Sloppy Seconds

July 18, 2008

Sloppy Seconds, by Wrath James White

 

Sloppy Seconds, by Wrath James White.

 

Er. Well. Yes.

A short book of short stories, very very limited edition thing. Apparently at the annual World Horror Convention they have an equally annual Gross-Out Contest, wherein which authors are liberated from the bounds of common decency, morality and taste in their efforts to outdo each other with the most vile, nauseating, splattery, repulsive, brutal and monstrous stories they can think of. All for some kind of nonspecific prize (probably a rotting fishhead tastefully mounted within the remains of an underaged streetwalker sprayed with fake gold) and the honour of being pronounced Most Gross Storyteller of 200X. Well. Yay. 😀

Anyway, Wrath James White has been runner-up a few times — never quite cracked it, but judging by the five stories in Sloppy Seconds he bloody should’ve done. Emphasis on the word ‘bloody’. And other bodily fluids. In abundance.

Whilst the stories are almost unimaginably sick and brutal, they’re also well written (a few typos notwithstanding) and, despite the brevity of the medium, very effective if you can get past the subject matter (or have no problems with the subject matter, like me 😉 ). It’s a weird place, this under-under-underground basement genre of extreme horror, but White is very much at home here and damnit if he hasn’t dragged me inside and made me feel at home…

I love this sort of thing. It makes the joys of American Psycho look cuddly. It’s parked next to the equally astonishingly repulsive Excitable Boys in the shelf: there were a few Gross-Out winners in that too if I recall correctly…

For the rest of you, probably be glad it’s a limited edition and you’ll never get hold of it.

 

A seven-part space opera epic by Kevin J. Anderson.

I picked up the first of these, Hidden Empire, whilst trapped in Kalgoorlie with an utterly shite movie channel, desperately trying to find something to do read. The scope of the series had initially put me off (sixth book, Metal Swarm, has only just some out with the seventh and final tome, The Ashes Of Worlds, due in a month or two… and each book is in excess of 700 pages) but endless boredom in a hotel room makes you want to try something different (and time-consuming) and so I gave it a whirl, hoping for something as good as Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy.

And it is, thankfully, almost as good — not better, but almost as good. Certainly I’ve devoured my way through four-and-a-half of them thus far with no particular intention of slowing down.

The Saga of Seven Suns is basically about a moment in human history where we’ve built ourselves an interstellar empire. Humanity coexists with an equivalent alien empire, the Ildirans, who gave faster-than-light technology to the humans as a benevolent gesture, and are all interconnected via their Imperator, who controls his people via intangible threads of power called thism. Everything that the Ildirans have ever done is part of a vast oral/written history called, unsurprisingly, the Saga of Seven Suns, which is supposed to be a perfect record of their race’s history and munificence.

Except some of this Saga may have been edited, and some of it may be lies…

In the first book a warlike, utterly alien menace called the hydrogues rise from the depths of gas giant planets throughout the galaxy in vast, city-sized spherical diamond-hulled spiky warships. Indiscriminate slaughter and hilarity ensues, with the result that both the human and Ildiran empires begin contracting and stagnating rapidly as they can no longer access the hydrogen that they mine from the atmospheres of the huge planets. Diplomatic relations fall, and things get worse… and worse… and worse. Because the hydrogues aren’t the only hostile, all-powerful aliens out there — and there are many, many enemies within.

 

The Saga… is well written (or rather well-dictated and transcribed: Anderson apparently talks out his chapters but the subsequent writing style is clean if occasionally slightly over-simple), with short, jutting chapters that kept me frantically reading just a little more to find out what had happened to a favoured cast member. It’s also nicely bloodthirsty on occasion, and the odds against everyone seem appalling. I really don’t know whether anyone’ll be left at the end of it. Titanic space battles wiping out moons and suns, burning city-sized hydrogen mines, invasions of hundreds of thousands of insectile razor-armed robots, an internal android revolution, sentient trees clawing alien gunships out of the sky… it goes on and on, and just when one disaster is either averted or responded to, another five loom on the horizon.

Like I said, not finished yet. But thus far it’s been worth every second of the reading time. The only real quibbles I’d have would be the occasionally thin characterisation (given the amount of characters jostling for page-space, that’s not a huge problem) and that it’s not really hard sci-fi — the author doesn’t appear to have a particularly scientific background so the majority of the concepts are just there, rather than explained in physicist-level detail. But, y’know, I don’t really mind that either. What I’m getting out of this is a hell of a read, a hell of a story, mass destruction and triumph and tragedy against mind-numbing odds, all on richly detailed and well-imagined worlds and with vast amount of action and intrigue.

And that’ll do me. Roll on book seven. 🙂

Note: the books in order are: