01/01/2009. Contributed by GF Willmetts
pub: Tachyon. 242 page enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-892391-82-7.
check out website: www.tachyonpublications.com
I was never quite sure how to class the late Tom Disch as a writer. Prose-wise, he could let a descriptive scene fill up a short story and still make it oddly interesting yet when he really let loose, he was also a superb storyteller. This twenty story anthology shows a mixture of all these things. In some respects, that also makes it easier for me to write the review. I mean, I can just focus on what appealed to me and hope you'll follow my lead and get the book solely for those reasons. However, as with any anthology, there is never a perfect fit for any reader and one shouldn't be put off by the early stories. What appeals to one reader might not be for another. It's always a fine balancing act and reviews tend to give a sampling not every last story.
If I had to pick a favourite out of this collection then it would have to be 'The Man Who Read A Book' simply because it's a satirical piss-take look in the future where reading a book let alone writing one has become more of plagiarist art on unlikely subjects. Whether Disch was basing it on observations of the present we'll never know now but its such a beautiful wind-up that you will never look at plastic purses ever again in quite the same way. A paroled criminal is encouraged to read books for a living and discovers everything is done for a price and the one up the ladder to becoming a writer is posing as something you're not. Disch touches bases with so much here that I couldn't stop for laughing aloud.
In many respects, 'The Abduction Of Bunny Steiner, Or, A Shameless Lie' also has similar undertones when an author needing to sell another book is convinced by his ex-agent to do one about alien abduction. To raise the stakes, he depicts a wife and daughter he never had and when on the media circus, they are sorta created for the publicity purpose with their disappearance at the end put down to being abducted again. Done in first person and with Disch showing his understanding of how this kind of game is played makes you almost believe it happened. Hmmm...maybe it did and too many people are gullible enough to believe.
'A Knight At The Opera' follows the life of a middle-aged woman and the presents from a benefactor she met briefly at an opera giving her a happy ending. Not strictly SF but a demonstration of how to bring a situation to life on the printed page.
'The Owl And The Pussycat' shows how sentient toys observe their owners. Rather quirky but with a fair amount of thought put behind it.
In many respects, Tom Disch was a writer who just happened to write Science Fiction amongst his other works. With his death, it would be a shame that you would miss out on any of his works without sampling one of them. With the release of 'The Wall Of America', the opportunity is here for you to read. Don't miss it.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA