Thursday, February 6, 2014

Adam Christopher's HANG WIRE

My friend Adam Christopher is a bit of a circus performer himself, of the plate-spinning variety, and loves to see just how many he can keep going (answer: a lot, an he doesn't care if the plates he's grabbed to spin having matching patterns), so it was just a matter of time before he took on a creepy circus motif for a novel. And so while he eschewed the Scary Clown plate (for which I'm grateful), most of the other plates from the Creepy Circus collection are up there and spinning for Hang Wire.

But lots of other plates from other collections are up, too. Quite a lot from the Murder Mystery collection, one or two from the Disaster Porn collection, and of course, since this is Adam Christopher, a bunch from the Godpunk/Superhero collection -- but since Adam is also a guy who likes things that look nice, he didn't use any cracked and chipped Graeco-Roman or Norse ones, but grabbed a bunch of lesser-used Hawaiian and Korean and Chinese god-plates for his act.

If the combination sounds like a bit of a hot mess, well, maybe it is, sort of, but the key is that this is a plate spinning act, which isn't really about the patterns on the plates at all, is it? You might occasionally glimpse the image of a Tiki or a Police Line Do Not Cross or a Scary Dance Troupe as those plates whirl about, but if you do you're maybe missing the point of the act.

So Hang Wire is a murder mystery, and a first rate one in that the reader is kept guessing nearly to the end which of the bewildering array of characters is the killer; and its a sinister quest tale, in which a genuinely frightening figure with an unnatural life span trips through history reassembling his great Machine of Doom (which was originally created as a set of sinister carnival rides) that was taken apart and scattered after it started working a bit too well and put the circus it was originally part of out of business;  and it's a superhero/god story in which a few leftover deities from a few different pantheons team up to try to save the world, or at least San Francisco. And it all works.

Some bits work better than others, of course. The sinister quest story, in which one Joel Duvall visits all of Christopher's favorite weird moments in American history and manages to make them even weirder, is fantastically chilling, Joel a deeply creepy character who has moments of pure and brilliant evil. His story is Ted Sturgeon's The Dreaming Jewels as written by the Stephen King who brought us "The Mangler." I demand that Clancy Brown play Joel in the film adaptation someday.

And speaking of casting dreams and whatnot, Bob.

Hey, hi, how are you. Wanna foxtrot?

Bob first turns up in the novel's harrowing prologue during the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, shirtless and barefoot in a pair of blue jeans, saving people on the sly with his supernatural powers. When he's not subtly intervening in natural disasters, he's a fixture at the city's Aquatic Park, where he lives, still shirtless and barefoot in blue jeans, in a tiny hut and gives ballroom dance lessons on the sand to all and sundry. An enjoyably enigmatic and laid-back figure is Bob. As with Joel, I would happily read a whole novel just about him. But one mustn't get distracted trying to get a good look at the design on a spinning plate...

So yes, Christopher keeps all his plates spinning through his whole act, and ends without breaking a one. It's quite a feat. And it's a lot of fun to watch.

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