cover image Eclipse


John Shirley. Babbage Press, $19.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-1-930235-00-7

Like many works defining the wild cyberpunk fringe in the 1980s, this depiction of a near-future dystopia, here revised and updated since its 1985 debut, seems almost acceptably mainstream today. But Shirley's spiky prose and edgy attitudes, which lately have cultivated a following among horror readers (Wetbones; Really, Really, Really, Really Weird Stories), still hook the reader's attention. Tapping anxieties about rising global nationalism, Shirley presents a Goya-esque vision of war-torn western Europe, bombed out and unstable in the early years of the 21st century from a resurgence of Russian militarism and the collapse of NATO. The Second Alliance, a government-sanctioned multinational police force, has rushed in to restore order and revealed itself a nightmarish incarnation of every fascist and fundamentalist power fantasy. The only defense against the Alliance's creeping totalitarianism is the New Resistance, a polyglot pick-up team of rebels that includes Rick Rickenharp, a tripping retro guitarist whose artistic and political sensibilities are sinuously intertwined, and John Swenson, a mole whose soul is blackened through his infiltration of the Alliance. Stitched together from vivid swatches of action and intrigue alternating kaleidoscopically between Earth sites and the orbiting FirStep space colony, the novel offers a thrashy punk riff on science fiction's familiar future war scenario and lays a solid foundation for the subsequent volumes of Shirley's ""A Song Called Youth"" trilogy. (Mar.)