RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
John Kefala Kerr
A beautifully evocative and poetic tale about a group of people living in a remote house on the Pelion coast. It's got sea, sun and mystery as well as a dash of Platonic idealism thrown in. ~ Tripadvisor, http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g189398-s205/Greece:Recommended.Reading.html
Timothy J. Jarvis
'The Wanderer' by Timothy J. Jarvis is a novel, or a found manuscript, or a dream. It tells of those who have seen through rifts in the thin veneer of our superficial world and entered into a deeper, unfathomably dark meta-reality. The story (or stories, as it contains many) spans vast swathes of time, and equally traverses the geography of our globe's cities, shadows and far flung desolate spaces to tell its story of impending, unassailable terror.
The fact that the manifestations in 'The Wanderer' are in the main very flesh and blood, solid, non-ephemeral, that they exist of matter and not some ectoplasmic, ghostly material is appalling. There is a lot of pain, viscera, fluid and bone to navigate, but all is set within tightly detailed and concrete evocations of real (at least to those of us who have never scraped the surface and seen the void) earthly places.
The work is complex, although by no means impenetrable. The writing is always interesting and has a whiff of Victoriana about it, although I can't quite put a finger on why this is. I can tell within a couple of paragraphs whether a book will get its hooks into me, and this one bore sharp barbs. Maybe it was the spattering of arcane terms or the conceit (if indeed it was a conceit) of the manuscript being found in the room of an author who had vacated this world in such mysterious circumstances.
This is the kind of novel that demands to be read again, and surely new aspects will then surface to delight and disturb. Who knows where I'll find myself re-reading this in the future though? In a cosy pub, on board a founded ship, at a Punch and Judy show, in Glasgow, London, or somewhere beneath them all? ~ Chris Whitehead, Taphonomy
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth
My old man believed in first impressions. He thought people who didn't understand the importance of making a strong first impressions were idiots, underachievers too caught up in their own ego to appreciate the big picture. Over a decade of living on my own proved him right, but every rule has its exception.
Take Andrez Bergen, for example. His first novel TOBACCO-STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT struck me as an enjoyable oddity and I almost threw the towel on him after reading WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? Sometimes, it only matters to make a decent enough impression to keep your reader doing what he should be doing. If Bergen hadn't persevered through his flaws, I wouldn't have got to read the hidden treasure that is DEPTH CHARGING ICE PLANET GOTH.
Mina is a young, nerdy goth girl navigating her way through the land-mined paths of teenagehood and high school the best she can. She's having some issues at home though, suffering from the abuse of one of her family members, and her overflowing imagination created an imaginary friend called Animeid in order to help her cope with such a difficult situation. Mina's becoming a young woman, though and she has to face important decision that'll dictate the course of her upcoming adult life. Reality and fiction always end up going their separate ways, but in order to overcome her demons, Mina will have to bulldozer a new path for herself somewhere in between both.
Andrez Bergen has finally cracked it open. I've always believe in his peculiar, feverish, staccato-delivered style, but thought that it was ill-fitting to his previous novels' content. The proverbial square peg in the round hole, if you will. It's right at home in DEPTH CHARGING ICE PLANET GOTH though, through the eyes of Mina, Bergen's nerdy and sensitive protagonist, who has a hundred centers of interest, and a hundred ways to cope with the challenges of her young existence. Mina even triggered my ol' empathy gland, which I hadn't used in a while. I used to be not that different from her, if you swap the goth obsessions for a nerdy fascination with every possible form of extreme metal. So there was an emotional component to my appreciation of DEPTH CHARGING ICE PLANET GOTH.
There's more than a fun, nerdy protagonist to DEPTH CHARGING ICE PLANET GOTH, though. There is this polyphonic metafictional approach that's keep you bouncing from one world to another, sometimes through Mina's own fiction, sometimes through her imaginary and, what I thought made this approach interesting, Mina' situation is a part of every of her layers of reality in one way or another. DEPTH CHARGING ICE PLANET GOTH has this Christopher Nolan puzzle-like quality to it that deploys the story in several mismatched pieces. It is slightly challenging, but it doesn't demand Olympian effort to follow since it has kind of a narrative highway tying everything together: Mina's family situation.
