Both these authors have a venerable Science Fiction pedigree. Bester was an undoubted star of the 1950s with Zelazny coming to prominence in the next decade. In their respective primes they rarely if ever disappointed. In his introduction to the book Greg Bear refers to them both as SF jazz greats, whirling in like golden dust-devils, blowing new tunes in new styles and tempos. He also explains how the book came to exist, Zelazny being offered the opportunity to complete one of Bester’s unfinished stories. (By Psycho Shop’s publication date both authors were deceased. So it goes.)
The premise is suitably mind boggling, involving as it does a tethered black hole, a channel between universes which can change people’s mental attributes. A black hole which has been stolen from the future.
Alf Noir (who is really Paul Jensen but we don’t know that till later) is on assignment from Rigadoon magazine to investigate the Black Place of the Soul-Changer in Rome, and the mysterious man called Adam Maser associated with it. While Alf is there a certain Edgar Poe turns up to utilise the device. He is told an L v Beethoven, and a Lucy Borgia have also. One of the clients is from a culture where everyone’s speech is inflected. Not all in the same way but in this case every fourth word. Another has a $hoping li$t utilising chemical symbols. Elsewhere in the book we meet Bertrand Russell and Mother Shipton, who scries by aggression.
In parts this reads like the wilder imaginings of R A Lafferty whom Bear surprisingly does not mention in his introduction. A character’s alias is Etaoin Shrdlu – the most common letters in written English. In one chapter the text employs diagrams and drawings. Clones hang in a cupboard ready to be popped into at a moment’s notice.
Bizarrely – or not, as this is a Bester/Zelazny book – poetry is referenced several times. In his persona as Alf, another character refers to Noir/Jensen as the sacred river. And the whole thing hangs on a canto by Ezra Pound.
Noir/Jensen can be considered as a variation on the Francis Sandow of Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead and To Die in Italbar but Psycho Shop is really a magnificently bonkers one–off. No spoiler really as the joy here is the journey but the black hole is revealed as a means to smuggle information past the Big Crunch and the new Bang.
Great stuff but not one for those unused to SF, though.
Pedant’s corner. Unfortunately the text is prone to USianisms. In 1940s London they meet an RAF major. In the RAF there is no such rank. They do however have Squadron Leaders. The said major also claims to be “shipping out.” That would be being posted.
Over the past eight years Spain dominated the international football tournaments in which they took part – though they had a premonitory blip in last year’s Confederations Cup (and what a misleading pointer that final turned out to be.)
After the win by Germany in Rio on Sunday we could be in for a longer period of domination than the Spanish enjoyed as the German players are quite young and will only have gained in confidence from their achievement. I don’t know if I can stand that thought, though.
Still, at least it gives Scotland an early opportunity to claim their scalp as the two countries meet on Sep 7th in the first qualifying game for the 2016 European Championships.
For historical reasons Scotland is actually at the top of the unofficial football championship rankings. The September game will give Scotland a chance to reclaim the actual title – if Argentina don’t beat the Germans in their friendly a few days before.
In one of the least unpredictable transfers of this summer Liverpool’s troubled (and troubling – the guy clearly needs help) star striker Luis Suarez has moved to Barcelona, no doubt to the benefit of his bank balance. The only question was over his destination. As he made no secret he wished to play in Spain the other option would have been Real Madrid.
Barcelona’s motto, emblazoned on the seats in their stadium, the Camp Nou, is “més que un club” (more than a club.) Such a claim to moral high ground is somewhat undermined by their acquisition of a serial perpetrator of assaults; assaults which if carried out in any other walk of life might have seen their author up before a magistrate.
Suarez’s gifts as a footballer clearly outweigh any consideration of propriety (or indeed of the player’s inner well-being: he is not going to change his behaviour when it is rewarded like this.)
It seems Barcelona is sólo otro club (just another club) after all.
I’ve just seen from the club website that one of Sons’ most loyal servants, left back Andy Jardine, has died.
He played a total of 364 games for the club in the 1950s and 60s – including 309 times with Tommy Govan as his partner at full back.
The pairing more or less picked itself. I can still hear the Boghead announcer intoning, “Robertson, Govan and Jardine,” or “Crawford, Govan and Jardine,” as the first three names on the team sheet.
Andy’s last appearance for the club was historic in another sense. It was in the 5-1 win over Third Lanark which was that club’s last ever game.
My last memory of Andy is of that Christmas Day game at Love Street, Paisley in 1971 when big Roy McCormack scored the best goal I’ve ever seen by a Sons player. Andy wasn’t playing, he was a spectator – can of beer in hand (yes, you could bring beer into the ground in those days) – dispensing ex-player’s wisdom to his successor at left back that day, Billie Wilkinson. “Nice wee nudge, son. Oh, unlucky. He’s seen it.”
Andy Jardine, long-standing left back. So it goes.
So. There is to be no redemption. Brazil’s historical trauma of the Maracanã in 1950 known as the Maracanazo has been surpassed. Will this one become known as the Mineirãoza?
The country of Brazil has never been involved in a war (except, perhaps, internally.) The national consciousness has been invested in football. The 1950 defeat was akin to a national humiliation. How much worse, then, a 7-1 hammering by a team who had never beaten them in a competitive game? And a first home defeat in competition for 29 years.
It’s been coming, though. They weren’t convincing in the group games, Chile pushed them close in the second round and Colombia didn’t deserve to lose to them either. Both those sides perhaps had too much history with Brazil to overcome. (And the hoo-hah over Neymar’s injury is over-confected. Brazil spent most of the Colombia game kicking “Oor Hamish” – James Rodriguez – all over the park. Given the outcome of the semi-final the real loss was in fact Thiago Silva.) The Germans didn’t care about reputations or history; they did what German teams do.
Brazil’s scapegoat in 1950 (“Look! There’s the man that made all Brazil cry!”) was Moacyr Barbosa. At least this time they can’t blame it on a black goalkeeper.
Make the most of the last few days of this Brazil-hosted World Cup. I doubt there will be another one.
Hills (and bridge over the River Leven) at Kinlochleven:-
From the bridge above I could see a chippy with an Art Deco style frontage. The photo was taken from a distance so it was difficult to tell if the business is still going.
Situated on the outskirts of the village on the southern edge is the War Memorial; a simple Celtic cross on a stepped pyramidal base. Dedicated to the men of Kinlochleven who gave their lives in the Great Wars, 1914-18, 1939-45:-
Chivers, 2008, 142 p. Translated from the French by Sandra Smith.
The good lady noticed this (very) large print book in a local library. As every Némirovsky I have read so far has been excellent I immediately borrowed it. This is a thin volume with very large print but still contains two novellas.