Postcards From a Dying World
News, views, book reviews and commentary from the Science Fiction and Horror fiction underground. Home of the Wonderland award nominated author of Vegan Revolution...With Zombies and Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
Book Review: A Splendid Chaos by John Shirley
A Splendid Chaos by John Shirley
Hardcover, 357 pages
Published March 1988 by Franklin Watts
I have been saving this novel for a special occasion and decided a train ride to and from LA would be it. If I have not already expressed this a million times John Shirley is my favorite author. With both Horror (Wetbones) and Science Fiction (City Come a Walkin') masterpieces I have only so many classic era Shirley novels left to read. In a attempt to savor it I held off on this novel that had won praise not only from publisher's weekly "the world he's created is a knockout, from telepathic Venus's-flytraps to the floating radioactive Current that instantly Twists a person into a grotesque parody of his inner fears and desires." but also China Mieville who said "... a revel of delirious, intoxicating, popular surrealism."
A Splendid Chaos is really John Shirley at the top of his game combining many of the elements that make him one of a kind. The novel is bonkers sci-fi that is more bizarro or surreal that your average entry in the genre. Despite hitting on on Sci-fi adventure power cords like the hero's journey and the plot of a character kidnapped and plopped on a alien world. Shirley was going for weird. On his website he said "A Splendid Chaos was an attempt to write surrealism that nevertheless made sense...writing allegorically and using archetypal characters."
The surrealism infests every page but it is not so surreal that you can't follow the story it is excellently plotted for humor and most importantly in the Shirley cannon- it reflects and comments on our world. Fellow cyperpunk Rudy Rucker wrote more transrealism, it was sorta his thing. What I liked about this novel is as weird as it was it remained ground in the narrative. I never lost track of the story of the characters.
The story of Zero a musician who is kidnapped off earth and stuck on a world called Fool's Hope. Home to 31 other races in the same situation they are meant to compete to survive. Along the way Zero learns about society, has a truly weird adventure. Many of the villains, and characters called twists were humans who were genetically manipulated, and provided many of the the novel's most daring moments.
I still think Transmaniacon is a weirder more bonkers science fiction novel. The Song Called Youth trilogy is his most epic City come a Walkin' is the author finest idea and execution in Scienc Fiction. The Other End is probably his most IMPORTANT in the genre but A Splendid Chaos deserves to be right up there with all those. A bizarro classic before the sub-genre existed. This is social justice themed bizarro science fiction novel will not disappoint.