Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Invisible City, By Brian K. Lowe

This is my kind of throwback. 

Brian K. Lowe is one of those authors that Cirsova introduced to me.  His story, Hoskin's War, in the second issue featured a grossly under-utilized setting for fantasy - the American frontier in the days of the American War of Independence.  It took a nudge and a Christmas sale, but I've finally confirmed that Brian's long form work is as good as his short form work.

The story kicks off with that wonderful trope of a WWI soldier stumbling into a far flung world so very much unlike his own.  Through grit, wariness, cleverness, and a bit of luck, he survives his first few days in this alien place and goes on to fight for love, honor, and freedom.

Brian's writing style is great.  This book is told in the first person, and he never forgets to describe the advanced tech thrown at the hero in a way that a 1920's young officer would.  Clee, the hero, references Wells and Verne, indicating some familiarity with science-fiction that give him a leg up when it comes to dealing with the fantastic.  The prose is solid.  It has an brutal musicality to it that just works.  Check it:
How ironic, then, that such was my own goal, to track Farren down wherever he might run and wrest from him that which I  desired with my heart, and which he desired with only the basest animal emotions: Hana Wen. Whence he would fly, I knew not, but the answer would likely be found in the midst of his fellows. With that end in mind, I marched boldly into the aliens' headquarters, planning to elicit advice from the Library. Hardly had I stopped before the elevator than two Nuum pulled up even with me, seized me by the arms, and whisked me away.
That's some great stuff, right there.  Feels almost Zelznian, you dig?  It's plain spoken, yet it also has a rolling rhythm to it you don't often find these days. Here's another way you can tell that this guy writes with a #PulpRevolution aesthetic - he isn't afraid to stick Christian words into the mouth of a character born and raised in an early-twentieth century Christendom:
Someday, when the final horn sounds and the multitudes of Mankind gather around the Lord's throne for judgment, He will rise up to His full magnificent height, and He will point His majestic finger, and He will say: "Behold the irony of Man, that I should grant him reason, and he should squander it." And He will be pointing at me.
Used to be passages like this were hen's teeth.  They used to be refreshing to read, but I've been reading a lot of Wright these days, so that sort of reference is no longer just a nice change of pace.  Over the course of 2016, this sort of thing has become damn near a requirement for me.

The one downside is that the middle act seems to meander a bit. It doesn't really.  It turns out the meandering about is important for the resolution of the book, but until you see how it pays off, it does seem like something of a wandering travelogue of the new world the hero finds himself in.  Stick with it, it's worth it.

When people talk about #RegressHarder, this is exactly what they are talking about.  Everything from the basic plot, to the inclusion of an honest to gosh hero, a bit of genuine romance handled with a deft touch, and even the narrator's voice, it all harkens back to earlier days of science-fiction.  And yet, Brian K. Lowe doesn't just write a 1950's work of fiction, he writes a modern day story using all the best bits of the 1950s style.  The voice, the romance, the heroism, and the unbridled sense of optimism all make reading The Invisible City a joy.

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