Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Review: Joe Hill's "Gunpowder"

I've enjoyed pretty much everything I've read by Joe Hill, starting with his novel, "Heart-Shaped Box," and continuing on through his collection of short fiction, "20th Century Ghosts," and the first volume of his on-going comics project, "Locke & Key."

Now comes a new, 26,000-word novella, "Gunpowder," published in various editions by PS Publishing. It's set on a planet being terraformed by a gang of young psychics under the tutelage of a lone teacher/mother figure. The boys squabble among themselves and scapegoat Charley, the only one who doesn't seem to have The Talent. Everything works well enough until a starship arrives and sends down an emissary with new orders for the kids.

To the best of my knowledge, this is Hill's first published foray into outright science fiction, and he does a good job of setting up the premise and delineating the shifting allegiances within this cohort of young mutants. My problem with "Gunpower" lies in its climatic confrontation. Hill doesn't precisely fall back on cliche, but it's clear too soon that the narrative is going to head toward its expected conclusion. The details are unguessable, but the overall shape of the showdown between the children and the interloper is too predictable.

Is it worth the money and effort to track down this hardcover edition? Depends on how fervent a fan you are. Hill has the potential to be prolific. Wait a few years, and perhaps "Gunpowder" will be part of a larger collection.

No comments: