Saturday, February 28, 2015

SF Minis: "Sleep Walking Now and Then" by Richard Bowes

In February, I continued the process of catching up by reading a few short works on Locus Magazine's list of recommended SF reads, as well as the 2014 Nebula Award Finalists. To date I've read eight novellas and novelettes -- most of them available as "free" online reads / downloads. Today I am featuring Richard Bowes.

Illustration/Cover by Richie Pope
A Nebula Award Finalist and recommended by Locus Magazine. This novelette was acquired and edited for Tor.com by consulting editor Ellen Datlow.

"Sleep Walking Now and Then," is set in the Big Arena, a futuristic New York City, where class and financial divide are wide and marked. Residents of the Big Arena will do anything to stay at the top of their game in 2060. That wider look at time, place and society is the perfect cue to the more intimate setting, characters, and motivations that come along next. Bowes' main character is Jacoby Cass, a successful playwright, director and actor whose star seems to be waning. Everything depends on the success of a new interactive production at The Agouleme Hotel in a dilapidated Kips Bay neighborhood. The hotel's original owner and two deaths, one of them a suspected but unproven murder, are the inspiration for Cass' play.

Bowes mixes up the future (2060) with the past (1890s and 1960s) through the play's dialogue, descriptions of the hotel as the set, and the actors' wardrobe. Atmosphere is grand throughout the story. Greed, egos, staging details, as well as the "anything for a hit" show business attitude are also easily captured by Bowes. The above mentioned and the idea of having the public become part of the play (imagine an interactive play set at the Algonquin), became more a focus for me than the murder mysteries. The end fits the story, characters, and attitudes perfectly.

Richard Bowes is a favorite author. Through the insights and knowledge of New York City, past and present, found in the body of his works it quickly becomes evident that the City is an intricate part of the writer, just as the writer has become part of the City. In my opinion, one of Bowes' biggest talents is the subtlety with which he infuses his New York City tales with fantasy. I again found that subtle touch in "Sleep Walking Now and Then."

I purchased this novelette to go with the rest of my collection of ebooks by Richard Bowes.

Read online at Tor.com. Buy it here.

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