Sunday, April 1, 2007

Spaceman Blues: A Love Song

Spaceman Blues: A Love Song
Written by Brian Francis Slattery
Tor Books
Reviewed by Jodie

This book is special. It’s a tightly wound package of pace, plot, characterization and language that has been refined until every page sings with perfection. It’s spectacular and importantly, in times when books are hastily bought and carelessly disposed of, it’s a keeper.

Wendell Apogee is searching for his baby, Manuel, who has disappeared after an unexplained explosion at his apartment. Unwilling to believe Manuel is dead and in need of answers about why he has been left behind, Wendell begins to follow an almost non-existent trail that he hopes will lead him to the truth. His quest takes him into the world underneath Slattery’s vision of alternative Boston to the brilliantly rendered destination of Darktown "Where lost things are found."

It is impossible to be sane around Slattery’s prose. His words make you want to find someone to dance with, someone you can lick tequila off of afterwards. They are the most wonderful example of how energetic writing can make you flushed and excited. The pace of the book is frantic and deeply fascinating at the same time, with the author's eye for detail ensuring that the reader never feels rushed away from one scene to the next. The smallest idea is never allowed to seem insignificant, even if the reader never learns anything else related to it. The glimpses provided by phrases such as "and Liz humours him because he has eyes that remind her of her brother’s, deep and lucid, before the schizophrenia began," are as enthralling as the in-depth creation of characters like Wendell Apogee and Lucas Henderson. The reader soon becomes immersed in these details which may seem merely charming and eccentric in the early stages of the book but soon stack up to an intense, thoroughly crafted background that compliments the main plot strands.

Slattery doesn’t just use words, he treats them right. The instistent rhythm of Spaceman Blues: A Love Song propels the reader into its dark waters but makes sure that no one, including the book's hero, becomes mired. This cadence is created partly by the author utilizing one of the most varied vocabularies since the narrator of Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. However the impressive use of language is much more organic in this case and so creates this lovely, swelling drive that makes for such a fluidly exhilarating experience.

There are many comparisons made between this book and others, this author and others in the quotes at the beginning but I think Slattery has successfully found his original voice in this first novel. He has imagined something that is hard to quantify or classify, although it is easy to define its magnificent qualities. Spaceman Blues highlights the fact that speculative fiction can be as human and recognizable as any other well written fiction and that it is easily enjoyable. I really can not gush enough about it.

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