Monday, February 21, 2011

William Gibson's crime-inflected science fiction

Science-fiction has never been my genre, and it may not be after I'm done with Burning Chrome, either. But the gritty urban settings and fatalistic attitudes in this collection of early short stories by William Gibson ought to make interesting reading for crime fiction fans.

The opening pages of "Johnny Mnemonic" especially read like a good-natured nod to hard-boiled detectives, with the protagonist preparing for a meeting in sleazy bar with a man who owes him money. ("The meet was set ... " Where else would you see meet for meeting but in a hard-boiled crime story?)

The preface by Bruce Sterling, while acknowledging the importance of pop culture in Gibson's work, does not acknowledge crime fiction. But it does include this description of Gibson's world:
"Rather than the usual passionless techies and rock-ribbed Competent Men of hard SF, his characters are a pirate's crew of losers, hustlers, spin-offs, cast-offs and lunatics."
That could describe David Goodis' world or Jim Thompson's or Ken Bruen's. The stories intersect with noir writing in one other interesting way: their general refusal to offer death (or, in its sci-fi version, apocalypse) as an easy way out.

So, Gibson's cyberpunk shares elements with the harder, darker, grittier end of crime writing. What are your favorite examples of genre mixing, jumping, and crossbreeding?
***
The book's introduction by Gibson himself has already debunked one popular misconception for me. Gibson did, indeed, coin the word cyberspace, but not in his 1984 novel Neuromancer. Rather, the word first appears in "Burning Chrome," written in 1981 and published in 1982.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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70 Comments:

Blogger Fred said...

One of my favorites is a recent novel by China Mieville--The City and the City--which is a mix of SF and police procedural.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Second what Fred has to say The City and the City is pretty good, but not up there with Mieville's masterpiece Perdito Street Station.

However thats not what I was going to talk about, I was going to talk about Gibson's most recent trilogy of books which are all slow burn detective novels (a little too slow burn for my taste) with few science fiction elements. I think if you enjoy Burning Chrome then you'd probably like the Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, Zero History trilogy.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

Man, I love this collection. Glad you enjoyed it, Peter. Gibson succeeds best (to my way of thinking) the closer he cleaves to the hardboiled. His purer SF offerings get a lot of praise, but they leave me cold. Count Zero comes is the closest he comes to noir, with a mercenary getting double-crossed by a multinational corporation and a naive hacker hooking up with a couple of high-class thugs. Good stuff.

Here's the hardboiled intro for "Johnny Mnemonic" for those who haven't read it:

I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they think you're crude, go technical; if they think you're technical, go crude. I'm a very technical boy. So I decided to get as crude as possible. These days, thought, you have to be pretty technical before you can even aspire to crudeness. I'd had to turn both those twelve-gauge shells from brass stock, on the lathe, and then load then myself; I'd had to dig up an old microfiche with instructions for hand-loading cartidges; I'd had to build a lever-action press to seat the primers -- all very tricky. But I knew they'd work.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

That's a very good introduction, "These days, though, you have to be pretty technical before you can even aspire to crudeness." Great stuff.

Spider Robinson wrote a short story called "God is an Iron," that's crime fiction sci fi (a burglar comes across an attempted suicide) - he later turned it into a novel but I prefer the short story.

(my v-word is "dictas" which I think is some kind of sci fi private eye)

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

Some of my favorite cross/multi genre books that mix crime and either SF or F are:

Last Call by Tim Powers (a crime fantasy novel -- not a mix per se but a fantasy novel told that crime readers would dig)

Declare by Tim Powers (spy mixed with fantasy)

When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger (PI mixed with SF)

The Carlucci novels by Richard Paul Russo (Detective mixed with SF)

Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (Fantasy mixed with detective)

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey (hardboiled crime mixed with crime)

9 TailFox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood (detective mixed with asian fantasy)

Already Dead by Charlie Huston (horror, dark fantasy, vanpire PI mix)

I've said before that I think The City and The City is successful as a secondary world fantasy but is far less successful as a crime novel.

Some good graphic novel genre mixes too.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, I had a feeling The City and the City might come up. The science/fantasy aspects of the opening chapters seemed obvious, which could mean simply that I'm not cut out to be a science-fiction reader. Maybe Gibson's brand will convert me.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger michael said...

I'd add Terry Pratchett's "Guards" group in the Discworld series as cops in fantasy.

But hasn't mystery always crossed genres, from literary fiction to the western?