DEPTH CHARGING ICE PLANET GOTH is somewhat of a perfect storm for Andrez Bergen. It's a coming-of-age novel seen through the eyes of a tormented child trying to become an adult. It's whimsical enough not to be melodramatic and it's serious and cohesive enough to keep readers under. Bergen always struck me as being a tad overambitious in the past, but this works. It's like a wayward athlete finding the right team to make him happy and productive. If Andrez Bergen keeps going in this direction, he'll have a lifelong fan in me. He's a pretty eclectic and peculiar author, but if you have to choose one of his novels to read, make it DEPTH CHARGING ICE PLANET GOTH. It's one of the best novels I've read in 2015, so far. ~ Benoit Lelievre, Dead End Follies
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth
"Somewhat of a perfect storm for Andrez Bergen... [that] has this Christopher Nolan puzzle-like quality to it. It's a coming-of-age novel seen through the eyes of a tormented child trying to become an adult. It's whimsical enough not to be melodramatic and it's serious and cohesive enough to keep readers under." ~ Benoit Lelievre, Dead End Follies
Timothy J. Jarvis
Since starting this blog and becoming part of the weird fiction community, I've been put in contact with many wonderful people, many of whom love to share their love of fiction. While I often have authors and publishers sending me books to review (I should also note, it's clear which ones actually read the blog based on what they propose to send me) I often review books I come across on my own, or books that ping my radar based on recommendations. The Wanderer by Timothy J. Jarvis falls into the latter category.
Much like the mysterious manuscript that makes up the majority of the book's narrative, The Wanderer was something I stumbled upon. A mention of it on the TLO message boards, an inclusion on a year's best list on a fellow review blog. The cover isn't too busy, and besides title and author it includes a creepy drawing of a Punch & Judy puppet stage. Puppets have long been a macabre fascination of mine, as well as several weird fiction writers and fans that I know, and since I've started reading weird fiction Punch has shown up a couple times and always gives me a chill. There's something inherently dark and twisted about the odd-voiced little demon of a puppet.
Jarvis, whose name struck me as familiar, is someone who knows weird fiction. He truly GETS it. His nonfiction articles published on the Weird Fiction Review website offer further proof of this,
The Wanderer is one of the best books of 2014, hands down. Weird fiction is dominated by short stories and novellas, and it's rare that a novel length piece of work comes along that is as engaging throughout as this book.
The official blurb reads:
After obscure author of strange stories, Simon Peterkin, vanishes in bizarre circumstances, a typescript, of a text entitled, The Wanderer, is found in his flat.
The Wanderer is a weird document. On a dying Earth, in the far-flung future, a man, an immortal, types the tale of his aeon-long life as prey, as a hunted man; he tells of his quitting the Himalayas, his sanctuary for thousands of years, to return to his birthplace, London, to write the memoirs; and writes, also, of the night he learned he was cursed with life without cease, an evening in a pub in that city, early in the twenty-first century, a gathering to tell of eldritch experiences undergone.
Is The Wanderer a fiction, perhaps Peterkin's last novel, or something far stranger? Perhaps more account than story?
The book opens with a Foreword and a Note On The Text to set the stage for the bulk of the book, which is the found typescript. Jarvis tells a sprawling, epic story and deftly weaves together a plot taking place over several millennia. The script is written in the far future, near the Earth's end, and tell's the narrator's story in a non-linear fashion. Parts of his story take place in our modern day, parts during his years of wandering the Earth, and others telling of the moments he is writing the manuscript.
The narrator's prose is often rambling, and includes some interesting syntax (consciously, as the Notes on the Text mention this) which lends a sort of authenticity to the entire book, allowing the frame narrative and book to work together towards becoming more than just a piece of fiction, but an excellent piece of meta-fiction.
Jarvis explores many ideas over the course of his novel: what happens when man crosses borders into strange places he is not meant to be, what is it like to be hunted and live in fear, how does immortality over the ages affect a person? The novel is filled with scenes of terror, scenes of awe, and a glimpse into an ordinary man's millenia-spanning world.
I say this is my favorite novel of 2014, and it's a statement I stand by. Jarvis has chops, and The Wanderer is an epic sized tale of weirdness and horror that no one should miss. It's terrifying, mind-bending, beautiful and unforgettable. ~ Justin Steele, Arkham Digest
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is a fantastically different and entertaining novel, set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future where there is only one city left on earth. Therefore, is it any wonder that the oppressed citizens of this city seek escape within a virtual world? Our hero, who is just fifteen, lives alone - his parents long ago dragged off by the fascist police. He ekes out a meagre existence by scavenging for food. It's on one of these food hunts that he discovers a hoard of ancient comics. From that moment on he is hooked. Later, this knowledge of comic books will lead to him securing a place in a virtual world that is quite unlike any other. As with any virtual realm there are defined rules. Andrez Bergen is clear in outlining these: No swearing and no drinking among others. Breaking these will result in our player being kicked from Heropa with a two-day penalty.
