November 2, 2011

Your micro-review roundup: 2 October 2011

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

The Five Lost Senses of Carl, by Mel Bosworth and Christy Crutchfield

The Five Lost Senses of Carl
By Mel Bosworth and Christy Crutchfield
Deckfight Press

So first, let me make it clear that this isn't the usual objective book review you typically read here: author Mel Bosworth is an acquaintance of mine, who has participated in various CCLaP promotional projects in the past, while I'm an even bigger friend of Josh Spilker, whose Deckfight Press was this title's publisher, the reason I'm not giving the book a formal score today. But that said, the whole reason I did want to mention it is that this is now easily the best book that either of them have ever put out, a nice sign of accomplishment especially for the experimental-friendly Deckfight, whose current catalog can frankly be real hit-and-miss at times in terms of overall quality. A series of related surrealist short stories about a man literally losing his senses one at a time, in this case co-written with Massachusetts poet Christy Crutchfield, this has a kind of fascinating narrative that Bosworth could use a lot more of in his oeuvre; and if you've never been a downloader of Deckfight's free ebooks before, this would be an excellent one to start with. It comes recommended in that spirit.

Out of 10: N/A

Ganymede, by Cherie Priest

Ganymede
By Cherie Priest
Tor

Regular readers will of course already be familiar with Cherie Priest's remarkable steampunk series known as "The Clockwork Century;" back in 2009 I reviewed the first volume Boneshaker (best described as Victorian zombies meet Doom-style videogame in the bowels of subterranean Seattle), while last year I took on Dreadnought, in which we follow a souped-up locomotive as it winds its way across the Great Plains, deals with a now two-decade-long Civil War, and confronts giant iron military robots. And now we have the third novel in the series, Ganymede, which has yet another impossibly engaging hook to hold together its rambling plot: it's the story of this alt-history's very first submarine, built and lost by the Confederates, rediscovered by a black female brothel owner in New Orleans who secretly works for the Union, salvaged and piloted by a burly zeppelin owner whose usual job is shipping smuggled goods, and with the whole situation complicated by the Texas Republican Army, defiant pirate guerrillas, and shadowy Chinese entrepreneurs.

And indeed, as you can see, there's a good reason that a growing number of people are starting to call this perhaps the greatest steampunk series in the history of the genre*; and that's because with each volume, Priest squeezes in several novels' worth of flabbergasting ideas, making each story expansive as hell while still keeping a tight control over the three-act structure. (And please realize, by the way, that it's not just these three novels that make up this series, but also a handful of standalone stories and novellas, plus a comprehensive website.) One of my favorite genre novelists working today, and a fangirl who walks the walk just as well as her readers (her cosplay convention outfits are almost as famous as the books themselves), Ganymede comes with a strong recommendation, and is the exact kind of title for those who only read one steampunk book a year.

Out of 10: 9.0, or 10 for steampunk fans

*Well, okay, it's hard to beat the steampunk novel that started them all, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine; but still.

Two Times Intro, by Michael Stipe

Two Times Intro: On the Road with Patti Smith
By Michael Stipe
Akashic Books

For those who don't know, the great small press Akashic Books was actually started by famed rock musician Johnny Temple; and so despite its more literary offerings as of late, this has kept Akashic still dedicated to putting out books by other musicians on a regular basis too. For example, take the photography book Two Times Intro: On the Road with Patti Smith, originally put out in 1998 by REM frontman Michael Stipe with another publisher, and just now being re-released in a gorgeous new oversized format, which consists basically of casual images shot by him during Smith's 1995 US tour with Bob Dylan, literally the first time she had been on the road since 1979. To tell you the truth, the photos themselves are merely serviceable at best -- lots of blurry black-and-white shots of exhausted-looking hipsters in florescent-lit back hallways of various music venues, not really anything you would even pay much attention to if not for all the famous people associated with it -- but that said, it's certainly a fascinating book precisely because of all the famous people associated with it (including appearances by Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Tom Verlaine, the members of Sonic Youth and more, all of whom showed up backstage at various stops on this tour), and the short text tributes to Smith by these people, scattered throughout the manuscript, are well worth your time too. Not really something to pick up unless you're an existing fan of Smith, but definitely an interesting acquisition if you are.

Out of 10: 8.2

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:05 AM, November 2, 2011. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Literature:Nonfiction | Reviews |