Tuesday, December 13, 2011

100 Books 75 - Phil Rossi's EDEN

I have been looking forward to this one for a long, long time. Even though I knew how it ended, even though 'most every word was going to be familiar. I wanted simply to read this story and not be distracted by all of the bells and whistles (very distracting and sexy and haunting bells and whistles) that accompanied its podcast version. Said podcast version being my favorite, possibly ever.

So how does the story stand up on its own?*


Eden is the name the men and women working for a corporate exploiter of outer space and its resources have given to an anomaly found more or less orbiting the planet Uranus. Said anomaly being a giant (seriously giant, as in getting compared to legendary world ash tree Yggdrasl giant) tree, hanging out on its own in space, lush green leaves and all. Self-generated atmosphere and all. Undeniably compelling pull on the scientists examining it and all.

Sounds nice, doesn't it, off the wall and possibly lyrical? Which it is. But this is Phil Rossi, absolutely the H.P. Lovecraft of outer space, and things are gonna get creepy, even as they get ever more ravishing. Beauty is terror, and terror can be beautiful, sez Phil, and goes on to prove it in gorgeously descriptive, note-perfect prose.**

All of this is conveyed to us by a marvelously flawed protagonist, out to explore the tree with questionable motives, seemingly incapable of following his moral compass, curious, overwhelmed but still trying, in his fumbling but stylish way, to do what he's out there to do even as he lands right in the middle of a crappy, pre-fabricated space station in crisis. His sense of wonder and his guilt don't drive the story -- the events that unfold upon his arrival feel too inevitable -- but they suck the reader/listener in and make her feel like, or wish, she was there, even though she knows things aren't going to end well.

I already knew I was going to love it, of course.

*Not that it's ever truly on its own. I defy anyone who has ever listened to a Phil Rossi fiction podcast not to hear his growling drawl in his or her head while reading his prose. I'm pretty sure it's not possible. But I could be biased that way.

**Rossi's Lovecraftiness does not extend to his precursor's tendency to purple prose. He is Lovecraftian because he presents us with vast, impersonal, unknowable cosmic horror, dwelling in that space (ha ha!) in which incomprehension shades into madness, not because he emulates the overheated pre-modern prose style. To which I say: hooray!

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