Celebrant by Michael Cisco. Book review

CELEBRANT by Michael Cisco, Chômu Press, p/b, £12.00, http://chomupress.com

Reviewed by David Brzeski

It’s not often that the prospect of writing a review makes me positively nervous.

It’s not that it’s bad—far from it!

In fact this is a brilliantly written book. Frankly, it needs to be, because the concept and execution is so complex, so far-reaching, so downright weird that, in the hands of a lesser writer it would be totally unreadable. Of all the writers whose work I have reviewed so far, I can think of maybe two at best, who would be capable of producing comparable work.

Despite that, it somehow manages to be quite a page turner. There was never any point at which I considered not finishing the book. The quality of the prose is such that you just go with the flow. It’s surreal, dreamlike, occasionally stream of consciousness, but it somehow never lapses into pretention.

So why is the prospect of reviewing it so scary? Well, quite simply, I’m not convinced I actually understood enough of it to ensure I don’t say something stupid.

The main protagonist, deKlend, is on a quest to find Votu. Votu is a mystical city, where time runs backwards. Amongst its population are gangs of feral teenage girls–rabbit girls and pigeon girls. There are spontaneously occurring (as in not man-built) giant robots, worshipped as gods. I felt that the weirdness of the prose very much reflected the experience of people who are living and ageing in the normal forward manner, while living in an environment where time actually flows backwards… but maybe that’s just me!

Then there’s the reincarnation element to consider. Purchasers of the book will find a flow chart to help them with this. This flow chart wasn’t in the advance review copy I read, but thankfully the publisher also let me have a pdf copy, which did include it. There are also hints that deKlend might actually be institutionalised in a sanatorium.

Another review I read stated that it would reward a second reading. I have to agree!

Put simply, this book raises the bar on weird fiction. I’ve never read anything even vaguely like it before. If anyone should read this one as a member of a weird/science/fantasy fiction book group, I predict that they will be discussing it for quite some time to come. I think I’d quite like to join in with those discussions.

Yes, this book will make you think, but don’t be scared… it’s worth it.