All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault: supers and the undead battle for the world's soul
It's been more than a decade since Canadian science fiction writer James Alan Gardner last published a novel; I've been reading and enjoying Gardner's work since I was a teenager, and my vote was one of those that counted towards his Aurora Award for the magnificent story "Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large." Now, after far too long, Gardner has come roaring back with a novel that mashes up hard sf, superheroes, and urban fantasy in a comedic combination that defies description (though I'm going to try to describe it): All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault.
In 1982, quite without warning, the world discovered that the undead were real, and that being one of them was actually pretty great: immortality, super-strength, psychic powers, and the ability to reduce those around you to quivering, obedient Renfields are all good reasons to want to join the Dark. Which is why The Dark becomes a status marker for the richest of the rich -- who become not just wealthy, but immortal and supernatural.
But the Dark isn't alone in our world: they're held in check by Sparks, superheroes who arrive nearly simultaneously with the Darklings, capable of amazing feats grounded in science (or, at least, plausible pseudoscience), possessing powers to rival the Darklings' own. But it's not as simple as Dark vs Light: some Sparks work for the establishment and law and order; so do some Darklings (after all, they are the establishment). And some Sparks are driven mad by their powers and work towards the destruction of the world -- or reality itself -- and some Darklings are on the side of chaos, contemptuous of the agreements that hold them back from seizing absolute control over the world.
Enter Gardner's narrator, Kim is a nonbinary engineering student at the University of Waterloo who had her heart broken by the scion of a Darkling family whose romantic entanglements were ended the day he became undead. Kim and her housemates are helping a friend rescue some discarded lab equipment from a dumpster on the eve of a full lunar eclipse when they happen on a sinister group of Darklings entering a mysterious lab. After a terrifying explosion, they find themselves transformed into some rather super Sparks, and, in a series of fast-moving and darkly hilarious sequences, they find themselves sewing super costumes, thinking up secret aliases, and generally becoming the defenders of Waterloo from an unholy alliance of rogue Darklings and evil mad science.
Gardner mixes serious physics speculation with snappy dialog, madcap action and real suspense to spin a tale that has all the explosions you could ask for (hence the title) and more than its share of suspense and laughs. A book worth waiting a decade for, indeed.
All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault [James Alan Gardner/Tor Books]
I'm in the midst of couple of weeks' worth of lectures, public events and teaching, and you can catch me in Toronto (for Word on the Street, Seeding Utopias and Resisting Dystopias and 6 Degrees); Newry, ME (Maine Library Association) and Portland, ME (in conversation with James Patrick Kelly).
Octavia Butler (previously), the brilliant Afrofuturist, McArthur Genius Grant-winning science fiction writer, died far, far too soon, leaving behind a corpus of incredible, voraciously readable novels, and a community of writers who were inspired by her example.
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