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Don't know this guy, I may have to make his acquaintance. Terry Pratchett is definitely on my radar primarily because of Nancy Pearl's high regard.

In the meantime I'm loving China Mieville's work. He too crosses boundaries between sci-fi/fantasy/mystery. Fred, you are right on the money: Last year's THE CITY AND THE CITY was IT as far as I'm concerned. It was noir/fantasy/mystery/private eye fiction - superlatives exist to praise a book like this.

Just finished KRAKEN and reviewed it on my blog. You are, of course, welcome to take a look at the review. :)

A confusingly rich, ripe, mystifying clusterfuck of a book - there, Peter, how's that? I used the word you all were luxuriating in yesterday. Ha! I knew I'd find a use for it at some point.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, what should I know about Perdito Street Station?

I'm interested in what you have to say about Gibson's recent books since the one thing that sometimes leaves me cold about science fiction is, oddly enough, the science.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Mack said...

I tried to read The City and the City but just couldn't get into it. And I'm a science-fiction/fantasy/horror reader. Maybe I'll give it another try because I don't remember why I set it aside.


Mack, I think I've confused matter by posting comments here that I meant to post on my William Gibson discussion, so I'll post this both there and here.

What I seem remember about the opening chapters of The City and the City are shimmers of light, presumably at points of strain where the two cities threaten to come into contact with one another. I could be utterly wrong about what the shimmers mean, but they seemed a bit obvious at the time.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, thanks for putting up that opening. I wanted to do so, but I didn't have the book at hand when I put up the post.

I wonder how Gibson's readers feel about his purer sci-fi offerings as opposed to the ones tinged with noir. Maybe a clue is that Bruce Sterling's preface to Burning Chrome does not mention crime fiction. Then, as a sci-fi guy writing for sci-fi readers, he might not notice it of think it as notable as I do.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

Perdido is a big, sloppy, imperfect, awesome fantasy novel that is also arguably the most important and influential fantasy novel of the past decade.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, maybe "Dictas" is a sci-fi PI's replacement for Sam Spade's Effie Perrine.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian, I figured you'd have a long list of answers to his question. Thanks.

A couple of graphic novels that I've liked have mixed sci-fi with adventure, crime or both -- even with a bit of romance: Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Top 10.

It's always interesting in idle moments to ponder what about the crime genre attracts writers from fantasy and sci-fi.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Michael, I've read one of the Discworld books, and I remember it more for humor than for anything else. And Eoin Colfer Artemis Fowl novels mix fantasy, science-fiction, crime and laughs.

Mystery and Westerns were closely intertwined in America, at least. I don't know much about the history of American pulps, but I do know that early ones offered crime, western, adventure, even romance between one set of covers. And some of the early crime writers wrote Western stories, too. Even Arthur Conan Doyle set at least one story in the American West.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Brian Lindenmuth said...

"Perdido is a big, sloppy, imperfect, awesome fantasy novel that is also arguably the most important and influential fantasy novel of the past decade."

While I hold _The City and the City_ in higher regard than you do, I do agree with your comment above about _Perdido Station_.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, here’s the link to your discussion of Kraken.

I had read no William Gibson before this book of stories, but I know he is regarded with awe as a, or the, founder of cyberpunk. Coining the word cyberspace will do that for a man's reputation. Indeed, one of the stories in this collection contains a reference to our leaving records of ourselves in our computer transactions whether we want to do so or not. That will obviously resonate today.

A confusingly rich, ripe, mystifying clusterfuck of a book

That's a nice cover blurb.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Perdido is a big, sloppy, imperfect, awesome fantasy novel that is also arguably the most important and influential fantasy novel of the past decade.

Brian, I'm torn between asking you to expand on that intriguing description, and just going out to get the book myself. In the meantime, I like your description. It, too, could be a blurb -- and perhaps has been, for all I know.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

The two cities exist in the same plane or universe. The inhabitants have grown up teaching themselves not to "see" the other city, even though they walk past a building that is in the other city or "see" a person coming towards them if that inhabitant is from the other city.

It's called "unseeing" and clearly doesn't always work for the inhabitants. But, nobody mentions it, so "it never happens."

And, it's illegal to see the other city or its inhabitants.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Illegal to see the other city or its inhabitants."

Now, that sounds worth a look. Thanks.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Yvette,

An SF discussion group I belong to has selected _Kraken_ for one of its monthly reads, so I'll be taking a look at your review.

