Minister Faust – SF sparkling with linguistic and conceptual inventiveness: They are Earth's mightiest superteam, and dysfunctional as hell

Minister Faust, From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain (Del Rey, 2007)

«Minister Faust’s SF novel, From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, had me laughing from the first page to the last. But the book is also a mind-boggling, multi-leveled allegory of racism and corporate fascism in America today. Dr. Brain is so chock-full of references to pop culture figures and political events alike that it is virtually a roman a clef — except that the people and events it refers to inhabit the Marvel and DC universes as well as the one we actually live in. .
From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain presents itself as a psychological self-help-manual-cum-case-history for comic-book superheroes: Unmasked!: When Being A Superhero Can’t Save You From Yourself. The author of this self-help book, and thereby the narrator of the novel, is one Dr. Brain (or, more fully, Dr. Eva Brain-Silverman), a sort of Dr. Phil for the “extraordinary abled.” She has her hands full, dealing with superhero malaise and depression. All the major supervillians have been defeated, leaving thousands of superheroes with nothing much to do. With no target upon which to focus their crime-fighting energy, they are flailing about without any sense of direction, and falling prey to petty bickering, and to various forms of self-destructive behavior. It’s the superhero equivalent of post-Cold War anomie: with no Evil Empire left to fight, there is no sense of purpose, no source of morale. Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” has left all the superheroes feeling worse than useless. Pending the invention of a new enemy (which of course will turn out to be “terrorism”), the superheroes need Dr. Brain’s help in order to attain “self-actualization.”
The superheroes signed up for Dr. Brain’s therapy include such figures as The Flying Squirrel, Omnipotent Man, Power Grrrl, and the X-Man. The Flying Squirrel could best be described as a combination of Batman and Dick Cheney; he’s a quasi-fascist vigilante with all sorts of high-tech wizardry in his “utility belt,” and also the multimillionaire head of a multinational corporation which has a lock on the media, as well as the defense and surveillance industries. Omnipotent Man is a doofus-y, and naively hyperpatriotic, version of Superman (he comes from the planet Argon — instead of Krypton). Power Grrrl is sort of like Britney Spears with superpowers (though it turns out, in the course of the book, that this is mostly an act: Power Grrrl, unlike the real Britney, is pulling her own strings). X-Man, the key figure around whom the narrative turns, is an angry black militant with the super-ability of “logogenesis”: manifesting his words as actual things.
The novel’s brilliance has much to do with its exuberant linguistic and conceptual inventiveness. Faust gleefully rings the changes on all sorts of pop culture sensations and scandals, with superheroes as the celebrity targets of paparazzi and gutter journalists. The lives of the superheroes abound in episodes of drug addiction, hidden sexual fetishes, nervous breakdowns, and bitter family disputes — not to mention miscegenation, still a matter of shock and bewilderment, shame, hysterical confusion, and disavowed fantasies in our supposedly “post-racial” society. Even aside from the main plotlines, the book abounds in throwaway allusions to superheroes run amok, and to crazed scientific experiments and neo-colonialist endeavors that leave catastrophic “collateral damage” in their wake. Faust is brilliant in seeing superhero comics as the key to understanding the construction of social reality in a world dominated by the military-entertainment complex.
Faust also mixes and matches styles and languages, with everything from groaner puns (we meet supervillains like Zee-Rox, who can imitate anything, and Sara Bellum, who has terrifying mental powers), to ridiculous dialect-speech (Omnipotent Man’s gee-gosh-Norman-Rockwellesque-cornball-middle-American lingo; or the Germanic accent of Wonder-Woman-like superhero Iron Lass, originally a goddess from the Norse pantheon), to hyperbolic racial invective, to tabloid-style excited overstatement, to hilariously convoluted psychobabble and grotesque mixed metaphors. On one page, X-Man disses another superhero of color as “a slack, slick, loose-dicked, willingly no-self-control, no-zipper tan-man who maks out his mind to convince himself he isn’t a senseless, thoughtless, shiftless, aimless, brainless, oversized pants-wearing, forty-ounce-loving, penis-fixated, self-underrated supreme champeen of galactic niggativity”. On another, Dr. Brain confides to her readers that “unraveling the bandages covering Kareem’s and Syndi’s psychemotional wounds was exhaustive work, since their bloodied psychic linens were so crusted together they’d congealed into experiential gore”. At still another point, Dr. Brain asks her patients to consider “how many of the psychemotional barnacles attached to the ship of my consciousness am I willing to burn off in order to sail freely across the ocean of well-adjustedness?”
And so on.
But beneath all this exuberant postmodern linguistic play, From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain is a serious socio-political novel, focusing on the continuing impact of race and racism in America today. (Predominantly in USA/America, although Minister Faust himself is Canadian). X-Man’s “neurosis,” for which Dr. Brain endeavors to treat him, is in fact grounded in his experience of what W.E.B. DuBois famously called double consciousness:
this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,– an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
X-Man is divided — and therefore unable to attain what psychobabble would call an integrated selfhood, or in Dr. Brain’s terms “self-actualization” — by the fact that, on the one hand, he cannot escape or transcend the perspective of general American culture; yet, on the other hand, he can only feel alienated, excluded, and condemned by that culture. As he bitterly says at one point, he’s expected to stand for Truth, Justice, and the American Way; but this is a double bind, because the American Way is in fact incompatible with Truth or Justice.
What this means is that X-Man’s “psychemotional” (a favorite Dr. Brain word) torment and dysfunction — amply dramatized throughout the novel’s lurid, often ludicrous pulp plot twists — cannot be understood in entirely personalistic terms. Such torment and such dysfunction have a crucial (and crucially determining) social dimension. This is arguably true of all forms of so-called “neurosis” (indeed, I would make such an argument), but it is particularly evident in the case of racialized American double consciousness.
Throughout From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, X-Man’s double consciousness is narrated to us from a point of view that is absolutely unable to discern it. Dr. Brain, with her forcedly-cheerful self-help philosophy, is an unreliable narrator — X-Man even accuses her explicitly at several points of being an unreliable narrator — to the extent that she continually misunderstands and misframes everything that X-Man says to her. She contextualizes all of X-Man’s complaints as being pathological and neurotic, a result of “insubordination and racial antagonism” (page 27) — even when they are pretty clearly rational. Above all, Dr. Brain diagonses X-Man as suffering from RNPN (Racialized Narcissistic Projection Neurosis), whereby people of color (and superheroes of color) have a chip on their shoulder about past racism that supposedly no longer exists. According to Dr. Brain, X-Man has a pathological need to see himself as a victim, so that he can blame his own failures upon others. Unable to deal with the fact that white people accept him without racism, he has a compulsive need to act out in order to arouse their hostility towards him, so that he “prove” that racism still exists, allowing him then to act aggrieved and to play the victim.
So the narrating voice of From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain reproduces what has become the dominant ideology of our day: the claim that “we” are “beyond racism,” and that (as Dr. Brain herself puts it) “legislation and social progress have ensured that what was only a dream on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial a few decades ago has become a reality for all”. This claim allows white people to say, in all “good conscience,” that they are not racist (look! I watch Oprah! Look! I voted for Obama!), and that they only care about the content of someone’s character, not the color of their skin. To say this is to ignore all the ways that racism is institutional and socially embedded — it is to reduce the question of race to a matter of individual behavior, responsibility, belief, and “preference.” (This is, of course, the way that neoliberalism treats everything; since, as Margaret Thatcher said, “there is no such thing as society. There are only individuals, and families”). And the corollary of this ideology is to say that anybody who does worry about racism is simply hung up about it. In other words, black people are accused of themselves being racist (for the very reason that they perceive racism as existing), while white people get to congratulate themselves on being prejudice-free.
From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain effectively links the dominant American culture’s denial of its own racism, and self-congratulatory “multiculturalism,” with its therapeutic cult of self-help and self-responsibility. These moves are both aspects of the relentless personalization of everything that is a feature both of today’s global neoliberalism, and of a long American tradition of uplift and self-reliance. (This strain of American sensibility was already satirized by Herman Melville in his 1857 novel The Confidence Man). Dr. Brain’s advice to X-Man is to “begin by recognizing that you are an individual, not a social abstraction. Your destiny belongs to you, not to history, and whatever successes or failures you experience are of your own making. Take responsibility for your own happiness…” and so on and so forth.
The novelistic brilliance of From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain has much to do with the irony by means of which this sort of psychobabbling drivel becomes the dominant voice of the novel — much as it is the dominant voice in American public discourse generally. As the novel moves towards its action-packed, slam-bang conclusion — as any tale of superheroes must — double consciousness is raised to a vertiginous pitch, as we simultaneously get X-Man’s account of political crisis and turmoil, and Dr. Brain’s dismissal of this account as mere paranoid projection. By the final pages, X-Man is dead, and the creepy Flying Squirrel is firmly in charge. We have witnessed what is basically a fascist coup d’etat combined with a racist mass lynching or pogrom; and the establishment of a new social order in which surveillance is ubiquitous, civil liberties are nonexistent, behavior is severely restricted and normalized, and multinational corporate profits are protected unconditionally. Yet this new world order is presented to the reader by the always upbeat Dr. Brain as a triumph of personal “self-actualization” and “psychemotional wellness,” as well as a set of unparalleled new marketing opportunities. In its offhanded and slyly ironic way, From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain both delivers a hilarious roller-coaster ride filled with comic book thrills and chills, and reminds us about what is really scary.» - Steven Shaviro

