Apocalypse Now, Voyager
by Jay Russel (http://www.sff.net/people/JRussell)
Review by Colleen Cahill
Earthling Publications Trade $14 ISBN/ITEM#: 0974420387
Date: December 2004 / Show Official Info /
Are you in the mood for a weird, tough, funny story that is as surreal as Tim Powers? writing combined with the wackiness of a Marx Brother?s movie? Then get ready for Jay Russell?s latest saga in the life of Marty Burns. This former child star, now magnet for strangeness, is on the streets of his beloved Los Angeles again, or rather in the L.A. River. And that is not even the most bizarre part!
It all begins when Marty meets Annie at a biker birthday party. Annie was part of the entertainment, her specialty involving a nude act with fire and ping-pong balls. The fun really starts when this pair leaves the party and Marty is knocked out, only to wake up wired into a shopping cart, Annie?s corpse underneath him while a wild woman pushes them both up the Los Angeles River culvert. L.A.?s normal level of idiosyncratic is about to be jacked up, as Marty is now part of a quest for redemption and love, one that will take him past skateboarding lost boys, a pack of trans-species dogs, all the way to a cigar-smoking Indian with spiritual powers.
This is a short work of less than 100 pages, but it is also a complete novel with all the complexity and strong characters you would expect in a much longer piece. Russell uses language that immediately sets the scene and characters in your head so that even the most far-fetched image is complete and clear. It is a wild ride with lots of twists, but you never lose the trail of the story. What holds this together is the pragmatic Marty, whose previous experiences with the supernatural have somewhat prepared him for his latest exposure to the other side. Perhaps the most disturbing thing for him is his part as a medicine man: while he denies this role, he still tries to do his part, as best as any actor/detective/good guy can. And Marty is a good guy, with a heart of gold and solid brains to back them up. Okay, he is also a wise-ass, but this is often his best protection.
Apocalypse Now, Voyager is a fantasy quest, a horror story, a new weird piece and a wonderful giggle all tied up with a noir wrapper. It has the grit of L.A. with the magic of Wonderland, a combination that is unique and captivating. It is also my introduction to Marty Burns and I will be tracking down the other three novels on this interesting character. I recommend you seek out Jay Russell?s fun and frantic masterpiece and take a trip up the L.A. River yourself.