Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Title: Andy Warhol's Dracula/The Vaccinator
Author: Kim Newman/Michael Marshall Smith
Publisher: Millennium

Andy Warhol's Dracula is a 90 odd page novella by Kim Newman published as a split book. It is an alternative history, something which I have read Newman doing a couple of times before. This time the story is set in 1970s New York and marks the arrival of Johnny Pop in the city. The story starts as he devours a young punk girl called Nancy, then enslaves her boyfriend Sid and makes him mutilate the body taking responsibility for the killing. From there he goes to the famous disco 54 where he holds court and attracts the attention of the "vampire queen" of New York Andy Warhol. Of particular interest is the fact that Johnny is clearly descended from Count Dracula, and is in fact the last pure get of that line - as such carrying the spirit of the elder. The rest of the story intertwines the documentation of Warhol's flirtation with vampirism and fame and his eventual turning with the rise of Johnny in New York and his relation with Warhol. This is a clever story - mixing in a knowledge of the vampire genre and its characteristics and an influential piece of American culture. Particularly amusing is the way he turns that culture to the dark side, mixing in the popularity of "drac" a drug stemming from vampire blood and revelations of which stars were really vampires. Then one step further Newman manages to mix in fictional characters with a couple of references - Patrick Bateman (American Psycho), Travis (Taxi Driver), hte Wayne Foundation (Batman).

The Vaccinator by Michael Marshall Smith is the other half of the book. Flip the book over and there you have it a 70 odd page novella in typical Smith fashion and reading it really puts me in the mood to read more, so don't be surprised if I suddenly reread One Of Us (cause its the only one I ain't reread already!). So - you are doing alright for yourself. You made a bit of money. But that makes you a target. Someone is going to have a go. So you get the idea someone is going to try and kidnap you or yours. What do you do? Well you sit in a bar drinkin and happen to say to the bar man, a bar man who just happens to know a man. So you speak to a man and he offers to set up a vaccination for you. He meets the kidnappers, offers them money straight up - they take it no hassle to them, no "hassle" to you. But wasn't it easier when it was just the Columbians? So there your man is, sitting in a boat, waiting for the light from above and for time to slow down and you just know things aren't going to go quite as you expected..... M.M.Smith on form. Eddie is so typical of his work - a hard man character, fairly easy going but with a dark past and you'd rather he was for you than against you. A bit of tongue in cheek of course and just an all round nice story. Half expect this to be expanded into a full novel, except that Smith's trick is also the suspense, and if the gig is blown here then its probably not worth doin it.

March 2001

Title: Crescent City Rhapsody
Author: Kathleen Ann Goonan
Publisher: Orbit

Crescent City Rhapsody is the third book by author Kathleen Ann Goonan, though works as a prelude to her first novel Queen City Jazz. Queen City Jazz was set in a future where cities have been replaced by the smart flower cities - cities which combine nano tech with pheremonology, using bees and flowers to carry information and working with nano where in the bodies of the inhabitants. The story itself deals with a girl who comes to the city gone out of control and her experiences there. QCJ flows well and follows a solid plot - leading to a really enjoyable work. With CCR however it is clear that Goonan has gone back in time, resulting in a starting point a few years in our future. From this point it builds up to the events which force the human race into having to create alternative technologies and how those technologies grew and the responses to that. To achieve this however, the flow of CCR is a lot more fractured that QCJ - following a group of characters over a course of years as they deal with various aspects of the bigger picture.

Marie Luveau is descended from the Vodou Queens of New Orleans, but she is of a new tech generation. While her organisation still has its grip on the shadows of the city it is not with vodou that she achieves this, rather she invests money, accumulating an influential fortune. But also she follows every new technology and backs, it gaining control here and there of the latest innovations. Which is just as well when her enemies try to kill her and she is able to use these connections to come back - representing the first step in a new life form. But at the same time as this is happening, a world-scale event happens which adds to her forcibly changed life.

An electro magnetic pulse wipes out all communication systems on the planet at once - this causes chaos, and while it doesn't last there are enough pieces of essential hardware blown that it takes time to recover from this. However the EMP repeats periodically, making any recovery short lived and unpredictable.

Zed is a scientist, he could have been brilliant. But burnt so long and hard it started to affect his mind. To control this he is in medication and instead of being at the forefront of his field he is a lecturer in a small college. He has had his class build a small observatory - which he is checking as all the readings go crazy and his car and all other external components go out for a period. He has direct output of what really happened during this first EMP event - he knows that the signal causing it came from space, he knows that at its core it contains a message. But as the government clamp down on the wild rumours of alien invasion and general chaos resulting from the EMP Zed is in danger of being made to disappear. Leading him to a relapse into madness and a life on the streets.

Jason is different. He is ill when there is no EMP signal and fine when there is. He hears music when there is no signal, he is happy and is smarter than any of the other kids it seems. There are men in suits after Jason and his family; other children conceived during that first pulse are disappearing - being studied by government agencies. Luckily for Jason his parents have been on the fringes anyway and he is raised to survive, always one step ahead and always learning.

Along with these characters there are a few others - other children of the first pulse, people who are experimenting with nano and pheremonology. All building towards a post-pulse society; governments are losing control, nano terrorism has become a real issue, countries are splintering. Amongst all this new technology is flourishing, attempting to fill the gap that remains as the regular pulses continue. At the centre stands Leveau in New Orleans - using her starting point, having now gained experience of vodou in the recovery from her death - creating a new city of hope and attracting the best minds. Flower cities are sprouting up to try and gel the nations together, but the hard code for these is controlled by the government/corporation who are selling the packages on - so everyone is these cities is controlled in theory by the city. New Orleans is desperately trying to break from the government, having taken the seed for one of these cities and trying to hack it while also exploiting all the other new technologies and pulling all the other characters together.

CCR builds well to show the shaping of post-disaster society, demonstrating the panic and the innovation that marks the different sides. With the cast of characters Goonan is able to construct all the key technologies, piece together all the key concepts and events. Bringing it all together for a conclusion, which leaves QCJ as a future. But a future with enough of a gap that we are keen to see it filled. Not as much of a compelling roller coaster as QCJ, but still essential reading for anyone who has enjoyed Goonan's work.

March 2001

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