I'm no reader of comics. I grew up reading the classic sci-fi novels so just about all of the author's carefully crafted references and in jokes probably flew right over my balding head. However, I enjoyed the witty comic book banter, which was always effective, and it was great to read a book with no swearing in for a change! In my own fiction there's foul language on almost every page.
What I enjoyed most about this novel is the interplay between the characters. Humour is very much the backbone of Chandler style who dunnit. Our hero, Southern Cross, attempts to find out who is killing the great capes of Heropa. It’s not a perfect world and relationships are flawed, things start to go wrong in the game with sometimes comic and even sinister consequences.
Bergen has created a spectacular world here and I could easily see it running to a series of novels, comics and spin offs. Interesting artwork enriches the kindle edition I read. A very different read that I enjoyed from page one until the conclusion. The author has researched his subject painstakingly and meticulously and the novel flows like warm butter from a pan. A well deserved five stars from me. ~ Darren Sant, Daz's Reviews
Timothy J. Jarvis
This is an intelligent, ludic work, beautifully articulate and poetic, with respectful yet impish reverence given to the best writers of strange stories over the last few decades. It’s also surprisingly and delightfully grim in all the right ways.
The Wanderer has been my novel of the year so far, and there’s only a few weeks left of this one so I can’t see it being bettered; in fact, I haven’t read as cohesive and compelling a weird fiction novel in a very long time. The fact that it is a debut makes it all the more revelatory and I cannot recommend this book enough. Even with the teetering pile(s) of titles on my to read list, I sense that I’ll be revisiting this one very soon to see what I may have missed along the way the first time. ~ Brian Lavelle, http://notimeispassing.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/timothy-j-jarvis-the-wanderer/
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?
''I'm in love with you, Jack - but I have no clue who you really are.''
I'm having this pseudo-philosophical grudge with superheroes and the important place they occupy in the zeitgiest. They used to be a nerd thing. Not that I ever was a great comic book consumer, but superheroes have lost quite a bit of meaning now that everybody just likes them a little. At least, they lost some meaning to me. The third full-length novel of Australian author Andrez Bergen WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? is all about superheroes and meaning. The idea is absolutely brilliant, yet the execution is puzzling like only Bergen knows how to be puzzling. WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? doesn't give superheroes their meaning back like superpowers, but it's a fascinating deconstruction of the concept in its own way.
In Heropa, things work a little differently. It's a sprawling metropolis inhabited by adoring and oh-so-anonymous masses of people. The city is also inhabited by Capes, people with superpowers who find themselves on polar opposites of the moral compass. When Melbourne teenager Jacob lands in Heropa, he becomes Southern Cross, the new recruits of The Equalizers, a small, ragtag group of superheroes in charge of fighting crime and rogue Capes. The Capes of Heropa have been dying though and Southern Cross will have a trial by fire with a first case that threatens the balance of the entire city.
Andrez Bergen has establishes somewhat of a modus operandi with his first two novels TOBACCO-STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT and 100 YEARS OF VICISSITUDE. His books are highly referential and it's easy to get lost. Apparently, WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? is a love-letter to the golden age of comic books, which I have no frame of reference for. So my reading was almost enitrely innocent and it felt overwhelming, more often than not, having to deal with so many characters. Andrez Bergen has a very idiosyncratic way of writing dialogue (and dialogue form most of his novels) and I got lost a couple time, ping-ponging between the members of the cast of his most ambitious novel, so far.
''I'm Stan the Doorman.''
Jack decided he liked Stan's eyes. They were warm and accompanied by a suave moustache above a winning smile.
''You may label me the Doormat,'' the gent in red waffled on, ''since there are some here who do just that - but I prefer to be considered a welcoming committee.''
Jack looked at him for a few seconds, rediscovering anew the ability to speak. ''Okay. Um, Can I call you Stan? That Cool McCool?''
