Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Logan Albright
Self-published, 2010

John Milton would probably be disappointed to see the continued existence of extravagant royal weddings in England in 2011. The famous poet and republican who lived during the country's blip without monarchy wrote directly and indirectly of the dangers of unchallengeable power, messages which the modern royal family have sidestepped through a misleading PR campaign about symbolic figureheads and tradition. During the recent offensive, many United States citizens have fully embraced a power structure that they once threw off, without discarding any of the ideas on which that revolution was based. One man who hasn't succumbed to such nonsense compartmentalisation is Logan Albright, the author of a recent novel based on Milton's Paradise Lost, named Pandemonium.

The stripped-down yet sleek packaging of Pandemonium is a far cry from pompous self-indulgence, with an understated brown-paper coloured cover reminiscent of an organic vegetable box delivery. Does it contain as much flavour and revolutionary potential? Or is slogging through this book the hell which its title implies? While the story itself contains more than one hellish location, it is, thankfully, a joy to read. It takes place in a vast futuristic galaxy of anthropomorphised birds, the majority of whom work for a corporation named Infinity United. To call it a corporation is something of an understatement, as Infinity United control virtually all aspects of life, having taken over the role of governance long ago. Nobody, even within the regime, can remember how it began or its early years of expansion, such is the breadth of its power. We follow a small group of rebels, led by a former high-ranking employee named Lucas, in their mission for liberty over security.

For reasons that are initially unclear, the plot begins with the group on a lifeless volcanic rock of little significance. It bears no resemblance to the glistening headquarters of their banishers and former employers on the planet Plerixia, which features threatening tooth-shaped buildings and a surface that is 97% paneled over. In these places and elsewhere, Albright describes his environments well. His characters, likewise, are sharply defined, and even those in supporting and minimal roles are interesting enough to keep the reader from becoming lost and disinterested in this unimaginably large setting. As I was introduced to new individuals and spacey species, I thought of the world of Starfox and the Lylat system (the title having already made me think of another game series, which appeared in part, oddly enough, on the spaced-out Saturn console). We come to see their amusing quirks and faults in a relatively short space of time, and the intelligent and humble Lucas would no doubt find a kindred spirit in the fox commander. Nowhere is the comparison more fitting than the battle scenes, where lasers and razor-sharp talons relay a sense of chaos that is both thrilling and horrifying, knowing you can only possibly be learning of a small part of the carnage.

Until I was about two-thirds of the way through Pandemonium, I kept waiting for a political turn in narrative that never came. You see, I know Logan Albright personally. As a representative of the libertarian right, he has for many years outraged and mocked me and my radical positions. But I have a hard time disliking him. He doesn't take his opinions lightly or wear them as a fashion accessory, and is the ideal antidote to the likes of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. Instead of a laughable haircut, he has facial hair somewhere between Frank Zappa and John Waters, and instead of a clown-like naivete, he is actually a respectable human being. Stories of revolution and tyranny are, of course, prevalent all over the political spectrum (particularly in the United States), but Pandemonium and its character-driven epic reads a lot like a novel by the progressive comedian and author Ben Elton (Blackadder, Gridlock). Unlike with Elton, however, the books excellence stems from the fact that the politics are present and important, but universal. They are also, like the human beings of the plot, a supporting species, yet filling a significant (and in the humans case, chilling) role. It takes a big person to perform this kind of separation in their art, and the skill needed to tell such a big story in an easily digestible size is evident in Pandemonium too.

Pandemonium can be bought in both paperback and kindle form, and a preview can be read at the amazon page. Logan Albright has also recently published a new book, entitled Errant Heirs: A Character Study in Five Parts.