«REVIEW SUMMARY: What do you get when you combine superheroes, neuroses, and self-help books? Don't answer yet since you also have to mix in some satire and some fantastic characters. The end result of this combination is this book by Minister Faust which was an enjoyable read with an ending that I still find very interesting.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Dr. Eva Brain-Silverman is an author of several self help books for meta humans, and in this book she tackles a group of dysfunctional heroes who are about to be kicked out of the Fraternal Order of Justice (FOOJ). This book documents that journey in psychology.
PROS: The characters and a unique way of presenting the story. Fantastic dialogue and the right amount of action.
CONS: A few too many acronyms (although I think that was intentional) and some of the psychology devolves into babble (again probably intentional).
BOTTOM LINE: A fantastic book that delivers entertainment and more.
This book tells a story of a group of folks who are dealing with change and loss. It does this by first making them super heroes and then injecting them into a self help book. This is all done with a certain amount of humor yet it also has another message there. The basic story involves members of the largest superhero organization who have issues working together. They were identified as being the ones with the biggest psychological problems and were given an ultimatum to work though their problems with Dr. Brain or be dismissed. The story then unfolds through the sessions with Dr. Brain and interactions between the characters. The book flips between the first person view of Dr. Brain during moments of commentary regarding certain characters and the third person when dealing with the characters in the world. The viewpoint shifts work very well and the story is well laid out. It was hard not to read this book and draw comparisions between the heros found within and those seen in comic books and movies. For my own entertainment, I came up with these comparisons:
* The Flying Squirrel - Festus Pildown III which represents the Batman type of avenger character
* Omnipotent Man - An alien who comes to earth as a child and grows up in a very rural area, with a lot of drawl. He is the Superman character.
* Iron Lass - Hnossi Ice, A valkarie from Asgard and very much a Wonder Woman gone Norse sort of character
* Brotherfly - A spiderman type of character who is more like a fly than a spider and quite the ladies man
* X-man - A very angry young man with powers similar to the Green Lantern
* Power Grrl - This was the hardest one to pidgeon hole since she was more of a caricature of our current young divas who all the entertainment shows feel we need details about. I was unable to draw a correlation to a comic book character.
Now these comparisons do not help when the characters interact, and that is one area where this book absolutely shines. Mr. Faust can write some fantastic dialogue and this book has plenty of that. I really felt that he was able to mold the vision of the characters by the words they spoke and the situations they were placed in. Furthermore, the book has an excellent mix of action and excitement to go with the interactions between all the characters. I would also say that Dr. Eva Brain-Silverman is a great character and her nine stages of grief was just fantastic.
If I had to say bad things about the story, it would probably be regarding the use of acronyms and psychology terms. In both cases, this was probably intentional due to the content and subject matter, but at times I felt that it detracted slightly from the story. These are minor nits and nothing that should scare away potential readers.
In the final analysis, this book is a great read for anybody who grew up reading comic books and wish to see superheros acting like real people. The ending alone is fantastic, and I have to say that Minster Faust is a fantastic writer.» - Tim Zinsky

