FORGOTTEN BOOK: GUNPOWDER by Joe Hill, 2008
This is the 103rd in my series of Forgotten Books.
It is hard to call this one a Forgotten Book since it is relatively new and was an award nominee. However, it was published by a small press PS Publishing in the UK and did not have an American edition.
First off, I like PS Publishing. Pete Crowther and his folks put out some quality products on a fairly regular basis. For a while I tried to collect them all. I did fairly well but once you get behind, it is very tough to catch up. In terms of quality, they cannot be beat. The books they put out are truly interesting and do not just feature the big name writers or left over stories. They regularly do well in awards for small press publishing. And their lineup includes favorites of mine like China Mieville, Peter Hamilton, Matthews Hughes, Eric Brown, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Ramsey Campbell, Ed Gorman, Steven Eriksen, Miochael Moorcock, Joe Lansdale, Michael Bishop and many more.
Joe Hill first caught my attention in his PS collection 20th CENTURY GHOSTS, which was a superb set of stories. I then read his first novel HEART SHAPED BOX and enjoyed it. And his comics work on LOCKE AND KEY is pretty durn good, too. Plus he impressed me as a nice guy at the World Horror Convention in Austin.
So I had high hopes for this novella. And it delivers. Elaine Hammond is on the small planet R2 with an odd group of genetically engineered boys. Their task is to use their various “Talents” to terraform the planet for human civilization. Elaine acts as Mother to the group.
The leader of the boys is Jake. We first see Jake walking along with grass growing wherever he steps. To be sure, it is knife grass which slices open your clothes and shoes, but it is still an interesting miracle. All of the boys have Talents, except for Charley. Charley uses his time to build the Great Wall of Charley. He is devoted to Jake and periodically is the object of the others hazing attempts.
Elaine is very happy in her role. So when a spaceship shows up unexpectedly and she is told that someone else will be taking over and the boys will be left to another, she is not happy.
The story, once the revelations of their location and talents are revealed, is fairly predictable but very enjoyable. The descriptions are interesting and colorful.
Overall I enjoyed this book quite well. It runs 80 pages or so and can be read in one or two sittings.
The bad news is that it is out of print and copies range widely depending on which of three stated you get. There is a hardcover without a dustjacket, a jacketed hardcover and a slipcased hardcover. Prices I saw online today ranged from $35 to over $250. I wish it was more generally available.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blog