Years after Ed Chianese's fateful trip into the Kefahuchi Tract, the tract has begun to expand and change in ways we never could have predicted--and, even more terrifying, parts of it have actually begun to fall to Earth, transforming the landscapes they encounter.
Not far from Moneytown, in a neighborhood of underground clubs, body-modification chop shops, adolescent contract killers, and sexy streetwalking Monas, you'll find the Saudade Event Site: a zone of strange geography, twisted physics, and frightening psychic onslaughts--not to mention the black and white cats that come pouring out at irregular intervals.
Vic Serotonin is a "travel agent" into and out of Saudade. His latest client is a woman who's nearly as unpredictable as the site itself--and maybe just as dangerous. She wants a tour just as a troubling new class of biological artifacts are leaving the site--living algorithms that are transforming the world outside in inexplicable and unsettling ways. Shadowed by a metaphysically inclined detective determined to shut his illegal operation down, Vic must make sense of a universe rapidly veering toward a virulent and viral form of chaos...and a humanity almost lost.
Starred Review. In this dense quasi-noir tale set in the universe of Light (2004), Harrison introduces Vic Serotonin, a ne'er-do-well who makes his living running illegal tours of the Saudade event site, where hallucinatory and impossible experiences are the norm. When rich tourist Elizabeth Kielar hires him as a guide and then disappears in the area around the site, things get even stranger than usual. Police detective Lens Aschemann, who usually turns a blind eye to the tourism business, threatens dire consequences for Vic's sideline of event site artifact smuggling, while shady club owner Paulie DeRaad buys an artifact that begins to change him in bizarre ways. Harrison privileges atmosphere over plot, using grotesquely beautiful narration and elliptical dialogue to convey the beautifully delineated angst of Saudade's extraordinary inhabitants. Although not for everyone, Harrison's trippy style will appeal to sophisticated readers who treasure the work of China Mieville and Jeff VanderMeer. (Oct.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 24, 2007
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Excerpt from Nova Swing by John Harrison
The Bar on Straint Street
Vic Serotonin sat in a bar on Straint Street, just outside the aureole of the Saudade event, in conversation with a fat man from another planet who called himself Antoyne. They had been playing dice all night. It was just before dawn, and a brown light, polished but dim at the same time, crept out the street lamps to fill the place.
"I was never in there," the fat man admitted, meaning the event site, "but what I think--"
"If this is going to be bullshit, Antoyne," Serotonin advised him, "don't even start."
The fat man looked hurt.
"Have another drink," Vic said.
The bar was about halfway down Straint, a cluttered, narrowish street of two-storey buildings, along which two out of three had their windows boarded up. Like all the streets in that part of Saudade, Straint was full of cats, especially at dawn and dusk, when they went in and out of the event site. As if in acknowledgement, the bar was called Black Cat White Cat. It featured a zinc counter slightly too high for comfort. A row of bottles which contained liquids of unlikely colours. A few tables. The long window steamed up easily, no one but Antoyne cared. In the morning the bar smelled of last night's garlic. Some mornings it smelled of mould too, as if something had crept out of the event aureole in the dark and, after a few attempts to breathe the air in the bar, died underneath a corner table. Shadow operators hung high up in the join between the walls and the ceiling, like cobwebs. There wasn't much for them to do.
Vic--short for Vico, a name popular on Scienza Nuova where he was born--was in the bar most days. He ate there. He ran his business out of it. He used it as a mail drop, and as a place to check out his clients: but really it was what they called a jump-off joint, positioned well, not too far back from the event site, not so close as to suffer effects. Another advantage it had: Vic was on good terms with the owner, a woman called Liv Hula who never put in a manager but ran it herself day and night. People thought she was the barkeep, that suited her. She wasn't known to complain. She was one of those women who draw in on themselves after their fortieth year, short, thin, with brush-cut grey hair, a couple of smart tattoos on her muscular forearms, an expression as if she was always thinking of something else. She had music in the bar. Her taste ran to the outcaste beats and saltwater dub you heard a few years back. That aged her as far as Vic Serotonin was concerned.
"Hey," she told Vic now, "leave the fat man alone. Everyone's entitled to an opinion."
Serotonin stared at her. "I won't even answer that."
"Bad night, Vic?"
"You should know. You were there."
She poured him a shot of Black Heart rum, along with whatever the fat man was having. "I would say you were out there on your own, Vic," she said. "Much of the time." They both laughed. Then she looked over his shoulder at the open door of the bar and said:
"Maybe you got a customer here."
The woman who stood there was a little too tall to wear the high heels in fashion then. She had long thin hands, and that way of looking both anxious and tranquil a lot of those tourist women have. There was a tentativeness about her. She was elegant and awkward at the same time. If she knew how to wear clothes, perhaps that was a learned thing, or perhaps it was a talent she had never fully brought out in herself. You thought instantly she had lost her way. When she came into the bar that morning, she was wearing a black two-piece with a little fitted jacket and calf-length kick-pleat skirt, under a long, honey-coloured fur coat. She stood there uncertainly in the doorway, with the cold light from Straint Street behind her, and the unflattering light from the window falling across one side of her face, and the first words anyone heard her say were, "Excuse me, I--"
At the sound of her voice, the shadow operators unfolded themselves and streamed towards her from every corner of the room, to whirl about her head like ghosts, bats, scrap paper, smoke or old women clasping antique lockets of hair. They recognised privilege when they saw it.
"My dear," they whispered. "What beautiful hands."
"Is there anything we can do--"
"--Can we do anything, dear?"
"What lovely, lovely hands!"
Liv Hula looked amused. "They never talk like that for me," she admitted to the woman in the fur coat. Then she had a sudden vision of her own life as hard-won, dug out raw from nothing much even the few times it seemed to swoop or soar.