«One of the blurb words that makes me twitch is “romp.” When I see a book described as a romp, I usually try to hide it in the big stack over there and try never to open it. (Note: I don’t like “gritty” books, I hate “sassy” characters and think the words “page” and “turner” should be banned. So there.)
There’s no way around it though. From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain is a romp. It’s hilarious, it’s edgy, it’s smart and it’s a hoot. The premise is silly enough - group therapy for some of the world’s superheroes. Minister Faust not only knows psychobabble and uses it well, but he gets into the personalities of the various heroes and villains with exceptional wit and talent.
It’s hard enough being a superhero, but no one ever said that being one made you a nice guy. The old timers really hate the new kids, and the new kids find the old dudes stodgy and tiresome.
As the title suggests, From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain purports to be the notes taken by therapist Eva Brain-Silverman. With chapter titles like “Iconoclastic means ‘I Can!’”. She knows every syndrome, she understands every thought, because she’s worked in this field for a long time. As she points out, she’s had 20 years at the “Hyper-Potentiality Clinic” helping the “extraordinarily abled.”
From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain is a hoot. If you have issues with feel-good therapy, with books that use affirmations and sayings to solve serious issues, with talk show therapists, or even with kids today, read this book. Dr. Brain - who is wholly convinced of her ability to fix everyone, everything and has a name (often trademarked) for every condition, every twitch and every behavior -- is so effortlessly cheerful and determined, you just want to whap her. She lectures, she hectors, she never stops selling (you’ll want to pick up her earlier works which include Unmasked! When Being A Superhero Can't Save You From Yoursel). She is a walking, talking corporate motivational poster.
I would say that my biggest challenge with this book was keeping some of the people straight. That shouldn’t have happened, but it did. Faust has so much energy in his writing that everyone is on stage, then off, then back on. There are only six superheroes to keep track of but I just got lost from time to time. Flying Squirrel (What? All the good names/costumes were taken?) is a 79 year old billionaire who seems to own half of anything. Omnipotent Man (Really, were these names on sale?) is also an aging superhero at 71, is also battling to be number one. I found “Power Grrrl” to be the funniest: imagine if you will Jessica or Britney or Christina or some other pop twinkie fixed up as a super-hero and you’ll get her. They’re all rather predictable and yet the intense goofiness of the book makes them all tolerable.
This is a book that is difficult to categorize. Humor, as we all know, is a tough one. Dr. Brain’s endless explaining of how hard it is out there, or the author’s offering of evil villain names like “Codzilla” and “Nemesaur” (in the special Fish & Reptile Unit) of the prison asteroid where all bad guys go is hilarious to me. You might find it silly. You could sit down and do an assessment as Dr. Brain recommends on page 225 (where she talks about “psychemotional barnacles” that attach to the ship of your consciousness”). Or you could just be sure not to be drinking while reading, if you’re the type to do spit takes.» - Andi Shechter

«The Fantastic Order of Justice (the FOOJ) is in trouble. Six of its core members are clearly suffering from numerous psychiatric disorders brought on by their status as super-powered people in a world that doesn’t really need them any more. The war against serious super-villains ended long ago; nowadays, superheroes are really just overrated police officers. Some, such as this line-up, are having trouble coping with it. So it is that they are sent to Dr. Eva Brain, a super-power specialist, to help them deal with issues such as Secret Identity Diffusion (SID), Mission-Identity Loss Disturbance (MILD), and Obsessive/Defensive Ideation and Compulsive Fight-or-Flight Behavior (ODI-CFFB).
Dr. Brain’s six new patients prove to be a handful. Omnipotent Man is the gentleman with a kind heart and an indestructible body, while the Flying Squirrel is the billionaire businessman with his accoutrements of toys and gadgets, making crime-fighting both stylish and successful. X-Man’s words are his power, along with his ability to seek out and find conspiracies in all that he does; Brotherfly is the motor-mouthed wise guy with the enhanced abilities of a fly. The Norse mythological demi-goddess Iron Lass is tough of heart and on the battlefield, while Power Grrrl proves herself to be the ultimate pop star with the ability to hypnotize her audiences. Together, these six represent the best and worst of what superheroes have to offer the world.
Though their therapy treks along slowly, Dr. Brain believes progress is being made - but all of it quickly unravels with the discovery that legendary superhero Hawk King is dead. Some suspect foul play, while others refuse to believe that darker forces are at work. As sides are chosen (and re-chosen), the entire superhuman community is dragged into this battle as morality and politics come head to head unlike anything regular politicians could imagine.
Initially, Minister Faust’s humor and mockery seem fairly transparent and blatant, but readers will find some surprising layers and depth to this book. It certainly has its humorous points, but as one gets past the initial single-dimensional introductions and dives deeper into what makes these characters tick, the reader is seduced. While Faust invokes the pre-existing superhuman mythological pantheon (Superman, Batman, Wonder-Woman, Spiderman, Green Lantern, etc), he also applies a post-modern twist to their actions and motivations. These six seemingly unconnected superheroes are interwoven into a great web of relations connected through lies, denials, and deceit.
The main drawback comes in the tangents the book takes. While it is named From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, inside the book, it posits itself to be Unmasked! When Being a Superhero Can’t Save You From Yourself; Self-Help for Today’s Hyper-Hominids. This faux self-help book for superheroes strays from the main story with instructions to its readers on how to regain control of their life and other typical self-help clichés. Though it proves an interesting angle to present such a novel and is at times amusing, readers may find themselves rushing through the psycho-babble to get back to the plot.
Those familiar with comics will certainly get a kick out of this, but even those with only a basic understanding will appreciate how Faust unravels this tale. Some jokes require a larger knowledge of comics, but there are plenty of other amusing bits to keep readers entertained.» - Lance Eaton

