Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Top Ten Classic Sci-fi Bizarro Number four is an alternate universe classic by a Hoosier born Farmer

Over the summer I did a ten week countdown of my favorite horror novels of all time. I had fun doing it and it seems based on the numbers that a lot of people 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

9. Transmaniacon By John Shirley

8.Void Captain’s tale By Norman Spinrad

7. Beyond Apollo by Barry Malzberg

6. Software by Rudy Rucker

5. Always Coming Home by Ursala K.Leguin

Number four is:

Released: A version of it was released as Gate of Time in 1965, a highly revised edition the one I read was first released in 1979

The Plot:

Roger Two Hawks is a Iroquois Fighter pilot in a dog fight over europe during WW2 when suddenly he ends up in an alternate universe. In this universe the American continent never rose from the water. the tribes that would become Native Americans are involved in a World War of their own in Asia and the middle east.

The Weirdest Aspect:

The central concept of this novel is what makes it strange. While Farmer wrote a more tradtionally bizarro novel called "Venus in a half-shell" ( Made even more weird is he wrote under the name Kilgore Trout a charcter from fellow hooiser born Kurt Vonnegut's work) but I have not read that novel yet, so I can't comment on it's weird-ness. This type of alternate history creates a wonderful surreal feeling, and is unlike almost anything else I have ever read.

Farmer does a great job playing the What if card in this novel exploring not only how Asia and Europe would be if there never was an Americas(just a small chain of islands). Not just without the people but also the plants, animals and history. Really neat.

What does it say about our world?

This novel is a bit dated in this respect and it says alot about the impact of the Americans on the rest of the world. Bottom line is it good?

I really enjoyed this novel and the 'what if' it presented. Farmer seemed more interested in exploring those ideas rather than developing characters or telling a really strong story. Two Hawks is kind of a rugged explorere Han Solo type and that is fine but the novel is very thin. It made this list because of the concept but if your want to read Farmer's best start with the Riverworld books which are fantastic.
The Author:

Born in Indiana and having spent many years in Syracuse I always had an interest in Farmer's work. The Riverworld novels are his masterpieces. I enjoyed all five books from that series. Fans of Bizarro should check out Venus in a Half Shell, I have not read it yet but this what the back cover says "Simon Wagstaff is the Space Wanderer, a seeker of truth and electric banjo player who narrowly escapes the Deluge that destroys Earth when he happens upon an abandoned Chinese spaceship, the Hwang Ho. A man without a planet, he gains immortality from an elixer drunk during a sexual interlude with a cat-like alien queen in heat. Now, with his pet owl, his dog Anubis and a sexy robot companion, Simon charts a 3,000-year course to the most distant corners of a multiverse full of surprises to seek out the answers to the questions no one can seem to answer." Honorable mention:

The Cat that walked Through Walls by Robert Heinlein

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