Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Jun 07 18:34:11 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #63

%T Cortez on Jupiter
%A Ernest Hogan
%D June 1990
%O paperback, US$3.95
%P 244
%G 0-812-50236-1

No, this isn't really the complete Alfred Bester pastiche the publisher would have you think -- despite the comparison to The Demolished Man on the cover and the illo with it that's designed to resemble the paperback cover from The Deceivers and the invocation of Bester's name in the blurb.

Bester was crazier and more brilliant than Cortez On Jupiter ever gets. Not that this novel is boring or entirely without the wacko nature, but it'd have been better for the author and the reader if the bloody marketing department at TOR had let it stand on its own. I find what they did a rather tasteless abuse of Bester's memory.

Once you get past this, though, the novel is pleasant enough. The protagonist is a Chicano graffiti artist with an attitude, a macho muchacho from the streets of 21st-century LA who spraypaints his way into high orbit and eventually out to an encounter with alien intelligences on Jupiter.

Pablo Cortez bacame an artist after his neo-Aztec parents died of a drug overdose, leaving him only the storyboards for a series of cartoons based on Aztec mythology. He grows into an individualism so complete that it rejects the plastic `counter'-cultures of the 21st century, his art a high-voltage electric mix of 20th-century retro-pop, grafitti, surrealism and the sinister imagery of Aztec myth.

After 15 minutes of fame as the exposed founder of the Guerilla Muralists Pablo and his mad-scientist friend Waldo get kicked upstairs -- to Earth orbit and the Space Culture Project, a group of artists founded to originate new forms of expression for the nascent cultures of zero-G.

Waldo's kinetic robot sculptures (which sound like more benign versions of the Survival Research Labs monster-machines) go over big. Pablo's splatterpainting, a medium he invents for zero-G, doesn't. After a number of dramedic misadventures, he signs up as a test candidate for the Siren Project, the attempt to make contact with the sentience which seems to crackle electrically in Jupiter's atmosphere.

Trouble is, everyone they've sent in so far has died mindless...

Now, you know this isn't going to happen to Pablo and that he'll make contact with the aliens somehow. But the charm in this book (as in the recent and in some ways similar Angel Station, RR#53) isn't the destination but the journey -- the loopy but only somewhat Besteresque rollercoaster Hogan takes us on through symbol, image, Pablo's past and the hyperkinetic internal monologue of his present. Hogan isn't as good at this as Bester was, but by way of consolation he offers a bit less bumpy a ride.

This is a solid first novel. I don't know if Hogan was really trying for a Bester pastiche or not, but there's an undertone of calm and rationality behind his fireworks that I think Bester would have avoided by design (he seemed to prefer surrealism to the point of utter overload). If this isn't actually Hogan's voice, it should be interesting to see what is.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Jun 07 18:34:11 EDT 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>