«In the terms we use to talk about the fantastic, comic books, especially superhero comics, have long been a genre unto themselves. They combine elements of fantasy (magical and mythic powers) and science fiction (mutants and alien invasions) with archetypal characters and violent conflict. While comic books and graphic novels in general have expanded far beyond these genre boundaries (see "Sandman," "Maus," et al) recently this sort of story has been moving into the world of the conventional novel. Minister Faust subtly used some of these conventions in his amazing debut, Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad, and now approaches the heroic comic book genre head-on in the hilarious and pointed From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain.
Dr. Brain takes as its conceit that it is a self-help psychoanalysis book for superheroes titled UnMasked!: When Being a Superhero Can't Save You From Yourself. The "author" is Dr. Eva Brain-Silverman, and her other publications include Side-Kicked! When the Alpha-Hero Treats You Like Omega and Sacred Identity: Reclaiming the Demi-God in You. In the wake of the "Götterdämmerung," which saw the defeat of most of the world's supervillains, superheroes—the individuals, and the organisations they belong to—have been forced to redefine their place in the world. Indeed, the six biggest stars of the Fantastic Order of Justice (F*O*O*J) are so dysfunctional that they have been ordered to Dr. Brain's office for group therapy. Take all the soap operatics that you could imagine with dysfunctional superheroes, and that's our starting point. Every comics fan should read this book. Even those with only the most rudimentary knowledge of the field will enjoy a huge host of in-jokes. A cast of characters will give you a feel for the tone of the book:
Omnipotent Man (basically, Superman) is from planet Argon. Argonium is his one weakness, but that's because it's made into a drug that he's addicted to.
The Flying Squirrel (Batman, also Iron Man) is an arch-conservative industrialist whose megacompany Piltdown International gets massive defense contracts through the F*O*O*J. He's angling for the presidency of F*O*O*J to set the agenda for the post-Götterdämmerung world, and to secure his company's contracts well into the future.
Iron Lass (Wonder Woman, also Storm) is a Norse/Germanic demi-goddess. She was the tactical genius behind the Götterdämmerung, and has a spectacularly dysfunctional family past.
X-Man (no immediate analog—which is part of the point) is a hero who came up through a Black
Panther-type organization, the League of Angry Blackmen (L*A*B) before joining F*O*O*J. Like The Flying Squirrel, he seeks to become president of F*O*O*J, but he wants to shift its mission towards social justice issues. His power involves words and shadows (which is also part of the point).
Power Grrrl (think Paris Hilton with superpowers). Crime fighting is secondary to her world-wide self-branding efforts. Deeply narcissistic, she has staked out her turf as a lesbian power hero.
And last but not least is Superfly (Spider-man), a young black playa version of Peter Parker who tends to buzz around the margins of the group, and who is also a shout-out to blaxploitation films.
It is clear from this set-up that there is no end to the number of subjects that Faust can address, and he takes full advantage of his target-rich environment: capitalism, race relations, generational differences, politics, celebrity culture, psychology, post Cold War America, and the War on Terrorism, among others. To hit so many serious topics in a book that is frankly hilarious to read is a testament to Faust's incredible talent as a satirist. A lot of them are issues that pop up in fan discussions about comic books, but are rarely addressed directly in the comic books themselves, especially issues of race and class. That's not to say that comics are always shallow, but they often treat these issues tangentially; for instance in the X-Men movies a clear equivalence is drawn between the alienation experienced by those who are mutants, and those who are homosexual. Faust takes this huge package of concerns and makes the comic book connection explicit. Other books have appeared in the past few years that have used comic book devices to illuminate social issues, from the Pulitzer-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2001) by Michael Chabon (which explored the Jewish-American experience around WWII) to a recent small press release, Supervillainz (2007) by Alicia E. Goranson (which focuses on the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered experience). Jonathan Lethem has written a short essay titled "Top Five Depressed Superheroes" (more limited than Faust's set-up, obviously) and of course the novel The Fortress of Solitude (2003) (which, foreshadowing Faust, examines race relations through two young comics fans gifted with superpowers). Truly, superheroism seems to be in the air, and a particularly ripe target.
Like all the best satirists (Swift comes to mind), Faust is true to the literal reality of his scenario. This is especially important because it means that you don't have to agree with all his politics in order to enjoy the story. The superheroes perform true to their character types and archetypes, and there is a real plot with a real threat to F*O*O*J. The F*O*O*J was formed by an Egyptian deity known here as the Hawk King. After the Götterdämmerung, he had basically retired, but near the beginning of the book he is found dead. Was it natural causes? Assassination? How can a god die? As the characters try to investigate the death of their personal hero and role-model, and face off against each other, Dr. Brain (the sole first-person viewpoint and narrator) runs around trying to get all the superheroes to continue therapy and deal with their feelings, lending a surreal air to the entire narrative. She has a habit of using a metaphor or simile and taking it way over the top: "Directed to me by the winding country lanes of their own confusion, my patients arrived at my Hyper-Potentiality Clinic yoked to wagonloads of psychemotionally dysfunctional produce." This sort of running joke could easily become distracting, but Faust never lets it get out of hand.
One of the subtlest elements of the book is how the biases of Dr. Brain herself infect the text at an almost subconscious level. More than once the characters accuse her of being an unreliable narrator, so you can't say Faust is trying to sneak something by the reader. The way Brain marginalizes and pathologizes the concerns of X-Man are an indictment of the way psychology can privilege the standards of WASP society above those of other cultures. X-Man is justifiably concerned about the poor and black community he grew up in, and he's especially afraid that if the (barely closeted) racist The Flying Squirrel takes control of F*O*O*J the consequences will be dire. However, Dr. Brain repeatedly dismisses his rants and concerns as "Racialized Narcissistic Projection Neurosis." He claims that Hawk King's alter ego was a black professor named Dr. Jacob Rogers, but she never credits this claim in any way, always attributing it to his race politics.
"Whereas racial discrimination was once a daily fact of American life for many, legislation and social progress have ensured that what was only a dream on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial a few decades ago has become reality for all.
"Yet for many heroes of color, the collective memory of that discrimination—and the habits secreted into our culture around commemorating it—have produced a rabid, slavering Cerberus whose heads are Self-Defeat, Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, and Pervasive Expectation of Exclusion."