So far, the group has read _Perdido Station_ and _The City and the City_. That makes or will make three books by one author for this group and that seldom happens.

Mieville is an impressive author.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, what other books has your group read?

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Fred, I loved CITY AND THE CITY even if sometimes I was a bit clueless. I expect that now from Mieville (especially after KRAKEN). No matter what, I will read him. PERDIDIO STREET STATION was here for awhile from the library, but for whatever reason I didn't get to read it and had to return it. One of these days I will take it back out.

UN LUN DUN which everyone talks about, I couldn't get into. My one Mieville failure.

The guy has an immense imagination.

And since we're also talking cyberpunk something or other, I'm surprised no one's mentioned the 800 pound gorilla in the room: CRYPTONOMICON by Neal Stephenson. One of the best books I've EVER read and in my long life, I've read a bundle.

You name it, this book's got it. It was about 600 pages and I could easily have read 600 more.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

The group has been meeting monthly since mid 1996, so it's too long to give you a list. I joined in 1998.

Here is the list for the books read in 1997, the first full year for the group and for 2010.

If you're looking for specific authors, let me know.

1997
David Brin Brightness Reef

Sherri Tepper Beauty

Guy Gavriel Kay Tigana

Anne McCaffrey Dragonflight

R. Shea & R. A. Wilson The Illuminatus Trilogy

Stanislaw Lem Eden

Richard Powers Galatea 2.2

Terri Windling The Wood Wife

William Gibson Neuromancer

Bram Stoker Dracula

Stephen Donaldson The Real Story

Octavia Butler Parable of the Sower


2010

John Wyndham Out of the Deeps

Michael Shea Nifft the Lean

Jeffrey Ford The Shadow Year

David Lindsay A Voyage to
Arcturus

Cherie Priest Boneshaker

Neil Gaiman The Graveyard Book

Steven Boyett Ariel

Richard Kadrey Sandman Slim

John Scalzi Old Man’s War

Shirley Jackson The Haunting of Hill House

China Mieville The City and The City


It's a mix of SF, fantasy, horror, old stuff and new stuff.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Fred. Apart from idle curiosity, I wondered what books from your group might cross over into crime.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, here’s a capsule description of Cryptonomicon. The man’s not afraid to take on big issues, is he?

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Terry Pratchett thinks of himself as a social satirist more than he does a novelist, whether of fantasy or crime. It's often brilliantly done.

Do not skip the footnotes in Discworld books. That's often where the funniest jokes are.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

OK, I did a search and came up with these.


Police Procedurals

Alfred Bester The Demolished Man

Greg Bear Queen Of Angels

Philip K. Dick Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Pat Cadigan Tea from an Empty Cup

Philip K. Dick A Scanner Darkly



PI
Glen Cook Sweet Silver Blues


FBI profiler
Christopher Priest The Extremes


These are ones that I remember and that clearly could be considered a mix of SF/Fantasy and mystery.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

The City and the City is good but it lacks the crazy ambition of Perdito Street Station - PDS fails in lots of ways but its failures are more interesting that the successes of many more mainstream novels. I think I'd go farther than Brian, I'd say Perdito Street Station is the most important fantasy novel since the 70's.

PDS and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet are the two best books I've read in the last two years and interestingly both have strong fantasy or magical realist elements (I'm not sure what the difference is).

The Pattern Recognition trilogy has almost no science fiction elements at all. My problem with those books was the pacing, but I read all three of them so they can't be that bad.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Fred: Sherri Tepper. Interesting to see her name on the list. I know her work from her books written under the pseudonym A.J. Orde. Under the Orde name she wrote on of the best mystery series ever. Unfortunately no one but me has ever heard of the series featuring Jason Lynx, antiques dealer/detective set in Denver.

I also read Jeffrey Ford's SHADOW YEAR. Another underappreciated book. LOVED IT! isn't too mild a way to state my enthusiasm.

Rest of the titles on your list I'm not too familiar with. I'm new to sci-fi and I NEVER read horror.

Fred, is your group planning to read Jasper Fforde's SHADES OF GREY?

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Oh, Peter, CRYPTONOMICON is that and more. Wiki doesn't do it justice. It is a book that just blows you away. Librarian extraordinaire Nancy Pearl clued me onto this book. Now, she and I are not exactly who Neal Stephenson was targeting as his audience, (If he thought about this at all.)but here we are. Two ladies of a certain age reading and being enchanged by the king of cyberpunk. Ha! The mind boggles.

