Perfect Machines, Voodoo Killings, and me

Today, two Cana­di­an authors delve into mys­ti­cal cyber­net­ics and fan­tas­ti­cal zom­bies. In that order.

A Perfect Machine

Brett Savory is one of those accom­plished sort of per­sons I should, by any met­ric, loathe with a pas­sion. He’s just so good at every­thing he does. He’s become an accom­plished editor/publisher through his found­ing and man­age­ment of the bril­liant ChiZine Pub­li­ca­tions. His genius nov­el In and Down proved Savory to be a vast­ly tal­ent­ed writer of hor­ror fic­tion as well. And now, with A Per­fect Machine, he branch­es into weird sci-fi with seem­ing­ly effort­less verve and vision.

I’d hate him, but how can you hate some­one who brings so much good to the world? So I don’t hate him, obvi­ous­ly. Keep that in mind when I even­tu­al­ly devour his brain to gain his pow­er. It’s not out of hate, but out of love.

A Per­fect Machine con­cerns itself with the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of Hen­ry Kyl­lo, a “Run­ner” in a dystopic cityscape who spends his days and nights as prey for the Hunters. Hen­ry has been shot many, many time, to the point where his cyber­net­ic body is approach­ing full-body lead con­tent. Accord­ing to the belief sys­tem of the secret soci­ety Inferne Cutis (“Latin for ‘below the skin’”), reach­ing full lead results in ascen­sion, a process only reached in rumour and leg­end. What ascen­sion is, no one real­ly knows; prac­ti­cal­ly speak­ing, I don’t real­ly know, and I’ve read the book. The only thing any­one is sure of, read­er and fic­tion­al char­ac­ter alike, is that reach­ing ascen­sion changes all the rules. And as Henry’s phys­i­cal self begins to evolve into … some­thing else, it becomes abun­dant­ly clear that the only rule in this new world is that there are no rules any­more.

from Tet­suo: The Iron Man (1989, Shinya Tsukamo­to, dir.)

While on its sur­face A Per­fect Machine would appear to fit com­fort­ably with­in the genre niche of “sci­ence fic­tion thriller”, it quick­ly proves itself to have a lot more on its mind. Savory isn’t afraid to push his sto­ry away from its more straight­for­ward Run­ning Man under­pin­nings and into the mind-melt­ing strange­ness inher­ent of the writ­ings of Stanis­law Lem, Theodore Stur­geon, Samuel R. Delany, and Arkady and Boris Stru­gatsky. If I may attempt to trans­late the nov­el into more cin­e­mat­ic terms (an apt tac­tic, I believe, con­sid­er­ing the vast­ly cin­e­mat­ic nature of the nar­ra­tive), the tale of Kyllo’s trans­for­ma­tion is Philip K. Dick by way of David Lynch and Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky, with a side trip into the body hor­rors of David Cronenberg’s Video­drome, H. R. Giger’s bio­me­chan­i­cal art­work, and the grue­some Japan­ese cyber­punk film Tet­suo: The Iron Man.

To put it more suc­cinct­ly: A Per­fect Machine is one weird engine. This world is a sur­re­al, bul­let-rid­den night­mare that obeys no laws save its own. Like the best of mind­job lit, this glo­ri­ous­ly odd mon­ster mash prac­ti­cal­ly remands a revis­it, a trip methinks I’ll be tak­ing soon­er rather than lat­er.

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And now, from con­fused cyborgs to even more con­fused zom­bies…

The Voodoo Killings

I love zom­bies (no duh). I love detec­tives. Ergo, I love zombie/detective mashups. And thus, The Voodoo Killings, the first in what I hope will be a long-run­ning series of detec­tive thrillers involv­ing befud­dled zom­bies, angry pol­ter­geists, and brain slurpees.

Kin­caid Strange (great name!) is a prac­tic­ing necro­mancer whose biggest asset is hav­ing access to the ghost of a dead rock star who she can “raise from the dead” for cash. She’s also prac­ticed in the ways of the zom­bie, so when a recent­ly deceased indi­vid­ual wan­ders in to a friend’s bar, who’s he gonna call? And we are down the rab­bit hole into a mys­te­ri­ous sub­cul­ture of artists, magi­cians, ghosts, under­ground cities, revenge, and again, brain slurpees.

It’s a love­ly (and, dare I say, strange) time, and Char­ish clear­ly has a ball map­ping out this new world. She thrusts the read­er in head-first, trust­ing that inter­est­ed par­ties will stick around long enough to glean the rules. Luck­i­ly, Kin­caid is an engag­ing pro­tag­o­nist to fol­low around, the lat­est in a long and noble tra­di­tion of put-upon heroes who rise to a chal­lenge. She’s a lit­tle bit Jes­si­ca Jones, a lit­tle bit Nan­cy Drew, a lit­tle bit Doc­tor Strange, a lit­tle bit Con­stan­tine, and more than a lit­tle bit awe­some.

The mys­tery is sol­id, the dan­gers appro­pri­ate­ly oth­er­world­ly, and the enter­tain­ment fac­tor high. I’m uncer­tain where Kin­caid will go from here, but I’m look­ing for­ward to the dis­cov­ery.

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