Staff Book Reviewer Jessica Maybury is a recent graduate of the MA in Writing programme from NUI, Galway, Ireland. Her work has appeared in Nth Word, Word Riot and Prick of the Spindle, among other places. Her Web site is jmaybury.blogspot.com.
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Wilson’s reputation preceded him when it came to Codename Prague. I had heard of him before, but can’t remember what it was in connection to. His name, however, is fairly well known in science fiction circles—not that I’m a part of any of them, sadly—but this was my introduction to his work.
Published by Raw Dog Screaming Pres, Codename Prague is the second volume in his Scikungfi Trilogy. At 195 pages you can fly through it, perhaps in one sitting, but this is inadvisable. It would feel like sitting on the scariest rollercoaster that you can imagine, for hours on end.
The novel blasts you like the glass that was sandblasted in my old house. It grates against you, sloughing off all your lazy thoughts and unrealised dreams. It wills you to live. It fills you full of something like the joy people vaguely remember to have experienced at least once as a child.
I have two observations to make.
Number One: I can’t stress how off the wall it is. Not only this, but it flings the reader into the world of cyberpunk, more of which is definitely worth checking out. My favourite thing about it would have to be the way everyone in the novel has substituted the blood in their veins for something else. Insects, diamonds, victory gin. Example:
Before Prague could respond, she nibbled her lip and said, “I have lava in my veins.”
“Bullshit,” said Prague.
She slit her wrist. Steaming orange lava flowed out, dripped onto the floor and burned a hole in it. The wound cauterised and scabbed over.
Number Two: I get that the whole thing is meant to be daring and new and frantic. It’s probably supposed to comment on the fragmented and alienating nature of modern urban life. However, it’s setpiece after setpiece of frantic scikungfi action. It reads like the script of an action movie, and that’s probably bang on the money of what Harlan wanted it to be. After 195 pages of being thrown from one crazy situation to the next, the book seems like it’s far too long. What first I found to be exciting and exhilarating became exhausting and tedious; much like being, to return to a previous analogy, on a rollercoaster for hours on end. Read Codename Prague for its interesting ideological viewpoint, for its form and its style, its spectacle. If you’re looking for anything else, anything deeper, I’m afraid you’ll have to go somewhere else.
Official D. Harlan Wilson Web Site
Official Raw Dog Screaming Press Web Site