One of the things I benefited by reading WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? is that I think I finally wrapped my mind around Andrez Bergen's writing style. He is something close of Douglas Adams meets Wes Anderson. His style is quirky, whimsical, idiosyncratic and fast paced. It's a strange approach for what is technically a superhero novel, but I thought it was more of a deconstruction than a classic superhero tale, where the Capes are all human and all struggle with emotions that would ''normally'' be below the nobility of their duty. It's what fascinated me with WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? and why I didn't really felt strong emotions during my reading: there was no mystique, no proper manifest destiny, just people with a great gift trying to take the right decisions.
I wasn't swept away by WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? but it didn't leave me cold. In fact, it's difficult to put a finger on how this novel made me feel, which is kind of a recurring theme when I read Andrez Bergen. I read this novel with the same fascination of a man looking at an ant farm after smoking a doobie. Things were moving, following their own frame of reference which I don't have, but I could only admire the cohesiveness despite lacking some basic information in order to fully enjoy the extent of this novel's ambition. I wouldn't recommend diving into the quirky world of Andrez Bergen with WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? first, unless you're a comic book buff. His most accessible novel probably is 100 YEARS OF VICISSITUDE, which also happens to be my favourite of his. Anyway, Andrez Bergen keeps his heavyweight title belt of most unique author on the internet with WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? folks.
In hindsight, it may be all you need to know. ~ Benoît Lelièvre, Dead End Follies
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth
I’m excited guys. I really am. Because today, once again, I am highlighting the highly talented Andrez Bergen. I’ve mentioned him numerous times on this blog and lauded him with as much acclaim as possible. For good reason. In my opinion, this guy is one of the best Indie Authors out there – if not THE best. His style of writing, attention to detail – and numerous references to music, pop culture, Anime and classic cinema, all mixed in with his Australian style of humour just come together in one perfect blend. It sucks you in and makes you feel that you aren’t just reading the story, you’re living it! That was the case I felt with Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and One Hundred Years of Vicissitude.
So when I heard he had a new novel coming out I just HAD to read it! And as this will be my last Pandragon Reviews for a while, what better way to end it than with one of my favourite authors! So let’s wrap up warm for the journey that is Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth.
This cover is just WOW! I love how the white background allows all the other colours to just leap out at you and Mina’s icy stare just catches you off guard. Notice how she appears to have puppet strings around her? Symbolism! This kinda reminds me of old school Sci-Fi novel covers – or even classic Horror movie posters. Either way it catches the eye.
She's a disturbed, quiet girl, but Mina wants to do some good out there. It's just that the world gets in the way. This is Australia in the 1980s, a haven for goths and loners, where a coming-of-age story can only veer into a murder mystery.
What I liked
Firstly, let me just say this. Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth – BEST. TITLE. EVER! This is one of those titles that, even if you don’t know what the story is about, you wanna check it out just by the title alone! It’s a title that captures the surreal wit that Bergen is famous for. It also catches you off guard a little as, on hearing it, I thought it was gonna be a sci-fi story. The tale I got was a little different, but still worth reading.
Like his other novels, Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth is told from the POV of the protagonist – in this case Mina. Mina is a kind introverted girl with some issues – mostly abuse at the hands of her older sibling and generally being just an outcast of society. Then she meets a dark character called Animeid (read it backwards and you get a hint as to what is going down) and then s*** really starts to get real! I won’t spoil too much of the story, but rest assured things get increasing more violent as the story goes on.
Now compared to other protagonists from Andrez Bergen’s previous novels, Mina is a little bit more introverted compared to say, the protagonists of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and One Hundred Years of Vicissitude – but she still has the biting sarcasm and wit that you would expect from Mr Bergen’s stories. She probably is a little bit more unstable mentally than many of the other characters, but I personally could understand a lot of her agony. She has a pretty unhappy lifestyle and pretty much is tormented by members of her own family. Throughout the narration, we delve a little deeper into her psychological state and, through the help of Animeid, she gains a little more confidence – possibly at the cost of her sanity.
The one thing I liked about this story is that a lot of it was opened to interpretation – especially the character of Animeid. And as a lot of this is told from Mina’s point of view, we never really are getting the full explanation. Is there a supernatural element at work – or is Anim just in Mina’s head and she’s using it as a way of coping with all the crap that’s going on and using that as a way to help her stand up to her problems. Or maybe put something else right – again, no spoilers.
On a side note, it is great to read about a female protagonist. Not that I didn’t like his other main characters, I always enjoy reading about female leads that aren’t just “femme fatale’s”.
