Thursday, August 4, 2011
When I first read Swanwick’s Surplus and Darger stories in a collection of his I wished that he would craft more of them, and just maybe a full length. My wish came true. While much of the novelty and compressed energy of the stories is lost in the transition but their world is more filled out. The strange combination of biopunk grotesquery, 19th century ambiance, myths, and post-apocalyptic future combined with tales of unredeemed roguery on wider canvas, true the characters aren’t given much more depth, but Swanwick crafts this like a comic novel with endless disasters, double crosses, action, and a cast exhibiting the depth of human folly. The stories also traffic in the particular myths of the area they are set in and this story does so for Russia with revolution, Lenin, Baba Yaga, Koschei the deathless, a brutal secret policeman, economies run on cigarettes, Rasputin, wolves, and bears being elements of the story. This book is mostly Swanwick having a lot of fun, granted his sense of fun maybe darker and more grisly than your willing to take, but I had a blast.