastery. His guru is a two hundred year mystic named the Blue Shiek, who is murdered in front of him. Constantine stumbles on to a plot by forces from the hidden world who are bent on starting a world war.

There is a chapter early in the novel that explores the effect of war through a lens on the Iraq war. Considering that this novel was written in 2006, it has a time capsule effect that brought me back to the feelings we experienced watching the Iraq debacle unfold on the news. This chapter is powerful and intense – really could stand alone as an intense look at the conflict. It raises the bar beyond base nature of your average media tie-in.

The characters and settings are really strong. Some already existed in the back story, but several are new including Spoink. This character an astral projecting surfer mystic who has taken over the body of a former terrorist in coma is a very Rudy Rucker-ish character. Shirley has Spoink even give a nod to Rucker by name in the narrative. Perhaps my favorite aspect is the disturbing presence of Dr. Mengle being kept alive as a disembodied brain in a jar. The scene that introduces this concept on page 104 is great great.

Overall I think this novel is a must-read for Constantine fans in general. Warlord is a great John Shirley novel with a subtle message and as a Constantine novels it expands the character and canvas of the story very well. Great stuff.