What It Is: A book! Fedora-wearing, coffee and moonshine fixated detective Rad Bradley bemoans his lack of coffee and funds while recovering in his office from a confusing attack by two men in gas masks asking about something called 1950 when a woman in a red dress approaches him with promises of payment for helping to find a missing person.
(*breathes deeply after all of that running on...)
Meanwhile, in New York City, a bootlegger named Rex witnesses a battle between two superheroes turned outlaw, Skyguard and the Science Pirate. Thinking to get an in with the mayor and expand his territory under Prohibition, Rex follows the victor, the Science Pirate and kills her.
And then things get really crazy. Like, theoretical physics crazy.
Why It Is Awesome: A clash between superheroes turned villain, speak-easies, fedoras, a parallel universe, doppelgangers, murder, mystery, mayhem, kidnapping and quadruple-crossings and world-ending possibilities and mad science and cyborgy creations of dubious ethical origin and airships and ... and... and.... MIND BLOWN, OKAY?
It seriously is going to take me some time to parse all of the awesome contained in this book, the intertwined themes are huge. Author Adam Christopher takes elements of multiple subgenres that fall under the umbrella of sci-fi and weaves them intricately, yet cleanly, resulting in a picaresque noir novel.
It's really hard to imagine this is someone's debut work, and yet it is.
So, the question is, how does one pull this off?
I think the answer is that the writer first has to start by anchoring the reader in the world, which Mr. Christopher accomplishes with attention to detail. He makes the reader feel that we understand and recognize the place we are in the fiction and SHAZAM! HOLY COMPLICATIONS THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT OUTSIDE OF THIS NOVEL MIGHT NOT EVEN BE REAL!
*shakes fist at theoretical physics
*apologizes to theoretical physics and gives it a theoretical hug.
*whispers, "I didn't mean it Theoretical Physics. You just confuse me sometimes."
Back to my point.
My point is that Adam Christopher builds his fictional world meticulously which makes the plot complications and world-instability issues contained therein all the more effective.
Here's the part of a review where I get a bit confused about what to say next because I get worried about spoilers, so for further investigation I will suggest that a) you read it or b) at least learn a little more about it, then decide. You can do that here.
What It Is: A band from Pennsyltucky! Rock'n'roll! Dude! Listen!
Why It Is Awesome: Well, first off, an old co-worker, Chris Rattie is working with Marah on a project called Mountain Minstrelsy, which you can find more about at the band's website. Chris also has an Americana album coming out sometime this fall (details to come...) In the course of doing my due diligence and looking for Rattie related works, I started digging into Marah again.
It's one of those moments of rediscovery when a person (okay, me) says, "Okay, so when did I stop listening to them? Like, how did that actually even happen?" There are probably a million different answers to that question, but in revisiting Marah's music I still can't fathom how it is possible that I haven't been paying attention, because here's the thing, if you are looking for what rock n roll is all about, Marah is the band to pay attention to.
They present the sort of musical storytelling that comes to mind when you think of the best singer/songwriters with a big, full bodied sound full of blues and country influence with that driving rhythm we know so well. The sound is pure rock'n'roll. Even when a particular song might come from despair there is a constant, underlying current of hope and joy for the unlucky earthbound.
But, enough from me, let's hear something from them.
Their story is one of incredible resilience and when you listen to them or see them live, you understand why and how they keep going. They have to. Music lovers need them.
I've seen them play live several times and a more solid rock show is really hard to find. There's an argument that pops up every once in while about music, about rock in particular, that it's a dying form, or even a dying industry. Marah is one of those bands that reminds us that music merely changes, that what keeps it going is the need for people to gather, have a good time, listen to some music and maybe keep dreaming those dreams, if only for a little while.