In many ways, the novel serves as a metaphor for growing up in general. Sorta like a coming of age tale in a way – albeit with somewhat darker themes of abuse and possibly mental illness. However, what I liked most about the story is that it doesn’t always go the way you expect it to and the tale can throw the odd twist in here and there. It means that even if you’ve worked out a twist, the story can still surprise you.
What I didn’t like
The only minor nitpick I would say about this (and it is just a nitpick) was that I felt some of the chapters were a little longer than they needed to be. Not that that was a major problem as the chapters are laid out so that they don’t overload you with too much info at once (which is always the trick when writing chapters), but I couldn’t help but think maybe the chapters could be shorter. That’s just a personal thing for me and the ONLY negative I would say about this book.
PROS (Frozen – that’s the Celldweller song NOT the film! Give it a listen):
Best title ever!
A great metaphor for isolation, loneliness and psychosis.
Tale is captivating and drags you in.
Has plenty of twists and surprises.
CONS (cold as ice):
Some chapters are a bit too long.
Once again, Andrez Bergen has written a tale that is entertaining, unique and has more style and substance in two pages than most recent bestsellers have in their entire word count! Why this guy isn’t winning more awards I don’t know – but he should. Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth is a great mix of coming of age with dark subtext and some possibly supernatural themes as well. It’s a captivating read – although maybe that’s just me being biased! Either way, I highly recommend this novel. READ IT NOW!!!
FINAL SCORE: 4.5/5 ~ Dan Wright, Pandragon Dan
Bald New World
Peter Tieryas Liu
Bald New World is Peter Tieryas Liu’s first novel (he has published a short story collection, Watering Heaven). Aside from writing, he works as a VFX artist for films and a technical writer for LucasArts, the video game division of LucasFilm. Also, as an Asian American writing science fiction, he is a voice that is severely underrepresented in the genre. Delving into a project like Bald New World, with its off-the-wall premise and its non-mainstream cast of characters, is certainly a commercial risk, but Liu has proceeded with confidence, humor, and prescience. The world of books is richer with his inclusion. ~ Simon Han, http://heavyfeatherreview.com/2014/10/15/bald-new-world-by-peter-tieryas-liu/
Timothy J. Jarvis
Easily one of the best modern horror novels I have read in many, many years. Imagine M P Shiel and William Hope Hodgson channeled through Mark Samuels, with frequent scenes of quite nightmarish ghastly horror and cruelty that read like Reggie Oliver doing a novelisation of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Witty, clever, and utterly, deliciously horrific. I can't begin to describe how impressed I was with this, and how much I enjoyed it. Just marvellous. ~ John Llewellyn Probert, author of 'The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine' and 'The House that Death Built'
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth
Andrez Bergen has done it again. In Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth, Bergen weaves a story that is both unique and nostalgic. Set in 80s era Australia, Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth uses pop culture references to root a surreal story in a way that many writers envy.
Mina is a quiet senior girl in Australia. The reserved member of her friend group, Mina has little difficulty blending into the background of her own life. She has a distant father, an abusive brother, and a dead mother. Mina retreats into her own world, reading comic books and writing stories.
And interacting with a bird-like woman named Animeid.
As Mina deals with an abusive environment, her mental state gradually declines. Things around her fall apart. Close friends become distant. A beacon in the form of a strange girl shines in Mina’s life. Angelika’s presence rocks Mina’s life and spurs her to make some major changes. Additionally, a force beyond Mina’s control sets her on path that explores the depths of her mind.
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth walks a fine line between a traditional coming-of-age story and surreal fantasy. Bergen draws in the reader with a protagonist that fosters compassion and identification, than flips the switch and drags the reader into a swirling nest of emotions. The mystery behind Mina’s life emerges, adding another layer to the story. As we learn more about Mina and her emotional health, the book becomes harder and harder to put down.
Bergen’s latest novel keys into popular events of the 80s, especially references pertaining to the goth movement. From music to hair to makeup, Mina and other character embrace goth culture. Further, Bergen pays homage to comic books through Mina’s own love for the medium. Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth is a great read for those who love the music of the 80s, comics of the 70s, and classic films of the 60s as well as addictive coming-of-age stories. Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth is available in print and digital formats from Perfect Edge Books. ~ Mara Wood, NerdSpan
Timothy J. Jarvis
A lost writer, an old manuscript (partly in unknown tongues), a sinister puppet show, a timeslip into the far future, and a bitter understanding of what lies behind the façade of the world.
