This atmospheric, occasionally lyrical, sci-fi is formatted around Boccacio’s 14th century novel about seven character sharing stories as they shelter from the plague, The Decameron. The seven narrators must travel to the planet of Hyperion on the eve of interplanetary war to face the Shrike. Each traveler has a distinct voice and style: transcendent, violent, poetic, sad, mysterious, and romantic. With complex and layered world building, Simmons discreetly weaves together a civilizational epic of our ecological and philosophical decline through compelling personal stories.
In this cerebral biography of Le Philosophe, Denis Diderot, Andrew S. Curran deftly captures the intellectual climate of the Ancien Regime and brings the encyclopaedist’s humor, intelligence and creativity to life. Curran argues Diderot was the pre-modern postmodernist par excellence, tackling issues of truth, subjectivity, sexuality, atheism, slavery, democracy and even hyperlinking. As Diderot was ever oriented towards posterity, one cannot but help wonder what he would think of his portrayal as carefree genius with a penchant for philandering, pondering and postulating. Organized thematically, Curran’s book has a certain logic even if it lacks a certain beauty, not entirely unlike an encyclopedia.
If you are going to write a biography of the journalist Hunter S. Thompson, the one thing you should never be is capital O Objective. To be Objective--a word Thompson loathed-- would be to have missed the point of your subject and Timothy Denevi has certainly not missed the point. By adopting (or imitating) Thompson’s gonzo style in Freak Kingdom (PublicAffairs, $28), Denevi creates a necessarily fast-paced narrative of the most significant decade of Thompson’s life (1964-1974). He also succeeds in drawing a revisionist portrait of Thompson that never quite dispels the drug-addled caricature one finds in Doonesbury’s Uncle Duke, nor should it. Denevi resuscitates an important and unfortunately overlooked aspect of Thompson’s political thought: his true commitment to lowercase r republican virtues and ultimately to the Dream of America, rather than the American Dream. This Thompson, who Denevi strives to portray as an opponent to the Ever Present Specter of Fascism: American Style, appears more as a nuanced and thoughtful figure whose idiosyncrasies are not simply those of a drug-addled freak, but of a different sort of patriot. Denevi’s Thompson is a patriot loyal to America’s highest aspirations, democracy, multiculturalism, and equality, while antagonistic to its Lowest Common Discriminators, namely, Richard Milhous Nixon.