Mike’s Prattle


Jack McDevitt – Chindi, Robert Anton Wilson – TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution, Kathe Koja – The Cipher, Brian Keene – The Conqueror Worms

Posted by Mike on June 21, 2007

It’s been a while since I talked about some books, although currently I’m reading up a storm, but some of these titles go back a month or two, so my memory probably isn’t too great.

Chindi is the third in McDevitt’s archaeological science fiction “series” revolving around protagonist Priscilla Hutchins. I found the first two books in the series to be pretty riproaring reads, and the third, if not quite up to its predecessors, is more of the same. At this point I’m feeling you know what you’re going to get with a McDevitt book, somewhat hastily drawn while still interesting characters, a well thought-out universe and a gradually tightening plot that usually ends with 100 pages or more of almost unputdownable action. Chindi is a little different in that it feels more like several linked substories, but like the previous two books, each adds more color to the overall universe. As the next book is Omega, which deals with what was in the first book, I suspect things will start tying in more as a series arc, so far each book could be read separately without much trouble. I did miss the journalist Gregory McAllister from the second book (although he has a cameo or two here), as his character struck me as being the most interesting in terms of his arc, but Hutch herself is always pretty comfortable to be with. I did feel like giving it some space after this book, which probably means my recent SF phase is over.

Been a while since I read Robert Anton Wilson despite his major influence on my head. TSOG is one of his more recent “books,” which to my eyes looks like a collection of whatever writings RAW was doing on the internet in the last few years or so (I get the impression New Falcon would publish almost anything). I also get the impression his sense of skepticism isn’t quite as strong here as it was in the past and felt like some evidence could have used some work, but overall no complaints in terms of entertainment value. One of the reasons I started this and the next two books was to feel like I could get through something fairly quickly and I had no problem doing so here, with all the various illustrations and such that fill up the space. Definitely not peak RAW overall.

Kathe Koja seems to write young adult books now, but at the beginning of her career she wrote for the Dell Abyss line of horror books and was fairly acclaimed. The Cipher, her first book, won a Bram Stoker award (tied iirc) for first novel and it’s easy to see why as instantly she already has a true gift for prose. In fact the concentration on what the events do to character seem of prime importance to Koja. Basically a video store worker discovers a strange hole in a storage room of his apartment complex that his “friend” dubs the “funhole.” What this is is obviously not as important as what it does and the experience of this rather horrible object goes from a place to do silly experiments to something lifechanging over the course of the book. Perhaps the lack of sympathetic characters might put some off, although I felt Koja did a great job doing it for Nicholas, the first person protagonist, despite what seems to be a very stuck person, and a couple of others. I would have fed Nakota to the hole after about page 50. Very dark.

And Brian Keene’s Earthworm Gods, later retitled to The Conqueror Worms is another of his apocalyptic horrors and is unabashedly almost pulp-like good times with that same sort of ratcheting intensity he used in his zombie “duology.” Here, it starts to rain and it doesn’t stop, the rain, of course, begins to drive the underground denizens upwards, which begin to demolish whoever’s left. However, you might consider this book an “optional” Cthulhu mythos novel by way of a couple awful denizens, biblically Leviathan and Behemoth, that seem to be related in some way to the “Why did it happen?” question. Yeah, it wouldn’t be hard to get more critical about this book, but for a quick good time Keene’s stuff is kind of hard to beat. And it’s making me feel very productive.


2 Responses to “Jack McDevitt – Chindi, Robert Anton Wilson – TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution, Kathe Koja – The Cipher, Brian Keene – The Conqueror Worms”

  1. I reviewed Kathe Koja years ago–thought she had promise then (displayed in THE CIPHER) but then I thought she was basically reworking the same ideas and tone over and over again. Didn’t know she was writing YA fiction. Also have read some McDevitt and the crazed R.A. Wilson (he gave Phil Dick a run for his money in terms of kookie ideas). Please do pop by my blog for a peek at my tastes and obsessions. I think we have some things in common…

  2. Mike said

    Thanks Cliff, from looking at it I’d have to agree. Your comments on McCarthy’s Oprah appearance were hilarious!

    The only other Koja I own is her second Bad Brains, so I’ll heed your warning after that. And yeah, her website doesn’t even seem to mention her older books, at least I couldn’t find the mention anyway. I think I looked into her more because I keep seeing Gene Wolfe praise her, and that’s enough for me (although I got the impression it was mostly for her shorts).

    RA Wilson was probably struggling mightily with his post-polio syndrome around the time he wrote most of TSOG, but although I wouldn’t agree with him eye to eye, some of his ideas were pretty influential in terms of getting out of certain ruts (reality tunnels is what he’d call em). Don’t think he was quite as paranoid as PKD though. 🙂

    best – mike

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