It’s a brave writer who could take those ancient rituals of the dark fantastic and make them work in a fervid new form. But that is the achievement of The Wanderer by Timothy J Jarvis, an astonishing debut novel deeply infused with the traditions of supernatural and metaphysical fiction.
It has been devised with a subtle understanding of the motifs and mechanics of the strange and visionary in literature. The skilful use of stories within stories suggests Arthur Machen’s The Three Impostors, while the scenes of a ruined city after a catastrophe, brings to mind images from M P Shiel’s The Purple Cloud, or Edward Shanks’ People of the Ruins. And there are also suggestions of a wider cosmic tragedy such as we encounter in Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, and even of the serene realm of Shangri La in James Hilton’s Lost Horizon.
It is an unusual meditation on the nature of fantasy, that shunned half-brother of literature, which also astutely exemplifies the form: a book essentially about the mainsprings of the macabre that works itself as a significant new coiling of the dark. But it is far from an academic treatise. The book shifts between sordid pubs and smeared rooms, evoked with grimy authenticity, and weird horizons in worlds of dream or hallucination.
Most of all, though, The Wanderer is that rare thing, a thoroughly engrossing and exhilarating story, laced with playfulness, which also glimmers with intelligence and audacity. We should be wary, though. The book itself reveals a force seeking out certain artists, poets, and others, as prey it can pursue forever through the underworld – an infinitely dark and cruel game of the kind hinted at by Sarban in The Sound of His Horn, but vaster still in its remorselessness and terror. How do we know it isn’t one more lure in that labyrinth?
Don’t read this book unless you’re ready to defy the gates of Hell. ~ Mark Valentine, http://wormwoodiana.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/the-wanderer-timothy-j-jarvis.html
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?
"Bergen’s passion for his work shines through into his prose – clearly here is an author who knows their comic book world inside and out. The book is peppered with lovingly crafted references to comic book characters... those with more than a passing knowledge can sit and chortle to themselves as they find more and more references to classic comics. Either way, this is well-written, entertaining and an engaging read." ~ , The British Fantasy Society
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?
Heropa is a huge virtual reality metropolis protected by a team of dysfunctional superheroes, the Equalizers, engaged in a constant battle against the League of Unmitigated Rotters.
Southern Cross, Pretty Amazonia, The Brick and the Great White Hope are the few remaining members of the Equalizers, who have all been slowly killed off by an unknown assailant. Can they find who is killing them and find the true meaning behind Heropa before it’s too late?
Bergen’s passion for his work shines through into his prose – clearly here is an author who knows their comic book world inside and out. The book is peppered with lovingly crafted references to comic book characters, with the non-super-powered population (known as Blandos) all named for various characters from classic comic books, including a strangely familiar elderly doorman named Stan, with twinkling eyes and a moustache, and a reporter named after the actress who portrayed Lois Lane in the original, George Reeve Superman series.
You don’t have to be a comic book fan to enjoy this fantastic piece of literature, but those with more than a passing knowledge can sit and chortle to themselves as they find more and more references to classic comics. Either way, this is well-written, entertaining and an engaging read. ~ Matthew Johns, The British Fantasy Society
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth
“The past. That’s all it is. A dead currency. She runs ringers over the stubble of the buzz cut on her scalp, feeling the occasional scar, counts five different ones, each with their own story.”
If you enjoy your sleep, do not pick this book up. If there is one thing Bergen does right (and he does many things out of this world) it is keeping the pages a turning. And this is his biggest offender yet. I was up till 2 o’clock in the morning, flipping through the numbers to see what foul fate happened next. It was an exhilarating ride.
Make no mistake. This book may start off innocent enough, but it soon spirals out of control and right into Bergen’s capable and crafty hands.
Mina is an Australian teenager eking out her days either chatting on the fringes with her friends or typing away a new creative spark. Or being beaten by her older brother. Or talking to her imaginary bird friend. And it only gets stranger from there.
We have an angst-filled prose of a rollercoaster ride that rollicks us through mental and physical abuse, experimentation, and a whole dollop of deception, all set to a background of various gothic and rock songs. Bergen knows how to set a scene and keep the atmosphere from cluttering it up, all while creating a vivid setting of 1980s Melbourne. While the prose can become cumbersome, especially in the beginning, once you hitch a ride on this surreal escapade, you’re in it for the long haul.
“Just another of those weeks that flies by and leaves you wondering what single worthwhile thing actually happened.”
