- Brett Savory (Angry Robot, 2017)
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.
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.
If you like A Perfect Machine, you may also enjoy:
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
- The Machine Dynasty trilogy, Madeline Ashby
- Barren Cove, Ariel S. Winter
And now, from confused cyborgs to even more confused zombies…
- Kristi Charish (Vintage Canada, 2016)
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.