Category Archives: General
Over at Skull Salad Reviews, T.J. McIntyre reviews Osama:
In the interest of full disclosure, I admit Lavie’s someone I know and interact with online. I received an electronic review copy straight from the author himself. That said, Tidhar’s new novel, Osama (PS Publishing, 2011), is a difficult novel to review without spoilers. I will do my best here. But let me just say upfront that I loved, loved this book! Sometimes when getting a book from a friend or acquaintance, there’s a hesitance to review it because of the risk of hurting feelings. There was no need to hesitate reviewing this one.
On a superficial level, at least through roughly two-thirds of the novel, the story is pretty simple to explain. It is about a private investigator named Joe living in an alternative present where 9/11 and The War on Terrorism are the stuff of pulp novels. Osama bin Laden is a popular character in a series of cheap paperback thrillers detailing the lives of terrorists by an author named Mike Longshott. When removed from reality, the exploits of the terrorists make for entertaining reads in this alternative history. There are even conventions dedicated to Longshott and his Osama novels. People dress up like Osama and terrorists at these conventions and have roundtable discussions concerning the social relevance of these novels, much like at a Trekkie convention. The fictional acts of terrorism are all entertainment, nothing to fear.
Joe’s story itself reads much like a paperback thriller. He’s a hard-drinking, smoking private investigator searching through the seedy underworlds of Europe. Joe is hired to track down Longshott and travels around the world looking to uncover this author. In the process, he starts to learn a thing or two about himself.
The last third of the book is full of revelations. Our reality and Joe’s alternate reality collide and the text grows increasingly slipstream and surreal. I won’t say anymore about plot because I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone. The less one knows going into this novel, the more they will enjoy it, I believe.
Ultimately, this is a novel about identity, a novel which reflects a reality of the modern age in which we live. We choose our identities in many aspects of modern life – whether it be through a pen name as a writer, the personas we take on in differing social situations, or through online handles and avatars. As one character states in the novel:
“‘You have to choose what to be. When you’ve been stripped of everything; a
name, a face, a love – you could be anything. You could even choose to be
A wonderfully entertaining and thought-provoking book – My six pack rating: 6 out of 6 Trader Joe’s Vienna Style Lager
Colin Harvey reviews Osama:
Osama is written in an elliptical tone reminiscent of Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius stories; Tidhar describes the minutae of coffee, cigarettes and clothes, but omits exposition, instead creating a narrative tension through the reader’s need to puzzle out the background; as Joe wonders what the World Trade Centre is, Tidhar starts to explain his alternate world, but slowly, slowly, and always by allusion. Rather like the protagonist, the reader is left with the sense that “The…writer was leaving…a trail of crumbs to follow” (p.120).
As the novel progresses, it becomes ever more Dickian, as Joe slips between realities, alongside the refugee ‘ghosts’ that he glimpses from the corner of his eye. In the novel’s clearest homage to The Man in the High Castle, Joe undergoes a reality slip that echoes Mr. Tagomi’s, visiting what appears to be ‘our’ London
. . .
Osama is an unsettling, oddly poignant look at what might have been, a world that is not necessarily better –because human nature precludes that- but simply different; it shows Tidhar’s originality and growing accomplishment in one of the best novels of the year so far. – read the full review!
A couple of things recently – I participate in the latest SF Signal Mind Meld, on women SF writers, where I get to gush a bit about all the writers in the Apex Book of World SF, and talk about the influence of Tiptree (Alice Sheldon) and C.L. Moore on my own work.
And I was interviewed by Mur Lafferty for the Angry Robot podcast – where I ramble on about Camera Obscura and being a secret agent… erm.
New story should be up at Chizine soon. I’ll post as soon as it goes up!
I can’t speak for the other judges, but I am eminently bribable! Send cookies, chocolate or Kruger Rands to the usual address.
Here are the details - it’s a very cool project, and I can’t wait to read the finalists!
Science in My Fiction: Off-Earth!Here’s how it works: Authors write a science fiction or fantasy short story (2,000-6,000 words) which is inspired by a scientific discovery or innovation made or announced within the past year. It can’t be peripherally added: the science must be integral to the story. Writers must include a link to a relevant article or study of the applied science when they submit their stories.
This year, we have an additional twist to the contest: All submissions must be set off Earth!This can be in close orbit, on the moon or Mars, or traveling through deep space. Think forward with your extrapolation!
We’ll be looking for thoughtful, creative and well-researched application of science to a story. This doesn’t mean you should neglect your plot or characters, though! The best entries will be those which use science to enhance the plot, setting and characters, rather than dominate them.
Entries will be narrowed down to 10 finalists by the Crossed Genres editors. Then a panel ofsix judges will read and rank the finalists based on a points voting system. The top 3 stories will be published in the Science in My Fiction anthology along with a year of original monthly stories published on the SiMF website (release date: November 24, 2011).
The winner will receive professional pay ($0.05/word) for their story, plus print/ebook copies of the SiMF anthology. Second place will receive $0.03/word plus the anthology, and Third place will receive $0.01/word plus the anthology.
Submissions will be open from June 1 through August 31. So show us your science chops – prove to us there’s still a place for science in SFF!
Having finished the first draft of The Great Game, I’m now starting to go over it, proofing and editing and generally hoping it doesn’t suck.
So far it doesn’t!
I keep running into bits I like. Anyway here’s one!
He’d first met Alice in Venice, in sixty-five it must have been. The year of the Zanzibar Incident, though he had not been involved in that particular affair.
