Skip to main content

The Echo by James Smythe

Why can't just one person live through
one of his novels?
Space exploration – it's an idea that inspires great flights of fancy and equal measures of terror, the void through which we spin is the macro equivalent to the empty centre of each of us and is thus such a draw for the soul of mankind. Or something. Which is why, I suspect, in Smythe's second anomaly novel, Earth is firing yet another set of astronauts into the dark despite having lost a first bunch in the first book, The Explorer, and yet more further back in the other tragedy referenced, the Indian moon mission disaster. This time it's twin brothers Tomas and Mira, first rate intellects and relentless perfectionists, who have created a perfect spaceship (HUBRIS KLAXON) with which to explore and study the anomaly, a completely black area of space that appears to be heading this way. Readers of the first novel will recognise the same anomaly which did for Cormac Easton and chums. In fact, the erstwhile explorer makes an appearance as does the good ship Ishiguro as our own intrepid team make contact with the void in the worst way possible. 

Again, it's rather difficult to do justice to this novel without completely ruining the surprise. I will say, hubris notwithstanding, that I spotted the twist pretty quickly, but that doesn't take anything away from what is another taut, suspense-filled novel, with terror, horror and death a-plenty – the body count must be up there with Hot Shots! Part Deux. There are plenty of unanswered questions, and told from the point of view of Mira aboard the Lära, inevitably themes of sibling rivalry, separation and solitude abound, exploring the mind as much as the void. And the anomaly itself, impersonal, indifferent, entirely enigmatic and unknowable, is a terrifying and believable character in it's own right. Why is it here? What does it mean? Is it coming straight for us? Thought-provoking and very entertaining in a bleak, everyone-is-going-to-die* sort-of fashion, this is setting up what should be a very interesting third and fourth book in the tetralogy, and I shall be gently stalking Mr Smythe through social media for the foreseeable future.

* Or near as damn it.

Comments

How's about that then?

Free Fall In Crimson by John D. MacDonald

Trav is back, still grieving the loss of some chickadee or other whose death almost knocked him off his game, but not too shook up to set himself up with a few more lucky lovelies whilst tripping his way through another overly complicated and rather sordidly underwhelming plot. This time, some bikers are making dirty movies with minors on the set of a future classic hot-air-balloon movie. Travis falls into the action because a rich old geyser carks it in unusual circumstances and it affects the trust fund of a former marina-mate. And hirsute intellectual Meyer wets his pants towards the end. 

You may sense a fatigued, sardonic note in my precis. It's not that I don't still love John D., it's just that after embarking on the long game that is reading the entire Travis McGee oeuvre, I'm approaching the end and it feels long overdue. It's been fun, it's been enlightening, but it's also been a schlep. With the realisation I might now have fewer years left to me …

Metaliterature - what meaning to have is this for meaning?

Not a review this time, more of a curiosity. It seems I'm receiving lots of hits from Russia (Здравствуйте России!) from people searching for the definition of "metaliterature". As such, it is something of a bespoke word, created to fit a need and probably not yet recognized outside literary theory / criticism circles (Merriam-Webster Online certainly don't like it). I was wondering what they typed in to end up here, so, for fun (it's not fun, sorry) I thought I'd bung it in Google Translate and see what came out. As it turns out, one needs a little hyphen for the rather ponderous machine to understand it, and even then only does half the job (meta seems to be meta in any language). 
Incidentally, below is, ironically, a Google Chrome Thesaurus definition* of "meta":

met·a Adjective/ˈmetə/
(of a creative work) Referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referentialInterestingly (not interesting, sorry) it says this for the full term, t…

The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray

Fup by Jim Dodge

If there was a comfort-food version of a book for me, then this would be it. It's funny, touching, humanistic, and features so many quotable quotes that its trim 120 pages could be represented in its entirety on some such authors' quotations page.

We're introduced to Tiny on the occasion of his mother's death, lured into a treacherously fatal situation by, of all things, a duck, while her 4-year-old son sleeps in the car where he wakes to a terrifying solitude. Meanwhile, we're treated to a potted but entertaining history of Granddaddy Jake, Tiny's grandfather, into whose care by fair means or foul (no pun intended) he is finally placed. But the titular Fup duck comes along only once Tiny is fully grown (and how!). A lost and lonely duckling, much like Tiny, she's discovered shivering in a freshly dug post hole, which betrays the attention paid to it by Tiny's nemesis, a wild hog called Lockjaw, who enjoys tearing up Tiny's fences just as much as he …