It's easy to be lulled by such reasoning, and one hears analogous comments all the time, usually made by various pundits. However, I think it's fair to say that Dr. King's dream has not been totally fulfilled, a point that Faust has X-Man make, and Dr. Brain disregard, many times. She constantly, if subtly, privileges the viewpoint of The Flying Squirrel, who spends more time campaigning (and caring for the ailing Iron Lass) than searching for answers. Not that X-Man is some sort of figure of purity and martyrdom. Superfly especially takes some glee in hoisting X-Man on his own petard, showing how he's violated his own standards of moral and racial purity.
"'All you self-righteous, sanctimonious negroes,' sing-songed Andre, 'accusing anybody you don' like, beatin em down, drawin up enemies lists almost longer than my dick—y'all buncha perfectest, holy rollin, no smoking, limp-dickin Thirty-Six-Chamber-havin, monkey-ass—'
'This ain'no kot-tam Wu Tang album,' snapped Ahmed."

This also points up generational conflicts: X-Man, a fighter from the civil rights era, has barely any common ground with Superfly, a hero from the post-civil rights hip-hop generation. Likewise Omnipotent Man, Iron Lass, and The Flying Squirrel (basically the "Greatest Generation") often find themselves in opposition to the younger X-Man, Superfly, Power Grrrl (the "Gen X" and "Gen Y") axis.
Another fascinating point (among many) is the contrast between Iron Lass and Power Grrrl. They illustrate the generational differences between the cold, ruthless women who had to play by men's rules to break through the glass ceiling, and the post-sexual revolution girls who can flaunt their way to the top, blatantly using their sexuality to sell themselves. As the current debate about feminism often shows, the older women who fought for feminism are often dismayed by the younger generation, while the younger folks take the basics for granted and wonder what the old-school feminists have to offer now. The critical analysis buried in the dynamics and interactions between these two characters, all the while remaining plausible (within the genre rules) and funny, again illustrates Faust's talent for this type of cutting commentary.
Faust isn't actually raising any issues here that haven't at some point in the past cropped up in the pages of the comic books, at least marginally. What he is doing is bringing them out into the open and exhaustively interrogating them. He can do this because he takes superhero stories seriously, even as he's laughing at them. There is nothing to stop a reader from approaching From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain as simply an action-adventure parody but, like comic books (and the fan discussions of them), there's a lot more to find if you read between the panels. In a way, Faust is asking all of us why we haven't been seeing these things in our comic stories all along, since they've always been there. And when we're done laughing and enjoying ourselves, his book might help us read comic books in a different way, from a new perspective. No matter how broad or pointed the humour, or how cheesy the cover, that is true art.» - Karen Burnham

«I've mentioned this before, but for those who missed it and still don't know, the 1980s and '90s saw within science-fiction the development of what's now known as the "Dark Age;" informed equally by punk and postmodernism, it was a time of brooding introspection in the genre, when such traditional stereotypes as superheroes were psychologically examined to determine both the reason for their existence in the first place and in which ways these stereotypes could be cracked in our contemporary times. And sometimes this resulted in serious projects, such as Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, one of the seminal titles of this period that helped inspire the term "Dark Age" to begin with; but what has lasted much longer is the compulsion to create comedic material out of such fodder, from classic movies like The Specials and Mystery Men to Austin Grossman's recent and delightful Soon I Will Be Invincible. And now we have yet another example, absurdist author Minister Faust's From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, which essentially covers the same ground as all the rest - bored, petulant super-neurotics turn on each other once all super-crime has been vanquished, thus necessitating New Age psychiatric help lest they go too crazy and lose their lucrative commercial endorsements -- albeit to his credit, Faust inventively ties his particular look at this milieu metaphorically to the fate of the US after the end of the Cold War, giving us a confused and increasingly spoiled group of superfriends in the face of a complete lack of supervillains in their egotistical, entitled, all-powerful lives.
But there's a problem with this book, a big problem, which is that once Faust makes his metaphorical point, he has almost nothing else of originality to say; and so how he fills the rest of the novel is by having his utterly banal one-note characters endlessly spout tiresome dialogue reinforcing the one note of their personalities (a Britney Spears superhero who always talks in Valley-speak, a black superhero who always talks like Superfly, &c.), along with an infinite amount of petty arguments within the group therapy sessions constantly being forced on them by their superiors throughout the book. It's essentially 25 pages' worth of story surrounded by 375 pages of corny punchlines (and for ample proof of this, see the unbelievable 165 chapter and subchapter titles [yes, I counted], every single one of which consists of a bad pun involving superheroism); or if you prefer, it's Alan Moore's Watchmen as rewritten by a playground full of 12-year-olds. Dr. Brain unfortunately misses its satirical mark by a wide margin, and it's my recommendation today that you skip it altogether.» - Jason Pettus

Read an excerpt:
http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780345466372&view=excerpt


Minister Faust, Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad (Del Rey, 2004)

«The memorable title is just the beginning of the weirdness here. This complicated, roller-coaster story of Hamza and Yehat, slacker Gen-Y roommates caught up in an adventure beyond their wildest dreams, is a strange, non-linear fantasy escapade that begins with an epilogue and the declaration that magic is real.
The adventures begin when Hamza, a poetry-writing dishwasher, and Ye, an inventor paying the bills as a video store clerk, meet the beautiful and enigmatic Sherem. Hamza falls hard for her. They soon join Sherem in her search for an Egyptian artifact with magical properties, attempting to keep it out of the hands of the Meaneys, who plan to use it to take over the world.
The likeable loafers and the mysterious Sherem take the reader on a rollicking adventure, but with a dense and meandering style most reminiscent of Neal Stephenson, this quirky mix of magical realism and urban fantasy may take some effort to get through. First-time novelist Faust deserves credit for the multiethnic flavor of this story, rare in fantasy fiction, but he also delights in trendy and esoteric references and a fan-boy subculture that will appeal primarily to a specific subset of fantasy readers.» - Jen Talley Exum

