To play the Game of Tongues, you must first understand the caste system. Phineas Poe, antihero of Kiss Me, Judas, returns to Denver to find reality rewritten and the laws of reason fractured. When Poe is enlisted by his old ally, Detective Moon, to find a missing cop named Jimmy Sky, he is drawn into the Game of Tongues, a violent fantasy game played out by disaffected college drones, hacker kids, and Goth refugees in underground punk clubs, on rooftops, and in sewers. Everyone he meets has multiple personalities, and before long Poe begins to lose track of his own identity. If he can hang on to his sanity long enough to find Jimmy Sky, he might just beat the game.About:Born in Mississippi in 1966. Old Southern family. Lived in Montreal and Italy as a child. Spent high school years in Memphis, Tennessee. Attended college in New Orleans, Louisiana (Tulane). Dropped out. Finished B.A. at Memphis State. Received MFA 1995 from Jack Kerouac School at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. California since 1996, Bay Area, L.A., now Santa Barbara. Worked as homeless counselor, taxi driver, bartender, video store geek, college professor (Evergreen State, Olympia, Washington), screenwriter, and journalist. Short stories published in numerous places, notably Nerve and Bomb. Married, one child by previous marriage. One brother. Parents still living in North Carolina.
In Baer's dark sequel to his first novel, Kiss Me, Judas, there is no moral yardstick, none of traditional noir's submerged longing for redemption, only a violent, Dungeons and Dragons-ish s&m hell. Phineas Poe, enervated, depressed and missing a kidney after misadventures in Texas, is hired by his old Denver police buddy, Moon, to find officer Jimmy Sky, who has vanished. Because neither Poe nor the reader is told of Sky's importance until he is finally located, the tale hangs not on suspense but on sensationalist gore. Poe descends into a twisted world of sadomasochistic goths playing the dangerous "game of tongues," an elaborate predatory pursuit where biting off one's victim's tongue increases the power of the biter within the hierarchical system of players. Incited by the narcotic "Pale," the mostly college-age participants frolic perilously in stygian alleys, assuming fantastic alter egos that eventually threaten their real identities. One player, "Chrome," instead of performing the bloody French kiss that is the game's currency, kills his victims --and that becomes police business. Poe, initiated into the game, resists its seduction, discovers the double lives of his old colleagues and eventually saves his girlfriend. Baer's language is hip, spare, brutal, sometimes gorgeous. Although there are some touching (albeit twisted) relationships, readers will have a hard time identifying with the deranged, damaged characters, since Baer withholds the truth about their lives until the end of the story. But once the game's main trick is revealed, the narrative loses steam. The payoff, however, is the voyeuristic glimpse the novel affords into the imaginary labyrinth inhabited by obsessive, nihilistic gothic gamers. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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M P Publishing
October 30, 2006
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