The Bureau had sent him to the Venetian Republic, the lizards negotiating a secret treaty with Daniele Fonseca, the republican leader, against the Hapsburgs. It was baby-sitting duty for Smith, watching the British envoy from the shadows as the treaty was negotiated. And it was Venice, in the spring, and he met her one night when Hapsburgian agents attacked his envoy and Smith, outnumbered, had scrambled to save the man.
She had stepped out of the shadow, a young girl, glowing – so it seemed to him, then, romantic fool that he was – in the light of the moon. Her long white legs were bare and she wore a blue dress and a blue flower behind one ear. She smiled at him, flashing perfect white teeth, and killed the first of the would-be assassins with a knife throw that went deep into the man’s chest, a flower of blood blooming on his shirt as he fell.
Together, they eliminated the others, the envoy oblivious the whole while to the covert assassination attempt, then disposed of the bodies together, dragging them into one of the canals and setting them adrift, Alice’s blue flower pinned to the leader’s chest. It had been the most romantic night of Smith’s life.
AQUARIUS: Today you should be careful of white shirts. A fiscal opportunity might present itself. Watch out for the neighbour’s dog!
TAURUS: Look down as you walk as you might find loose change in the street today. Expect a red flower from an unexpected source.
SCORPIO: Your regular dealer may disappear temporarily. Drink plenty of orange juice. Your lucky number this month is Pi.
LEO: You will encounter a man in a skirt. Be open to new experiences. A long-held appointment will be cancelled. You may find religion.
ARIES: Rain often brings melancholy. Beware of documentaries and cats. Today is a good day to shop for new underwear.
CAPRICORN: They’re coming for you. Run. Don’t forget to dress sensibly. Green is definitely your colour!
LIBRA: you will receive an important letter from a Nigerian president’s wife. Make sure to respond to it with all relevant fiscal details.
PISCES: a good day to work in the garden, but watch out for fallen branches and angry ravens. Avoid showers. Your lucky equation is e=mc2.
SAGITTARIUS: a civil war may break around you today. Don’t lose your phone. Avoid the colour blue and speaking French.
VIRGO: Your lucky number is the square root of minus one. Avoid leafy vegetables. Red’s not your colour. Beware animal-shaped clouds.
CANCER: You will go to a party. Your neighbour is a terrorist. You will receive a phone call from your mother. Do not answer it.
GEMINI: You will have a religious experience for the first time in your life. Avoid dairy products. A person you don’t know will die today.
I first became interested in reading Philip Palmer when I came across this devastating Strange Horizons review of his second novel, Red Claw, by Jonathan McCalmont. The review is so awfully scathing that it starts thus:
Red Claw is Philip Palmer’s second novel. It is not a particularly good novel. Let us not mince our words; it is a desperately boring novel. It is boring in a way that is only made feasible by poor writing. In fact, this book is so poorly written . . .
Which immediately perked my interest. A book that can elicit such… hatred? in a review was most likely worth reading! I looked further into Palmer’s reviews and they seemed split between vitriolic loathing and enthusiastic admiration, and so he moved up to the top of my list of people whose books I want to look out for -
And then came the Locus review of Version 43, Palmer’s third novel, and I realised I had to get it. It had a cyborg PI who kept getting killed and coming back! It was positively Robocopian!
And then, at Eastercon, I got to briefly meet Palmer, who is not an American at all (I have to admit, I don’t know why I thought he would be American), and was very nice and what more, there were copies of Version 43 on offer at a group signing towards the end of the convention and I figured I had to get myself one, so I did.
I read 90% it on the plane back home and the rest the next day.
And it’s awesome.
Version 43 is mental, in a good way. It is waay over the top, it pays loving homage to the history of science fiction (there are planets called Pohl, Kornbluth and GullyFoyle!), it is violent, inventive, it has really – cool – aliens! - and a hero who just keeps coming back from the dead!
There are echoes of Reynolds here – particularly, I think, Chasm City and Century Rain - but it is not in any way Renoldsian (if that’s a word). In fact, I don’t think there is anyone quite like Palmer working in science fiction today. If Version 43 was a film it would be Total Recall, the same completely zany mixture of camp and violence and moments of surprising tenderness. And Robocop, of course, though it would be more like Robocop 3… (don’t let anyone tell you that’s not a good thing!)
In short, Version 43 was (often quite literally!) a blast. And when you realise Palmer’s next novel is called Hell Ship then, well! You know where you are.
Also there’s an awesome line in there when someone says “fuck” and then says “pardon my Pohlian.” Ha! Geek jokes!
So basically, buy this book! You’d love it… unless you’d hate it!
Me, I’m off to buy a Kindle so I can get the rest of Palmer’s books.
It’s been an incredibly busy two weeks, encompassing, at various points, book signings, meetings, Eastercon, the Clarke Award, Sci Fi London and shooting the start of a documentary – so now I’m back home, back on antibiotics, and back in bed. The weather, in case you’re wondering, is gorgeous!
Quick catching up:
- How to sign an e-book!
- Guest-post at the Boston Book Bums Blog, on Strange Places to Buy Books
- My latest short story, The Ambiguity Clock, is now online at Daily Science Fiction
- I’m a judge at the forthcoming Science in My Fiction contest!
- Awesomely in-depth review of Camera Obscura over at Tor.com, by Mike Perschon!
- I sold a new story, “Passage”, to Daily Science Fiction
- The next issue of Interzone will include my short story “Mango Rains”