Tygre comes to Cascadiopolis (METAtropolis)

METAtropolis (Book One) by Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, & Karl Schroeder

In the Forests of the Night by Jay Lake

METAtropolisI like it when a story tells you information about the end.  In the Forests of the Night tells us quickly that the powerful mystery man, Tygre Tygre (named after the Blake poem) will die at the end.  I appreciate this simply because as a reader I don’t want to be sad at the end.  I want to be prepared for it, to not have pointless hope, to not be disappointed.

The author doesn’t set up an ending that we wonder about and pine over but instead tells us the ending up front.  We are to find out how the great Tygre meets his demise and how that coincides with the falling of the mysterious and transient semi-post-societal collapse city, Cascadiopolis.  Intermittently throughout, we hear (or read) segments of a report created by the city members after the city has disintegrated.

The name In the Forests of the Night is appropriate for a number of reasons, and the book seems a little like a classic poem in just how beautifully lyrical it is.  The writing is dramatic yet strangely down to earth, even earthy.  Loving Cascadia, the area between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC., I can imagine the dark loam of the city-in-the-forest, Cascadiapolis.

So Tygre dies, but the story is as much about Cascadiopolis as about him.  It’s a romantic yet harsh place with lava tubes to protect from surveillance and for interrogations and other secret things.  Hotbed of open source tech discoveries and savagely protected sustainable haven, it takes skills and permission to be admitted to Cascadiopolis and the borders are heavily protected.  Greenies live here, and anarchists, and people who have something to offer this “idea” of organization and lifestyle.  Since that is what Cascadiopolis is, an idea, not a location.  It can be picked up and moved anywhere.

Blake’s poem though, The Tyger, conjures doom, brought by a terrifying being; this short story describes how the all-knowing Tygre brings doom to the city, or at least rides on the current of it.  Tygre is a modern day Jesus, savior and destroyer, a god-like figure.  He loves the people of the city and what it represents, calls it his “project”, yet we never really find out how this can be true when he’s a total stranger.  Could I dare to hope we find out more about him in the METAtropolis sequels?

More on this story in the next post.

Advertisements

Ancient mysteries explained in “Legend”

Legend by Bob Mayer

Legend by Bob MayerThis is the first book in the Area 51 series.  I’m not sure if I will continue to read the rest of the series.  But that’s because there are so many other books I want to read or listen to first, not because I didn’t enjoy this book.  I did.

What I liked most about it is that it “explained” numerous ancient mysteries.  Of course it’s a science fiction book, so the author can make up whatever he wants as long as it makes some sort of logical sense.

In this case, everything from the purpose of the Great Pyramid to the origins of Nosferatu (Dracula) are explained.  Most notably, Moses, a character of a few chapters, is shown to have been led to the rescue of the Judeans from Egypt by the main characters of this book.  It wasn’t his idea – he was just a useful tool in the saga of two space traveling warriors who are trying to rid Earth of an evil alien force.

Donnchadh (pronounced don-caw-da) and Gwalcmai are a two-person army who are attempting to overthrow the aliens who have genetically engineered humans to be their slaves.  The two are able to exploit how the aliens fight amongst themselves.

I love the names of the characters, and this book moves along on a clipped pace.  It could have been longer but I’m glad it wasn’t.

The two characters are a married duo who are greatly in love.  They are not very well fleshed out but they’re warriors, the woman a scientist, and it’s reasonable for them to be straight forward confident individuals with little to say.  We do care about them greatly by the end and that’s what matters.

Actually the story is told mostly from Donnchadh’s viewpoint so she is the main character.  And that makes this book somewhat well-rounded when it comes to female characters even though about 95% of the other characters are men.

I’ve said it before of other books:  this one is not a deep thinker.

But in this case, if you are a fan of ancient mysteries and you like sci-fi, you’ve got to read (or listen to, as I did) this enjoyable brisk-paced book.

The marlin, a very mean fish (HST)

The Curse of Lono by Hunter S. Thompson (author) & Ralph Steadman (illustrator)

The Curse of LonoThe last two posts were about this book but I want to share one last quote.

Near the end, when Thompson goes on his last fishing trip in hopes of catching a marlin, he describes the experience:

“It is not like fishing for trout.  What we are talking about here is a beast the size of a donkey that is fighting for its life on its own turf.  A ten-pound trout might put up an elegant fight, but a 300-pound marlin with a hook in its throat can rip your arm-bones right out of their sockets, then leap right into the boat and snap your spine like a toothpick.  The marlin is a very mean fish, and if it ever develops a taste for human flesh we will all be in trouble.”

