Monday, October 7, 2013

Top Ten Classic Bizarro Sci-Fi novels #9 keeps Portland weird in the 22nd century

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. Identity 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.

10. Shockwave Rider By John Brunner

Number 9 is :
Release: 1978

The Plot: The plot centers on "The barrier" a huge shield erected as a nuclear defense over the united states in 1989. This book takes place in 22 century two hundred years after a nuclear conflict devastates the world outside the barrier. The U.S. has broken up into several city states that are each very different and all of them are at war with at least one other city. Beyond the barrier is a mystery, is nature claiming the earth, has chaos taken over?

The main character Ben Rackey moves pretty freely working as a professional instigator for corporations and states that pay him. Ben is is hired to steal a device, the "Exciter" which can be used to direct individuals and crowds by enhancing their strong emotions of anger, saddness etc. Ben sees this device as the keep to accomplish his lifetime goal to bring down the barrier.

The Weirdest Aspect: Transmaniacon is super nutso off the wall original work of pre-cyberpunk science fiction that is like no other book I can think of. It is also a great work out-of -date old school science fiction. Some of the things you'll find in this novel include Fly and owl shaped -nul grav cars, Dolphin pilots who lead blood cults, fist fights with conjoined octuplets, two century old frozen biker gangs, Musac used as a sedative, motor controlled mindless slaves, brainwashed mercenaries, and my personal favorite - the flesh tractors which are genetically engineered giant hands that are used as beasts of burdens.

What does it say about our world? Transmaniacon is early work and does not show the mastery of political allegory that Shirley became. There is alot being said here, I took from it a subtle message of the negatives of US isolationism. A basic statement against the status quo most of all it is an excellent and imaginative piece of speculative fiction.

Bottom line is it good? Oh yes this novel is great, and sadly unlike most of Shirley's back catalog it is not in print and pretty hard to find. The level of strange environments and original creations range from the disturbing to the hilarious. The tone shifts dark socially political themes to almost Douglas Adams-ish humor. I think so much of this novel has been made out of date by the progress of years since it's release. Shirley updated his Cyberpunk Trilogy match the collapse of the Soviet Union and other things. I think Shirley has avoided updating this novel for that reason. Too bad, one of the things I dig about old school Sci-fi is things that are out of date and sometimes pre-date the future we now live in.

Transmaniacon is an excellent 70's gonzo Science fiction novel. It is not Shirley's best Science Fiction novel but it is absolutely his weirdest. If you like old school pre-bizarro but totally bizarro speculative fiction it has to be on the list.

The Author: William Gibson called John Shirley's “City Come a Walkin'” the cyberpunk patient zero. That book is weird as hell and a total masterpiece. It is up there with anything on this list. Shirley has a long career in both Science Fiction and horror (His novel Wetbones was my #1 horror novel of all time). All of his science fiction have strange original concepts and many such as a A Splendid Chaos, Demons, and Silicon Embrace are all worthy of this list.

An interesting note: 2013 is the year that one of his stranger sci-fi books Three Ring Psychus takes place in. I have not read it yet but I believe it is about a future society where overpopulation is dealt with by a partial cancellation of Gravity. Weird huh? Reading that one soon.

Honorable mention of the week:

Destination:void by Frank Herbert.

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.

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