4/22/2006

I was going to write up Eastercon, but then decided I couldn't be bothered and would rather talk about some books I think you should read. So, straight to the chase before I get distracted and do something else: because when it comes to this recommending malarkey, it's not something I do very often, but here goes.

1: TJ Bass - The Godwhale
Gotta be honest with ya, it's been years since I read this one, but I'm trying to remember what lamebrained excuse I had for getting rid of my original copy of this wonderful book: I came across it at about two conventions ago, and failed to purchase it then (a mid-seventies hardback edition) for the simple reason that it was quite possibly the ugliest damn thing with pages I have ever seen. I don't know what drugs the cover designer for that original edition was on, but they must have been slipped out of some Venezuelan death-squad's secret stash of CIA-derived experimental neural toxins.

What I do remember is opening it to the first two pages and remembering what is so remarkable about this long-out-of-print, mid-Seventies published, Nebula-winning (i seem to recall) book: the language is deeply prescient of the coming wave of cyberpunk, being a vivid, dense wash of information that evocatively describes in few words an entire future world. I defy you to read the first two pages of this book and not want to see how it ends. It's an ecologically-driven novel on a future sterile Earth, with a story vast in scope.

Now if I can just get round to buying it off Ebay with a half-decent cover, talented procrastinator that I am ...

2: The Holy Machine by Chris Beckett
I only got this book initially out of guilt. It goes like this: I'm at a con. I approach the Interzone table. They eye me warily. I cast a sideways glance at what's on the table, feeling the sharp horror that I might end up spending money on, you know, stuff. I remember how influential Interzone was on my reading tastes for many years. I find myself engaged, almost accidentally, in conversation. I comment on how nice the cover design for Holy Machine is (published by Wildside Press). But what, pray tell, is it about, given there is no single word of info about the story between these pages, either on the back cover nor on the inside cover?

I am informed: a man in a near future society where religion and unreason have triumphed over logic and science resides in a futuristic city that acts as a last bastion of science in a world largely turned to faith-driven darkness. He falls in love with a machine-whore so human-like, he seeks to escape into the badlands with it/her before it's/her memory can be wiped lest it develop tendencies towards self-awareness (too late).

So far, so Dick, and on paper the idea might sound a touch hokey (albeit no more hokey than any of my stuff sounds when I try to describe it to people): but after purchasing said volume, I found myself unable to put down what turns out to be one of the very finest sf novels I have read in really rather a long time. This isn't just good sf - this is the kind of sf that should be written, that we ought to be out on the streets outside publishers demanding should be written. It was only published recently too, so you can't say you don't know about it now.

3: Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves. How often have I raved about this remarkable book? A multi-layered narrative that is practically a textbook example of how to use post-modernist approaches in putting together a book that, despite such high-falutin' big words, is just shithot gripping from start to end as it chronicles the exploration of an apparently haunted house that doesn't just start out slightly bigger on the inside than the outside - it just keeps getting bigger. Think Ballard scripting The Exorcist minus the hokey special effects, with David Lynch directing. Suggestion: if you find the extensive narrative-overwhelming footnotes (entirely a full narrative in their own right) a touch overwhelming, stick to the Navidson stuff first then go back and read the footnotes at your leisure.

4 comments:

Cigamybab said...

Wazz up

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Anonymous said...

Gary, you realise our own Peter was the publisher of The Godwhale? If you enjoyed that then you should definitely get hold of Half-past Human by T. J. Bass, which is a damned sight better.

Neal Asher

gary gibson said...

Peter? Really? I had no idea. I was aware Godwhale was a follow-up, but never got around to Half-past Human. Guess maybe I should.

neil williamson said...

Really glad you liked Beckett's Holy Machine too, Gary. I'm a hundred percent with you on that one.

neil