Which shows to go you: a great book is a great book, no mattter what.

Jeez, what a book. At some point I'm going to have to read it again. No question.

Definitely on my Top Ten Best Ever List.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Terry Pratchett thinks of himself as a social satirist more than he does a novelist, whether of fantasy or crime. It's often brilliantly done.

Linkmeister, here's a bit I quoted from the one Terry Pratchett novel I've read, Thud!:

"`War, Nobby. Huh! What is it good for?' he said.

"`Dunno, Sarge. Freeing slaves, maybe?'

"`Absol— well, okay.'

"`Defending yourself against a totalitarian aggressor?'

"`All right, I'll grant you that, but—'

"`Saving civilization from a horde of—'

"`It doesn't do any good in the long run is what I'm saying, Nobby, if you'd listen for five seconds together,' said Fred Colon sharply.

"`Yeah, but in the long run, what does, Sarge?'
"

Here’s another.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Fred. Gibson throws a bouquet Bester's way in the introduction to Burning Chrome.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian: Thanks. You have a thing for sprawling, messy, ambitious books, don't you? I may take a look.

Here is my favorite bit from WIkipedia's article about Perdido Street Station:

"Once Isaac learns that the caterpillar only eats a hallucinogenic drug called `dreamshit,' he begins to feed it ..."

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, every time I see Jeffrey Ford's name, I am reminded that one of my colleagues is a friend of his, which could be an in if I want to interview him.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

I am a long time Jeffrey Ford fan, both of his his novels and his short fiction.

He's an Edgar winner too, he won for The Girl in the Glass. Though his win didn't do much, it seems, to gain him traction in the mystery/crime fiction community. I suspect it's because he is active in other communities rather then this one. His win, while being much deserved, came a bit out of left field that year. In fact that was the year that Brian Evenson was nominated too. The committee made some bold choices that year.


I reviewed the Jeffrey Ford story The Drowned Life a couple of years ago and said:

"If the two best fiction tools that we posses to describe the insanity of the new century is the language of crime fiction and the language of the fantastic then Jeffrey Ford in many ways represents the perfect nexus point of these two languages. It’s from this synthesis that the power of the story is derived. I think that Ford is in a unique position to write some of the more powerful fiction of our times because of how well versed he is in both modes."

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, I can hear your knees getting weak.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger michael said...

Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat.

John Zakour's Zach Johnson the last freelance PI on Earth in 2057 with his A.I. partner

Pratchett is fantasy satire which often pokes fun at science. But "Thud", "Feet of Clay" are two fantasy mysteries. And "Men At Arms" takes on the hardboiled detective set in the Discworld universe.

There are a growing number of demons PIs from Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey to Liz William's Det. Insp Wei Chen whose beat includes Heaven, Hell, and in-between.

I know Fredric Brown wrote in both sf and mystery genres, did he ever combined the two?

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Michael, I'd forgotten about Frederic Brown. I don't know if he combined the two, but one of his Ed and Am Hunter mysteries includes bogus communication with space as a motif.

And that great crime writer Donald Westlake wrote a book called Tomorrow's Crimes, which I've always assumed indicated he at least dabbled in sci-fi. Hmm, and I think Gibson wrote a book called All Tomorrow's Parties.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

RE: Terry Pratchett - very nice man (he accepted an invitation to speak at our tiny science fiction and fantasy society at the Universit of Warwick in 1988 and then went to the pub with us afterwards) but I think those books are going to date very quickly. To me they read as rather twee and old fashioned and the humour makes you groan rather than laugh. I think they may have a longer life as books for children but although he's attempted to position himself as a "social satirist" I don't think it really comes off. Like I say, lovely man, but rather limited as a writer.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Eh, I liked some of the jokes in the one book I read. A good groan is all right now and then.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Adrian, I've heard that Terry Pratchett is ill. So his output in the future might be limited.

I haven't begun to read him yet. But I will.

Peter: My knees always weaken when I hear of great writers writing the sorts of things that might interest me. I did mention that I'd read Jeffrey Ford's SHADOW YEAR and loved it. If I have any quibble it's a bit of let down in the ending. But I still loved the book.

If I'm remembering correctly I read another Jeffrey Ford book with a dubious ending, but damn if I can remember the title. THE GIRL IN THE GLASS, I think.

Good stuff.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

There's one book we haven't mentioned but which definitely belongs under the wide-spread cyber/whatever thing you've got going on here. :)

Have any of you read THE RESURRECTIONIST by Jack O'Connell?

