Jose Prendes, international man of mystery, was found swaddled in a basket among the reeds at the mouth of the Amazon. Raised by local shamans, Jose learned the magic of language and decided to dedicate his skills to the betterment of all mankind. He trekked to America at the age of 12, on foot no less, and made his home in Florida for a few years. After discovering a cure for the common cold, and losing it among his comic book collection, Prendes decided to abandon Florida for sunny Los Angeles. Upon arriving in the city of angels, he was made the leader of a small group of cinephiles who believed he was the second coming of Shakespeare. Wielding immense power, and a ridiculously awesome DVD collection, Prendes continues his struggle to save the world from the coming peanut butter and jelly apocalypse.
Jose is the writer behind the upcoming film Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark and the novel Sharcano.
Author Lawrence Person had a chat with Jose…
Lawrence Person: For those SF Signal readers who may not have previously encountered the rich Mega Shark oeuvre, can you briefly summarize previous installments in the saga?
Jose Prendes: It will have to be briefly, because there’s not much too it, and I didn’t write the first two films. Basically a Megalodon defrosted in modern times in the first one and fought giant octopus. The Meg survived and fought a giant crocodile in the second film and they blew up together. At the start of my film, a new Megalodon has risen, but the government is ready for it, having been preparing since the first Meg attacks.
PROS: Spammers being killed in horrible and imaginative ways, some nifty, close-to-the-coalface extrapolation of near-future trends in networks, police procedures, and a Panopticon society, some fascinating Big Ideas near the end of the novel.
CONS: Generally unlikable and unengaging characters suffering career burnout, a plot that becomes less interesting as the novel progresses, a second-person, present-tense voice that doesn’t work nearly as well as it did in Halting State.
VERDICT: A rare misfire from an otherwise leading writer.
I was inclined to like this novel from the get-go. Charles Stross is on a very short list indeed of the best science fiction writers to start publishing books within the last decade. His Laundry series of geek Cthulhu Mythos spy thrillers (The Atrocity Archive, The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum) are among my personal favorites for the same period. I also enjoyed Halting State, the novel to which Rule 34 is a loose sequel. And Rule 34 has an intriguing premise: a murder investigation of spammers being killed in imaginative, gruesome and compromising ways. (Certainly any veteran of the Spam Wars has had similarly gruesome (if somewhat less elaborate) revenge fantasies…)
Surprisingly, Rule 34 actually ended up being quite a slog to get through. I wasn’t quite halfway through when I felt my interest waning, and eventually put it down and read several other books before picking it up again.
[Lawrence Person is a science fiction writer living in Austin, Texas. His work has appeared in Asimov’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, Jim Baen’s Universe, and Postscripts, as well as several anthologies. He reviews movies for Locus Online, frequently in collaboration with Howard Waldrop. He’s the once and future editor of Nova Express and runs Lame Excuse Books. It’s a good life, if you don’t weaken.]
REVIEW SUMMARY: A very strong debut novel.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: During the depression, several men attempt to hunt down a tall, scarred man who has violently taken loved ones from each of them. But the longer they search, the more apparent it becomes that Mr. Shivers isn’t a man at all, but perhaps the Devil (or even Death) himself.
PROS: Strong prose; vivid descriptions of dustbowl-era America; a scary and compelling antagonist.
CONS: An astute reader is going figure out how certain scenes unfold and how the novel ends fairly quickly.
BOTTOM LINE: A very strong debut novel, worthy of award consideration.