«REVIEW SUMMARY: A book whose main appeal is the writing style.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A young, hip urbanite meets a mysterious woman who is searching for a mystical, magical artifact.
PROS: Engaging and funny writing style.
CONS: A couple of times that same writing style got in the way.
BOTTOM LINE: Excellently written urban fantasy that engages the reader.
I've always extolled the virtues of writing using Theodore Sturgeon as my favorite example. Sturgeon's writing just does something for me. It's concise, conveys feeling, advances plot and it's just plain fun. His writing style never fails to elicit a smile.
Cool beans, John. But what does that have to do with The Coyote Kings...?
Mister Faust's first novel was released in 2004 to rave reviews, made some "Best of 2004" lists and thus caught my attention. From page one, I was instantly enjoying the writing in the same way I enjoy Sturgeon's writing. It's not like you're reading something someone has written - it's more like you're listing to what someone is saying. This makes for a very engaging book. (You can read a PDF excerpt on Mister Faust's website.)
The Coyote Kings... is an urban fantasy in which two close friends, Hamza and Yehat, get involved with a mysterious woman named Sherem. Sherem's mystique is just enough to get Hamza out of his four-year funk after an unexpected breakup with his girlfriend. What Hamza does not know is that Sherem is looking for a mystical and magical artifact (a jar) that is the key to saving mankind. Fortunately, Hamza's uncanny ability to find things can be of great service to her. Unfortunately, a gang of really nasty bad guys calling themselves the FanBoys also seek the jar.
This plot is standard fare but, like I said, it's how the author delivers it that is the main appeal of the book. The prose is infused with 80's and 90's pop-culture references to Star Wars, Star Trek, comics, music, gaming and other geek trivia. I loved those parts. The dialogue, especially from the wisecracking heroes, is made up of lots of ultra-hip, made-up-on-the-spot language that also adds to the fun. It did grow tiresome at times (like when it seemed to be dome for the sake of ranting instead of advancing the plot) but overall it was entertaining. I guess Theodore Sturgeon still retains the number one position.
The characterizations of Hamza and Yehat were very well done. They're quite likable. It doesn't hurt that they run an informal, part-time summer camp for the neighborhood kids. What a bunch of swell guys! Hamza was not entirely believable as the hero, though. It wasn't until halfway through the book that he even knew something bizarre was going on, making him more a late-blooming hero.
Other characterizations were good too, although there were more FanBoy characters than were needed. The rival Meaney brothers (Heinz & Kevlar - old high school buddies) added a bit of drama and back-story to Hamza's breakup with Rachael. The Meaney brothers have more than a peripheral involvement when their antique business receives an artifact used to help locate the jar. And their use of the "cream" drug to heighten awareness was enjoyably creepy.
The book's chapters were relatively short. Each one is written in the first-person viewpoint of one of the characters and thankfully it was not difficult to tell who was speaking. However, there was one FanBoy named Alpha Cat - nobody in this book has a simple name like "Bob" - whose faux Jamaican accent required more effort to wade through than I wanted to devote to it. Luckily, there were very few pages with this character's voice.
In the end, The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad is a good read. This is an excellently written urban fantasy that engages the reader.» - John DeNardo

«Mixing Egyptian myth, comic-book fanaticism, and Science-Fiction & Fantasy fandom, Minister Faust bursts onto the SF scene in his debut novel, The Coyote Kings... Hamza Senesert is a ne’er do-well, down-trodden by the cards life has dealt him when the beautiful and exotic Sherem comes into his life, touting comic book and SF knowledge like a lifetime fanboy. Hamza and his best friend/roommate are the eponymous Coyote Kings, denizens of E-town, or Edmonton, Canada. Sherem stirs things up for the duo, setting in motions events that will test their bonds of friendship and their understanding of the world around them. Possibly the first, and most, noticeably different aspect of this novel, when compared to the majority of other books on the shelf, is the structure. Beginning with an epilogue, Faust immediately sets the tone for the book – expect the unexpected, you, as the reader, are going to be encountering things you haven’t before. While the trappings may seem familiar, the guts of the story may be where you would suspect the heart to be, or the eyes set differently on the face. Faust takes familiar story elements, throws enough of his own voice and view, and mixes it all up into, on the majority, first person narrative, to keep the reader on their proverbial toes.
Just as he starts the novel in a peculiar fashion, each character introduction has the same inventive air – when a new character enters the story, Faust uses a role-playing-game type of character sheet – with attributes like "Strenght," "Scent," and "Trivia Dexterity." Perhaps the most peculiar and interesting character data would be "Genre Alignment," for Hamza, as follows: SF (general), ST (original series), SW, Marvel, Alan Moore +79. After "meeting" each character in this manner, the characters speaks to us, literally.
Upon being introduced to each character in this manner, the character speaks to the reader, literally, as the entire novel is told in the first person, shifting to each character as they take the stage. Each character comes across real, and fully drawn. The only stutter steps are when Faust brings characters with odd speech patterns to the stage. One character spoke in a Jamaican accent, and as such, when he spoke his words were phonetically spelled out. Another character had an annoying habit of adding "basically" to the majority of his sentences. While this adds a degree of authenticity to each character, it proved to be more of a hurdle in the overall narrative flow of the story. Not very many novels, at least in my experience, are set in Canada. The way in which Faust paints Edmonton adds depth to the novel, making the setting of E-town a character in and of itself. He adds many layers of history and myth and distinctive touches that reading the book, you are very much immersed in E-town, as if you are right next to Hamza and Ye through their tribulations.
While the clothes the story is dressed in are unique, the story itself is one with the familiar elements of friendship, love in all its facets, regret, a quest, a larger than life enemy, and the all familiar threat of the end of the world. While this is all familiar, Faust’s unique voice brings these elements together with the distinctiveness of the narrative structure for an entirely enjoyable novel.
Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad is an entertaining novel of quest and most importantly, a novel of friendship. Faust got everything right between Hamza and Ye, enough such that future adventures of the Coyote Kings would be a welcome read. In Minister Faust, a new and interesting voice has entered the shelves of Fantasy and Science Fiction, an enjoyable voice at that.» - Rob H. Bedford

