on 14 June 2012
One of the great masters of cyberpunk science fiction, John Shirley is also an overlooked, quite compelling, storyteller, whose latest novel, "Everything Is Broken", is an intelligent, well-written, near future thriller deserving of a substantially larger literary audience. It is one of the best disaster novels I have read, a compulsively compelling account of the aftermath of an earthquake-triggered tsunami on an isolated central Californian town, Freedom. "Everything Is Broken" is replete with the gritty realism of Shirley's earlier fiction, especially his celebrated cyberpunk trilogy, "A Song Called Youth"; a gritty realism that many may find far more plausible than anything Shirley has written previously. Relying on his mesmerizing prose, Shirley offers a dark tale of survival as the town's relatively few survivors fall under the sway of a lawless band of homicidal dope dealers and thieves. Though there are graphic, often horrific, scenes of violence, Shirley is such a fine storyteller that each of these scenes are presented as meaningful, if occasionally surprising, elements of the plot. "Everything is Broken" deserves ample recognition as a compelling first-rate literary thriller and as a notable addition to Shirley's literary oeuvre.