Devotees of World Fantasy Award–winner Michael Shea’s work will welcome this tribute volume, a labor of love put together by his widow, Linda, and weird fiction expert Joshi. The entries range from poems to excerpts from his longer fiction, including the epic fantasy series Nifft the Lean.
There are enough glimpses of Shea’s impressive imagination to make newcomers seek out more of his writings. One highlight is an unpublished novella, the moving “Credit Card,” in which the lead, Ricky Deuce, journeys to see his cancer-stricken wife, Angie, who has to impersonate her sister to get insurance coverage.
A number of talented writers, including Laird Barron and Jessica Amanda Salmonson, share their memories of Shea. The last word, appropriately, belongs to the author himself, in the form of a short meditation about horror in which he lyrically describes humankind as “spinning inside a discus of dust and fire flung out by the first heartbeat of time.”
Blackgate is paying tribute to the novels of Michael Shea.
Editor John ONeill by writing about a different novel each week.
Shea, Michael. Assault on Sunrise. Tor. (Extra Trilogy, Bk. 2). Aug. 2013. 288p.
ISBN 9780765324368. $25.99: ebk. ISBN 9781429988278.
Reality TV has reached its extreme with the advent of live-action films in which the demise of a character (or an extra) involves the actor’s actual death—and in which the survivors receive a small fortune just for living through the “movie.- When a number of extras pool their resources and relocate to a town of their own, naming it Sunrise. CA, they provide a safe place for other survivors and arouse the anger of Panoply Studios, which paid out millions in much-needed funds.
Now studio CEO Val Margolian has developed a scheme for exacting his revenge on the surviving actors as well as their town. He also hopes to make a huge profit from filming the destruction of Sunrise through an attack by unstoppable mechanical insects. In the tradition of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Westworld, and The Running Man, Shea creates a brilliant and cautionary satire that questions what passes for modern entertainment.
This sequel to The Extra takes current reality TV several steps further, delivering a thrilling action-adventure that, naturally enough, would translate well to cinema.
I haven’t read all of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels. But of those I’ve enjoyed the one that moved me most was BRIGHT ORANGE FOR THE SHROUD. So slender a book, but each page a well-honed blade.
Boone Waxwell reads like an up-river Mephistopheles. That’s just one of the things that’s so wonderful about MacDonald– he knows how to make monsters. (I use the present tense because like all great writers, he is always with us and still very much alive for me.) Though more prolific than Raymond Chandler he had the same gift of fashioning living, breathing, human gargoyles. And he knew how to give those gargoyles play; he let them run out some line and tear up the scenery; he savored extravagant violence, understanding that monstrosity is a baroque form, requiring resonant and detailed confrontation with evil–sometimes charismatic evil.
Waxwell’s rape kills both its victim and her worthless husband, who dies by her hand (so right that gesture).
But oh, the monsters death when it comes! How more than fitting! How tailored (though large in the bias!) to his crime! It’s among the most fulfilling climaxes in popular fiction.
Locus Looks at Books: Faren Miller
Assault on Sunrise, Michael Shea (Tor 978- 0 -7653-2436-8, $25.99, 288pp, hc) August 2013
Though I haven’t been able to keep up with everything Michael Shea has written in various subgenres of SF and fantasy since I started reviewing his work more than 30 years ago, he never disappoints. Even when I arrive in midtrilogy (Assault on Sunrise is book two), it’s not hard to catch up with the quirky cast of players and techs associated with the future Hollywood introduced in The Extra.
As cities like Los Angeles become more like enormous slums and a few industry moguls run amok without fear of governmental restraint, some people escape to their own odd little communities: towns like Sunrise, up in the Trinity Mountains where the air is still clear and the corporate fist hasn’t quashed all freedom. But that’s about to change.
Mainly in order to strike back at the little group of upstarts who disrupted filmmaking in The Extra, Panoply Studios’ vengeful CEO trumps up a murder charge that condemns Sunrise and all of its inhabitants to the latest, most sweeping and ruthless form of judicial sentence: a ‘‘live-action’’ filming of an attack (also known as Assault on Sunrise), that follows an exhaustively planned script where invading monsters aren’t just special effects. Instead of digital manipulations, Panoply’s Hollywood conjurers deal in something more like mad science, an unholy combination of genetics and robotics.
The refugees have enough experience, and links to insiders still in the business, to get some notion of what they’ll face, yet they can only scramble to set up makeshift countermeasures as the attack escalates and grows ever more complex. Soon they’re busy stealing ‘‘rafts’’ (the flying ships suitable for either camera shots or bombings), lab testing a sample of the bizarre gel that develops into seemingly immortal, selfregenerating giant bugs, or pursuing an urgent quest for design flaws in the finished products.
Shea doesn’t simply give us harried action figures in a sketchy landscape. By Chapter XII, ‘‘The Monster’s Flesh’’, we know these people well enough to feel the host of individual presences and high emotions that jostle against each other in a passage like this one:
At the back corner of Ike’s Engine Repair’s
big-vaulted garage was a small, crowded
machine shop. Devlin bade everyone in.
Mazy, Lance, and Radner were already
there. Shutting the door, she sealed them
all in the cold oily smell of machinery. It
was somehow the right scent, a smell of
mustered weapons, of danger and urgent
One character – whose wife is four months pregnant in the book’s opening scene – takes a more direct hold of later chapters, speaking in the first person. Like a film’s occasional uses of close-up and specific focus among larger vistas, Curtis takes us with him into the heart of his own adventures, though he never looms as an epic hero would – not even after managing, with a ‘‘lucky shot,’’ to blow the head off an insectile invader.
Amid such mayhem, not everybody can survive, and each loss cuts deep. But enough do make it through, or get born into chaos, to leave me eager for the battles of book three, Fortress Hollywood.