From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Grey by Jon Armstrong, Antediluvian Tales by Poppy Z. Brite

Grey by Jon Armstrong
Nightshade Books (239pp) $14.95

In Jon Armstrong’s debut novel we meet Michael Rivers, a nineteen year-old heir to the RiversGroup fortune, who is out on a scripted and broadcasted date with his fiancée, Nora, from the up and coming MKG Corporation. Their engagement is arranged, but the match ends up being made in heaven, as Michael has found his soul mate in Nora. Michael comes from a world of wild parties, blasting music, dancing heroes and a kaleidoscope of flashy clothes and hair—a world where you are classified based on the fashion magazine that you subscribe to–but has turned his back on all of that to become committed to the grey. When he meets Nora and discovers that she, too, has had one of her eyes surgically altered to see the world only in black and white, he knows she is the one and their impending marriage will combine the forces of two major corporations that help rule the new world order on the Loop. But after a threat to Michaels’ life that is eerily like an event in Romeo and Juliet, the merger is off and their families conspire to keep them apart. The novel is written from Michael’s point of view and he waxes poetically and dramatically about his love for Nora as he quotes from ads in his favorite magazine Pure H. He embarks on a quest to find Nora and along the way discovers the truth behind the Corporate Families and his designated role in the future. Fast-paced action, flamboyant characters and teen-angst make this an enjoyable read. However, after a while, the descriptions of all the flashing colors and nifty devices get to be a drag and the story itself is a bit superficial. Perhaps that is the point, as the world in this book is based on superficiality. An imaginative debut novel that makes the reader look forward to what this writer can do with more adult themes and characters. (ISBN: 1-59780-065-1)—Rich Horton

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Antediluvian Tales by Poppy Z. Brite
Subterranean Press (116pp) $25

Brite, whose writing tends to be inextricably connected to New Orleans, felt, rightly, that these stories written before August 29, 2001, should not be collected with work coming after. Five of the stories offer glimpses into the lives of various members of the Stubbs family. The youngest Stubbs, Gary “G-man” Stubbs, his lover John Rickey, and their world of restaurants and chefdom have been chronicled in other shorts as well as novels Liquor, Prime, Soul Kitchen, and novella D*U*C*K (in which the storm did not hit). Gary’s just a baby when his oldest sister, Melly, attracts a poltergeist (or something) in “The Devil of Delery Street”; his other sister, Rosalie, is featured in “The Feast of St. Rosalie.” These female Stubbses are just plain folks but Brite makes you realize how fascinating they can be. “Four Flies and a Swatter” is an extended anecdote about absinthe and a tourist. “Henry Goes Shopping” is a glimpse into a young man’s as yet unburdened life. “The Working Slob’s Prayer” captures the drama of “kitchen work.” “Crown of Thorns,” framed as a letter to Jesus, and “Wound Man and Horned Melon Go to Hell”, a Halloween story of sorts, are tales about the coroner of New Orleans, Dr. Brite. The author claims after these two stories, her alter ego will be seen no more. This is sad. Dr. Brite, who has been portrayed as both female and male, is a character who has always deserved more than a handful of short stories that manage to be slightly macabre as well as gourmandizing. “The Last Good Day of My Life” is a memoir that reflects on the changes wrought by disaster. Antediluvian Tales leaves the reader wondering where Brite’s dual love affair with writing fiction and the Big Easy will take her next. (ISBN 978-1-59606-116-3)—Paula Guran

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