Thursday, May 05, 2005

Catching Up

posted by Matt @ 9:59 AM

I'm about 175 pages into Mick Farren's Darklost, the second in a series of vampire novels he's written. I first became aware of Mick Farren back in the early '80s; he used to have a column in Trouser Press magazine, which I remember as being very amusing--and so articulate for a punk rocker! He later published a number of gritty science fiction novels which might loosely be considered "cyberpunk", and continues to record and perform music with a group called The Deviants (I saw them perform at Terrastock West 6 or 7 years ago--beat poetry with loud guitars, more or less).

There's a good deal more humor and satire in his vampire world than in the more popular novels of Anne Rice (whom he parodies as "Charlotte Mayze") and her ilk. These are no suffering Romantic heroes; Farren's nosferatu are closer kin to the Illuminati-esque bloodsuckers of Wesley Snipes' Blade films than to the paradoxically bloodless whiners popularized by Rice, Hamilton, Yarbro, et al.

In short, I'm enjoying it even though there are flaws : the first 50 or so pages read as though they were written by Colonel Exposition, and sometimes Farren's understanding of historical events is defective, but what the hell--it's entertaining. Characters like Brandon Wales, based on Marlon Brando (the surname seems a reference to Brando's expanding waistline) and Marcus De Reske (i.e. Robert de Grimston, of the Process Church of the Final Judgment) just add to the wicked fun.

It certainly beats the hell out of Philip Jose Farmer's Blown, which I read just previous. I had high hopes for this one; The Image of the Beast was a decent enough beginning to what might become an emetic classic of perversity and grossness, but alas, it just doesn't deliver. Farmer seems to have gone through a period of near-psychosis and produced a number of extremely strange books, among them his Tarzan pastiche (which answers the unasked question : what if William S., and not Edgar Rice, Burroughs had been the author of the Tarzan books?). He just doesn't seem to have been as inspired here. Ah well; it was short, anyway.


At 8:09 PM, Blogger Tim Walters said...

I vaguely remember Mick Farren's music writing--I had no idea he'd moved on to fiction.

My favorite PJF from the ultra-perverse period is A Feast Unknown. Way more than you wanted to know about Tarzan and Doc Savage (both suitably renamed to avoid lawsuits, of course). My favorite of all his work, though, is Lord Tyger--yet another take on the Tarzan myth, but this time he strikes a little closer to the heart of the matter. I thought the "The Jungle-Rot Kid On The Nod" was a good joke but not much beyond that.

I don't think PJF ever wrote anything great, but he's certainly distinctive, and the world would be a little poorer without him.

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Tim Walters said...

Vampires: the unicorns of the Nineties?

I seem to have a partial resistance to the trope; I have several vampire books on my to-read shelf, yet none of them ever makes it to the front of the priority queue. That includes Dracula itself, The Vampire Tapestry (even though it has an excellent rep, and I liked Walk To The End Of The World--maybe "admired" would be a better word, that's one gnarly book), and Fevre Dream. Feel free to try to talk me into moving any of them closer to the top.

And I've often wondered if Interview With The Vampire is worth checking out--it may have started a regrettable trend, not least in Rice's own writing, but at the time it sounded fairly original.

Another thing I've often wondered is whether some intrepid sports reporter writing a human-interest article about one of baseball's finest has ever used the title "Interview With The Umpire." If not, why not, dammit?

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Matt said...

re : Interview With the Umpire, there's a virtual sea of them. Here's one at random :

I must confess that I've never been able to make it past the first 5 pages of Anne Rice's Interview. Of the other's you mention, I'd certainly recommend reading Stoker; as I mention elsewhere, it's his one good novel.

I haven't read Fevre Dream or the Tapestry; the first is definitely on my list, though.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Todd T said...

Is this Mick Farren the same one that wrote THE TEXTS OF FESTIVAL and other 60sish stuff during 70s? I seem to recall that he, Michael Kurland and Chester Anderson were sort of psychedelic Moorcocks for a couple of years there. If it's the same guy. And less likely, if my memory serves.

Nothing I've read by Farmer struck me as great either, but fun, yes. Unafraid to throw just about anything in there and see what happens, so plenty of outlandish stuff happens, but as Tim said, no one else would dare it.

Vampires are certainly well chewed over. I read all of INTERVIEW. It's not thoroughly bad IMHO, but I'm not sure you should move it up your list. It's serviceable writing, not totally sentimental but leaning that way in places, not very horrific. I was interested enough to keep aware of what else she was writing for a while, but never enough to buy more. In its day it was fairly original I believe, but that was a hell of a lot of vampire books ago. (Of course, the exact same thing could be said of DRACULA.) Ron holds Rice in higher esteem; you may want to get his reaction.

I haven't read FEVRE DREAM, but much other Martin from that era is good, so my money's on that one paying off.


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