Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A couple of small-press titles worthy of attention

I recently ordered a handful of books from Amazon, including two small press titles I was curious about and couldn't seem to find much discussion of online: Filaria by Brent Hayward and City Pier: Above & Below by Paul Tremblay.  (I was going to add cover images...but doing so crashed Chrome.  Hmmm, maybe I'll fix it in Firefox later.)

I'm not going to do a full review of either, but each is worthy of more attention than I've noticed them receiving (it could be that I just don't visit the right sites, of course).  Filaria is a horror-tinted SF set in a vast, crumbling underground world in which the network controlling the various aspects of the world is failing.  It weaves together the stories of four characters from different levels of this world as they all leave their familiarity of their own level to discover much more of the world...yet those four strands never directly touch each other but instead are bound (loosely) by secondary characters who overlap.  It's an ambitious goal to write this way, and for the most part I'd say it succeeded--one qualm I had about the story was that the character chosen to be the final viewpoint, Tran so, didn't seem the ideal one to end the story on, though I may change my mind on that as I think about the story more.  And as I said when I brought the book up in another forum, I'm a sucker for wildly inventive settings and tend to forgive much if the setting itself intrigues me.  This certainly fulfilled that for me.

The other book also had an intriguing setting.  City Pier (a 2007 release) is set in our own world in what's probably the relatively near future except for the fact that there's a city (presumably quite old, as no one quite knows its history) built 200 feet above the water on a massive pier, supported by the dead but still standing trunks of countless sequoias.  The book is a mosaic novella, I guess, made of four interlinked short stories.  The first three could probably stand well alone (and the third one, I think, should have been at least considered for year's-best-type lists and anthologies).  The fourth is the most structurally ambitious and brings the various other stories together nicely.  Stylistically and thematically these are hard-boiled stories (except the third one), grim and focused on those well outside of the city's power.  I don't have a lot of experience with hard-boiled or noir, so I don't have the full reference frame that some others might have, but coming at it as a widely-read general reader and a reader of the strange and bizarre, it was a gripping evocation of the city and the depths beneath it, certainly one of those cases where the metaphorical is made literal.

As I said, these aren't meant as complete reviews, and there are aspects of both books that I'm not completely sold on...but both are books that deserve more discussion and shouldn't just disappear without more readers knowing about them.

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