Love it!  If you want to try HST and Steadman out, give The Curse of Lono a shot.

The Curse of Lono

Pele, a randy Volcano goddess

The Curse of Lono by Hunter S. Thompson (author) & Ralph Steadman (illustrator)

The Curse of LonoIf you like out of the box writing styles, political incorrectness, and drug-induced description, you’ll like this book.  (continued from last post)

What makes this book extra special, besides the awesome illustrations by Steadman, is how the story about the murder of Captain Cook is interwoven throughout.  After all that the accomplished explorer went through to get there, things went awry after the Hawaiians mistook him for one of their gods, Lono.  Eventually they figured it out, feelings got hurt, and he was killed in cold blood.

curse5The perfect backdrop for the jarring, harsh “vacation” Thompson was attempting to get when, as a journalist, he accepts a job in Hawaii.  Storms and mayhem ensue when he reaches the Big Island, and he ends up staying 6 months because, well, he can’t get enough of the storms and mayhem.

The book is about his adventures but we learn a few things about the religion of the Hawaiians.  Lono is the god of “excess and abundance” while Pele is a “randy Volcano goddess”:

“When Pele had a party, everybody came; she was a lusty long-haired beauty who danced naked on molten lava with a gourd of gin in each hand, and anybody who didn’t like it was instantly killed.  Pele had her problems – usually with wrong-headed lovers, and occasionally with whole armies – but in the end she always prevailed.  And she still lives, they say, in her cave underneath a volcano on Mt. Kiluea and occasionally comes out to wander around the isalnd in any form she chooses – sometimes as a beautiful young girl on a magic surfboard, sometimes a jaded harlot sitting alone at the bar of the Volcano House; but usually  – for some reason the legends have never made clear – in the form of a wizened old woman who hitchhikes around the island with a pint of gin in her kitbag.”

This kind of writing, the few snippets of Hawaiian religion and  folklore, the accompanying story about Captain Cook, and the amazing illustrations by Ralph Steadman are what make this book memorable.

The Curse of Lono, not exactly PC

The Curse of Lono by Hunter S. Thompson (author) & Ralph Steadman (illustrator)

The Curse of LonoI was lucky enough to find this awesome illustrated book at a garage sale along with a slew of other books and graphic novels, all fifty cents each.  I bought quite a load.  This was years ago and I sold most of them on half.com, but luckily I kept The Curse of Lono.

In what I am assuming is the style of Hunter S. Thompson, this book completely lacks any political correctness.

It comes across as an autobiographical story and at the end there is a photo that backs this up.  But it’s essentially about Thompson and Steadman’s trip to Hawaii to cover the Honolulu Marathon, a journalistic endeavor that is supposed to turn into a vacation.  It ends up being a tortuous adventure; Thompson stays over 6 months because of course he revels in torture.

Most of it takes place on the Big Island and if we take Thompson at his word, it is not the

Artwork by Ralph Steadman from The Curse of Lono
Artwork by Ralph Steadman from The Curse of Lono

kind of place a self-respecting vacationing family would want to visit.  I’ve personally been to that island and while it is true it’s nothing like the green paradise of Oahu, it’s not quite the dangerous hell-hole he makes it out to be.  Or maybe I just haven’t visited the right (or wrong) places.

Thompson’s quirky out of the box writing style, full of stretched metaphors and drug-induced descriptions, is engaging and simply funny.  In fact, drugs and his experiences with them are always creating a colorful scene.  He reminisces about smoking opium in Saigon:

“That is still one of my clearest memories of Saigon – stretching out on the floor with my cheek on the cool white tile and the dreamy soprano babble of Mr. Hee in my ears as he slithered around the room with his long black pipe and his little bunsen burner, constantly refilling the bowl and chanting intensely in a language that known of us knew.”

And the lack of PC doesn’t stop there.  He talks at length about “Japs” and other ethnic groups like there’s no tomorrow.  Of course race is a touchy subject in Hawaii (and perhaps nearly everywhere) so it’s pretty ballsy to even go there.  Maybe back in the 80s it was okay to use the n-word, or maybe not, but he does (out of someone else’s mouth).  I have a feeling HST was quite fearless.

