REVIEWS

 


“Fugue”

 

Jay Caselberg handles an irresolute ending superbly in "Fugue," one of the best stories in the collection, in which an aging man sees angels and monsters as a manifestation of his wife's depression.

 

-- Paul Kincaid, Strange Horizons

The Star Tablet

Caselberg's strong, swift prose brings science fiction and the good old-fashioned detective story together in a novel that is impossible to put down. Caselberg excels at weaving fast-paced story, but one that is multi-faceted as a diamond.... Throughout the novel, Caselberg transports the reader to futuristic cities and landscapes...THE STAR TABLET is a prosaic trip to the future, and one worth taking. With an enthralling universe and clever characters, Caselberg is a shining star in science fiction."

 

--Jennifer Walker, Dark Wisdom

 

Wyrmhole

Wyrmhole Jay Caselberg Roc (US) PB $5.99, ISBN: 0451459490

Just when you think no one writes classic science fiction anymore Jay Caselberg  comes along with a novel that harks back to the Golden Age - but with a dark,  noir undercurrent that is firmly of today’s cutting-edge.

The novel starts with Jack Stein waking up on a mining base on a remote planet,  feeling like hell (partly from stimulants abuse) and with everyone else  mysteriously gone. Only, as we discover, Stein is really back at the Locality, a  brilliantly-imagined organic urban structure, and the mining planet was, in the  best Philip K. Dick tradition, a dream. But not just any dream... Because Jack  Stein is a Psychic Investigator, hired to discover what happened to the miners of  Dairil III by the shady Outreach Industries, and dreaming is part of his job. Only  Jack's dreams are becoming darker by the minute...

I’ve already mentioned the Locality, and it deserves mentioning again. Caselberg  creates a truly unique science fictional environment, a city which grows its own  apartments, streets and “ we imagine “ public transport, with the rich living in  New, where everything is freshly-grown, while the truly poor live on the other  side “ in Old. Stein’s investigation takes him from Old to New, through a city of  corruption to the very heart of the mystery itself, all the while plagued by visions  of Kabbalistic symbols whose meaning he is desperately trying to understand. A  Philip Marlow for the post-cyberpunk age, Stein is accompanied by Billie, a 12- year old street kid he rescues from one of his informants, making an important  statement about poverty and life in the future that needs to be listened to.

Wyrmhole, despite having a plot-line that is familiar matter to readers of murder  mysteries, is an ambitious, bleak, both entertaining and thought-provoking  science fiction novel for the 21st century. Caselberg’s debut novel, it comes  highly recommended, and carries with it the promise of great things yet to come.                                                                    

-- Dusksite September 2003

Harriet Klausner review.

-- BooksnBytes, September, 2003

Jack Stein is a private investigator with an unreliable psychic power.  He is hired by a large corporation to find out why a party of miners on a distant world disappeared without a trace, but shortly after accepting the assignment, he is approached by an employee of that company who insists that upper management is stonewalling.  Initially skeptical, Stein eventually comes to the same conclusion, particularly when his psi abilities become even less reliable than usual and more overt attempts are made to prevent him from accomplishing his mission.  This is a pretty good space adventure, and a pretty good first novel as well.  No real surprises in the plot, but it's fast paced enough that you won't mind, and might not even notice.

--Chronicle August, 2003

“Grievous Music”

A much better quality of writing enlivens "Grievous Music" by James A. Hartley. In a dark near-future, nano-enhanced Silent Knights seek out and destroy Subverts, people who broadcast non-approved messages of free thought and free speech. We witness Curtis, a Silent Knight, as he performs his duty by killing a Subvert making an illegal transmission. Shaken by his victim's convictions, Curtis momentarily sees that she is holding a receiver, not a transmitter, and that her only "crime" was listening to the message. Then his nano augmentations kick in, altering his perceptions and reassuring him that he has done the right thing. The story is written competently and presents Curtis sympathetically.  

