Sam Ricketts and Tom Clarke, the creative forces behind Cloud Boat's dreamy electro-pop soundscapes, call their song, "Carmine," "a journey through the mind of a childhood companion. The image of him is so old and faded that we believe he may be a figment of our imagination. But he now exists more completely as a friend, and as a memory in this song."
Ricketts and Clarke formed Cloud Boat and released their debut, Book Of Hours, in 2013. "Carmine" is the first single from their follow-up. No release date or album title has been given.
The question you have to ask yourself is, how juicy do you like your science fiction?
And I mean that in terms of a spectrum. To me, classic space operas are saltines — dusty and dry and fit only as a calmative after a long binge of weirder, more foreign flavors. William Gibson? He's ... moist. Rudy Rucker is a juicy peach. Paul Di Filippo is that same peach, a week gone and with a tooth stuck in it.
So ask yourself: How sticky do I want my chin and fingers when I'm done? Because Daryl Gregory's new book, Afterparty, has a place on that scale of juiciness — of genes and brains and the squishy collisions of people from vastly different walks of life — that drips and squelches somewhere in the Di Filippo range. It stakes its territory early as a second-generation biopunk (or, perhaps, pharmapunk) tale and holds that ripe ground throughout.
Afterparty is near-future sci-fi that presumes a world after the smart drug revolution — a time when anyone with a chemjet printer and some base materials can download recipes from the Internet and print his own drugs. Wanna be smart? There's a drug for that. Happy? There's a drug for that, too. Wanna be a coldblooded torturer or a savant-level pattern-recognizer? Here, kid, just swallow this.
None of this has made the world a wiser or better place. Gregory follows Gibson's First Law of Cyberpunk here: The street makes its own uses for technology. And then he adds his own codicil: Most of the time, the best tech goes no further. The drugs that flavor Afterparty's pages get used primarily by party boys (and girls), street-level drug dealers and Big Pharma (which operates in just as dirty a space as any cartel).
It isn't a perfectly realized universe. I would've liked a few grace notes of the wider effects of this "revolution" — brief mentions of how ready access to smart drugs has altered the lives of the population beyond the scientists, junkies, smugglers, dealers, bums and spooks who populate the book. But that's a minor quibble because all those characters who do traipse through Afterparty (including geriatric weed barons, a chemically schizophrenic assassin who ranches micro-bison in his apartment, and a sweet, soulful ex-addict who believes that his soul lives in a small aquarium decoration that he wears around his neck) are beautifully realized, many of their unique and shattering collisions with this future detailed in odd demi-chapters that Gregory tags as parables.
Yeah, parables. Because Afterparty's hook is that, once upon a time, a tiny startup pharmaceutical lab called Little Sprout, working on a drug to cure schizophrenia, accidentally invented one whose side effects included putting one in close and personal communication with God.
Afterparty has two competing narratives, working a kind of back-and-forth seesaw on the plot. The first is the mystery of what happened at the Little Sprout buyout party — which began with a bunch of happy employees celebrating their becoming sudden millionaires and ended with one dead body and all the survivors forcibly dosed with their own drug, at levels causing blackouts, lawsuits, spontaneous religious conversion and confinement to various Canadian mental institutions. The second tack follows Lyda Rose, one of the Little Sprout founders.
She travels everywhere with an overdose-induced angel on her shoulder as she tries to figure out who among the party survivors has begun secretly manufacturing the drug again and putting it out on the street. See, it's dangerous, this drug. It's highly addictive. It makes you see God. And, more important to almost everyone involved, it also makes you lose your taste for other, lesser drugs. Like the weed being sold by an army of elderly, vicious Afghan women or the happy pills being pushed by various pharmaceutical companies.
What follows that winning setup is essentially one long chase sequence, woven through with a bittersweet junkie love story and broken up here and there with some backstory and the aforementioned parables. Gregory handles it well, putting the pedal down when necessary, but also knowing when to feather it back a little to let us linger on some small detail of his future world — First Nations cigarette smugglers here, the interior decorating styles of the fabulously wealthy there.
And it is all of this — all the drugs and weirdness and cat ladies and religious hallucinations — that slaps Afterparty down wetly in its place on the juiciness spectrum. The future is going to be messy: Far from the clean vacuum of space or the unending grit of dystopianism, it's going to be a jumble, shaped by the collisions of industry and criminality, of faith and science, of brains and the things we do to them in the name of research, recreation and memory.
After 6 1/2 weeks of false leads and conflicting information about what may have happened to the jet and the 239 people on board, Wednesday's headlines about the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 need to be viewed with considerable caution:
— " 'Object of interest' found on Western Australian coast." (CNN.com)
— "MH370 search: Debris washed up on WA coast to be investigated." (The Sydney Morning Herald)
Even CNN, which continues to report every bit of news about the missing plane, is approaching this latest development with some wariness:
"Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan described the object as appearing to be sheet metal with rivets.
" 'It's sufficiently interesting for us to take a look at the photographs,' he said.
"But Dolan also added strong words of caution: 'The more we look at it, the less excited we get.' "
The Australian government, meanwhile, is circumspect:
"Western Australia Police have attended a report of material washed ashore 10 kilometres east of Augusta and have secured the material.
"The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is examining the photographs of the material to determine whether further physical analysis is required and if there is any relevance to the search of missing flight MH370.
"The ATSB has also provided the photographs to the Malaysian investigation team.
"No further information is available at this time."
As we've said before:
The jet was about one hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early morning hours of March 8 (local time) when it was last heard from. Flight 370 was headed north over the Gulf of Thailand as it approached Vietnamese airspace.
Investigators believe the plane turned west, flew back over the Malay Peninsula, then out over the Indian Ocean before turning south toward Australia. They're basing those conclusions largely on data collected by a satellite system that received some information from the aircraft. The critical question — why did it turn? — remains unanswered.
Poor weather grounded the aerial search for the jet today. But 12 ships continued the search in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 miles northwest of Perth, Australia.