Casually Absurd and Hilarious: Chester Anderson’s The Butterfly Kid

A dude singing with Butterflies coming out of his wrists. Yup! Casual.

A dude singing with Butterflies coming out of his wrists. Yup! Casual.

This book is just a romp. That’s really the only way I can even consider describing it. From the first page until the last, I was intrigued, curious, concerned even. Bust most importantly I was giggling, laughing and generally having a great time. I’m sure a few times my roommates were confused as to why I was laughing or smiling while reading. My only response would be: “You’ll never believe the absurd shit that’s happening in this book.”

Chester Anderson’s writing, and his characters, seem to have a certain nonchalance that I found totally unexpected and completely refreshing. For instance, after watching a young gentlemen turn into a cloud of butterflies, which is very much out of the ordinary in this world (Greenwich Village during the 60’s), two of the main characters find that they are absolutely without explanation for what they’ve just encountered. They posit:

“Contact High?”

“Right.”

“Obviously.”

It had been that kind of summer.

Completely reasonable. Really nothing out of the ordinary. Just another day in Greenwich Village. You know, casual.  Well it wasn’t casual for me. Now I was in love! Ok maybe not actual love but I was certainly enjoying myself watching these characters stumble, bumble, perhaps a few times even tumble, through this misadventure with more than a few misfits. Truly this story, as they might have said in the 60’s . . . is a Gas!

I was told about The Butterfly Kid from a co-worker. She said it was good and I thought “I guess I’ll check it out.” She remembered it because apparently it has an interesting back story. It is apparently part of a trilogy with Unicorn Girl (Michael Kurland) and The Probability Pad (T.A. Waters). While wikipedia shows the volumes as being sequential, my inside sources tell me that they are perhaps all a single episode told from three different (perhaps drug fueled) perspectives. Interesting. I should certainly like to get my hands on a copy of the other two volumes and see if/how they compare. The wikipedia articles appear a bit scarce. Maybe I’ll have to change that after some digging.

Or maybe not.

Anderson’s book has plenty to recommend it even putting scandal aside. It was nominated for a Hugo back in 1967. Recently, it made the first spot for i09’s weirdest science fiction novels that you’ve never read. Well now I have read it (although no promises I’ll read the other stuff on that list. I have too many reading lists already!) and it was certainly one of the weirdest. But also one of the funnest. 

I’m about to hit 500 words and honestly, it’s a bit late. If I haven’t convinced you yet, go track down a copy. It’s well worth whatever trouble you’ll have to read it. Later folks!

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An Apprentice to Elves

Beautiful Cover!

Beautiful Cover!

Admittedly, An Apprentice to Elves, is a bit of a slow boil. In fact I was surprised when I checked Goodreads and saw that it was only 336 pages (I read an advanced copy for Kindle). The writing style takes some getting used to, as does the world of Iskryne. However, if you spend the time and get to know this piece, you’ll be rewarded with a rich world with likable characters and some interesting modes of living.

The humans are short lived and seemingly violent. The Svartalfar are stifled by their rules, etiquette and tradition, while the Aettrynalfar seem reclusive but open minded. Of course there are the mysterious trolls which we learn little about except that they are pretty darn magical but most likely evil. And of course, there are wolves as well. The main character, Alfgyfa perfectly placed to belong to each of these groups but lacks a feeling of belonging to any. She appears to be the deepest and most interesting of any of the characters in the novel; however, her story doesn’t seem to be her own. She moves within the plot to solve other’s conflicts but I never felt that she got ‘her’ happy ending.

There was one line that stood out to me. A line that was ‘heavy’ you might say. The inquiring Alf, Idocrase, asks Alfgyfa about the human’s short lives and their lack of tradition. He asks her: “Without traditions how can you trust?” She responds that it’s our stories that build trust. This seemed very important to me somehow that I haven’t worked out yet.

In conclusion, An Apprentice to Elves, is not a novel that will inspire the raw enthusiasm of a new Jurassic Park movie, but there are some interesting pieces in their to explore if you can sift through the rest.

PS: I might check out A Companion to Wolves and The Tempering of Men first. I haven’t read either yet but I get the impression it would definitely have added to the experience. Have a few other things I’ll be looking at first, but I might go back to them 🙂