When it comes to edifying entertainment, three things top my personal list of favorites: listening to Rush and other progressive rock; reading the works of Kevin J. Anderson; and delving deeply into the nuances and permutations of various science-fiction mythologies.
But, greedily, I must ask: what if I can have all three at once?
What if science-fiction mastermind Kevin J. Anderson created massive worlds—exploring every great idea and every nook and cranny of an imagined universe—set to the vast sound and lyricscapes of Rush and Neil Peart?
Gloriously, Anderson has done just this, authoring and co-authoring a number of short stories, novels, and graphic novels set in the Rush universe. There’s nothing Anderson has written that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend with great enthusiasm, but he is at his absolute best when working with Neil Peart and with the worlds imagined by Rush as a band. His Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives certainly represent some of the very best fantasies I have ever read, and I have read quite a few! As I’ve noted in other reviews, Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives are each complex and compelling Chestertonian and Tolkienian faery tales.
Now, through the excellent and rather perfectionist Canadian press, ECW, Anderson and John McFetridge have edited a wide-ranging collection of stories, 2113, each tale inspired by a various Rush song. Sometimes the influence is direct and obvious, but, just as often, the influence is indirect and sideways. Anderson and McFetridge have clearly encouraged a range of expression. If a theme emerges, it is, naturally, the story of the individual human person, endowed with integrity and will, fighting against the conformism of governments, societies, and corporations.
[Without giving too much away, let me note that Anderson brilliantly connects the world of 2112 to the world of Clockwork Angels in the final paragraph of his own rather Walter-Miller-esque short story, “2113.”]
While most of the tales are new, two come from that time before time, before Peart had joined Rush: Fritz Leiber’s 1967 “Gonna Roll the Bones,” and Richard Foster’s 1973 “A Nice Morning Drive.” It is not only wise, but handy to have these tales included in this collection.
An “advanced reading copy” arrived at Progarchy HQ yesterday afternoon, and yours truly has been gloriously devouring it. It is a satisfying, humbling, and inspiring book.
But, then. . . what else would I expect. Rush? Science fiction? Short stories? Alternate universes? Neil Peart? ECW? Kevin J. Anderson? Well, of course, it’s perfect. You definitely need to add this thing of perfection to your own collection.
Bradley J. Birzer is editor of progarchy.com and author of Neil Peart: Cultural (RE)Percussions (2015).