You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Friday, January 27, 2012


(Science fiction author Bruce Sterling wrote an article in 1987 that defined "Sliptream" as those novels that incorporated elements of genre fiction into literary fiction. In other words, novels that at the time gave a sense of what it felt like to live in the late twentieth century, and could be even more descriptive of daily life now in the 21st. INTO THE SLIPSTREAM will take a look at some of these novels.)

Let's imagine that at some point during the 1980's a group known as the Kirkpatrick Academy scoured the country, maybe the world, for the brightest young minds they could find. They then took them to the Academy, which to the ouside world does not appear to exist, and set them to work on whatever projects they found most interesting, And what if their plan for saving the earth involved eliminating 95% of the polulation, the only schism in the group being whether to do it sooner than later.

That's the underlying story of Blueprints of the Afterlife, a novel that takes place well after the FUS --the Era of Fucked Up Shit -- when a largely de-poplulated earth, helped by some truly amazing technology, does not seem to be doing so badly. The scars are there. There has been a devastating war against the newmen, anthropoids, possibly from China, who fight ruthlessly and long. But now they are humanity;s servants. Global warming is still a problem, and retirees in Phoenix have to vacuum seal their homes and head north for the winter. Most cities are decimated, victims of the Melaspina glacier that leaves its home in Alaska and goes on a self-guided tour across North America destroying most major polulation centers. A innovative building project is turning Bainbridge Island off the coast of Seatlte into a carefully reconstructed New York City.

Boudinot's novel is told in many voices. Scattered through the novel are taped, pre-FUS interviews with Luke Piper, a young man who has lived through a middle-class childhood, a late hippie phase, become a dotcom millionaire, and happens to be the best friend of one of the architects of the FUS. Skinner is an aging war veteran who provides accounts of just how bloodthirsty the war against the newmans really was. Abbie slips into the darker side of the new society. The bionet is a technology that can cure everything from the common cold to paralysis, But DJ's use the bionet to highjack personalities, controlling their every move until they get tired of them and put them on autopilot programs that may be either destructive or simply boring.

Boudinot keeps a lot of balls in the air over 400 pqges, and I am not sure if all the story lines reach real conclusions or if he intends for them to, What he can do is keep you entertained with episodes that range fro outrageously funny, to excruciating, to downright creepy. Residents of New York Alki, the name of the project on Bainbridge island, find themselves slipping into the personalities of the dead New Yorkers; whose apartments they take over. (Creepy.) The war veteran Skinner, when he has finally had enough, contacts the bionet and orders "Combat Ready!" Immediately his old head is on a G. I Joe torso. (Funny)

Not the current cover
I've read that this novel fits into the "Slipstream" category of books that employ genre conventions but are not genre books. So despite plot elements involving marauding glaciers, dj's hacking into personalites, mass cloning, and the vacuum-sealing of Phoenix, this is not a science fiction novel. Right. Perhaps its a question of the publisher, in this case Grove Blackcat, and the cover style they choose. Blueprints has a classy blueprint cover and does not show panicked crowds fleeing the glacier Melaspina. Perhaps a mass market edition will have that latter cover.

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