DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Silicon Embrace
by John Shirley
Mark V. Ziesing Books
Hardcover/282 pp.
ISBN O-929480-44-9 (Trade edition) $29.95

] I am still thinking about this book. I can't even recall the last time I read a novel, closed it, thought to myself, "Oh, okay, now I am ready to read this for real," turned it over and opened it up to begin reading again. Maybe with Vonnegut? But the last time doesn't matter, this time does and Silicon Embrace is that book.

This is not to say that it's a heavy, convoluted, philosophizing meandering into some sociological near-future terrain that is a Metaphor for Our Time and/or Contemplation of Our Future. Nope. It's an entertaining, rip-roaring, postmodern adventure...and a straight-out way-cool "alien encounters explained" SF piece...and a gritty future noir post-apocalyptic landscape story...and a metaphysical exploration of human history. It's about darkness and life and survival and love and hate and the universe and God. Silicon Embrace combines the best of Shirley's slambam cyberpunk with a profound spirituality, wicked sense of humor, aliens, UFOs, and a sociological/philosophical slant that leaves your mind spinning. It's a sonic boom of a novel that leaves its echo with us on the ground while it breaks the sound barrier. We have John Shirley once again speeding faster than light beyond where we think we are in speculative writing.

The near-future U.S. of Silicon is one of both chaotic factional barbarism and a semblence of order through a heavy-handed government. A government that has indeed covered up our encounters with aliens just as we always expected. Think of the X-Files amplified, electrified, rationalized, and punked up. That's just the rhythm line. Now add a screaming, finger-slicing lead riff from an overview of human history and Planet Earth as a vast experiment. Plug in some metaphysical bass with a brilliant take on voodoo loa translated in urban spirits and a cascading keyboard of an incredible cast of individual characters from slimey warlords (military version and desert rat guerrilla as well) to evocative children to the most menacingly believable aliens, the most ethereal aliens and the most endearing semi-alien since E.T. to not one, but two redemptive heroes and, and...did I mention the constant commie, the Girl, the symbolic performance artist, the ...oh you are getting the picture? You haven't even got to the percussion section of deep and not so deep metaphysics and there is MORE. You haven't even STARTED to see ANY of it and THAT is the POINT.

Deep breath...2...3...4.

Silicon Embrace also funny, sad, utter bullshit, completely serious, totally tongue-in-cheek, intellectual, anti-intellectual, cynical, and optimistic. Shirley not only explains the universe in several different ways, he explains Science Fiction. That alone is worth the price of admission. It is most likely the most original work of speculative (or maybe other) fiction published lately. It has its flaws -- you might get impatient, you will certainly be challenged, but your mind will most definitely be boggled. Obviously all this boggled reviewer can do is string together inadequate descriptive words to try and convey its impact.

Because the publishing world is gutless, genitalia-less and has substituted marketing for vision, you won't find this book in your local slush saturated bookstore. It's available only in hardcover from small press publisher Mark V Ziesing. But you'd better read it because somewhere some 18 year old kid is going to get hold of it and it may very well be the inspiration for the next revitalization of a near-defunct genre. In a few years you'll be wondering why you wasted your time back in 1997 reading another Star Wars serialization. -- Paula Guran

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.