obligatory obscure reference

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_Metrophage_ by Richard Kadrey, a review, no spoilers, ~long.

Filed under: Reviews — jet @ 21:38

[Historical note: I posted this to USENET in 1988. I was 21, working my way through college, and more-than-happy that I had access to USENET, something like a world-wide BBS. If there was something like Facebook or Twitter in 1988, it would have been USENET. My USENET feed (we downloaded USENET posts over modem before reading them) came from a nearby consulting firm who was hooked up to the backbone of what was then the Internet. I could post something to USENET in Houston and within 24-48 hours people in California or New York would be able to read the post. I was still getting my journalism degree and posting stuff like this to USENET sans editor, so there might be > 1 typos. And yes, I’m posting this with full USENET headers just because I want to show off that I ran a USENET host from an AT&T 3b1 in my home in 1988. :-]

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Xref: utzoo alt.cyberpunk:257 rec.arts.sf-lovers:10844
Path: utzoo!mnetor!uunet!nuchat!flatline!erict
From: erict@flatline.UUCP (eric townsend)
Newsgroups: alt.cyberpunk,rec.arts.sf-lovers
Subject: _Metrophage_ by Richard Kadrey, a review, no spoilers, ~long.
Message-ID: <359@flatline.UUCP>
Date: 3 Feb 88 05:29:49 GMT
Organization: flatline in Houston(Montrose, really), Tx.
Lines: 97
Keywords: metrophage, kadrey, review, cyberpunk

Okedoke, I knocked _Metrophage_ off in a day and a half between classes,
so this should be pretty compleat as it’s fresh on my mind.

First off, some comments about Richard Kadrey. I heard/saw him speak
and read at Armadillocon 87 in Austin, Tx. At the time, I was very
impressed. Kadrey’s a former resident of Houston, now living somewhere in
Ca. He looks and acts like people I hang out with: surfer/neo-punk haircut,
earrings, hardcore/thrash/punk/tough clothes, but reads William S. Burroughs
and radiates an intense intrest in tech/pol/philo/everything.

So anyway, I listen to him on a panel that headlined the likes of Bruce
Sterling and Lew (“The Whiner”) Shiner.
“So he gets on neat panels at cons,” I thought, “but who the hell is
this guy that looks like he should be skating with me in downtown Houston
about 3 am?”
Well, I gave in and went to his reading. Wow. The feeling I got was a
combination of those I had when I first read _Naked_Lunch_ and
_Neuromancer_. “This guy’s tough,” I remember thinking, “then again, these
are just some short descriptive stories that rag on pols…”
After he finished reading, he or Shiner The Whiner mentioned Kadrey’s
forthcoming book, _Metrophage_.

Fast forward to the other day when I found a copy of _Metrophage_ in
the bookstore. I sped-read to finish _Infernal_Devices_ so I could
start _Metro_.

Wow. Edited by Terry Carr. Intro by Rudy Rucker. He still
keeps good company. He also includes thanks to Brian Eno, Robert Fripp,
Throbbing Gristle and Tangerine Dream “who supplied the soundtrack.”
Then an opening quote from a song by Tom Waits. Ok, so he knows a lot
of esoteric buzz-word bandnames..
(There’s a good bio of Kadrey by Rucker that goes into Kadre’s artistic
background, including his interests in surrealism and dadism.)

Ok, Ok, I’ll get on with the book review…

_Metrophage_, even though it borrows from the soon-to-be-overused
theme of central-character-is-a-smuggler-‘1 percenter’-run-afoul-of
huge-organizations, is surprisingly fresh and interesting. Kadrey
writes with a style that reflects a knowledge of street life, drugs,
W.S. Burroughs-genre-literature and a keen sense of political/social

There are some great lines and allusions in this book — from little
things to show off his intellegence/esoteric-ness (a band named
‘Taking Tiger Mountain’) to some good anarchist theory.

Our ‘hero’ is “…Johnny Qabbala, drug dealer, ex-Committee for Public
Health bounty hunter, and self confessed loser…”. How can you not
like him? Johnny’s well thought out and quite believable even though he’s
from an almost overused stereotype. He has faults, skills, and that
real sense of no-direction that I think everybody must experience at
times. His only desire seems to be to live again with his two
girlfrieds Sumimasen and Ice and to not do very much other than exist.
Well, we all know what happens to down-on-their luck drug dealers in
the near-cyberpunk-future who just want to be left alone, right?

Now the hard part. How do I review the book w/o giving away anything?

_Metrophage_ is about power and politics seen from the view of someone
that has a great dislike for anything remotely resembling any sort
of political goings on. Johnny seems almost uncapable of understanding
politics on any other level than ‘it sucks’. Ice, on the other hand, is
getting involved in nation-(world?)-wide revolution, while Sumi just exists…
It’s a book about politics, love, people and being insignifigant.

It’s also a showcase for Kadrey’s ability to write. From hearing
him speak and reading _Metrophage_ I get the feeling that Kadrey understands
surrealism on a level far above that of mere mortals. He can write
what others can only hope to see put on canvas by their own shaky,
skillless hands. I have the feeling that Kadrey could write about
high school basketball and make it almost this interesting.

Buy and read this book. In my opinion, it’s easily in the top
%2 of experimental science fiction, enjoying the company
of Gibson and Jeter. This is fiction that someone *not* into
science fiction could still enjoy — a quality that very little
science fiction has, or ever will have.

I have this eery feeling that somewhere out there, Richard Kadrey will
soon read this and either laugh at me or send me some sort of instant-death

(In case Kadrey’s out there… Remember Austin, Tx? The black-leather
jacketed skater sitting in the front row at your reading and your panel
upset because you picked on Houston? My friends and I heckled
Sterling and Shiner whenever they stopped talking long enough to make it
possible… I didn’t think you would remember… harf.)

“Occult symbols include … the ‘peace’ symbol and the Jewish ‘Star of David'”
— From the Back In Control Handbook
“$20,000 a year is a small price to not have to talk to our kids”
— Jello Biafra, commenting on the “Back in Control” program
Girls play with toys. Real women skate. — Powell Peralta ad
J. Eric Townsend ->uunet!nuchat!flatline!erict smail:511Parker#2,Hstn,Tx,77007

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