-- Tangent Online  July, 1999

“The Devils Within”

For standard fantasy fare, James A. Hartley’s “The Devils Within” offers a desert-quest setting with Hawk the swordsman sent into the wasteland to slay devils at the behest of his tribal shaman. A pleasant, escapist read that offers little in the way of innovation or surprise, but does offer some eerie moments around the ‘cookpot of the Dead’.

-- SF Reader.com  January, 2003

 

"Iridescence"

When you live in or even near one of the larger cities, there's a certain sense of dislocation you can feel, with the city itself, or even with those around you. It's as if there's a layer of reality -- or unreality -- that you can't quite slice through. 'Iridescence' by Jay Caselberg, captures that feeling with quiet, tight prose, characters the coalesce into your consciousness and a surreal scenario that grows ever clearer, and ever more mysterious, as the story unfolds.

Justin and Janessa are sort-of a couple, making their lives in the never-named city, a city that has simply up and floated into the clouds, high above the landscape. Meeting Janessa for breakfast, as usual, Justin gets some bad news; a mutual friend, Ben, has taken The Long Walk, leaving his partner Amanda behind. The event has implications for all the survivors that lead them to a greater understanding of themselves and the city.

Caselberg creates characters whose reactions are real enough to lend reality to a potentially hard-to-swallow scenario. He succeeds admirably, creating a story that has a concrete, vertigo-inducing reality, but is shot through with dissonances that dislocate the reader into a pleasantly parallel parable about urban alienation. It's actually quite powerful and more than a little mysterious.

--The Agony Column, March, 2004

“Harvest Rain”

The final story is "Harvest Rain", a thoughtful and intelligent Interzone début by Jay Caselberg (better known as James A. Hartley). It examines the "reality" of strongly-held beliefs and "truths" in the wake of societal breakdown aboard an immense generational starship on a very long voyage. The crew of the ship has long been rigidly stratified into a number of distinct classes, each one providing a vital function for the survival of the ship. However, so long has passed since the journey began that the real reasons for these divisions have been forgotten.

Against this backdrop of ignorance, some members of the class which grows the food rebel against the hardship and unfairness of their lives, and against the "Cloud Walkers" who live a seemingly free life flying in the skies, and who come at intervals to steal the crops and some members of the farming population. In reality they are recruiting new members and distributing the food throughout the huge ship -- another vital function -- but the farmers have forgotten this and see themselves only as victims of attacks and theft. During the violent rebellion the leader of the farmers is kidnapped by the Cloud Walkers, only to return later as one of them and attempt to explain the real truth to one of his former rebel comrades. He unfortunately learns a painful lesson that old ideas and "truths" die very hard.

Overall a very good first story from Caselberg/Hartley, who has come a long way since his days in the writing group (the IMPs) of Compuserve's SF&F Literature Forum (I've been a member of the forum for many years). I look forward to more stories of the same calibre from him in Interzone (and elsewhere) in the future.                                                                   

 --  Tangent Online August, 2003

 

“The Ship”

This issue opens with "The Ship" by Jay Caselberg.  When I met Jay at TTACon 3 in London, during a little discussion about sense of wonder, he said "I don't want to write about that, I want to twist people's minds.

So there we go:  Commander Joshua Abaddon has been in a trip in space, both a long and twisted one.  Let's say he's not returning in one piece.  His talking to an alien; his navigator Alexei has been avoiding him for ages.  But now, his hauler, Demos Queen is coming home, he's longing for his wife and he'd be damned if he knew where his bloody navigator is...

While presented from the very slanted viewpoint of Abaddon, the actual course of events clearly arises from the mental haze and the concluding sentence sharply drives the point home.  A neat little shocker, amply demonstrating the author's intent.

-- The Fix #7 July, 2003

The lead story is "The Ship" by Jay Caselberg, a writer whose star is in ascendance, at the moment. The psychological damage of its protagonist acts as a veil to obscure the adultery and murder which takes place off stage and, as such, the story gives an interesting take on the old theme of space psychosis, though occasionally Caselberg plays his hand too openly.                                                                

 -- SFSite September, 2003

 

 


 


 

 

 

Return Home