I’m at a loss for words at the prospect of tackling my first book review. Lets call it a “book review”.
I’ll start again, at the beginning, but after the material in this post. The reading, and subsequent reviewing, of Autumn Angels by Arthur Byron Cover, was a task taken with the best of intentions. A stroll down memory lane, arriving on the firm ground of nostalgia. I used to read science fiction/fantasy a lot. In fact it was, with comic books, my reading material of choice, a long stream interrupted only by the assigned reading of the English Teacher. I took a path which may have been typical amongst like-minded readers. I began reading comic books. I started reading fantasy/science fiction novels. Specifically, I read books existing in the TSR world of fantasy. For the uninitiated, TSR = Dungeons and Dragons. I am not sure but the first novel I read may have been Dragonlance: Dragons of Winter Night (Hickman & Weis), a D&D book.
I moved on to a smattering of fantasy books, some mentioned in the previous post, and some Science Fiction. I remember reading Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert A. Heinlein) and Glory Lane (Alan Dean Foster), and one of those was my first Sci-Fi book. I bounced back and forth between Sci-Fi and Fantasy, adding Horror to the mix, until sometime in college (I think) where I “graduated” to fiction that didn’t have a sword or a laser gun in it. My first book, not required reading, might have been Red Dragon (Thomas Harris), but I can’t be sure.
These days I rarely read anything that would be located in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore. I now bounce back and forth from literary fiction to non-fiction books about film or politics. The last Sci-Fi book I read was probably a Wildcards book. Though I did try to read The Mucker (Burroughs). I couldn’t get through it even though I wanted to love it. It was in that Wildcards book that I first read Arthur Byron Cover. I had no idea I was reading him. I didn’t particularly like the story he was writing. Wildcards is a series of books about superheroes in a realistic setting. Here is a link if you are interested. The books are interwoven stories by different authors. Each author writes a character that leads to the final climax. It is light reading and I believe I read it after something heavy. Not sure.
Buying a copy of Autumn Angels has reawakened my mind to the pleasures of a good science fiction story.
Autumn Angels is a story set millions of years in the future where man has been turned into godlike man. Every being on the planet has powers that border on being all-powerful. As the people are so changed, their names have been changed to aspects. Example: our main characters, the demon, the fat man, the lawyer. The aforementioned characters decide that life if too boring with the godlike man and that godlike man should learn depression. With depression godlike man could learn to have hopes and dreams to counteract the depression. The book concerns the character’s attempts to make their plan work. The quest for depression takes them far across the universe, introducing a myriad of interesting characters.
What I liked: I found the mental gymnastics engaging. All the characters in the book are fictional characters from another source. Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse are characters, but they aren’t called that. The Big Red Cheese is a character and not everyone will know that is Captain Marvel. The flip side of this is that I don’t know who all the characters are and I miss some of the jokes. There is a lot of humor in the book. I would classify it as a comedy.
The concept is explored to it’s logical (and comedic) end, with a peek at characters that have nothing to do with the main plot. My favorite section was the Donald Duck section. The book is filled with inventive characters, my favorite being the Crawling Bird. The poster child for depression, the Crawling Bird could star in his own book and I would read it. The scene where the Crawling Bird is unveiled to godlike man at a fair was one of my favorite passages in the book.
The cover, like many of the science fiction books I bought as a teen, is a big selling point. The art is by Ron Cobb, a noted illustrator and movie designer, and is superior to the edition now printed by Babbage Press.
What I didn’t like: The same elements that drew me into the book, pushed me away. The way the book darted around with different characters stole momentum from the main characters. Some of the adventures distracted more than supported the plot. I wish that the book was insanely popular so that I could find a guidebook on the internet telling me whom the characters are supposed to be. I find myself wondering who was who so much that it took me out of the story.
I would recommend this book to science fiction/fantasy readers, especially fans of Douglas Adams‘ work.