Thursday, December 3, 2015

Books of the Year - Doug Anderson

Douglas A. Anderson, our Late Reviews columnist, and proprietor of Nodens Books, writes:

The best book I read in 2015 is a late-in-the-year entry: Gypsy Plus (PM Press) by Carter Scholz, just out in November. Scholz has been one of science fiction’s best kept secrets for more than three decades. His first novel, Palimpsests (1984), co-authored with Glenn Harcourt, made me a huge fan, and I’ve followed his trickle of high-quality publications ever since. Most have been short stories—the early ones (real shorts — deliciously done) collected in a chapbook Cuts (1985), and others in The Amount to Carry (2003), with a small book of stories inspired by Kafka, co-authored with Jonathan Lethem (two stories by each author, plus one collaboration), Kafka Americana (1999). A solo novel, Radiance, came out in 2002.

Gypsy Plus contains a new novella, “Gypsy,” plus two reprinted short stories, and a new essay and a new interview. “Gypsy” is the near future story of a starship journey to Alpha Centauri made by some fifteen people to escape the corrupted and dying earth and thereby allow humanity to survive. Technically it is hard science fiction, but that fact shouldn’t scare anyone away. Scholz’s intelligence and humanity shines in every sentence, and his vignettes of the starship occupants, as each of them awake to deal with some emergency, includes their back-stories of how they got there.

The essay in this collection, “The United States of Impunity,” is a devastatingly analysis of the recent politics in the United States which, extrapolated forward, could serve as an explanation for the state of the world in the novella “Gypsy.” Of the other two stories, “The Nine Billion Names of God” is a meta-fictional riff on Arthur C. Clarke’s classic story of the same title (which you needn’t have read to enjoy Scholz’s story), and “Bad Pennies” is written as though it were testimony before Congress defending corrupt financial and security policies, a fitting companion piece to the essay. For me, “Gypsy” is the shining story of 2015

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