If so, an explanation would be nice. This is one of those books you remember as being of a specific type but not one easily explained. But I definitely think it fits in with our current topic.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, I'll leave it to my learned friends to discuss The Resurrectionist.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

Jack O'Connell is his own genre; the outlier that other outliers fear and admire.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

And yes, Terry Pratchett as been diagnosed with early oonset Alzheimer's

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian, here’s an interview with O’Connell. The interviewer quotes some lavish praise from James Ellroy.

February 22, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

I haven't read any of Brown's novels that could be considered a meld of mystery and SF. However, I do have _The Best Short Stories of Fredric
Brown_. I just opened it up at random and found the short story "Daymare" which begins as follows:

"It started out like a simple case of murder. That was bad enough in itself, because it was the first murder during the five years Rod Caquer had been Lieutenant of Police in Sector Three of Calisto."

Another is titled "Crisis in 1999," which is some 50 years after the book was published. The third paragraph begins "He was not an employee of any police department, drew no salary nor expense money, and collected no rewards. It may have been that he had private means and indulged in the detection of criminals as a hobby. It may equally have been that he preyed upon the underworld as he fought it . . . When a major crime or a series of major crimes interested him, he would work on it, sometimes consulting beforehand with the chief of police of the city involved. . ."

I suspect a number of his short stories were a blend of SF and crime stories.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Crisis in 1999" sounds like a self-conscious excursion into hard-boiled, all right -- and a bit dated, of course.

Have you read his mysteries? I liked The Fabulous Clipjoint especially.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

This is embarrassing. How could I forget the Master--at least from an SF reader's POV?

Isaac Asimov!

His Lije Balely and R. Daneel police procedurals set several centuries in the future were the first SF/Mystery novels I had read.

"R" designates a robot. (considering Daneel's humanlike appearance, Replicant or android might be more accurate).

In an Intro to his first SF/mystery novel, _Caves of Steel_, Asimov mentions that he was casting around for an idea when the editor of _Galaxy Mag_ asked, "How about a robot detective?"

Asimov said, "I demurred more strongly than before. It was taken for granted in the science-fiction world that a science-fiction murder mystery could not be done. How could you be fair to the reader, if you can at will drag in futuristic devices?"

_Caves of Steel_ was the result of Gold's challenge and was first published in 1953.

In addition, I have a copy of short stories titled _Asimov's Mysteries_, which includes 13 of his short mystery tales. Several of which feature Wendell Urth, a private consultant who solves mysteries.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Yvette,

No, the group has not scheduled Fforde's _Shades of Grey_.

It's rare that we schedule an author more than once because of the large number of works out there and we read only 12 books a year. As I mentioned, we will have read three by Mieville and that's extremely rare.

I didn't know that Sherri Tepper also wrote mysteries. I will look around for them.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Yvette,

Our public library has two "Jason Lynx" novels. I'll check them out.

I also got the message when I searched the catalogue for AJ Orde that I should also search under the names of Sherri Tepper and BJ Oliphant.

I found nothing under BJ Oliphant. Do you know what she writes under that name?

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

And Gibson's bouquet for Bester is well deserved. Bester was one of the most creative SF writers.

His _The Stars My Destination_ is one of the greatest revenge tales I've ever read.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

He almost sounds like one of the early comic superheroes--fighting crime on his own, with or without the police, etc.


No, I haven't read any of Brown's crime novels. I've only recently discovered that he wrote something other than SF/F.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, I ought to try one of those sci-fi mysteries, if only to see whether Asimov could pull off a real story and not just a pastiche.

Apropos of Asimov, Gibson writes in his preface about science fiction "whose writers seemed willing to entertain ideas that we might, in fact, not know where we'd come from, or even where we were ... Alfred Bester, Fritz Leiber, Robert Sheckley ... all did this for me, whereas Heinlein and Asimov didn't. The writers who made science fiction do what for me was its most magical thing seemed to inhabit a more urban universe, a universe with more moving parts ..."

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, I, too, will try to remember to look for Jason Lynx. Thanks.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, knowing nothing about The Stars My Destination other than what you have just mentioned, I'd say it could well have affinities with the numbers tales of revenge in crime writing.

Hmm, I wonder what the golden age of revenge was in Amerian crime writing and movie making. The Fifties (or late Forties) through the Sixties, maybe?

