Tim Powers,
Salvage & Demolition
(Subterranean Press, 2013)

Richard Blanzac, a.k.a. Vader, is a rare book dealer in San Francisco whose life veers off course when he's given a few boxes of books and other papers on consignment. Among the old letters and cigarette butts he finds a rare Ace double novel and a manuscript in verse by an obscure 1950s Beat poet, Sophia Greenwald.

The discovery touches off a journey, first to the retirement home where Greenwald's literary executor does her best to keep Greenwald's work from ever reappearing in print, then to a cafe in 1957, where Greenwald herself is surprisingly unsurprised to see him come stumbling from the men's room. It's the first of a couple of time skips in Blanzac's immediate future, and it involves a secret Sumerian god and a cult that will do pretty much anything to avoid their eternal reward.

A novella by Tim Powers in some 21,000 words, Salvage & Demolition is a quick read but a thorough one. Powers has the problem of time paradox and conundrum well in hand, and while you'll take a beat or two to figure out where he's going, you'll be glad you went along for the trip once he arrives.

You might wish you had a little more time to get acquainted with Richard and Sophia, but you won't actually need it. Powers tells you all you need to know in this compact but entirely satisfying yarn.

book review by
Tom Knapp

11 May 2013

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