Celluloid and spiders
released 7 January 368 pages | Paperback/ebook Author Tim Powers Publisher Corvus
When a writer co-invents a subgenre like steampunk, it’d be understandable to expect their books to be full of cogs, top hats and majestic airships – but author Tim Powers has spent his career rarely going the expected route. Despite his subgenre-defining early collaborations with James Blaylock and KW Jeter, Powers has instead focused on writing layered and literary blends of sci-fi and fantasy that take the approach of his 1983 classic The Anubis Gates and push it even further.
His latest book revolves around a crumbling Los Angeles estate known as Caveat. Following their aunt’s death, Scott and Madeleine Madden return to Caveat for the first time in over a decade, but their eccentric cousins who live at the house are hiding dark secrets connected to their use of “spiders”, strange patterns that give them the ability to travel in time and hijack past lives…
Medusa’s Web is a charmingly strange, occasionally bewildering book that throws together plenty of wild ideas and often seems happiest when taking a more roundabout narrative route. Powers mixes heady conceptual time-travel shenanigans with a slightly magical-realist tone, and while the plot carries echoes of the Hollywood-set Clive Barker novel Coldheart Canyon, it’s more often evocative of the elliptical work of Jonathan Carroll, author of fantasy classic The Land Of Laughs.
The result is a book that delivers an intriguing mystery in a manner that’s both engaging and frustrating. The central plot is gripping, but Powers’s loose, offbeat style means the book never really builds up a sense of momentum. There’s humour, quirky characterisation and a lush portrait of LA, yet Medusa’s Web remains a rambling read that’s probably best enjoyed by long-time Powers fans rather than inquisitive newcomers. Saxon Bullock
Probably best enjoyed by long-time Powers fans