Saturday, April 24, 2004

Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut

The copy of this book I have is rag-tagged. It is well worn and well loved. I wonder what strange pathways it went down to end up at the Half Price Books near campus where I picked it up?

This is an older collection of Vonnegut short stories. Most of them were wonderful. They were not organized around any particular theme that I could detect. It seems somhow pedantic for me to talk about Vonnegut at all really. His wit and social satire seem so commonly understood that I'm not sure I have much to add that isn't already culturally agreed upon. So I'll just say this: I deeply enjoyed several of these stories. They made me think, and they made me smile and sometimes made me a little sad. While his writing lacks the finesse or poignancy of short story writers like J. Lumphar or Robert Owen Butler, his content is great. Vonnegut gives science fiction a good name.

Perdido Street Station by China Mevielle

Mevielle is a good writer. He isn't a great writer, but he has a fine vocabulary, especially when it comes to descriptors. I've not read his more famous book, The Scar. LT tells me that it is better than this one. I don't think I will take the time to find out.

Perdido Street Station is a fictional narrative without a genre. It is an organic, messy blend of sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk and horror. It is the tale of a scientist, his woman/beetle lover, and a lawful-evil
city. I mention the city specifically because it is probably the area in which Mevielle best succeeds. The City of New Cruzoban takes on a life of it's own, and I'll remember it's vile alleys, it's putrid rivers of slime, it's charnel houses, and it's brothels of Remade freaks long after I've forgotten the characters and the everything-plus-the-kitcken-sink plot.

I will give some bonus points for the best demon-summoning scene I've ever read.

This book is cool if you like science fiction. Mevielle has a great imagination, a competent narrative style, and a command of synonyms that lets him always reach out and find the perfect word, so long as he sticks to describing physical spaces.

On a personal note, I'm finally all moved out of theWarwick. Extra special thanks to all who helped in the herculean transformation. The place looks good. There is a realtor sign out front, and a lockbox on the door. Now we wait.