Nothing goes right for a typical teenage girl. As I’ve mentioned already, she’s the victim of abuse and indifference, coping from a recent death of her mother and reckless abandon of her father. While she’s rocking out to a new muse, he’s escorting in other women and letting his underage son drink himself silly. It’s a warm, dark, dank environment that creates a shy loner that hides behind her fringe.
But as time goes by, Mina learns that we’re all hiding, playing games and wearing a mask, so what does it matter? She trades her fake friends for mascara wearing raccoons where one ends up pulling her out of her shell and the other opens up to her. It’s exactly what this heartbroken girl needs.
“Well, I think it’s obvious – you’re unreliable. You have a chronic inability to fathom what’s going on right before your field of vision; you deceive yourself, me, and anyone else you care to include. Have no idea of how you feel and refuse to try. Selfish and somewhat self-indulgent.”
Unfortunately, things fall apart quickly.
Around the halfway mark, everything goes to pot. We’re subjected to one of the strangest dream sequences I’ve seen in a while. It can be jarring. But it’s meant to establish a divide and create a drive for our drifting protagonist. And once that hits, the last 40 percent never lets up.
Almost as good as the pulling descriptions is the dialogue. From Bergen’s third book, Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? I know that he can write some damn amazing conversations. And here he shows off his expertise once more. Peppering the flowing sentences is a juxtaposition of tight, concise back and forths. Strains of talking that keep you moving and keep you guessing, especially near the end. Your head will explode when you realize the title’s namesake, but Bergen won’t let up. There’s more to be told.
“I feel my head is stuffed full of cotton wool, rammed in tight with a shoehorn, and someone’s been liberally dressing the stuff with liquid Panic.”
But it would be wrong of me to not mention the greatest part of this book. No, it’s not the pacing or the writing or the tone. It’s his deepest, most well developed character to date. Mina is an absolute joy to follow, and her plight is made even better by the weird strings that tug on her and the way she interacts at each decision. She’s smart and stays true to character. She doesn’t adhere to a set plot, as you would expect in most murder mysteries; the plot adheres to her as any great bildungsroman.
It is the environment he moulds, in each and every sad conversation, in all of the harrowing scenes from a simple chat at a café to a near rape scene. Every single moment packs a punch, and we’re there to experience this with her.
Thus, it’s very easy to get attached to her. And Bergen does a fantastic job with not only the main star, but with his entire cast.
The only criticism I have is that it starts off sluggishly and thick, but this more than pays off in the explosive ending. And what an ending. A fine quip to past readers, and a lovely sail into the sunset. It’s fitting, remarkable, and exactly what both Mina and Andrez needed.
A chance at self-discovery in one fine mess of ordered chaos.
“Relaxing now into the seat I blow out my cheeks, and then smile.” ~ Caleb Hill, Acerbic Writing
100 Years of Vicissitude
Our chief protagonist Wolram E Deaps, first seen in the sci-fi noir TOBACCO STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT, has passed away and now resides in the hereafter; a strange halfway home between life and death - a place where memories are relived in all their gore and glory.
Accompanying him is a geisha, Kohana, having also passed away following an innings of 100 (or thereabouts). Despite the triple figure, Kohana resembles a teenager - one of many mysteries that enthralls Deaps. Initially there seems to be little to link these two vastly different characters, however as the story unfolds their lives become intertwined in more ways than one.
I've not read a book like ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF VICISSITUDE before. It has no distinct genre, rather borrowing elements from many to form a literary tale that transports the reader through a sticky strange web of nostalgia ingrained in the lives and deaths of Deaps and Kohana.
Rich with fact and equally engaging fiction, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF VICISSITUDE is an imaginative beast that is nothing short of all consuming.
Author Andrez Bergen has got to be one of the most diverse authors I've read, each of his novels is unique and top shelf and ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF VICISSITUDE is no different. ~ OzNoir, Just A Guy That Likes 2 Read
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth
"From Goth coming-of-age to violently gothic, Andrez wanted his own style mixed with a bit of Edgar Allan Poe and he got the recipe spot on." ~ Ani Johnson, The Bookbag
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth
Sixteen year old Mina lives in Nede (that's 'Needy' out loud), a suburb of the Australian state of Victoria where she's in the final throes of school. However she feels very much an outsider, especially after the recent death of her mother. Mina's alienated further by her bullying elder brother and her father's attempts to move on with his life before Mina is ready. She has friends that she spends time with in a disinterested Goth way, the friend who understands her most being Animeid. Animeid is even more different than Mina, being half-girl, half-bird, but neither of them seems to mind. It doesn't affect anyone else after all – Mina's the only person who can see her.
