Reviews: E-books and audiobooks - Dystopian tale paints alternate history of the US
The second stage of Old Street's project to rerelease the work of American novelist Tom Drury shifts to part two of his "Grouse County" books. Its predecessor, 1994's The End of Vandalism, is a masterpiece, thanks to its witty dialogue and subtle dissection of a world in flux. Hunts in Dreams (2000) offers more of the same. Our hero is The End of Vandalism's Charles "Tiny" Darling, now married to Joan Gower, with two children (Micah and Lyris, whom Joan gave up for adoption 16 years earlier) and a struggling career as a plumber. In the tough reality of rural Iowa, matters great and small intersect. Charles breaks into a widow's house to retrieve a gun. Joan flirts with the lustful local doctor. Lyris is also flirting, with a metal-detecting "baddass". Micah is assailed by strange dreams. The glory is Drury's precise, warm and beautiful prose which tenderly dissects our attempts to understand life's haphazard nature. Wonderful. There is also an introduction by novelist Yiyun Li.
Hunts in Dreams by Tom Drury (Old Street) e-book
Modern sport punditry likes to call players with multiple names by their initials. Robin van Persie is RVP, Louis van Gaal, LVG. The same thing is happening to writers. Philip K. Dick is now PKD. This audiobook was released to coincide with a new television adaptation of this alternate history of the United States. Dick's dystopia is set in 1962. After the assassination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934, America fell into prolonged depression and then defeat to the German-Japanese Axis powers (led by Martin Bormann), who reinstituted slavery and set his sights on domination of earth, the moon, Venus and Mars. Trade, double agents, assassins and art forgeries uniting four meandering plots shaped by the I Ching. Tagomi, the Japanese trade minister, slowly moves centre stage as does husband-and-wife team Frank and Juliana Frink. Jeff Cummings' voice has a gruff, slightly robotic quality that could have been designed with PKD in mind. The end, when it comes, will raise questions and eyebrows.
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (read by Jeff Cummings) Brilliance Audio (audiobook)
The second TV tie-in this week is rather more recent than PKD. Stonemouth by Iain Banks (or IMB as he will soon doubtless be known in sci-fi circles) was one of his final novels before his sad and premature death in 2013. It traces familiar Banks territory. A youngish man returns home to Scotland to confront the effects of the past on the present, and vice versa. Stewart Gilmour was chased out of his hometown by the local mafia (the Murstons) which has ended with the death of the family's grand-patriarch. Stewart's exodus and return are united by Ellie Murston, a typically gorgeous, complex and unavailable Banks heroine. The main action, which involves murder, unrequited love, and revenge, is sandwiched between the wedding which brought Stewart and Ellie together, and the funeral of Grandfather Murston. Peter Kenny's main challenge is to bring Stewart to life. His smooth, deep tones manage Banks' serious way with humour and the sense of yearning that comes when youth and age collide. A sad but oddly uplifting novel from one of Britain's finest.
Stonemouth by Iain Banks (read by Peter Kenny) Audible (audiobook)