Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Death and Dancing in New Las Vegas

Short Story by Ernest Hogan

Teodoro Arango a.k.a. Paco Cohen and his band are travelling through the purple landscape of terraformed Mars to a big festival in New Las Vegas. There, a running background theme of corporate greed and cultural appropriation moves to the foreground and tries to ensnare Paco personally. He's too much of a rebel, so he insults the big Mars-owning corporation in song, then runs offstage and flees the city with his band.

This rebellious mocking of tourism and entertainment industries carries a side-plot related to Paco's daughter and her desire to sing with and rescue a mermaid, but the draw of the story isn't its frantic anti-corporate plot so much as the bizarre extrapolation of a purple Mars where people and animals are randomly transformed by nanohudu, purple canal mermaids may-or-may-not be mutation or tourist trap engineering, and AI corporate logos have a threatening sentience of their own. It's a crazy world and a fast moving plot, apparently a sequel to Hogan's April 2001 Analog story: "The Rise and Fall of Paco Cohen and the Mariachis of Mars." I haven't read the earlier story, but I'm not sure it would make the world any less delightfully crazy.

Paco's lyrics aren't that great, although I guess they fit within the Las Vegas mariachi framework. The story is like the lyrics: strange, exciting, danceable, rebellious, but ultimately empty cultural calories. Fun but forgettable.

3 dancing purple yetis out of 5.

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