Review by Kris Vyas-Myall
There are some books that achieve a nearly mythical status among SF geeks. These tend to be acclaimed works from small presses that rarely get reprinted. Red Spider, White Web is one such holy grail.
Published by Morrigan Press in 1990 it is introduced by Brian W. Aldiss, post-scripted by James P. Blaylock and nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke. It currently sits with a 4.28 rating on Goodreads and 92% positive ratings. Yet, in spite of its acclaim, it is incredibly hard to attain, with copies on Amazon currently going for £150. So, when a lower priced edition became available, myself and C from The Middle Shelf decided to split the cost and share our copy.
But does it stand up to its reputation? After finishing it, I would give it a resounding Yes!
There are many elements that make this such an amazing book, but I will pick out a few. Firstly, the atmosphere is very strong. This comes from a combination of the world building and the writing.
Take the opening of chapter one:
It is a world of living metal.
Silicon and cobalt fibers stretched a web of shining strands across his face and hands. He stood on the suspension bridge near Gaia. The winds in the wire warned in a steel cathedral sonata. He leaned over the cold rail, his hands twitching in vertigo and distress. He was next to no one here. A river of chemicals, effluvium and strange mailed fishes ran below. Molten ripples caught the fallen sun in peaks of oily copper. A storm of brown clouds and cold winds was rolling up the river.
In this rhythmic prose we are carefully transported to this ruined world. Able to feel both a part of it and also get a sense of the pace, style and ideas of the story right away.
Secondly the character work here is wonderful. Whilst there are several key characters, the two main ones are Tommy and Kumo. They are just trying to survive in this horrible world in their own ways, sometimes this involves doing things we would see as unpleasant but as we follow them, we come to understand what is important to them and how they are trying to remain human and real.
Finally, and most important for me, is the value put on art in this world. These kind of decaying futures have been common since the 1950s, but they tend to focus on the horrible nature of humanity and how we are doomed as a species. It is very rare they will allow for creativity to still be able to flourish in a declining world.
This only goes some way to convey the beauty of this book. It is such an experience to go through it, I would say that it has to be walked by each individual and see how you come out the other side.
So, either see if you can hunt down a copy of Red Spider, White Web, or else discover who it is we need to pester to get a new edition out!