«Geek is the new black. I'd be the last person to tell you The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad — the first novel by Canadian radio host, poet and educator Minister Faust — didn't have more than its fair share of entertainment value. Still it had me rolling my eyes as often as it had me clapping. As much fun as there is to be had in reading this eye-poppingly ambitious debut, it all comes attached to the inescapable feeling of manipulation. At one point in the story, one of our heroes muses on the woman of his dreams, noting, with the cynicism of someone who's just awakened to the reality behind the packaging, that she always knows exactly which of his buttons to push. That's this whole novel in a nutshell, gang. Button-pushing as performance art.
You could live a long, long time, and never read an urban fantasy novel that panders to the fanboy contingent as brazenly as this one. Even Harry Knowles doesn't condescend to geeks this shamelessly. (My dictionary tells me that "to pander" is synonymous with the verb form of "minister." And there was much chin-scratching.)
With nearly his every chapter bursting at the seams with arm-waving references to ain't-it-cool movies, TV shows, bands, and (of course) almost every comic book under the sun, Minister Faust proves himself a postmodernist name-dropper to make Quentin Tarantino blush. (See, even I can do it!) "Oh cool, he mentioned Cerebus!" you're supposed to say when he mentions Cerebus. "Oh cool, he mentioned The Prisoner... the Hernandez Brothers... Philip K. Dick... Jack Kirby... Yummy Fur. Oh cool, he refers to Star Wars as A New Hope!" Overdoing it such a thing there is, hmm?
The story is set in Faust's hometown of Edmonton, in a thriving black community the locals call Kush. Hamza is a 25-year-old failed writer working as a dishwasher, while his roommate, Yehat, toils in a video store where he gets to flex his encyclopedic knowledge of all things pop culture, and spends his time at home constructing his own mech suit he calls his "R-Mer". Together, through their community work (they run a volunteer camp for kids), they're known as the Coyote Kings, for reasons Faust smartly chooses never to reveal.
Hamza's world takes a decisive turn when he encounters a Mystery Woman named Sherem, about whom there is More Than Meets the Eye. Hamza is immediately smitten with Sherem, while Ye, of course, is just as immediately dubious of this enigmatic dream woman and her hidden agenda. Sherem is seeking an Ancient Artifact upon which, we quickly learn, the Fate of the World rests. This item is also sought by a flock of Nefarious Villains, including two former friends and current bitter rivals of the Coyote Kings (the rather goofily named Kevlar and Heinz Meaney), and a local nightclub owner and drug dealer, who employs (following the inexplicable habits of so many B-movie villains) a troop of Bumbling Henchmen (called, with a Grand Canyon-sized lack of subtlety, the Fanboys), and gets the book's best scene (involving a chainsaw).
Once you're into the story, there's no mystery behind the showoffy allusions to movies and TV and comix. Everything in Faust's plot owes itself to a lifetime absorbing such entertainments. Coyote Kings is Indiana Jones as directed by Spike Lee. The story is nothing less than an alt-comics graphic novel without the graphics. And yet, thanks to Faust's energetic voice, it still manages to come across like nothing you've really ever read before, despite its wearing its influences on its sleeve like a lovesick troubadour wears his heart. It works great at times, doesn't work so well at others. Like a Hollywood event movie, the novel will casually kick plot logic to the curb if it gets in the way of where Faust wants his story to go. Why would Hamza, at one point, willingly walk right into his arch-nemeses' lair with all his defenses down? It makes no sense, but it's what Faust wanted to happen to get his plot to the next exciting scene.
Faust unravels his story through the first-person perspectives of almost everyone in his cast, switching back and forth from chapter to chapter (and many of his chapters are eye-blinkingly short) between them. It takes a bit of getting used to, since the only way to identify each voice is through the context of the narrative. You do get the hang of it pretty quickly; a cute touch that somehow doesn't wear thin is Faust's introducing each character through parodic RPG-ish character stat sheets. But whether or not Faust should have had nearly everybody get time as narrator is debatable. Minor characters, like the sycophantic henchman Alpha Cat — who speaks in such a thick, phonetically spelled Ja-fake-an accent that his passages are well nigh incomprehensible — probably didn't need to take center stage. And the one chapter narrated by another baddie, the big and dumb Mugatu, seems needlessly cruel. Not to be PC, but one would think a man of Faust's credentials wouldn't have stooped to setting up a developmentally challenged (that's "retarded" in normal English) character as his story's clown.
At other times, Faust's language is pure poetry — not surprisingly, since poetry is one of his many résumé items. He has a gift for pithy turns of phrase, a way of observing and commenting on the familiar from a skewed angle, that displays an original wit. And for what it's worth, the passages where Yehat must deal with idiotic video store patrons had me laughing hard enough to wake the neighbors. Also praiseworthy are the little ways Faust conveys life's fleeting joys. The promise of a bright new day becomes a real and invigorating feeling through Faust's words, as does the euphoria of incipient love, the meaning of friendship. Sure, these could be prime examples of the aforementioned button-mashing at work. But I found them honest compared to scenes like the bit where Hamza and Yehat get into the inevitable shouting match that threatens to terminate their friendship, only to reconcile just as inevitably in a bathetic meltdown of apologies and hugs and things-always-meant-to-be-said. Faust isn't particularly mellow with his melodrama.
The book is overlong at just over 530 pages, but the pace is so brisk even average readers won't have a problem breezing though it in short order. This is, in a lot of ways, the same kind of adventure storytelling Stephen Dedman attempted some years back in The Art of Arrow Cutting, but Faust does it better.
Coyote Kings truly is a book I wish I could recommend with fewer or even no reservations. There are few enough nonwhite voices in genre fiction — and why is that anyway? — that one always feels a modicum of guilt having to be critical of what little work we are lucky enough to get. If you pick this book up, the fanboy in you will doubtless find much to enjoy, even those of you who detect that it's trying a bit too hard. But when the final page is turned, you may still find yourself, like a lover who realizes he's been played, remembering that it was fun while it lasted.» - Thomas M. Wagner

