Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat
Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat by Andrez Bergen
Another Sky Press, 2011, 208 pp.
I never really knew the old Melbourne before the Wall, with its sundry pub music, its boutique club glamour, and vaguely dissident art, a not-so-contaminated Yarra River, all-night warehouse rave parties, superlative eateries, and its easy multicultural charm—I was still only a kid then.
This is the opening paragraph of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, by Andrez Bergen, a novel that recently came over my virtual transom. I was intrigued by the brief write-ups I read online and downloaded the novel for free, as a pdf that I was able to read on my Kindle.
Bergen’s novel is a science fiction detective story set in a dystopian Melbourne, which is the repository of what’s left of humanity in the not so distant future. The narrator is named Floyd, and he is a Seeker, whose job is to track down and arrest Deviants. The twist is that, in this world where acid rain falls constantly and quickly destroys even a new fedora, anyone can be labeled a Deviant. Floyd has had to kill his target only once, and that is the one mission he cannot remember; this unrecalled mission provides the catalyst for a trip into his own heart of darkness.
The government and a powerful corporation work hand in hand in this world, using fear to control what’s left of the population. Floyd sees everything through a haze of references to film noir, hard-boiled detective novels, Japanese films, you name it—all the things that bare*bones readers love to read, watch and quote!
The prose is solidly tough-guy style, more noir than sci-fi, with technical terms kept to a minimum, yet the Blade Runner-like futuristic world of corruption is never too far away. This novel has enough twists and turns to keep a Raymond Chandler fan happy. There are echoes of Total Recall, and any novel where the main character goes in search of another character named Wilton Parmenter and instead finds one named Agarn is bound to entertain fans of 1960s TV.
The book is published by Another Sky Press, an alternative publisher out of Portland, Oregon. It can be downloaded for free online; contributions are requested but not required. For old-fashioned lovers of paper, a printed copy can also be ordered. The novel is followed by several handy appendices that include a guide to pop-culture references in the novel, a glossary, etc.