Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Nobody

The Nobody
by Jeff Lemire

Vertigo, 2009

A stranger, from head to toes wrapped in bandages comes in a small town called Large Mouse, where everyone knows each other and all life passes in a bar for a beer. Suspicious eccentric man with round glasses is settled in the room of the local hotels. Reminiscent of a mummy, stranger all day sits in his room, only occasionally going to have supper. Local residents are wondering what happened to the guy whose, as it turns out, name is John Griffen, - an accident or worse.

While habitues guessing, bandaged Griffen meets a lonely girl Vicky, who goes to school during the day, at evenings helping his father, but dreams to leave this God-forgotten place. Griffen on the contrary likes it: there can be a good idea to escape from the past.

Grasp the story, inspired by "The Invisible Man" by H.G. Wells, an artist and author of stories Lemire (The Essex County, The Sweet Tooth) is very successful in this endeavor. Accomplished in the three colors work (the black and white by adding blue, so that when the entrance to the city shows us a traffic light, you can not understand what the light is on) keeps in suspense until the very end. Lemire weaves the fears of city dwellers (the beginner are mounted with all the mortal sins), with fears of the Nobody (though the words "I am a nobody" an entirely different person says): he`s the narrator, but The Nobody always keep something in secret, so readers will not know the secret, just as residents of Large Mouse.

This story, just as any decent pulp story, has a murder, and it gives even more charm to the novel, which is more important is another murder - the murder of one`s past.

Despite the fact that comic books can not be quickly read, though they often are very slim, - the picture requires a full immersion, - «The Nodoby» is a real page-turner; this book is read in one breath, but breathing downed, as by a blow to the belly.

Lemire is a real great artist, and «The Nobody» is a high-class work.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Interzone #227

Interzone #227 (March-April)
TTA Press

British magazine Interzone, which unlike its counterpart on the publisher Black Static, mainly focuses on horror and dark fantasy, specializes in science fiction, but does not hesitate to print fantasy.

Non-fiction part of the issue consists of book, DVD and film reviews, in my opinion, is weaker than non-fiction section of Black Static. Maybe it's the problem with that single issue, but it looks all pretty boring. Peter Tennant has some sort of depth and the extent, in Interzone, with all diversity, breathtaking polyphony does not arise.

With the stories all is much better. To failures - and at a stretch – there can be attributed only «Chimbwi» by Jim Hawkins, had once printed in New Worlds. Nice setting - Africans have learned to convert sunlight into electricity by 98%, but nobody told the secret, Europe and America are dying; black men are murdered around the world – was not turned into a cheerful story. An English professor hired by the people of Zimbabwe must participate in the construction of the second underground tunnel under Africa. He blames Africans in cruelty towards them, the Europeans, but Africans have an irrefutable answer: did you helped us in due time, when we were starving? The author immersing in African motifs did not benefited the action: instead, to make the hero look at the dying land, he forces him to play with the gods.

I have mixed feelings with the story by Nina Allan «Flying In The Face of God». Detail-written psychology of characters tries to win plot over to its side, leaving the story without intelligible plot and, consequently, any changes within the characters. Two women, Anita and Rachel, suffer from the fact that soon they will become separated: Rachel will fly to the stars, so her body she undergoes the necessarily procedure, so that parts of her body is transformed, as Anita will make a documentary about this story. It would be foolish to blame the lack of action to this women's drama (which in addition to that two friends have added to Anita`s mother and grandmother): it's not space opera, the title of the story still involves a flight. Besides the fact that the heroines yearn, think, talk to each other and read old letters, there is nothing more and nothing is assumed. But conflict in the end did not occur, so that all experiences and passions do not lead anywhere.

Chris Beckett takes in this issue sort of a joke: in his "Johnny`s New Job" the society judges employee of the Welfare, which overlooked a little girl - and she died. For that he will have to stake his life on, and possibly his child`s. The future of Britain's unenviable, but the writer smooths out the horror of the situation by satire and eccentric characters, and style compensates the expected ending.

