Coming off A Hundred Years of Solitude, I was hungry for some more magical realism. Before that there was Swamplandia! I had read...moreBegin Second Review:
Coming off A Hundred Years of Solitude, I was hungry for some more magical realism. Before that there was Swamplandia! I had read The French Revolution about a year ago, attracted to its novelty of being the first novel entirely published in Twitter. I got more than I bargained for, and the second time around was no disappointment. The magic was still there.
I don't know if I would classify it as magical realism, but the prose is over the top and so rubbery I felt like I was reading a Bill Plympton cartoon. I understood a little bit more than I did earlier, and could appreciate the amount of work Matt put into it.
It's all about family, in its many kooky variations. Sometimes guilt is as cohesive as love, and perhaps the two are indiscernible. The ending lies in my mind, a blood red vivid understanding. If Napoleon never lost at Waterloo, what world would it be? This Marat understood, what Robespierre probably will never appreciate...
Matt, Please tell me there will be a sequel.
End Second Review, Begin First Review
Matt Stewart is now one of my favorite authors.
He has dredged from his mind a remarkable tale reveling in the elasticity of the English language. Generally, in a good novel, you find a passage per chapter or so that resonates within for whatever personal, idiosyncratic reasons of your own. Here there are as many as one or more per page!
The novel is a Nasruddin who is wise yet foolish, often cartoonish, but coming off unbearably sad, steeped with the pathos of early silent cinema. Propelling the pain and triumphs of the Van Twinkles and Co across decades, Matt Stewart's The French Revolution is a read you won't easily forget.
During the narrative, Time smears over and you are treated to a view of Van Twinkle life in fits and jumps, the passage of years between moments sometimes undefined until you are struck by the change by a detail.
But the neatest trick here is the treatment of character. As the story progresses, you are given opportunities to redefine your understanding of the character in fundamental ways that makes you return to an earlier event or two, and realize that you should've seen it coming. The clues were all there but you missed it, perhaps by the pleasant pyrotechnics of the inventive language, or the hunger to push on towards further marvels.
Some have criticized the ending of this novel, but I think it is fitting, with change and redemption coming in the worst way possible--the lifelong unbalance extending even to his temporal role in the narrative--from the least esteemed main character.
It is one of the novels, for the bibliophile with a particular bent of mind, that leaves you hungry for more and whose conclusion leaves behind a hole that no other book can fill. Temporarily, thank God, for the mind is resilient. Here's hoping for another novel from Matt Stewart's nifty noggin.
For readers who liked The French Revolution:
Spaceman Blues by Brian Francis Slattery
Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America by Brian Francis Slattery
Tally-Ho, Cornelius! by Carter Kaplan
Space War Blues by Richard Lupoff
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Lamb by Christopher Moore
The Cities of the Red Night by William S Burroughs
Why is there almost never a real summary of the story, only a blurb expounding its merits?! Probably because Sacred Locomotive Flies was written in a...moreWhy is there almost never a real summary of the story, only a blurb expounding its merits?! Probably because Sacred Locomotive Flies was written in a bold, new way, exciting in the year it was published.
It is 1985. Freddy Fong Fine hijacks a plane with a deadly plastic gun and kidnaps a World War I veteran pilot, the naked hostess Pat Plaf, and the psychedelic band Sacred Locomotive. He has them play his favorite songs while he canoodles with Pat Plaf, filling the cabin with wholesomely trippy tunes and fumes. The ensuing adventure unearths a world shattering secret in which the protagonists find themselves embroiled at the direct center of it all.
Who is Freddy Fong Fine? Is he the terrorist he makes himself out to be? Will the world wrenching disaster be averted?
Unconventional, psychedelic, completely 70s (even though it's 1985). Richard Lupoff is a prolific writer who excels in pastiches of genres, skilled in piecing together historical figures, themes, and a whole wide array of factors. In Sacred Locomotive Flies, it is a hit and miss. Evidently borrowing the formula established in Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius stories, there are some really groovy scenes involving, naturally, psychedelia and rock n roll.
Previous readers of Lupoff's fiction, or those looking for something different would enjoy this novel, but for most, it would be like watching static on the telly. Me, I really like the idea of a Jewish red-headed Jerry Cornelius.(less)
Allen Cabbot, a skilled researcher, is sent to Prague as an assistant to the Professor Evergreen who professes to be studying Kafka. It wouldn't be a...moreAllen Cabbot, a skilled researcher, is sent to Prague as an assistant to the Professor Evergreen who professes to be studying Kafka. It wouldn't be a story if the Evergreen didn't have seemingly sinister intentions, with implications that sends Allen along for the ride of his life. Edward Kelley narrates from his place in the Prague castle and dutifully details Allen and Co's tribulations.
There are no linguistic pyrotechnics, plotting and characterization is relatively simple. Then why is Gischler's Go Go books compulsively readable? It is like a favorite B-movie where you know when the screams and the spurts will start flying, but it is still a pleasure to watch. You just slide through the narrative like warm butter.
For the most of the book, Gischler entertains with ambiguity. You are approached with several organizations with moral ambiguities that creates a difficulty determining which one is evil, if it is that at all. Furthermore, several characters exhibit the classic characteristics of a villain.
The wrench in the works is the vampire's background. I believe a bit more exposition in this would contribute more to the story, especially regarding the vampire's acquisition of knowledge of a certain talisman.
It's not the California we know. It's not the America we know. It's not the world we know. The country has fragmented, with more emphasis on corporate...moreIt's not the California we know. It's not the America we know. It's not the world we know. The country has fragmented, with more emphasis on corporate property than any real political or personal holdings. The pizza delivery service is monopolized by the Mafia and treated like a military operation. There are no cops, no real law except those laid down in a zone such as burbclaves. Instead there is security for hire along a rising hierarchy from the lowly Metacops to the badass Enforcers. People lead dual lives in Reality and the Metaverse, a virtual reality world.
Snow Crash holds up surprisingly well today for a book published in 1992. The internet was a minimal presence in the public consciousness, but Snow Crash envisions today's world. People are jacked up to the computer, addicted to Second Life or Farmville. Granted it's not virtual reality in the truest sense, but it is still a virtual reality, a life we lead by sheer congress with software through our hardware. In Snow Crash, Stephenson thinks big. The story is interesting enough, but the treats in the form of ideas are positively delicious. Gargoyles. The denata. Smart skateboards. Ocean-faring shantytowns. Liquid knuckles. The Clink. The Poon. To name a few. What makes these ideas exhilarating? Because they're very possible. Way even more so today than it was in 1992; it's no surprise Snow Crash was received with much acclaim. There's also the Sumerian hypothesis the author works into the novel. The concept of language as a programming protocol isn't very new, but Stephenson drives home the potential, if it were at all possible. It's also a mini crash course in Sumerian mythology.
All in all, it is a rousing adventure story, with a little of everything for everyone. Will Stephenson write a latter day follow up? Talk about postcyberpunk. If you liked Snow Crash check out