Reviews 3

Lord Soho, Simon & Schuster, UK, 2002


'This is Dorian Gray with family secrets written direct on the face; a stew of plots and devices borrowed freely from opera, myth and folk tales. Sour and addictive, as well as rather disconcerting.' The Guardian


'Lovers of Malignos will find much to delight in this sequel. Get ready to canter majestically across the centuries, against a landscape of genetic miscreants (Roach-girls, Insect-girls, down and dirty Fox-girls) as he tells of the grandsons and heirs of Richard Pike and their strange abilities as shapers of history. Calder has mastered a rich narrative style. He paints a vivid picture of the effluent structures from the Netherworld, the fleshy forests gestating the new genetics. It's a saga written with bold intelligence and wit, with some political satire thrown in. Calder still manages to breathe a sense of urgency into his story despite the long time-span. Thought-provoking, with some inspired ideas, Lord Soho is a sensuous feast.' SFX


'Lord Soho is an enjoyable combination of SF tropes, dark fantasy themes and very peculiar events. Although the bizarre sex and violence of the Dead trilogy is subdued here and given a more ironic twist, Calder's basic concerns linger on with his use of rich language. Allusions to the class struggle haunt this narrative like the ghosts of Christmas. Yes, as usual with Calder, such things as slavery, uncaring betrayals, infanticide, and general immorality abound! Particularly fascinating is the suggestion that characters in Lord Soho are like "living" fugitives from literature at large in a "real" world that lacks any genuine culture.' Starburst


Babylon, PS Publishing, 2006


'Calder’s visions of Babylon are both allusive and alluring. How can one resist a scene like this? ‘“Lord Azrael and Mr Malachi stood by the railway lines that ran down the middle of the street. I looked south, to where the lines receded towards the vanishing point of our destination: a saw-toothed horizon comprised of ziggurats surmounted by a bloated moon. The moon neither waxed nor waned, nor did it cross the heavens; it simply remained where it was, night after night, like a great Chinese lantern above the tiny, distant buildings – a goddess brooding over her deathly still world.”


'Later invocations of Fuseli, Rossetti, and the like are equally intoxicating – bizarre, sensuous, channelling the essence of late 19th-century decadence. His goal may seem to be nothing but fin de siècle atmosphere erupting into pulpish mayhem. But then comes the kicker … and we can see how it applies to us, at the dawn of the 21st century. If Babylon is a dark dream from another age, it’s also very much our own.' Locus


In the same issue of Locus Nick Gevers lists After the Party as a 'recommended story’ and writes: 'Interzone has been serializing Richard Calder’s controversial novella After the Party: A Nymphomaniad, starting in the December issue and concluding in that for April. A companion to the author’s imminent novel Babylon, this can be seen as a culmination of Calder’s long fascination with issues of eroticism: the association of orgasm with death; the fetishization of the sexual Other as Object; decadence and the politics of "perversion". The setting is an alternate Earth of the late 19th or early 20th century, where female worshippers of Ishtar, long exiled to a parallel world, have returned, changing history by toppling patriarchy and installing a new global order dominated by Orders of sacred prostitutes and the male Illuminati who relish the attendant fleshly circus. The problem for women in this timeline is that although they have in a sense liberated themselves from bondage, forcing men to concede their equality and their power, they have also had to reify themselves in the image of masculine desire, becoming stereotypical maenads or dolls in consequence; nymphomania has become a plague, often of a literal and lethal kind. And males who resent the dictatorship of sensuality, in effect the ideological brothers of Jack the Ripper, have formed a dissident Black Order, dedicated to the destruction of all whores. What occurs in After the Party is the tentative, only vaguely successful reconciliation of the conflicting opposites, as a doctor belonging to the Order encounters a prostitute who draws him platonically as well as physically; the fatal psychological contradictions of the late Victorian Age come into sharp focus, and Calder achieves a powerful bleak finale.'


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