“The Korean community in Hawaii is not ready, yet, for the melting pot.  They are feared by the haoles, despised by the Japs and Chinese, scorned by the Hawaiians and occasionally hunted for sport by gangs of drunken Samoans, who consider them vermin, like wharf rats and stray dogs…”

Wow.  It’s a great read, but must be taken with a grain of salt.  The reason it really has to be read though is so you can see the amazing illustrations by Ralph Steadman and how the whole thing works together, including the accompanying text on the death of Captain Cook by the Hawaiians.

Hunter S. Thompson by Ralph Steadman

 

Saga, an anti-violence message

Saga, Book One by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Saga, the graphic novelSaga’s main characters do not want to commit violence although there is a lot of it in this amazing graphic novel.  No surprise there, but the authors must have wanted to create a message in the midst of all that death and chaos.  Have your cake and eat it too sort of.

Saga, the graphic novelMarko is a sympathetic pacifist who tries so very hard to lay down his weapon.  He is a “moony,” born on Wreath, a moon circling the planet Landfall.  Wreath and Landfall have been warring so long the fighting has been “outsourced” to other planets, spreading war and suffering across the galaxy.

Marko and Alana on the cover of one of her romance novels
Marko and Alana on the cover of one of her romance novels

Marko falls in love with Alana, a beautiful ex-military grunt who likes romance novels.  He turns himself in to his enemies as a conscientious objector, and she is given the duty of watching him.  Instead, she falls in love with him, they escape, and this is their story, narrated by their daughter far in the future.

Wreath is a magical moon and Marko wields great power.  His parents are warriors and they taught him to hate the enemy, but his convictions go against that.  The thing is, every time he tries to stop fighting, someone comes and attacks him and his family and he must fight back and kill them all.

When Marko and his warrior mother go to a planet to find and save another character, they encounter a huge three-eyed man-giant.  His mother attacks while he says “We’re trespassing on his land!  Just let me hit him with a binding spell.”  His mother responds that “this squeamishness is most unbecoming”.

SagaThe three-eyed giant is a little gross.  His um, testicles, are what is really unbecoming.  The very first image of this creature in the book made me immediately think of the art of Ralph Steadman, who I am familiar with only because he illustrated The Curse of Lono by Hunter S. Thompson.  (I have Ralph Steadman’s Extinct Boids on order though and I can’t wait.)

But back to the message of nonviolence.  The book depicts the galaxy-wide war as driven by monetary or power-hungry forces.  The military industrial complex has been so ingrained into the two opposing sides that they may have no identity without it.  And this couple, who just want to be left alone with their newborn child, can’t seem to escape it. 

Alana is obsessed with a particular romance novel, A Night Time Smoke, and they both see the hidden anti-war message the author gave it.  As far as us readers can tell, when shown a section of the book, the only message of peace is that it simply has no war in it.  This must be revolutionary in this war-torn universe.

SagaWhen Alana is guarding him, and they are falling in love, she reads him an excerpt.  Even though the piece has nothing to do with war or their worlds, Marko responds with “It’s not a love story at all, is it?  It’s about us, about the war between Landfall and Wreath.”

Needless to say, they are soulmates.  She says “He’s saying that this war between our people has gone on too long, that it has to be stopped.”

And Marko replies “What if the writer is suggesting that war will never end, that it’s a self-perpetuating cycle of pointless brutality that can only be “stopped” with more war?” 

Alana says, a little late, “Okay, now you’re just reading too much into things.”

It’s adorable.  And sad.  And violent.  And undeniably unique.  Read it!

Wooden spaceships in Saga, the graphic novel

Saga, Book One by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Saga, the graphic novelSee my last posts for story line details about this book.  It’s original, to say the least.  Turning the page is just another wonder to behold.

But one thing that I will never forget is how the authors were able to turn a tree into a rocket ship.

One of the characters says “So we’re taking our infant child to outer space.  In something made of wood.”  Her mate says “Don’t judge, dear.  Some of the greatest ships in Wreath’s armada use lumber, makes them almost completely invisible to modern instruments.”

Problem solved!  Heinlein might have agreed.

Turns out, the rocket ship will take suggestions on where it lands, and it has a shower.

The only other tree-rocket ship hybrid I’ve encountered in my reading adventures was in Hyperion, a phenomenally good book science fiction book that I will post about in the future.

In Saga, the rocket ship has a furnace in which it burns pieces of itself to create energy.  At least that is what one character speculates.  It’s a great combination of low and high tech.

Saga rocketship