Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Glimpses, by Lewis Shiner

Music in fantasy literature is a common theme.  Seems like it would be hard to do, since you are describing what you hear, but maybe that's because novels are mostly vision and dialog.  Emma Bull's War For the Oaks (read back when it was online for free) was an example, but Lewis Shiner's Glimpses is even better.  It is finely crafted and powerfully told.  Ray Shackleford can somehow conjure up lost music onto any stereo, and the story revolves around his process of retrieving albums that were rumored but never (?) made.  To his credit, Shiner wastes no time on theories of how this would be caused, it just happens.  And Ray hits a bit close to home as a sort of OK but sad-sack character who winds up with this gift.

This book was fascinating to read nearly twenty years after it was written.  I have never read a 1990s take on the 1960s before, and it really worked on all levels.  The sadness over current affairs and longing for a better past had taken a powerful grip on the country by that time, though hope (fall of the Berlin Wall) was apparent then as well.  Shiner does a fine job of using the 90s as a frame.

The protagonist recovers two albums--Celebration of the Lizard by the Doors, and Smile by Brian Wilson.  Interestingly enough, about ten years after this book was published, Smile was finally released.  I wonder if it was anything like Shiner had imagined.

This is speculative fiction to savor, should you decide to read it.  4 stars from me.

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