A space traveler named Ekhi, impregnated by a supernova, is rescued from her dying ship by the ragtag crew of a mercenary vessel. Once onboard, she falls under the watchful eye of the ship’s captain, Itsasu, a cyborg mind trapped in an emaciated shell of a body floating in a nutrient-rich solution. While Ekhi is sequestered and Itsasu plots the resurrection of her long dead husband, the rest of the dysfunctional crew struggles with sibling rivalry, unrequited lust, and fierce jealousies. But when the ship is attacked by an alien incursion force, a deadly linguistic virus is loosened, and the vessel’s own AI turns the tables on its unsuspecting crew, things take a turn for the REALLY weird.
Open Your Eyes, Paul Jessup’s breakthrough novella, is visually dynamic, outrageously imaginative, and at times an altogether baffling read. The characters are a colorful and intriguing assortment (Ekhi who carries a true cosmic egg within her, the motherly Itsasu and her cadre of mind-controlled dolls, young Hodei obsessed with a softcore magazine model, his brother Sugoi a witless giant prone to violent mood swings, and the relatively level-headed Mari caught between them), swept along in a surreal scenario that pushes the boundaries of science fiction well into science fantasy. Which isn’t a bad thing. It’s a bizarre kaleidoscope of a narrative to be sure, delivering an almost-overwhelming array of alternately brilliant and bewildering images, ideas, and plot-driven developments, offering up just enough to engage without really explaining. On the one hand, this works beautifully as the story builds its momentum from one breathtakingly clever concept to the next (that contagious meme capable of reducing a brain to pudding was a personal favorite), never slowing to wallow in the details as it drives toward its epiphanic climax. On the other hand, this disdain for details carries through to its final pages, making for an open-ended and not wholly satisfying conclusion. It’s an incredibly ambitious book and, even if some of its wildly varied components remain unexplained or unattended (Ekhi all but disappears following her introduction), Jessup should be lauded for this positively fearless foray into scifi fantasy.
Despite the occasionally elusive narrative elements and its lack of closure, getting there is still a treat and a half, a mesmeric, mind-bending journey under the guidance of the New Weird’s rising star.
Finally, let me make special mention of the cover art (“The Day Dreamer”) by Daniele Cascone that does such a spot-on job of mirroring the book’s sense of blossoming apprehension and wild, wide-eyed wonder. It’s what led me to pick up the book in the first place. Lately, it’s been just the opposite. I can’t tell you how many titles I’ve deep-sixed solely on the basis of their truly horrendous artwork.
So, those were my initial thoughts. Let’s get a discussion going. And start posting your questions for author Paul Jessup.
Also, a little reminder: if you glance over at the right sidebar, you’ll note that I have already announced the November book of the month club selection: Emissaries from the Dead by Aam-Troy Castro. Looks like a good one so make sure to pick up your copy and start reading. Discussion begins the week of November 9th.
Today, I had lunch with Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok. Somewhere between our Crunchy and Munch Roll and the grilled saba, I received the ratings for last Friday’s airing of Air III. They were an eye-opener. A 1.8! Now what’s astounding here is not so much the number itself (although 1.8 is great) but the fact that we actually went UP from the premiere. I mean, that’s unheard of. Who would have thought?! Oh, wait. I know. David Blue. About a month before the premiere, he predicted that we would actually build our audience following Air I and II. I told him that would be nice but highly unlikely given that most every series sees a drop-off in its second week. Well, he proved me wrong and I am now a believer. Tomorrow, I’m going to swing by set and pester him for some winning lottery numbers.
Following lunch, Ivon and I stopped by HMV where I picked up some TV on DVD. While we were perusing the horror selection, a helpful employee approached and asked whether we required any assistance. We thanked him but told him we were just browsing to which he replied: “Alright. By the way, I love SGU.”. Huh? What was that? Turns out he recognized both Ivon and I from my blog – which I find ineffably bizarre, the fact you guys are actually real! Anyway, Mark is a transplanted Aussie and, more importantly, a big fan of the franchise, so Ivon and I ended up chatting Stargate with him. Before heading out, I got him to fess up to his favorite characters: Carter on SG-1 and Scott on SGU.
Hey, speaking of our Lieutenant Scott, best birthday wishes go out to birthday boy Brian J. Smith who will not doubt be partying all night in celebration (and then going to bed at an early hour so that he’ll be fresh and prepared for tomorrow’s early call).
Today’s entry is dedicated to birthday individual Ultracurious.
Oh, by the way, in addition to those DVD’s, I also picked up a few books:
Hey, Dairy Queen is offering a pumpkin pie blizzard. Just thought you should know.