Mercurio D. Rivera in his «Dance of the Kawkawroons» affects the theme of contact but avoids erased topics, translating it to another plane: greed and people's dependence on new technologies. Two astronauts on a planet meet with a specimen of another race, like a cockatoo, which just like the birds lay eggs. Because the eggs, which give a person superhuman capabilities, human beings kill the Kawkawroon and take the eggs. Drily written, but thoughtful story.

The opening story «The History of Poly-V» by John Ingold because of the title may not be immediately arouse interest, but actually turns out to be one of the gems. If any work addresses themes of memory, past and future, search for yourself - plus the important role played by drugs - that certainly Philip K. Dick comes to mind. So when with the reading «The History of Poly-V» - but if some writer could be compared to Dick, allowing his influence, it might be a good compliment to a writer. In the story a group of students by experiment ways find the new formula of the drug poly-V, and its effect is difficult to understand. It is difficult to the heroes to understand it too. They, to find out what is the effect, write in his diary all of his actions during the experiments with the drug. The reader will also need to write for understanding what is happening with the characters. The author did not immediately reveal all the secrets, and this story is very appealing.

Another gem in this issue is «The Glare and the Glow» by Steve Rasnic Tem. The author immediately offers an unusual combination: a story about the light bulbs narrated by the man who speak only with quotations and even thinks this way. Juicy and very skillfully written short story about what the darkness hides.

Perhaps, fiction part of Interzone looks more advantageous than the recently reviewed the Black Static issue one. Together they compliment each other.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ruby and the Stone Age Diet

Martin Millar
Ruby and the Stone Age Diet
(Soft Skull, 2010)

The unnamed narrator, who broke up with the girlfriend Sis, lives in the one or the other London squat with his friend Ruby. She told him that the cactus, left by Cis, should flower, and then, according to the book of myths, Cis should return to him forever. While he waits flowering cactus, his life is vain and irrational. He finds the most idiotic work that you have come, and he is abducted by aliens, he met on the street talking robots, writes songs for his group, searching for a drummer, and he is surrounded by gods and goddesses. In all of this is not clear whether it happens to him really, or he is just a great romancer (LSD in the novel is only on one page).

Millar, under the pseudonym Martin Scott once wrote fantasy series about Thraxas, under his real name writes phantasmagoric urban stories, and "Ruby" is one of them. But if poor language of novels about Thraxas is difficult to call positive point, then in this book deliberately simple language is ideally suited for the narrator. Young foolish Londoner seems barely to understand the world organization, and therefore when he writes songs invents goddess of electric guitar players, when he was left - the god of the broken hearts, when he is left alone - the powerful spirit Inka, when he goes to the museum - muse Clio, so that gods does not look like a game of paganism, but rather like the mind games. And in an already slim novel Millar inserts a series of stories, Ruby writes from time to time, trying to either disband number of pages, then draws parallels between the story's heroine, a werewolf girl Cynthia and Ruby: they are both independent, but vulnerable, both were left by their stupid men but they nevertheless continue to miss them, and both write: Ruby - the story about Cynthia, and Cynthia in turn vampire love poems.

Between the myths about robots and ghosts the author inserts the problems of unemployment, the lives of British squatters, suffering literary creation (Ruby rewrites for earnings stories from the tabloids and porno magazines) and the uncertainty in the personal lives of young people, but because of the neighborhood with all written buffoonery in the novel these themes look like as the laws book against the cap and clown nose, and they can not be taken seriously.

Millar confuses the reader with the title (the Stone Age diet is only episodic), but forgets about the plot: the action in the book is virtually absent, whirling around amorous melancholy protagonist, so the narrator cactus is growing faster than anything in the novel takes place. The only intrigue, which the author keeps to the end, but it seems that without even knowing about it – not even whether Cis comes back to the protagonist, but whether his friendship with Ruby becomes something more.

150 pages of the book which the author may well have put in the 4 words – fools can love, too.