Urban fantasy, urban terrorism and time rewinding: books read

The protagonist of Michael Merriam’s LAST CAR TO ANNWN STATION is Maeve, a lesbian child-abuse investigator in Minneapolis. Maeve’s skating on thin ice at work for having investigated a rich, powerful family for possibly abusing their daughter, plus she’s unsure whether her new buddy at work is just a friend or might be open to more.

Then Maeve takes a ride on the ghost of one of Minneapolis’ old street cars, meets death and finds herself in the middle of a sorcerous plot.  The girl she’s worried about is indeed abused but in ways Maeve can’t guess, just as she has a lot to learn about her family history.

I enjoyed this one. I’m also pleased that despite being a “new character stumbles into magical subculture” Merriam didn’t use this as an excuse to drown me in exposition.

PATTY’S GOT A GUN: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America by William Graebner looks back to when Hearst — granddaughter of the legendary William Randolph Hearst, college student, fiancee — was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a small group of would-be revolutionaries. Worse, Hearst eventually joined them, participating in a bank robbery as Tania, a fellow terrorist, and shooting at the cops to protect her comrades.

Graebner looks at how the reactions to Hearst weren’t just about her but about pundits and the public’s general frustration with living in 1970s America: was it permissive parenting that turned kids so rotten or was it the civil rights movement encouraging people to break the laws (a common complaint back then from conservatives who never seemed to worry that lynching people in earlier decades would encourage civil disobedience. Go figure). Unfortunately that didn’t make for a l0ng enough book so Part Two is a broader discussion of how the culture at the time interpreted victim-hood, survivorship and heroism (wouldn’t a hero have resisted SLA brainwashing?).

While this is not uninteresting it doesn’t feel like it has any relevance to Hearst’s case and sometimes has none at all — Graebner brings in The Exorcist on the grounds Hearst turning evil is really a lot like Linda Blair in the film getting possessed but he doesn’t convince me anyone at the time saw it that way. (It feels padded much like The Secret History of the Jersey Devil). I find his analysis off in other ways too: society has blamed rape victims for assault for decades so it’s daft to argue how the 1980s film The Accused shows a new skepticism about women crying rape.

COUNTER-CLOCK WORLD by Philip K. Dick is set in the late 1990s when time slowly rewinding causes the dead to wake up in their coffins, then eventually de-age into infancy. The central character runs one of the businesses that dig up the dead, then collect a fee from whoever assumes responsibility for the deceased. Unfortunately the new find is a revolutionary black leader and a great many people — including, possibly, his successors — would prefer he not start preaching again. This is so-so Dick, with the premise inconsistent (cigarette butts become full cigarettes as people smoke them but most events still follow cause and effect) and the female characters two-dimensional. Not that the men are complex, but the protagonist’s wife is exceptionally shallow.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kanaxa Designs



Leave a comment

Filed under Reading

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.