Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Favorite Weird Indie Fiction of 2010

Hi, readers. My name is Erin O'Riordan, and I regularly blog at Pagan Spirits. David Weisman has graciously allowed me to write a guest post at Breaking In Before Breaking Down. I present to you condensed reviews of two of the best books I read in 2010, both from small publishing houses and independent authors. Both are a little weird.

1. Punk Minneapolis by Peter Joseph Swanson

It's not exactly a hot tub time machine, but Peter Joseph Swanson's Punk Minneapolis ( Publishing) will take you back to 1989. Forget everything you've seen on I Love the '80s. That's all about corporate yuppie mall stuff that would make Raven, Becky, Sandra, Tope and Bunny Umber want to puke. They're punkers, and their purpose in life is to rock out, drink beer, steal pizza and other essentials and offend the yuppie world. Life isn't all pepperonis and salad bars, though. Strange things are happening, things that seem to center on the crazy nun who stalks the uptown Minneapolis pizza parlor (formerly a hair salon) where Raven, Becky and Sandra work. Is that really her face Raven sees in his second-floor window at night? What is the K-Mart Ouija board trying to say? Are there really space aliens in the walls, as Tope says? Several bizarre accidents and cosmic revelations later, we arrive at the '90s. Punk is dead, and so are some of the characters. Others have moved on to become what they once feared and loathed. Only Raven has remained somewhat true to his artistic ideals, wondering how he can make a novel of the beer-soaked, pizza-greased, Plasmatic chaos that was 1989.

2. Refracted by Sheila Deeth

Refracted by Sheila Deeth (Gypsy Shadow Publishing) is the kind of book that starts out by making the reader wonder, "What am I reading?" After the first chapter or two, you might think you were in a Christian fiction novel, one that follows child witnesses to Biblical events who tell of miraculous happenings from their own points of view. Soon you begin to realize these characters aren't particularly religious, at least not in any orthodox way. After the third chapter, the narrators aren't quite so innocent anymore, and a bigger picture begins to emerge. Let me give you a hint: this is a work of science fiction, though one that's told in a particularly poetic voice. It evoked a number of associations for me. Let me name just a few so I can attempt to parse out the flavors of this fantastic dish:

~If you read The Prestige by Christopher Priest (or even saw the movie), you can have some idea of the strange, eerie type of science fiction this turns out to be

~If you think back to the horcruxes in the Harry Potter series, and how Lord Voldemort split his soul into pieces, you can imagine the meaning Deeth assigns to the colors of the rainbow

~If you read the anthology She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror you can have some idea of the various settings.

That's probably all I can say without spoiling too much.

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