Brian Conn’s The Fixed Stars

Jeff VanderMeer • September 1st, 2010 @ 12:47 pm • Book Reviews

I just participated in a MindMeld where I didn’t take the assignment about new movements that seriously, except in the entry entitled “Next Wave”. However, another bit, while played for humor, also had a serious component:

Connpunk: Stealthvirus Brian Conn will rewire all of our brains by 2015 and connect them to the Mother Spider that we may power the engines of his narrative monsters. No book not written by Conn will exist by 2020. All hail Conn. (Damn you, Conn.)

Although a joke, I was also referring to Conn’s excellent debut novel, The Fixed Stars, which came out earlier this year to much less fanfare than it deserved. Here’s the description:

Juxtaposing barbarity and whimsy, Brian Conn’s “The Fixed Stars” is a novel that has the tenor of a contemporary fable with nearly the same dreamlike logic. At the novel’s heart are the John’s Day celebration and the interactions of a small community dealing with a mystery disease. Routinely citizens are quarantined and then reintegrated into society in rituals marked by a haunting brutality. The infected and the healthy alike are quarantined. In a culture that has retreated from urbanism into a more pastoral society, the woman who nurtures spiders and the man who spins hemp exist alongside the mass acceptance of sexual promiscuity. Conn delivers a compelling portrait of a calamitous era, one tormented by pestilence, disease, violence, and post – late capitalism. An unflinching look at a world impossible to situate in time, “The Fixed Stars” is mythic and darkly magical.

It’s one of the most original novels I’ve read of late, and it deserves more attention.

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