Aussie born, Japan-adopted Andrez Bergen has a reputation for surprise and originality. This is only the second of his books that I've read but I'd say that reputation is founded on fact. In a single bound we've gone from murder among the super hero community in the comic fantasy noir 'Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?' to this, just as surreal but darker shocker. ('Shocker' in a good way!)
From the beginning our hearts go out to Mina because, although she isn't someone we understand, we want to delve past all the pain and bereavement she's been through and try. (Whether she wants us to or not.) Her family (father Jim and brother Patrick) are periphery people whom we don't get to know that well as Mina won't let us. This is her story and she (along with Animeid) is the nucleus.
Mina is someone I'm betting that most will react to strongly. Although fascinated by her, I grew to like her invisible friend more. Animeid has a great sense of irony coupled with an ability to sum up a situation in a sentence or even a word. Her ideas are a tad on the unconventional side but then so is she. Who is she? What is she? We're invited to form our own opinions around Andrez's cleverly arranged set pieces.
Cleverly arranged? Oh definitely – Mr Bergen is a very intelligent author, much to our entertainment and delight. The cultural jokes that peppered Heropa before now give way to word play and some seemingly insignificant touches that come to mean so much.
There are also references that draw us back to the 80s. Some (like Mina's love of Joy Division and New Order) will mean something to readers in both hemispheres. Whereas a couple (like references to Melbourne's fixed fun fair, Luna Park) encourage us to scuttle off to our favourite search engine. Having said that, we can all remember what it was to be young and we all knew a Mina on the edge of a school-aged social circle.
The really devious thing is that, just when we feel we're coming to grips with Mina's world, we're thrown into violent mayhem and a jaw-dropping finale. Andrez may have left the laughs of Heropa behind but this dark, cynical volume isn't the sort of thing we read only once. Having got to the end I had to re-read just to pick up the clues that I'd missed. Indeed a masterly touch, Mr B! ~ Ani Johnson, The Bookbag
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth
'Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth' is rather different in style and tone from much of Andrez Bergen’s previous body of work. Even so, though, there’s a distinct flavor to it that, if you’re familiar with Bergen’s writing, is unmistakable. His influences and his passions always stand out, from elements of noir to classic films and comic books to music, and more. As I’ve remarked before, this tendency to wear his passions on his sleeve is part of what makes Bergen’s work so much fun to read.
This particular novel is set in Australia in the 1980s. We follow Mina, a high school girl coming into her own amid an avalanche of problems all around her. Her mother died just a few short weeks before the story begins. Her brother beats and abuses her, and has since she was little. And, her father, while not a bad person per se, is distant and completely oblivious to her emotional state.
Mina refuses to talk about any of the awful things going on in her life, and when confronted about them, she shrugs it off and pretends that they don’t bother her. Instead, to deal with these problems, she retreats into fantasy. Her outlet is a typewriter, with which she turns the people and events in her life into fantastical stories, ranging from sci-fi to adventure to (of course) noir. The action of the novel itself is frequently broken up by bits of these stories—several of which the keen observer may recognize, particularly if they’ve read the anthology Bergen published last year, 'The Condimental Op'.
Writing can be a good and healthy way of dealing with emotional trauma; however, Mina also retreats into fantasy in another, somewhat darker way: a large, black-feathered bird-woman named Animeid, her sometime rescuer, sometime tormenter, who wreaks merry havoc in Mina’s life and is, of course, invisible to everyone but Mina.
I found myself identifying with Mina rather more than I expected to, especially considering that I was never a teenage girl, nor did I grow up in Australia in the 1980s. But, certain events in her life parallel my own, and, in particular, her reactions to these events are rather more familiar than I’m comfortable with. In that way she’s identifiable, yes, but not always easy to like. That’s not a criticism, but merely an observation—Mina in fact doesn’t always like herself either. But, as she comes into her own, both she and we begin to like her and root for her more and more.
This is not your typical coming-of-age story, though. It starts out that way, but eventually encompasses a variety of different styles and genres, from sci-fi to mystery, and more—even apart from the stories-within-a-story that we glimpse from Mina’s writings. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this one. It’s odd and unique, at times funny, at times poignant, but always compelling. If you’re looking for something outside the norm, you should definitely give this one a read.
~ Steven W. Alloway, Fanboy