Tuesday, March 26, 2013

One of my all time favorites

Since I'm muddling through Kage Baker at the moment, I thought I'd drop in and talk about on of my favorite series that also happens to be calling from the shelf at the moment.

Many years ago, when I was frequenting the library branch south of Ohio State, I kept seeing a book on the New Books display called The Gumshoe Gorilla. I read the back, and kept looking at it every time I went in to drop off and pick up. Then someone in one of my LiveJournal communities reviewed it and pointed out that it was the second book in the series that started with The Gumshoe, The Witch, and The Virtual Corpse.

So, I placed reserves on both books, and wound up reading them on an extended weekend trip to Illinois for my cousin's wedding.

After realizing that I'd checked the books out 3 or 4 times, I wound up buying copies of my own, since I still enjoy re-reading them, even if the newer editions change a few references around. (In the original edition of GWVC, there's a Star Trek reference that gets changed to a Star Wars reference, and a few other nods to changing tastes or things considered too obscure. I still have an original version of GG, so I'm not sure what got changed in there.)

GWVC introduces us to Private Eye Drew Parker in the year 2024 as he's staking out the fiance of his client. His client is a Southern Baptist, who is trying to see if her husband to be is really gay. Drew's accomplice in this is the Escort Daniel, who does indeed prove the fiance to be gay. This is complicated by the fact the client has decided to come along on the sting. And the client pulls a gun when the fiance's infidelity is revealed.

This little vignette that opens the story gives us a glimpse of the world of 2024. Daniel is a product of the Camps, basically orphanages for gay youth abandoned by their parents following the development of the test for the gay gene. As times have passed, only the Catholics generally won't avoid aborting a gay baby. As such, the Gay culture has a bunch of iconography based on the fusion of Divas and Saints. (For instance, Madonna, the Like-A-Virgin, not the Holy Virgin.) Due to increasingly customizable entertainment options, most groups segregate themselves into fairly insular communities, with no real overlap.

(As a side note, and as a bit of an Eater egg, Drew's introduction was published as a short story in Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction edited by Stephen Pagel and Nicola Griffith. Stephen, in his introduction, makes a comment about how he goes by Stephe since he can't properly spell it Steve. In GWVC, a security guard does introduce himself as Stephe.)

The book itself is written in first person. The twist is that there are 22 narrators throughout the text, each with a handle and a time stamp to help keep track of where we are in the story. Drew, for instance, is The Gumshoe. The geriatric Cherokee shaman is The Lunatic. a school kid who figures greatly into the plot is The Chosen One, mainly because he thinks of himself as God's chosen victim. Nothing near martyrdom, but more like putting banana peels in his path to give God a laugh.

What follows is an investigation into 3 murders, what caused them, and what the murder is actually trying to accomplish. By the time you get to the end, the staggering beauty of the plan is almost overwhelming, and the social commentary quite pointed.

The second book returns us back to Drew a year later, investigating a famous film star on behalf of the star's girlfriend. (The star is on of 5 identical Tom Cruise clones. In the continuity, cloning dead celebrities is an expensive but valid means of reproducing.) It also focuses on Daniel and his past or what little he remembers of it. And in the meantime becomes a very deep meditation on the perils of fame and celebrity.

I recommend these frequently to all of my gay friends who like to read, since they really are fun reads with much to say. And it's hard not to feel kinship with many of the characters throughout both books. I wish Hartman would write another sequel, but I think he's busy doing movies now.