The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Quick Reviews: The Vengeful Virgin and "Finisterra" by David Moles

Gil Brewer often pops up on lists of the best second wave, pulp/noir writers. I picked up a copy of Hard Case The Vengeful Virgin recently (originally published by Crest/Fawcett in 1958) and discovered that his reputation is well-deserved.

The plot is a fairly standard Double Indemnity/Postman Always Rings Twice triangle but it's written in a vivid and seemingly artless style; the characters are realistically motivated and Brewer builds in unique period detail.

The novel was written in the early days of color television, when sets were still an expensive luxury. Our doomed hero is an electronics salesman/installer and Brewer gives him just the right amount of technical knowledge to make this trade convincing. It's a regular job-call that draws him into the noir world; all of his sharp schemes arise from his knowledge of electronics while his failings are things that an over confident engineer would miss.

I love it when a writer can do justice to working stiffs and this is some of the best specialist job info used in a genre context that I've encountered since Sturgeon's "Killdozer".

The novel builds to a horrifying and operatic conclusion and Brewer brings you all the way there.

Gregory Manchess' cover for the Hard Case edition is a thing of beauty.

He somehow manages to get everything a man needs all onto a 4X7 cover (with room for type).

"Finisterra" by David Moles. F&SF (December, 2007)

The story is set on a gas giant planet circled by enormous flying islands. The islands are living beings--something like massive manta rays or hump-backed whales. They produce hydrogen as a biproduct of their life processes, so they float about like Manhattan-sized zeppelins.

A female aviation engineer has escaped her oppressive family and has used her father's stolen plans to land a job with space pirates. The pirates are poaching the leviathans to turn them into some kind of artificial pleasure barges and they may or may not care what happens to the refugees who are currently living on them.

Great story. It has a lot in common with Dune in that it's an Islamic Galaxy and power depends on the control of a single element. I'm hoping it's a novel in progress because it definitely has room to grow. I'd love to see more of the head pirate who has a great Harry Lime joyous moral ambiguity about him.

I added this to Hang Fire Books Short Fiction Reading Guide. I haven't finished moving my lists over yet but now that I have a slightly smarter phone that will allow me to view LibraryThing while book-shopping, maybe I'll get to it.

1 comment:

pussreboots said...

I agree with you on "Finisterra." I would love to see the story grow into a novel or inspire a novel. It was a great story to end the issue with.