He Walked Among Us

April 27th, 2010 | microlog, people I know, researchmaterial

It somehow escaped my notice that old acquaintance Norman Spinrad finally saw his novel HE WALKED AMONG US published recently, by Tor. Norman’s seminal BUG JACK BARRON was an obvious touchstone for my TRANSMETROPOLITAN. I had the great pleasure of reading HE WALKED AMONG US in manuscript form many years ago. (And, as perks of the job go, the author of BUG JACK BARRON asking you if you’d like to read the ms of his new novel is pretty good.)

What I said about it back then was:

"Norman Spinrad is one of the most extraordinary writers alive, and HE WALKED AMONG US is testament: mad, razored, darkly funny and perfectly evil."

And I’m sticking to that.

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When hack agent Jimmy “Tex” Balaban discovers Ralf on a Borscht Belt stage, his act appears to be a clever joke. Ralf claims to be from the future, shouting foul-mouthed prophecies of where we went wrong. And he delivers a harrowing message.

The world is in chaos. Our biosphere has been devastated, our air is unbreathable and the final stalwarts of mankind have taken refuge in pressurized shopping malls. Humanity clings to the last mediocre vestiges of life on a dead planet that we did not know how to save. But it might not be too late. Has Ralf returned to the past to awaken our consciences? Is he who he says he is or is he insane? And if we have one last chance to save the world, does any of this matter?

Then Dexter D. Lampkin, a fading science fiction writer, and Amanda Robin, a New Age guru-wannabe, magnificently transform Ralf into what the world really needs: a messenger sent from the future to save us from ourselves. Together with Tex they polish Ralf’s television persona to captivate America. The problem is that Ralf never goes out of character. He truly believes he is a prophet.

It’s lost none of its venom, its targets are still ripe for poisoning — if anything, the book has become more relevant since its completion. And if you’re not convinced? Read it for free!

Amazon.com: purchase page with a preview. The Publishers Weekly review quoted therein is retarded.

Amazon.co.uk: there are six copies going cheap right now.

Amazon.ca: have some left.

Or, if you’re in America and would like to support an indie, Mysterious Galaxy very kindly hosted a signing for me once, so I know they’re nice people, and they have copies too.

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I got email from Norman a little while back, telling me that he has cancer. But also that, since the chemo started, he feels better than he has in years, and is even physically stronger. That’s Norman all over, really, and no less than you’d expect from the man who once wrote a story called "Carcinoma Angels."


8 Responses to “He Walked Among Us”

  1. God, I remember you turning me onto BUG JACK BARRON all those years ago when you were still writing on SMOKE DAMAGE. I emailed Norman after finishing it and he sent me a wonderfully heartfelt reply that led to a correspondence between the two of us, just the thing that my 17 yr old self needed at that time.
    I haven’t thought about him for quite a while. Glad he’s feeling better than ever and hope he holds on.

  2. I hate baseball but there’s a scene in “A THING OF BEAUTY” where it makes you want to love the sport … great short story.

  3. Little Heroes was always my favorite work of his. It was one of the books that made me want to be a writer. My hardcover copy of Little Heroes came from the library of author Ray Garton, another great author. With everyone plugged into their iPods and their iPhones and iPads all day, it always reminds me of the virtual world of Little Heroes.

  4. “finally” implies he had difficulty getting it published? That sucks.

  5. The Carcinoma Angels references in TransMet made me laugh like a drain (and added a bit of depth to Spider’s occasional solipsistic trances), so thanks for pointing out this one from NS.

  6. Reading BUG JACK BARRON was a formative experience. His stuff is still so timely and relevant.

  7. My favorite Norman Spinrad book is “Riding the Torch” which I recommend to anyone who’ll listen. http://www.scribd.com/doc/326098/OSAMA-THE-GUNnovel-portion- Go read his Osama the Gun, comment, do something so the damn thing can finally be published.

  8. Hehe – “Shouting foul-mouthed prophecies of where we went wrong”…sounds oddly familiar :)