Frdric Brown's The Fabulous Clipjoint won the Edgar for best first novel in 1948. It's well worth reading.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

Gully Foyle, the protagonist of _The Stars My Destination_ is a ordinary crew member of a spaceship that had an accident and was helpless in space. A passing spaceship went right by it, without stopping for survivors.

Foyle manages to survive and return to Earth where he engages in a search for those who ordered the ship to ignore the stranded ship.

The story is partially the search for revenge and partially Foyle's own growth, intellectually and socially (he was just a step above a brute animal prior to the accident), but lacking somewhat in moral growth.

I consider him to be one of the most memorable characters in SF, a genre not especially noted for strong characterization.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. It sounds worth a look. If I read it, I'll go in wondering why space? What does the setting do that a story of a sailor ignored by a passing ship, or Parker ripped off by his fellow crooks would not do?

I've just printed out an article about the novel, and I'll begin my reading there.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Peter, thanks so much for posting that terrific interview with Jack O'Connell. I was a little taken aback to read some of it because it seems that O'Connell thinks about certain things in the same way I do. Quelle shock.

I would love to bookmark this interview but I can't seem to grasp it in the right way.

You know me, Peter, techno-flubbadub.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're welcome. I don't know why you're having trouble bookmarking it; I'm no techhead either.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Fred: As BJ Oliphant, Tepper writes a series with a middle aged woman protagonist set somewhere out west, in or near the desert I think. I've never read them, but I hear they're pretty good.

The Jason Lynx ones are pure gold from my point of view. (Written as A.J. Orde) But she stopped writing these a few years ago. They are pretty hard to find. I happen to own all of them, if any of you guys want to borrow. But ONLY IF YOU CAN'T FIND THEM on your own.

THESE MUST BE READ IN ORDER, by the way. Beginning with A LITTLE NEIGHBORHOOD MURDER. Lynx is a bit of an unusual protagonist(not run of the mill). I can't imagine why she stopped writing these. All I can think is that others, for whatever reason, were not as fond of these mysteries as I am. I love them and am always recommending them.


PS Just read the latest Robert Crais: THE SENTRY. WOW!!!! I'm reviewing it on Monday. What a book. There's NO ONE like Robert Crais. No one.

February 23, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Yvette,

I haven't read either _Un Lun Dun_ or _Cryptonomicon. I probably will get around to them one of these days.

Too many books, too few years.

February 24, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Yvette,

The library doesn't have A LITTLE NEIGHBORHOOD MURDER.

Why is it so important to read the "Jason Lynx" stories in sequence?

February 24, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Fred:
Because the first book concerns Jason's wife's (heartbreaking) death and his personal developement from there. (The death has already taken place when the book begins BUT it is very much tied in with the story - I can say no more.) It isn't STRICTLY necessary I suppose. But it gives you a better idea of who Jason is as a character. The first few mysteries also concern Jason's search for the identity of his biological father. He was abandoned as a baby and was christened with the last name of Lynx for various reasons by the nuns at the orphanage.

It's an involving sort of series.

A sequence of events in one book, leading to another which is why I recommend reading them in order. Yes, the first book, unfortunately, is difficult to find.

By the way: CRYPTONOMICON is the sort of book that once you finally get to it, you will curse yourself for not having read it sooner. I mean it. It's THAT good.

February 24, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

If you prefer "a more urban universe," then you should check out Asimov's _Caves of Steel_, his first SF/mystery novel.

The title refers to New York City in which the inhabitants never go outside because the city is completely covered over--a real cave of steel.

Lije Balely, the human cop on NYPD, is agoraphobic, like most other human inhabitants of the city.


Trivia: _Caves of Steel_ was published in 1953, and I read it shortly afterwards. One of Asimov's throwaway ideas was that groups of people would get involved in a past age and would dress up in the clothing of that day and eat the same food and engage in activities found during that period. I thought that was really weird, something bizarre, something unbelievable.

In 1966, the Society for Creative Anachronism was founded, just a little over a decade later. Remembering Asimov's novel, I silently apologized to the Master..

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

All I can say is read the story and see what the SF elements are.

Someone once said that there were only six basic plots and the Greeks discovered all of them.

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, thanks. All my attitude means is that I'm coming to science fiction as an outsider. But it would be fun to sit down with some intelligent, articulate science fiction readers and ask them what they like about their genre.

February 25, 2011  
Blogger michael said...

io.9.com does cover sf books and has a book club. The best site for why readers like sf would be Tor.com.

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Michael. I may add that site to my browsing list.

February 25, 2011  

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