Alex Cochran

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Verk av Alex Cochran

The Pollutant Speaks (2023) 21 exemplar


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The frustrating thing about Warren Ellis et al's excellent sci-fi political satire comic Transmetropolitan is the hint of an even more interesting world beyond the pages. The very first storyline involves trade with an alien species that is almost immediately left behind to more terrestrial matters. Alex Cochran's The Pollutant Speaks swings the other way, beginning in a cyberpunk capitalist hellscape and quickly flying out into grand space opera reminiscent of Iain M. Bank's Culture novels.

Evans Ezra Evans was a poet. His epic poem 'The Pollutant Speaks' raged against the injustice subjected on the impoverished masses across the seven worlds settled by humanity, and raised him out of that poverty himself. Now, due to a traumatic accident, he is literally incapable of writing, and is about to fall back into the miserable universal basic subsistence he tried to end. What's worse, his magnum opus has been corrupted and turned manifesto by some who would rather burn the world down than try to alleviate suffering. And they want Evans dead. Without the protection of money, he is doomed to be killed by his own words. His only hope is the possibility that he may be one of a handful of humans capable of learning a new language. One spoken by the Paraunion, a galaxy-wide collective of alien species who are considering allowing humans entry into a larger world. Evans has the chance to see the stars, but no guarantee that his problems won't follow him.

The Pollutant Speaks took me by surprise. It's rare that a story gives a solution to a grim cyberpunk future, and "aliens" is a great option! Cochran's writing is sharp and engaging, with humans who feel realistic to their world and aliens who are truly alien, but also honestly benevolent. Evans' narration is shot through with poetry, both the real-life poets who must be his influences, and fragments of his The Waste Land - like masterpiece. The Pollutant Speaks deals with ethics, art, language, and what it means to live in a society. I hope Cochran gives us more like this.
… (mer)
Magus_Manders | 9 andra recensioner | Apr 2, 2024 |
At some point in the future, humanity has expanded out from Earth, but is confined to seven very overcrowded planets. This has resulted in a situation known as “the crush,” which manifests as different mental problems in people. In the case of poet Evens Ezra Evans, it resulted in graphomania, leaving him wanting to fill all blank spaces around himself with writing and thus forbidden by his doctor from writing at all so that he doesn’t suffer a relapse. As the book opens, his savings are about to run out and force him into “life basic,” which would provide for his basic needs but leave him extremely vulnerable to the “Cannots,” a group that have latched onto Evans’s poem The Pollutant to justify violence but want to kill Evans because he denounced such readings. In an effort to avoid the Cannots and earn some money, he takes a test to see if he might be able to learn Paraunion, the language of the multi-species alien Paraunion who might hold the key to solving humanity’s problems if they let humans join. To his surprise, he not only passes the test, but also later tests on the world of Border that determine that he really can learn at least the spoken form of Paraunion; the written form has been eluding humans who’ve been studying for years. Back on humanity’s worlds, however, there is a growing movement that wants to abandon the attempt, open Border to more people, and end all contact with the Paraunion.

It took a bit for me to get past some of the story’s terms, but I was able to get beyond not knowing what coachgirls, neverriders, or Cannots were by the end of the first couple of chapters and follow along with the expectation that the important details would become clearer as the story unfolded, an expectation that was met. As for the story itself, while some of the broad details were predictable due to the requirements of a story, the ways that they were reached were anything but. I also don’t think I’ve encountered anything all that similar to the importance of how the Paraunion language works in other stories, except perhaps Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life, but that’s a very different story.

There are some definite problems. One of the more noticeable is that the main antagonist is mentioned once in an early chapter with no real suggestion that they’re anyone of real importance, either in the story or the world, before being mentioned as apparently behind the anti-Paraunion movement about halfway through the book, by which point I’d completely forgotten the name; the story did remind me of who they were not long afterwards, however. There were also a few time skips that left it unclear just how much time had passed, sometimes feeling like they took place not very long after the previous chapter until events that took place during the gap are mentioned and suggest that it’s actually been several months. Finally, the anti-Paraunion movement is a bit too much the fault of one person to the point that it can be reduced to a fringe completely outside of the political establishment simply by removing that person and how they were distributing the view.

Despite my problems, I would recommend this to people looking for a thoughtful, stand-alone science fiction story.
… (mer)
Gryphon-kl | 9 andra recensioner | Mar 23, 2024 |
Fascinating debut novel by Alex Cochran. It describes a distant future society where freedom is more a commodity than a right. The book "Pollutant Speaks", written by the main character takes on a whole new meaning and is used in a way he never thought possible. The book does an amazing job of taking you to this future universe where humanity is on the brink of a new chapter. All the weight of humanity is on the shoulders of the main character, will he succeed or fail? Great book to get you thinking about the possibilities of not only how humans rally around a cause they believe in, but how we may not be as advanced as we think we are. This was a book from the Early Reviewers on LibraryThing… (mer)
sjh4255 | 9 andra recensioner | Mar 4, 2024 |
An interesting SF with a thought-out and strange enough alien civilization and a good storyline. Unfortunately the whole book feels not fleshed out and explained enough which doesn`t help.
TheCrow2 | 9 andra recensioner | Feb 27, 2024 |