Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gay science fiction gets wet: Mel Keegan's drowned future

What a joy and a relief this edition is! It's only the second time Mel Keegan's Aquamarine has been printed, and the DreamCraft edition is so far superior to the old edition put out by MPG (the Millivres Publishing Group), you will be astounded.

Quite a story is attached to the old edition. I don't want to type the whole thing here ... it's too hot and I'm too tired after the week-long heatwave that has another week to go, and besides that Mel Keegan and the guys at DreamCraft have told the story better than I'd be telling it. So I'm going to save time and sweat and paste in the relevant bit from Aquamarine's own page...

AQUAMARINE is once again MK's property, since the rights have 'passed back to the author.' This is tremendous news for DreamCraft, and also for readers who either haven't been able to find a copy of AQUAMARINE (it's been hard to track down recently), or ... readers who have been driven bananas since 2000, by the 'tatty' presentation of the MPG issue. If you've read the 'Keegan Speaks' page, you'll know that 'things went haywire' at the pre-press stage.

The book was never proof-read! MPG went to press off the 'raw' files which Mel had emailed from Fairbanks, Alaska. Now, normally a book will be proofread four or six times before being published. (At DreamCraft, all books are proofed five times by humans and twice electronically.) This means very few errors get through. No book is error free, but you can get close, and we do. For seven years, readers have loved AQUAMARINE even though they've had to grit their teeth to get through the typing hiccups ... they can't be called 'proofing errors,' because the book wasn't proofed! So we've invited MK to go back to the 'raw' files, the exact, same files that were emailed from Fairbanks, and not only will they be properly proofed by DreamCraft,but MK has the chance to take a 'second bite' here: rework, redevelop, re-edit. The story won't change, but parts of the narrative are almost certain to. The end product will be far superior to the MPG presentation in many ways. We'll have a full-color cover, with a genuine depiction of the characters and locations rather than a monochrome (blue) pic of a young man; the interior text will be thoroughly proofed and error free; and the narrative will have been re-reveloped. Any writer will tell you, good books are not written, they're re-written ... and we're looking forward to wonderful things with the DreamCraft edition of AQUAMARINE.

There you have it, direct from DreamCraft and what more could you wish for! All that was promised was done. Beautiful new typeset, gorgeous cover, and it's been proofread to death. I oughtta know, because I did it twice myself. I'm a proofie for MK and DreamCraft; and sure, it's a lot of work, but it's also a hell of a lot of fun. How hard can it be to read a really good book? (Also, I get to write on Mel Keegan with a red pen ... evil chuckle. How many people in the world can say that?!)

The story of Aquamarine has always fascinated me. I love it. One reviewer at Amazon called it "the book Waterworld should have been." I'd go along with that. It takes place in a "drowned future," so it's another one of Mel Keegan's after-the-holocaust plots, but in this case it wasn't a nuclear war, it was a cometary impact that put the final kybosh on the world after we'd already done 75% of the job with global warming.

The story takes place about 80 years in our future, I think. You can easily recognize the remnants of our world and our society. As always in a Keegan story you have two gorgeous heroes in a romantic relationship. In this book it's Russell Grant, who's a genetic scientist, and Eric Devlin, who's a genetically engineered human -- "transhuman" is the term they're using now. (In fact there's a recent blog post on Mel's blog about this, well worth reading.) Eric has been designed so that he can live and breathe in the sea ... because the world is 90% underwater now, and future generations might depend on being "homo aquaticus" to have real freedom.

Eric and Rusty live on the floating city of Pacifica, which lives in the shelter of the converted monster oil tanker that serves as the mothership for the city ... and the whole project is the brainchild of a very old man called Gerald Duquesne, who had a vision and acted on it when there was still time, even though everyone thought he was mad. Pacifica is quite a great place to live and Eric and Rusty have good lives ... till they get complicated.

A bunch of mercenaries (very nasty characters) come in from Australia, wanting to hire Eric to do a job for them, and when he refuses they just nab him and force him to do the work. Now I have to be ultra-careful, because the plot spoilers are sloshing around your knees here!

Without wrecking the plot for you, I can tell you that what starts as a minor nuisance in a wharfside pub blows up into a possible nuclear war. There's 200 pages between these two events, and if you love science fiction, and gay romance, and thriller-type action, you're going to love this book.

It's one of the earlier Keegans, and you can tell: the plot is more linear and less tangled and interwoven. It's FUN, without getting into the deep dark places inside the characters' minds and hearts. If you want something dark and convoluted, then I really recommend you try the NARC novels, which will blow your mind. But if you want a fast-paced, linear, "sunny" adventure, which is perfect for a rainy day or a hot afternoon, you can't go past Aquamarine. I know that a few critics have said, "Not what you expect of Mel Keegan," because the style is light. But I have to ask the question, Why is there something wrong with the style being light? I'd guess MK felt like writing that way at the time, and for me (and for a lot of other readers) it works. It's all down to your preferences. I like it a lot, I find it fun and refreshing, so I can make the recommendation without hesitation. Want something dark that'll stand your hair on end? Go for NARC. It's Jarrat and Stone you're looking for, and you may never be the same again!

The only downside Aquamarine ever had was that the previous edition was so full of typos you sometimes cringed as you read it. Raw typescripts are like this. Trust me -- the word of God had to be proofread or you'd have ended up with The Book of Gemesod by Moshes, in which it says, Thou shalt now commute adultery, and Vengeance is mean, sayeth the Loud. Believe me ... they also serve who sit and proof. And I'm one of 'em. The DreamCraft edition has taken care of this problem and at the same time the book was beautifully rejacketed.

Highly recommended, without reservation. AG's rating: 5 out of 5 stars, and a gold stamp for having the determination to go ahead and do it.

Buy it brand new from Amazon -- and take care that you don't buy the old Millivres edition by mistake. It's a lot more expensive (because it's getting rare) and in the end you'll only wind up gnashing your teeth at the "tatty" job they did on the presentation. The old edition does not have the full color cover -- it's easy to tell them apart, BUT ... something weird is going on in the Amazon engine, and lately the DreamCraft edition isn't showing up in a "Mel Keegan" search. If you search on "DreamCraft Aquamarine," it shows up, but that's the only time you see it ... and if you don't see it, how can you buy it?? Jade (the cover artist and webpage guru at DreamCraft) found this out just a couple of days ago, and I heard that MK is going to be blogging about it soon.

Let me guide you through the minefield.

THIS is the DreamCraft edition -- new cover, all fixed, $22.50; this is the one you want:

This is the old version, "tatty" presentation by Millivres, spot color cover, and expensive because it's rare -- this is the one you would probably go past:

God knows, if you're a completionist, get both! But really, where's the decision?! Glad to be of help here.


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