(Four Walls Eight Windows, $15.95, 492 pages, trade paperback; published in May 2004.)
Neutrino Drag is a collection of comedicscience fiction culled from Paul Di Filippo's first twenty years as a professional writer.
The collection's 21 stories are arranged in chronological order. Readers are thus given a chance to see him grow as a writer, becoming increasingly confident, his ideas taking more daring turns.
Occasionally, Di Filippo doesn't go quite far enough in working out the consequences of his concepts. A number of the endings aren't quite worthy of the author's otherwise clever ideas, energetic storytelling, and outrageous characters.
However, there are several gems here, and three stories stand out as particularly excellent.
In "Stink Lines", an inventor causes reality to take on -- at first comically, and then increasingly disturbingly -- the characteristics of comics: thought balloons, sound effects, stink lines, and the rest of comics' visual grammar become tangible and respond to people's emotional and physical states. It's a classic screwball comedy with a just enough of a dark edge and postmodern twist to make it work on several levels. "Stink Lines" is a textbook example of flawless construction. And it's wickedly funny.
"Weeping Walls" -- a merciless social satire attacking the sacred cow of public grief -- features the most vivid characters in the collection. They're mean, egotistical, arrogantly stupid, completely unredeemable, and/or smugly imbued with a sense of their own righteousness. This is a daring piece, with the humour dark and stark.
The title story, "Neutrino Drag", is a wildly imagined tale set in the 1950s involving hot-rod racing and an extraterrestrial obsessed with the primal excitement of that lifestyle. The story goes off in all kinds of zany directions, and the dialogue is priceless.
This collection showcases the lighter side of Paul Di Filippo. The result is generally fun, with some memorable moments of brilliant wit and storytelling.
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© Claude Lalumière 7 August 2004, 16 January 2005