CPAOD7 Reviews | DE '97 GoHs

Death Equinox '97 GoH Book Reviews
Review by Jasmine Sailing, from Cyber-Psychos AOD #7

By John Shirley

(Eyeball Books PO Box 18539, Asheville NC 28814)

(Ed note: This book sold out immediately. Contact the distributor at 1-219-232-8500 to find out how to get a copy. Hopefully a 2nd printing will be afforded soon.)

This was probably my favourite from the current slew of John Shirley books, though it is a short fiction collection rather than a novel. One of the interesting things about it is that he writes a preamble for each story, in which he says where he was (head-space) & what he was doing while writing the story. Actually there's even the real version of a small snippet from Preach in this issue, think PCP & sex on rooftops. Very personal retellings of such experiences are included. There's some hassling of Harlan Ellison (which always tickles me), convention antics, what he was reading, & listings of which bands he was in & which ones he was listening to at the time. It's good brain food, & it's interesting. I think the non-fiction was my favourite part as it's nice to be able to take a look at what was going through a writers' head as they constructed various pieces. My 2nd favourite element were the Exploded Heart segments. These are 3 portions of a book by that title which he wrote in the late 70s. It was never published, he thinks the entirety doesn't even exist anymore & wouldn't be that good if it did. What a bummer. I was definitely into the idea of it & would've loved to read it, whether or not it was particularly good. The portions are entitled What He Wanted (published as a short story in Amazing Stories in '75), Fragments of an Exploded Heart, & Epilogue. Premise? Aaron Dunbar is turned onto the music of Whistler & mesmerized by it. Whenever he hears it he drifts into other dimensional visions where he walks alongside the eccentric vocalist & realizes he is needed by him. Why, he isn't sure. He simply knows he must go to the performance when Whistler appears in town. The vocalist is known for causing trance states at live shows, even occasions of phenomena such as levitation. He isn't someone people can get along with, but he is certainly revered by quite a few. The setting is futuristic. Society isn't yet degraded too far beyond the usuals... a lot of hatred, as somewhat represented by the leather clad Jeezus Freak & Satanist gangs (not to mention the slew of drugged out assholes). Aaron Dunbar himself is a bit of an asshole, definitely a bit on the cold & irresponsible side of life. He's also very easy to identify with, though. I don't want to ruin where the story goes... It's quite a build of intense settings, musical corporate politics, thuggery, failing relationships, & the flattening power of the collective will. Otherwise... Shadow of a Snowstorm takes superficial aesthetic to an extreme with heavily trained human mannequins, but it also touches on the incredible power of mind over body. Seams was written as song lyrics, a bit of a sad story about a bartender who was in love with a hooker who was in love with a cold jerk who... Well, you'll see. Parakeet is a long & dredging tale of the abuse of military personnel (by their "superiors"), & of the use of experimental drugs for adrenaline boosts & psychosis. This was written years before Jacob's Ladder came out, & the setting is present tense war-time only rather than a flashback on past miseries/mistreatments. It often isn't as easy for people to flashback cohesively in John Shirley's world... The Incorporated is about corporate control: the recruited mindless workers who serve their bosses before their own families, & those who don't sign on for the paycheck. The main character is the latter, & struggles through having his thoughts stolen (or forcibly purchased) while trying to regain them would threaten his life. When Enter Came gives a bit of a supernatural solution to alienation of feeling & lack of true contact with those you should be close to. I wish a glob mimicking all of my past lovers could flow through the light bulb in my office to solve my mentally-drifting/ walled-off relational troubles... Ah well, there's something to be said for managing to bring these effects on by yourself. The Prince is another corporate story, though this time from the POV of giving the execs an example of what their business is doing to the world. This same element is behind Where it's Safe as well, though the former story gives the exec a chance to survive his own damage & the latter moreso involves "terrorist" execution. The V, H, and You preamble begins with "The world sucks". Yeah. The story is a heart- breaking run-down of some of the many reasons for this, given through the perspective of 2 other-dimensional spirits who find our home more than a little disturbing. A Walk Through Beirut closes out the musical career downward spiral alongside the denigrating society theme, carried along by a young man who escorts a female neighbor through gang/mafia controlled territory while tripping. Visions, ghosts, & lecturing thoughts, (all supposedly hallucination) redirect his life as he wanders blithely through chaos & rioting. There's also an intro by Bruce Sterling & very striking full colour cover art by Rick Berry. This is a very interesting, disturbing, & thought-provoking read. Had I a few more hands, I would give it several thumbs up. -Jasmine Sailing

CPAOD7 Reviews | DE '97 GoHs