Alexandru Constantin recently put up two posts I'd like to tie together. The first was a review of "Neon Harvest" by Jon Mollison.
Neon Harvest does something different, something cool. It’s not a true sci-fi nor a true cyberpunk. Jon takes the technological baseline of the early 80’s and stagnates it. It’s a pre-digital cyber-thriller. The heroes still use pay-phones, newspapers are still on paper, and cash is still used. Yet, colony ships take off, planets are terraformed, and the internet used to exist. I don’t want to spoil anything, because the whole concept is really cool.
The second is the observation that in the end, style matters. Much like the Rush lyrics - choosing a deliberate, no-frills method of exposition and dialogue is still choosing a style. More importantly, the choice of words tell us a lot about the world, how the author sees it, and how the main characters see it. They tell us what we should focus on, and what isn't important. They fill up our senses - not just the visual. They carry baggage, moral and otherwise.
On that second post, I stupidly noted that he should have included Gene Wolfe, utterly overlooking the fact that he'd passed on not too long ago and can no longer be counted among the living masters of style. Nevertheless, take the following:
Thrax is a crooked dagger entering the heart of the mountains.
Immediately, you get the sense of the shape of the city, and that it rests in a winding valley at the transition between the foothills and steep ranges.
Take the following:
One hell of a description of a firearm, as a single mother ("miss") with six children that were prone to cause chaos and confusion. You know the light is reflecting off of the metal, whether the brass casing or jacketed bullet. The fact it's a revolver is reinforced - he spins the clinder - and the description of closing it up is pure poetry.
I've plugged Jon's books before. Leaving aside excellent work he's done as a reader for several Castalia audiobooks, I truly enjoyed A Moon Full of Stars, and Barbarian Emperor. Even then, the sense of style shone through - the title of the former alone evokes a far future where there are cities on the moon big enough to be seen as spots of light on the shadowed side.
If you want something that steals the best of noir, cyberpunk, and other genres without descending into hopelessness, written with verve and flair, give Neon Harvest a shot.
It lives up to the awesome cover.