Vector

Swigart’s novel preceded Nancy Kress’ Oaths and Miracles and imagines a more probable conjunction of genetic engineering and biowarfare. One of the advantages of reading science fiction is that, when news stories like this show up, you will not be shocked.

Raw Feed (1993): Vector, Rob Swigart, 1986.Vector

This book was something of a disappointment, especially as a sf thriller.

It was obvious from the start that Ben Silver was involved in illegal genetic engineering. However, I did like the coldly rational, ruthless rationale for the secret project to wipe out ethnic Russians in the U.S.S.R. – to dictate terms of peace to the Evil Empire.

It was equally obvious that crazed psycho bushman/assassin Renfrew was going to battle akido master Shinawa.

Nor did I care for the mystical element of the Kahunas. However, the frightening notion of a plague tailored to wipe out a designated racial or ethnic group (while not new) was intriguing enough to make up for a lot.

The naval intelligence cover story about genetically engineered replication of the oil secreted by dolphins (to help boats go faster is the application) being the purpose of the project was a nice touch. I assumed – to my pretty much ignorant eyes – that the biological details were all correct.

[Evidently this was the first of a trilogy, all of which are available on Kindle.]

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

Oaths and Miracles

The day is nearing when I’ll have a bunch of posts up. Until then, inspired by this news story about bioengineered plagues, I thought I’d post this . . .

Raw Feed (1997): Oaths and Miracles, Nancy Kress, 1996.Oaths and Miracles

In marketing (the spine says “thriller”) and style this is more of a contemporary suspense novel than sf. However, Kress once again takes her specialty – the consequences of genetic engineering – and makes a fast-reading, well-written (none of her usual problems with weak endings) novel dealing with a chillingly plausible bit of speculation – engineered cold viruses programmed to induce heart attacks in a specific individual.

Kress ends her novel with three news stories each illustrating a point about genetic technology.

The mobsters trying to develop the ultimate assassination weapon are indicted. However, the secret appears uncontained since the President of Mexico dies of a mysterious heart attack. The same knowledge also seems to promise a cure for cancer – neatly illustrating the double-headed nature of all technology.

This book is compelling though the usual elements of chase and on-stage violence are few (the assault on the Cadoc commune and the attempts on Judy Kozinski’s life), and Kress relies a bit too much on coincidence in having Kozinski duck her head unknowingly at a convenient time to avoid being shot. Continue reading “Oaths and Miracles”

“Same Time, Same Place”

This subject of this week’s weird fiction over at LibraryThing.

Review: “Same Time, Same Place”, Mervyn Peake, 1963.The Weird

This is a rather sleight weird tale.

One night, the narrator, a 23 year old man, is particularly disgusted by his father’s appearance (his moustache with ashes in it) and that of his mother (the worn outside edge of her shoe). He goes out to a restaurant in Piccadilly Square and, by chance, meets a woman at a table, just abandoned by her companion.

He finds his true love instantly. He is particularly struck by her large, beautiful head and blonde hair.

After their first meeting, they agree to meet at the same place and the same time next day. And so they do for eight days.

The ending of the story is foreshadowed by the narrator being unable to find the woman’s feet underneath the table. Continue reading ““Same Time, Same Place””

“The New You”

This week’s topic of Deep Ones discussion over at LibraryThing.

Review: “The New You”, Kit Reed, 1962.9781598535808

This story is nominally sf. It was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Besides the main technology enabling a “New You”, there is a reference to an autochef. But it is appropriately weird too. The author of last week’s weird tale, John Keir Cross, seems to have had a philosophy that it is not events, per se, that makes a weird tale. It is human behavior.

This story has both kinds of weirdness. Essentially, it’s a doppelganger story with some odd behavior by its doubled character.

We start out with our heroine Martha. Martha is dissatisfied with her figure and weight and answers an ad promising a “New You” in “one of the glossier fashion magazines”. It promises you will “Watch the Old You Melt Away”.

And Martha would like the old her to melt away. She’s 40 pounds heavier and six inches shorter than the woman, whom she calls Marnie, she’d like to be. Continue reading ““The New You””

“The Glass Eye”

This week’s weird fiction to be discussed over at LibraryThing was nominated by me after coming across a John Keir Cross story in Scottish Stories of Fantasy and Horror which is in the large pile of books to be reviewed here.

I was impressed enough by it that I nominated this story which was published first in Cross’ seminal 1944 collection The Other Passenger which is quite good. This story, original and interesting as it is, is actually one of the lesser stories. But that I plan to discuss some other time.

As usual with these weekly postings about a piece of weird fiction, plenty of spoilers are ahead. That’s particularly relevant to Cross who seems to structure so many of his tales with a surprise ending.

Review: “The Glass Eye”¸ John Keir Cross, 1944.

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Cover by Henry Petrides

This has been referred to as the greatest horror story ever about a ventriloquist dummy.

I don’t know about that. It certainly has a unique spin, a complete reversal, on the usual direction such stories take. It also depends on what you mean by horror.

Our narrator opens the tale with a couple of items and a statement:

There are things that are funny so that you laugh at them, and there are things that are funny but you don’t laugh at them at all—at least, if you do, you aren’t laughing because they amuse you: you are doing what Bergson says you do when you laugh—you are snarling. You are up against something you don’t understand—or something you understand too well, but don’t want to give in to.

Our first item is a description of the narrator’s friend Julia, an ungainly woman of ungainly statements, possessor of a unique talent for stating the wrong things. Julia is a “lost, mad girl”. Her sexual initiation occurred at 18 from a man she never saw again. There’s a broken engagement in her past. Her love is bestowed on an unresponsive, crippled nephew she sees once a year. Continue reading ““The Glass Eye””