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Two books by Neal Barrett, jr

A few weeks back I confessed my ignorance of Neal Barrett, jr, who has been named this year's Author Emeritus by the SFWA. I'm generally prepared to expand my horizons, so ordered a couple of his books from Bookmooch and read them in transit this weekend. I have to say that my ignorance has been replaced by some puzzlement; I did not think that either of these was a particularly good book. I hope that his other work has demonstrated the excellence that SFWA has chosen to honour, but there is little sign of it from what I've read.

April Books 23) Stress Pattern

A story of a bloke who crashes on an alien planet where strange creatures live, some of them formed by his own thoughts and desires. (Solaris meets "A Martian Odyssey" only nothing like as good.) His fantasy woman is created for him and it doesn't work out. Only 160 pages, thank God.

April Books 24) Judge Dredd (the book-of-the-film)

I've never more than skimmed 2000 AD but was aware of the basic set-up of Dredd's world; I have not seen the 1996 movie starring Silvester Stallone. Difficult to, er, judge what Barrett's input to the final product is (he did not write the screenplay) but I felt that I missed the broad sweep of scene-setting which is necessary in a novelisation of this kind; no real sense of landscape or background. There are some nice inserts from a future historian commenting on the story as past history, including one (perhaps despairing?) piece near the end complaining that it is all made up. Barrett also wrote the novelisations for the Dungeons and Dragons movie and Barb Wire, but I will not rush to acquire either.

There must surely be numerous other authors of similar prominence and age to Barrett who would qualify as Authors Emeriti (or Emeritæ). Maybe I was just unlucky; I will concede that a book's availability from Bookmooch may not be a good indicator of quality.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 25th, 2010 01:41 pm (UTC)
My husband, who's a big Barrett fan, says this about the Judge Dredd novelisation: "You can polish shit as much as you want, but it's still shit."

Barrett writes mystery and SF; for SF, Adam highly recommends "The Hereafter Gang" and "The Prophecy Machine". For mystery, "Dead Dog Blues".
May. 2nd, 2010 06:52 pm (UTC)
Barrett seems to have effectively two careers. In the 60s and 70s he wrote pulpish short novels like Stress Pattern, often half of doubles. I liked Stress Pattern myself, it had a surrealism and playfulness.
In the 80s he reappeared with a string of excellent short stories in F&SF and some hard to classify novels of a strong Texan character. The Hereafter Gang is the best of these, and well worth reading.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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