Friday, November 13, 2009

Review: Farewell Atlantis, by Jackson Curtis

Today marks the debut of Jackson Curtis' first science fiction novel, Farewell Atlantis. Curtis has formerly distinguished himself as an above-the-fold writer for the LA Times, Harper's and Esquire, and there has been no question that his career was headed in this direction. The novel isn't to be confused with Terry Bisson's new short story of the same name in the upcoming Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. Given the literary buzz around Curtis' new novel, it appears to be nothing more than an attempt by Bisson to capitalize on the confusion.

Farewell Atlantis begins with an accident in low-Earth orbit — or is it? The space shuttle Atlantis has been sent into space to study the effects of the gravitational influence of the Great Alignment on the Earth and our solar system. The shuttle is making amazing discoveries regarding the affects of the solar storms on the Earth's magnetic field, but they are unable to communicate with Earth: radio is being jammed, equipment has been sabotaged, and it appears there's a traitor on the shuttle's crew.

The book packs a lot of exposition into its first chapter (Google Books version): Curtis' background in short-form magazine writing betrays his stronger abilities. Just listen to how we meet the recently deceased astronaut:
Commander Martin H. Intersoll — 48-years-old, father of three girls ages 16, 14, and 9, fly fisherman, amateur watercolorist, enthusiastic home brewer of beer, PhD. in astrophysics from the University of Wisconsin, and devoted husband to Sally Weaver-Ingersoll — was about to suffer one of the worst deaths imaginable.
Rule Number One, Jackson: show, don't tell. Already filling an ambitious 2,732 pages (although I have an advance reader; indications are that when it goes to press it will be heavily edited), Farewell Atlantis is quite an undertaking to any reader, but it couldn't have hurt to add a bit more background in the beginning, some vignettes which debut each character in greater detail through creative staging of their Earth-bound lives. Curtis liberally made use of flashbacks throughout the tome, going so far as to flashback one character into the transdimensional dreams of another character's imagination, which makes it surprising that he failed to use them for more backstory in-fill.

Criticizing the first chapter over the clumsiness of a first-time novelist is a disservice to the rest of the book. Over nine hundred of the pages are devoted to ancient wisdom and lost forms of cosmic spirituality, most described in their original languages, which makes the book at once frustrating and awe-inspiring. As the book proceeds into apocalyptic satire of man's political environment and the scope of the conflict of id and superego, the book reaches a singularity of postmodern expressionism couched in a wrapper of absurdist picaresque, alienating and beckoning forth the philosophical ends of mankind's worldly panorama. This is the kind of life-changing book, like Catcher in the Rye, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, or Donald Kaufman's The Three — it's not the end of the world if you miss it, but waiting until the paperback comes out in 2013 might mean you'll miss out.

Farewell Atlantis, by Jackson Curtis
ISBN 978-0-13-135074-9
2,732 pages, 6.14" x 9.21" hardcover
$18.99 cover price, published 2009
Hudson Cameron Press

(Today is the first day you can go see Roland Emmerich's explodurbation film 2012. What you might not know is that the Everyman in the film, played by John Cusack, is science fiction author Jackson Curtis, and this is that character's in-story novel. As with a lot of other big-name, fan-driven scifi media these days, 2012 comes with an ARG, and part of that ARG is the website of Curtis' new novel, Farewell Atlantis. I am not part of the the 2012 ARG, I just like imaginary books. Via.)

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Anonymous Kyra said...

Wasn't crazy about the film, which I find disappointing because the trailer for it looked really good. I guess I'm just not really into movies about the annihilation of mankind.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Aditi said...

Hi! Can you tell me if this book "Farewell Atlantis by Jackson Curtis" is a real book? And where & how can I buy it?

2:48 PM  

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