Wednesday, March 22, 2023

"Antimatter Blues"

Edward Ashton is the author of the novels Mickey7 (now a motion picture directed by Bong Joon-ho and starring Robert Pattinson), Three Days in April, and The End of Ordinary. His short fiction has appeared in venues ranging from the newsletter of an Italian sausage company to Escape Pod, Analog, and Fireside Fiction. He lives in upstate New York in a cabin in the woods (not that Cabin in the Woods) with his wife, a variable number of daughters, and an adorably mopey dog named Max, where he writes—mostly fiction, occasionally fact—under the watchful eyes of a giant woodpecker and a rotating cast of barred owls. In his free time, he enjoys cancer research, teaching quantum physics to sullen graduate students, and whittling.

Ashton applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Antimatter Blues, and reported the following:
From page 69:
With a mental shrug, I shove the red lead into the top slot, and the green lead into the other. What’s the worst that could happen?

I could fry my brain. That’s the worst, I guess.

I take a seat.

“Okay,” I say. “Strap me in.”

Her face has taken on a look of concern, bordering on alarm.

“You sure about this, babe? This is starting to look an awful lot like an execution.”

I force a grin. “I’m sure. This is all routine, Nasha. Let’s do it.”

So, she does. First ankles, then wrists, then forehead, closing the buckle around the front of the helmet.

“You good?”

I give the straps a tug.

“Yeah,” I say. “I’m good.”

She leans down to kiss me.

“Love you,” she whispers.

“Yeah,” I say. “I know.”

She straightens then, and pulls the thumb from her pocket.

“Ready to see if this thing works?”

I close my eyes.

“Hit me.”
I’m honestly not sure what a reader would make of this book if this page were all they had to go by. I guess you’ve got a narrator doing something stupid, bordering on suicidal. Yeah, that tracks. You’ve got his girlfriend reluctantly helping him do it. That’s pretty on-brand for this book too. For some reason, she’s got somebody’s thumb in her pocket? Okay, that’s where you maybe start to lose me without a bit more context. Is this some kind of serial killer love story? A tale of extreme BDSM? Or is it just set in a future where thumbs are abundant and available to everyone? Who knows? This might be a good time to check the dust jacket and see what, exactly, you’re getting yourself into.

Antimatter Blues is the sequel to Mickey7. It follows directly on from the earlier book, and it carries through a lot of the same elements that made that book what it is. It’s an adventure, first and foremost, but it’s a thinky sort of adventure, the kind where you learn fun science facts or bits of philosophy in the middle of desperate pitched battles. It has a light tone that belies some of its heavier themes, and it has a through-line of two people who would each do literally anything for the other. Do you get that from page 69? Yeah, maybe a hint, at least. If I were picking one page to sell the book to a reader, I’m not sure this would be it, exactly. As far as passages involving stolen thumbs go, though, I suppose you could probably do worse.
Visit Edward Ashton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mickey7.

Q&A with Edward Ashton.

--Marshal Zeringue