Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"The Stringer"

Jeff Somers is the author of the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Stringer, the latest story in The Ustari Cycle, and reported the following:
Excepting a sentence fragment from page 68, here’s what’s on page 69 of The Stringer:
Outside, police and ambulances raced by every little while, filling the air with strident panic. I found myself waiting, trapped inside my own body, for the lights to flicker and fail. That would be the next step, the power going off.

An intelligence like Lugal wasn’t well versed in acting appropriately in social situations, so it had me sitting very still, staring straight ahead. The Brokers buzzed and whispered, both about me and about the disasters that were spilling out of the TV set. I was crushed into a tiny corner of my own consciousness, paralyzed and mute, and panic kept nipping at my heels.

I realized with a start that my body was taking deep breaths. I was hyperventilating.

In the mirror across from my body, I looked calm and steady. Creepily steady. I thought about the complexity of running a living human body like a puppet—a living body with a resident consciousness, namely me. The instruction set had to be huge. As opposed to Balazul and the corpse of Mr. Landry, which just required inhabiting an empty vessel, Lugal had to deal with a nervous system if it wanted to appear alive, if it wanted to pass all the smell tests. Lugal wasn’t sending me on a murder spree, like Balazul had Landry doing. It was trying to use me as a Trojan horse. Get some Bleeders, then pick my brain and force me to cast something ugly, contribute to the attack, undermine the world.
I think it’s actually a great random page to land on: Anyone reading this will understand pretty quickly that the narrator is being controlled, that it’s part of a larger plan, and even glean a hint as to the purpose of his possession. In just four short paragraphs, you get a sense of what the story deals with, which I think serves the story pretty well.

At the same time, there’s enough weirdness here that you won’t mistake it for a police thriller or some other kind of book. I’ve always thought The Ustari Cycle sits uneasily between a bunch of genres (which has made marketing difficult). It’s Urban Fantasy in a sense, but it’s also Horror, with a twist of Detective Fiction thrown in. The central relationship reflects Of Mice and Men, which complicates things further. The references to insane stuff on page 69 at least guarantees that no one will mistake The Stringer for some other kind of story.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Somers's website.

My Book, The Movie: Chum.

The Page 69 Test: Chum.

The Page 69 Test: We Are Not Good People.

My Book, The Movie: We Are Not Good People.

My Book, The Movie: The Stringer.

--Marshal Zeringue