Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Robert Silverberg – “A Hero of the Empire;” Christopher Priest – The Prestige; Robert Reed – “Mother Death;” Bruce Sterling “Maneki Neko;” w/ Rudy Rucker “Big Jelly”

Posted by Mike on July 6, 2006

More reading accomplished. I meant to post about the Silverberg story last week and conflated it with the last one and edited it out. Now that I remember, it’s a story about the rise of Mohammed (I don’t remember the spelling in the story) in the Roma Eterna universe. Someone from the empire who has pissed of the emperor is sent to the middle east, not an exile but close. There he encounters the charismatic leader of a new philosophy/religion. How he resolves the story ought to have put him on the same list Salman Rushdie is on.

Christopher Priest’s The Prestige won the World Fantasy Award in, I believe, 1996 and is set to be filmed as a movie. It would make a good one, the tale of two rival stage magicians whose legacy lasts down the generations. Priest tells the story through a short narrative by one of the magician’s modern descendants, before introducing you to a book written by the original one and, later, a diary written by his rival. What’s utterly fascinating about the narrative is how both magicians see the rivalry and how mistaken they are so often in their assumptions about what makes their rival tick. Not to mention the tangents into how the illusions operate and such. For the first half of the book I was wondering why it was considered fantasy, but it was not long after that that it became evident. Priest brings in Tesla and the dawn of electricity into the mix to startling effect. Overall, a great read, I had trouble putting it down almost from the very beginning.

Also read the third novella in Robert Reed’s Sister Alice series, which seemed to be a bit mixed up, or maybe it’s been too long since I read the first two. It hasn’t been long since I finished it but I’m having trouble remembering “what happened.” The basis of the series is that a group of posthumans were responsible for a star going supernova and wiping out billions of people, the postwoman responsible for this is then put up for trial. Meanwhile she’s gotten in touch with the youngest in the “Family” in order to help her, something to do with the mystery of why the accident happened. By this point, little is resolved and the “Talents” (powers?) of the post human and future universe are occasionally confusing.

Also read a few Avram Davidson stories in the Treasury, I hadn’t been back in a while, but will likely talk about it more when I’ve finished it. The two Sterling stories in his A Good Old-Fashioned Future were great fun. “Maneki Neko” (I think this one won the Locus award) is about a near future Japan, something of an extrapolation of that culture into the cyberage and its clash with American culture. A very enigmatic little piece. “Big Jelly” is about the partnership of a gay Silicon Valley scientist and a macho Texas oil tycoon and the extrapolation of jellyfish biology and its genetic manipulation through a new substance that has been coming up through the tycoon’s oilwells. Great character development and some fun concepts, it’s nice to see a story like this not turn into a disaster at the end.

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