Over at Science Fiction Ruminations, Joachim Boaz mentioned Womack’s Ambient. One thing led to another, and now you get this while I work on new reviews. Remember, Raw Feeds are basically my notes after reading a work.
Raw Feed (1990); Terraplane, Jack Womack, 1988.
Given the strange argot this book is written in, it’s obvious Womack saw or read A Clockwork Orange one too many times. This book’s dialect is quite similar.
It is interesting and good. However, at times, it was not detailed enough. (This may be unfair since I know there’s at least one other novel set in this universe and a forthcoming one as well I believe).
Dryco, the (to use Bruce Sterling’s cover blurb) “sinister multinational cabal”, is not explained much at all. It seems to be amoral, apolitical and subordinates both Russian and the U.S. to its wishes via trade. Drasnaya seems to be its Russian equivalent; a corporation dedicated to ruthlessly enforcing the edicts of “sozializtkapitalism” (a rather silly term — at least so it seemed on first reading of the novel — that has actually started to be used in the last couple of months in the U.S.S.R.), a system of forced consumption in Russia — of Sov goods with the morbid touch of Stalin, the Big Boy, being the ultimate consumer icon. [In 2021, it doesn’t seem that silly a concept.]
I’d like to know about the war fought between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. (and its surrogates) all over the world including around New York City. It’s very important in the lives of the characters.
Womack does throw in neat stuff: parallel universe travel via Telsa technology, Fortean events the results of travel between time tracks, an alternate universe where Lincoln was shot before he freed the slaves (Teddy Roosevelt did) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt dies before instituting the New Deal — a universe where time flows at a different rate than in ours. A cataclysm in ours (the Tunguska event and the first A-Bomb explosions) influence events there including the American Siberian Expeditionary bringing a plague back. Huey Long even makes an appearance as does a slave owning Coca-Cola Company which brands its human property.
Womack brings us two worlds of grimness, sorrow, and despair.Continue reading