Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jay Lake Pre-Mortem Readathon, review the first


Fairwood Press
$12.99 trade paper, available now

Reviewed by Richard, 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: In ROCKET SCIENCE, Jay Lake's first novel, Vernon Dunham's friend Floyd Bellamy has returned to Augusta, Kansas, after serving in World War II, but he hasn't come back empty-handed: he's stolen a super-secret aircraft right from under the Germans. Vernon doesn't think it's your ordinary run-of-the-mill aircraft. For one thing, it's been buried under the Arctic ice for hundreds of years. When it actually starts talking to him, he realizes it doesn't belong in Kansas--or anywhere on Earth. The problem is, a lot of folks know about the ship and are out to get it, including the Nazis, the U.S. Army--and that's just for starters. Vernon has to figure out how to communicate with the ship and unravel its secrets before everyone catches up with him. If he ends up dead, and the ship falls into the wrong hands, it won't take a rocket scientist to predict the fate of humanity.

My Review: Jay Lake, author of this fun and funny romp of a book, is dying of cancer. Quite publicly. He blogs about it, posts on Facebook about it, and generally has made no secret of the fact that he's "on the last plane out, just have to see if the flight's a long one or a short one." (Yes, I'm quoting.) He's even having a "Jay Wake". His blog invites us as follows:
You are invited to my pre-mortem wake and roast, a somewhat morbid, deeply irreverent, but joyous celebration of me. This is a time for celebrating my life, loves, and dark, twisted sense of humor.

It's on 27 July...and there's just enough time beforehand for me to, once a week or so, post reviews of the books I've read that have given me so many grins and thrills over the years since I discovered him in 2006. With this book, which I bought at ArmadilloCon in Austin.

As first novels go, this one's a solid effort. It's got thrills and it's got chills...several times I wondered if the narrator was going to survive...and it's got a thinking, relativistic-speed-capable machine that speaks German and learns English from the gospel radio stations it "hears." How it learns to make sense out of that nonsense....

It's got two characters I like a lot, Vernon the narrator and Floyd his sociopath buddy. It's got some right awful baddies, a daddy who's a drunk, and absolutely no sex, to Vernon's lasting dismay. It's also got pacing problems and there's no sense not talking about the doormattiness of Vernon's long-term fixation on Floyd. But it's a first novel! And, even before I got sucked in to the real-life Sturm und Drang of Jay Lake's life, I knew that the mind that created this book was inside a head that laughs at everything.

My kinda guy!

So here's me, laughing along, enjoying the view out the tumbril on the way to the guillotine. It's morbid, you protest? Yeah well, the man is dying and a hushed respectful eyes-cast-down Appreciation would go over like a fart in church with him. I've had a lot of fun reading his books. I'm going to tell the world that BEFORE he dies. I urge the SFnally inclined, even modestly so, to buy this book and smile along with the writer, and me!, in some haste. No knowing when the doorbell will ring.

And how many times do you read a book that *ends* with a round trip to Mars about to begin?

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