If you’re looking for shiny-happy science-fiction then I suggest you pass by Market Forces and Richard K. Morgan all together. On the other hand, if you like dark science fiction with an edge, aren’t afraid of a bit of blood here a bit of sex there, then Richard K. Morgan should be right up your alley. Morgan is, in many ways, an updated Philip K. Dick – which is a huge compliment in my book. Now granted, he doesn’t have the legacy yet, and hopefully Richard won’t be eating cat food or going bonkers like Dick, but … his work is sometimes very similar.
In Market Forces, Morgan merges geo-political globalisation (he’s British so I figure I’ll use the ‘s’ instead of the ‘z’) and class warfare issues with Mad Max driving action sequences. Morgan’s characters are always honest in their duality, of doing bad for the sake of good, or simply doing bad and acknowledging that it’s what has to happen. Now mind you, sometimes you get the hint of real politics being throw about, but it’s light enough for me not to notice or not to care. That’s how early Tom Clancy read for me versus the late Clancy which just feels like some political pamphlet dressed up in plot and military tech specs.
There is a bit of fun melodrama here and there in Market Forces as well as interesting vignettes about the corporate world and what it takes to survive and thrive. It’s bleak, it’s powerful and it’s a great read. If you’re a student of what makes books or scripts great it is the idea that someone has to change, has a decision to make and that’s just the case in Market Forces. Chris Faulkner has a decision to make as his life intensifies and careers out of control. His decision seems linked to some … truism. It’s this central theme that keeps you wanting to read to the end, and it’s an ending you’ll want to read. No doubt about that.
Men and Cartoons is a collection of short stories from Jonathan Lethem, which ranges from science fiction to surrealism to literary works. Lethem’s imagination is on bold display and you can see links to his earlier works like Gun with Occasional Music or Amnesia Moon. Some of these stories seem more mature, more layered and more … eerie. Mind you, Lethem has always had an intriguing dark side to his work, but these stories seem just a shade darker than his others.
The abrupt Access Fantasy, strange Super Goat Man and surreal The Dystopianist stand out to me as the highlights to the collection. Though nearly all the stories, upon inspecting the contents, bring back some sort of emotion or mood. So while I likely would recommend Lethem’s other short story collection (The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye) before this, it’s a pleasure to see Lethem return to these quirky worlds instead of working within the realm of the pseudo-real. I loved Motherless Brooklyn and was luke warm on Fortress of Solitude. However, both were real life stories and for me, Lethem’s genius is still better expressed through science fiction and other surreal genres.
Truly a wonder when 700+ pages seems to be too few to contain a story. But that’s just what Susanna Clarke does in her debut novel. A great yarn that unfolds satisfyingly slowly. In fact, it’s over 100 pages before you even meet Jonathan Strange!
I don’t think of myself as a magic buff, but first Glen David Gold’s Carter Beats the Devil and now Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell have captured my imagination. I admit, I have an odd memory of Doug Henning’s distinctive ‘thank you’ and have a certain soft spot for the Philadelphia infused Penn and Teller. But I won’t be striking out to find more magic related reading unless it meets the high-level that Gold and Clarke established.