Published in 1967, Ice (Peter Owen, 158 pages) is a harrowing, oblique, beautiful novel increasingly viewed as a modern classic on par with1984 and Brave New World. Kavan creates a world overrun by vast ice sheets caused by nuclear winter. The anti-hero narrator, a man obsessed with a frail, stunning young woman, chronicles the doom he foresees for his world and the girl who is the object of his fascination. Kavan’s prose swerves breathtakingly from the delicate and the brutal.
Ice shifts between bleak realism and a haunted panorama of psychological terrors. The plot is episodic, evading conventional patterns. None of the characters has a name or is “likable” or “relatable,” as the current jargon has it; but do not read Kavan for those ends. Lyric mastery and a tone of brooding psychic disturbance are the bedrock of the novel, a startling penetration of beauty couched within doom. Continue reading →
The reader of a good book can hear the narrator speaking, can even envision the narrator’s gestures and facial expressions. Dactyl Review contributing editor, U. R. Bowie consistently produces fiction that animates itself in the reader’s mind. And now this, an audiobook of Bowie’s short story collection, Such Is the Scent of Our Sweet Opalescence (Ogee Zakamora, 148 pages), read by the author. (Paperback also available.) The narrator of title story is Uretherer V. Lamb, a character reminiscent of one of Kurt Vonnegut’s memorable creations. The story opens when U.V. is struck by lighting in the midst of taking a leak roadside. He meets death, in the form of grinning Delmas W. Pruitt, but somehow U.V. cheats Delmas and goes on to live his life as a “backslider” without a soul, it seems.
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Victor Fet, a colleague with whom I have shared adventures in art and science, offers Alice and the Time Machine (Evertype, 134 pages, illustrated by Byron W. Sewell) on the 150 anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the birth of H.G. Wells. The novella brings together Alice Liddell, Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), John Dalton (of atomic theory fame), Charles Darwin, Francis Galton (Darwin’s half-cousin) and Wells, who arrives in Darwin’s time of 1862 from 1892 via a time machine. Together they determine that Alice’s mad tale is actually a message from the future, warning them of coming chaos, bloody wars, catastrophic pollution and tyranny. They form the Time Corps and use the time machine to contact scientists past and future to enlist their aid to try to change the world for the better. As they do their work, they notice changes in their own time. At the beginning of the tale, Wells is a nobody but becomes a famous science-fiction author while the other Wells fades in his memory as if a dream. Continue reading →
Lately I don’t read much science fiction, though it was once a passion. I received this book as a gift, though, and found the cover information intriguing. “Wolfe is our Melville,” proclaims Ursula Le Guin on the inside jacket. She’s an author I admire, so started in, not looking for Moby Dick, exactly, but maybe Billy Budd.
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Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (Nan A. Talese, 383 pages) presents the reader with a significant but rewarding challenge. Though as an author she rejects any association with the term “science fiction”, that basically is the genre in which this novel lives. And it really does come to life, though exactly which life-form might be open to debate.
Oryx and Crake are nicknames. Both are animal species and both are extinct. Oryx is female and Crake is male. They are both acquaintances of Snowman, who is really Jimmy. Continue reading →