Book #5

Other Americas
by Norman Spinrad, 1988

A few months back I read Spinrad’s infamous Hitler novel, “The Iron Dream” (that is, a sci-fi novel “written” by an alternate universe’s Adolf Hitler), enjoyed it greatly, and decided to seek out the rest of his stuff. This collection of four short stories was the first thing I finished, and I must say I’m not impressed. The stories …

– “Street Meat” is a 38-pager about a future New York where the rich have walled themselves off and the armies of the homeless own the streets and kill rats for food. A very 80s concept ruined by a mangy dialect Spinrad gives the homeless characters – sort of a cross between Nadsat and jive. Example: “I’m the plushie tushie, primed for prole place plunder. Slumming for sleazo sex, son, see the scene?” You see? It doesn’t work.

– “The Lost Continent,” 48 pages, is the best story here. In the late 22nd century, the United States is a dessicated husk of a country, brought low a century earlier by war and pollution, and Africa is the center of the World. Narration swings between an American tour guide and one of his African clients as they get a tour of the historic New York tri-state area. The scenes inn which they explore the subways where thousands of New Yorkers took their generators and vending machines at the end of the last crisis are harrowing. In a few generations, deprived of sunlight, breathing recirculated air and eating rotten food, the subway people have devolved into short, retarded subhumans. Definitely one of the most 70s stories you’ll ever read.

– “World War Last,” 73 pages, is a super-broad satire wherein the two aging empires of America and the USSR are brought low by an Arab Sheik with nukes. Sort of funny, but “Dr. Strangelove” did it better.

– “La Vie Continue,” 92 pages, is definitely the craziest thing here. A future version of Norman Spinrad makes his living in France, having been exiled by the fascistic American government years before. He cuts a deal with the KGB to fund an underground newspaper, then another deal to adapt one of his novels into an American movie with a Russian rock idol as the star. It’s all quite insane.

I’m still enamored with Spinrad’s prose style – sort of a pulpy, Hollywood version of Philip K. Dick crossed with Elmore Leonard – but I hope his other efforts have stronger plots.

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