«The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad is a rambling, impressive, endlessly imaginative and often frustrating first novel by Minister Faust, a very talented young writer from Edmonton, Alberta. The back cover lists its genre as "science fiction," but Coyote Kings doesn’t quite fit the tag. It’s closer to magical realism, in Thomas Pynchon’s slapstick mode. Hamza and Yehat, the "coyote kings" of the title, are hyper-educated African-Canadians who are best friends and roommates. As is all but mandatory in stories about hyper-smart young people written by hyper-smart young people, their talents go unrecognized by the wider world; Hamza is a dishwasher and Yehat’s a clerk at a video store. But Hamza’s series of chance encounters with a mysterious woman in flowing desert robes leads them both into a centuries-old search-and-recover mission that takes them from downtown Edmonton into low desert badlands. Along the way there are digressions on theoretical astrophysics, graphic novels, Egyptian oracles and De Niro movies. There is a pair of sinister brothers, one black and one white, called "the Wolves," and an extensive subplot concerning a crime gang called the FanBoys that owes as much to Superman comics as to John Woo films.
A book like Coyote Kings is more about the journey than the destination, dramatically speaking, and Faust’s book is a hell of a lot of fun to read, right up until its climactic encounter in the badlands, in which the stories of the Coyote Kings, the Wolves, the FanBoys and Sherem (the "desert sister") all converge. The writing is crisp and energetic throughout, and Faust sometimes shows a keenness for visuals far beyond his years — the first time he sees Sherem, in a Chinese market, her skin is "glowing like sautéed butter and bananas" as she "hefts a bag of crawly roots" and "graspy, poking-out chicken feet." But where Faust really excels is on the level of voice. Coyote Kings is told in the voices of nearly a dozen central characters, in alternating chapters. One feels wary at first, but Faust’s ear for his characters’ voices is so nuanced and well-tuned that he ceases attributing chapters to specific speakers after their first or second appearance, and there’s absolutely no confusion. That’s an easy thing to do badly, particularly if you’re an ambitious first novelist, and that Faust pulls it off so well is the book’s greatest accomplishment.
Coyote Kings’ greatest weakness, however, is its ending, which feels at once rushed and incomplete, as if Faust had set so many wheels in motion, he couldn’t figure out a way to stop them all without jarring the works. But that’s a problem common to complicated and digressive books like Faust’s, as well as Thomas Pynchon’s and Philip K. Dick’s, with whose writing Faust seems to be at least passingly familiar. And really, the ride is so entertaining that readers may overlook the closing section’s shortcomings. For now, the caveats should be made in parentheses;Coyote Kings is an enormously creative first novel by a gifted writer, which is what matters most.» - Eric Waggoner


«Minister Faust is one of the most interesting new writers I've come across in the last few years, his first novel, The Coyote Kings of the Space-Aged Bachelor Pad, published in 2004 and his second, From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, in 2007. He's been a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award, and is a champion of progressive politics in his home town of Edmonton, Canada. His work fits broadly into the realm of science fiction/fantasy but he often focuses on satire, social issues, and a biting sense of humor in ways that align him just as easily with writers like Kurt Vonnegut. It's worth quoting at length the Amazon.com review of The Coyote Kings of the Space-Aged Bachelor Pad, since it does a nice job of giving readers a sense of Faust's fiction:
"What do Edmonton, D&D, cannibalism, Star Wars, comic books, ancient African mythology, black culture, drugs, organic food, magic, and television shows have in common? They all play important roles in The Coyote Kings..., a zany, stylish, and fun novel. Coyote Kings, the debut by Edmonton writer, teacher, and radio host Minister Faust, has a large cast of characters but mainly follows two roommates - Hamza, a former graduate student who's been reduced to working as a dishwasher, and Yehat, a video store clerk who invents insane gadgets in his spare time. They're stuck in a rut of self-pity and going nowhere real slow when a mysterious woman shows up and seduces Hamza by quoting his favorite comics and sci-fi films. (The only problem: she may not be human.) Before long, the three are caught up in a quest for a magic artifact, but they're not the only ones. Arrayed against them is a wide assortment of characters--including an old romantic rival of Hamza's, drug dealers who peddle a mystical high, and a former Canadian Football League player with aspirations of immortality--all with their own plans for the artifact. The action takes the cast through the streets of Edmonton and to Drumheller, where an ancient, startling secret is revealed."
While we generally focus on writers when they have a book out, I thought it would be interesting to talk to a writer between books. Minister Faust did not disappoint...
What has most surprised you about reaction to your first two novels?
- I've been blown away by the praise. The New York Times dropped a reference which, even distally, connected me with James Joyce; CanWest News called my first book something like "the most exciting Canadian debut in decades" (I found that one about three years after the book came out!). That book was short-listed for three awards and ended up on four top-ten lists. With Doctor Brain, the PKD runner-up for 2007, I was stunned and delighted at how many people "got" the book. I was worried that the book's JLA meets Bamboozled approach might really throw people. But instead, most folks who read it seemed to understand that it was satire and followed what it was satirizing. Some were particularly detailed and insightful (for instance, Prof. Steven Shaviro at the Pinocchio Theory. I guess expect to be misunderstood, misquoted and misrepresented. When that doesn't happen, I consider it a good day.
Do you find readers making assumptions about you or your fiction if they know you're black?
- That's a great question, and honestly, I'm not sure. I have been amused by a few weird descriptions: one blog review which loved Doctor Brain also warned readers that the book's author was a "Black militant," whatever that means. It's possible that some people are making positive or negative assumptions about me based on their perception of race, but in general I'd say I've been treated with respect and kindness.
How does Philip K. Dick fit into your pantheon of influences? Who else is in there?
- I love PKD's work, which has had a major influence on my high-level approach to writing. Like PKD, I'm not much interested in space princes and capital-V villains; I'm definitely intrigued by psychological realism, nuanced characterisation and ordinary folks in extraordinary circumstances. I first became aware of PKD just before Blade Runner came out; I read a series of articles in a Blade Runner-themed issue of Cinefantastique that was fascinating for its wide-ranging commentary on PKD and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? PKD's treatment in that book of the issue of psychopathy has fascinated me since I encountered it back in 1982; I spoke extensively on PKD for a television spotlight on him for the series The Word This Week and was drawn to his work for his combination of a series of elements and issues that intrigue me: spirituality, metaphysics, altered reality, altered cognition, environmental decay, paranoia, and the meaning of being human. Like most PKD fans I love The Man in the High Castle, but I consider Valis his best novel. It's a frustrating book in its first half, but worth every moment of brow-furrowing.
The other major influences on my work are varied: Dune for the scope of its imagination; Flowers for Algernon for its structural brilliance and its psychological depth; John Gardner's Grendel and Watchmen for their lovingly twisted revisionism; Richard Wright's stunning, full-length autobiography Black Boy for its social commentary and priceless poetical prose, and the same goes for Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, Ellison's Invisible Man and Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice; and Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye for its voice, characterisation, and emotional honesty. Poets have also had a major influence on me, especially Claude McKay, the original Last Poets, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and Seamus Heaney (especially for his translation of Beowulf).» - Interview with Jeff VanderMeer

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