Tim Powers's Last Call: a mind-altering journey into superstition, Vegas style


29 Responses to “Tim Powers's Last Call: a mind-altering journey into superstition, Vegas style”

  1. Ambiguity says:

    …he certainly tells some pretty awesomely hilarious and terrifying stories about being Dick’s confidante, driver, helper, and rescuer…

    References, Cory, we need references! I’d love to read those if they’re in print.

    I’ve read this book and some of his others. I’ve enjoyed them, but for some reason they don’t stick with me (for example, I really didn’t remember any of the plot, although I know I enjoyed it at the time).

    PKD, on the other hand, sticks with me.

    • Cory Doctorow says:

      Sorry to say that AFAIK Tim has never published his PKD memoirs. But they make for a hell of a dinner conversation.

  2. Rose Fox says:

    The boat doesn’t belong to Ozzie; he uses magic to find Scott and rescue him.

    It is one of my absolute favorite books of all time, the sort I buy copies of just to give them away.

  3. squidfood says:

    I would equally call him a spiritual heir to Lovecraft.  Unlike typical horror writers, Power’s books always give the impression that the madness and death are hidden just out of sight, just in the next shadow, behind everything unseen, never resting, more ancient and indefatigable than anything our puny minds can manage.  “Declare” for example is the first book in a long while that kept me jumpy and up at night for ages after reading.  Just brilliant.  

  4. coryf says:

    Good call Cory!

    Tim Powers has an incredible ability to take the everyday, and give it that little twist.  (He’s similar to Dick in that regard.)  Last Call’s bizarre mix of the supernatural, and natural world is very paranoia inducing, and has stuck with me for years.

  5. nosehat says:

    Good call!  This is my favorite Powers novel too. It’s the kind of book that makes the whole world look a little different and weirder when you’ve finished reading it.

    Maybe a “Spoilers Ahead” early in your review would be a good idea for people who haven’t read it yet.

  6. Tom Jeffery says:

    Love the little jokes, too. Wasn’t his the book where the low-rider gang drove El Camino pickups with the “El C” knocked off, and called themselves the “Amino Acids”?

  7. jlargentaye says:

    Well, now I know where the french comic books Arcane Majeur get their inspiration from. Magic tarot cards, mystical power of gambling, mystical origin for Las Vegas…

  8. Rotwang says:

    Can’t say enough good things about Powers since I read The Anubis Gates and The Stress of Her Regard.

  9. Thomas Haller says:

    I want to recommend his early books, like An Epitaph in Rust, The Drawing of The Dark (who wouldn’t like a book where beer is the hero) and The Anubis Gates. I think Anubis Gates is his best, I get a bit numbed by his later books where “living forever” is the constant goal.

    - Thomas

    • OtherMichael says:

      Yeah, but when “living forever” is powered by taking ice-baths, drinking atomic-fireball-candy-infused-water and being surrounded by electronic toy pigs — it’s hard to resist the mentality that creates it.

    • OgilvyTheAstronomer says:

      Not all of his early books, though – “Forsake the Sky” was pretty bad.

  10. Beth Cravens says:

    I’ve never looked at a card game the same.

  11. OtherMichael says:

    I avoided Tim Powers for years, on the erroneous assumption that he wrote military-SF (my mis-firing brain somehow connected his “The Anubis Gates” to the Bladerunner reference “c-beams glittering in the dark at the Tannhauser gate” and created military-SF out of it. WTF?).

    About 5 years ago I found “Last Call” in a discount-store trade-PB pile for $2, and took it home, loved it, and loaned to a friend who promptly lost it in a move.

    But I’ve now got a whole bunch of other Powers books — including the marvelous and decidely-non-military-SF Anubis Gates. I wish I had found them sooner.

    • OgilvyTheAstronomer says:

      You’re in for such a treat…

    • Steve Taylor says:

       Similarly I spent years avoiding Gene Wolfe’s _The Book of the New Sun_ because titles like _The Shadow of the Torturer_ sounded like so cheesy.

      And then when I finally read them… such treasures.

  12. OgilvyTheAstronomer says:

    Great call, Cory. The whole Fisher King trilogy is terrific, and now I have to read them again. …Except that the Illuminatus! trilogy is also in the queue. Decisions decisions.

  13. Steve Taylor says:

    Just sticking my head up to nominate ‘Declare’ as my favorite Tim Powers book – a cold war spy novel in the mode of Le Carre, but with all the usual Tim Powers obsessions. It’s just wonderful.

  14. moonglum says:

    I loved this book, though perhaps I liked it so much because I read it while I was taking a probability course. I liked Anubis Gates, better, ultimately, but this one was dang good.

  15. Victor Allen says:

    Don’t forget that the real On Stranger Tides was one of Powers’ books as well. I’m definitely going to have to backtrack through the collection again…

  16. Doug Black says:

    No love for Powers’  only hard SF novel afaik, Dinner at Deviant’s Palace?  I read it before any of his others and liked it quite a bit — certainly more than Forsake the Sky. I’m a huge fan of all of Tim’s work; as with Jack Vance, I reread something of his every few years.

  17. lwoodbloo says:

    What I love about Last Call is that there are rules, but you don’t get told them immediately. It’s secret history, that sense of figuring things out or having them figured out for you as you go along. You aren’t omniscient as the reader. 

  18. Joe in Australia says:

    A great recommendation! The book gets inside your head in some ways – I found myself mentally agreeing with the “explanation” given for Christmas trees being grown in reservations under high-tension power lines. Of course they are! It’s hydroelectric power! And the trees are meant to be … cut … down … wait a minute.

  19. vattenpipa says:

    I’ve been hooked on Powers since I read “The Anubis Gates” as a teen. Recently reread that as well, and was surprised at how well it had aged.

  20. Abelard Lindsay says:

    Anyone around here know where I can get some L.A. Cigar?

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