"I was eleven when everyone in the world lost their hair."
My Q and A with Peter Tieryas Liu
In January of last year I read Peter Tieryas Liu's debut collection of short stories, Watering Heaven. I was actually shocked by how good it was, by how much I liked it. Here is a part of my concluding remarks on the collection:
"I really liked the stories in Watering Heaven by Peter Tieryas Liu. They contain strong elements of surrealism, I think Alfred Jarry would like them, and magic realism. The stories are very mega-city urban and very tuned in to how social media and its permeation of the world connects us no more than it isolates us. There is a preoccupation with death and suicide. Someone kills themselves in a number of the stories. There are a lot of hookers and no happy old fashioned relationships or marriages accept maybe of a character's grandparents and even that may have been a sham. The use of language is marvelous, the details are perfect. At the start of the e-book there is a quote about the book that says "his surreal brilliance and vulnerability reminds one of the best of Borges, Calvino and Pynchon". When I first read this I thought "oh, sure" but I now fully agree with this."
I knew I wanted to read much more of Peter's work and hopefully watch his talent develop. Long before his first novel, Bald New World came into print I thought what a brilliant title. I have now read Bald New World twice, once three months ago and just last week. I waited three months to read a second time as I wanted to let the work sink into my consciousness for a while and I knew right away that the book would get a lot of attention so I waited. I was right as it has received glowing reviews all over the internet and beyond.
When I read the opening section describing world wide reaction to the day everyone in the world went bald overnight I thought I sure would not want to be in Manila when that happened. Just about every other TV commercial here is for hair products.
There is just so much in Bald New World to like it is hard for me to feel I can adequately react to the book. The narrative covers some twenty years and is kind of centered on two experimental film makers trying to produce movies about this new world. The richest people are now the wig manufacturers. Much time is spent in this world trying to understand why everyone lost their hair, the blame is placed on everything from the extreme environmental pollution of the world to seeing it as some kind of divine punishment. There is a plot about hair restoration. Poverty is extreme, corruption is rampant and life is very cheap. Showing my age and echoing the remarks of numerous others, this novel will make you think of the great movie, Blade Runner.
The novel also deals with how social media and gadgets are totally changing how we live, in all ways. A leading sport is cricket fighting where people somehow lock up mentally with crickets. One of the lead characters was once a famous cricket fighter (think Avatar) and when he gets in trouble he agrees to fight again. The scenes where he enters into the consciousness of a cricket are really brilliant. The scenes of the fights and the mating with crickets were enough to make one feel the revulsion of this brave new world.
The hysteria now being created by The Fox Network about Ebola some how reminds me of the parts of Bald New World in which we learn of the many overt and covert ways the very rich and their minions try to control the masses by distracting them from their real problems. The role of the army in wars against African "enemies" as a last chance employer and feeder of vendor wealth for sure is see-able as a commentary on the foreign and domestic priorities of the United States.
Blad New World would make a great movie. It is very visually oriented, fast moving, has some nasty sex scenes (not just the ones where you feel you are having sex with crickets!) with beautiful women, lots of diverse locations, interesting villains, strong women and I would love to see scenes of all the ways people cope with being bald. A brilliant filming of the first day of baldness could be an immortal classic scene in the right hands. There are prison escapes and plot twists abound. This is a very dark, brilliant and at times very funny book. I can almost guarantee you will never be bored reading Bald New World.
Liu has created a very real feeling virtual world. Aldous is smiling while he awaits to see Liu's next trip through the doors of perception.
Official Author Bio from his webpage
Peter Tieryas Liu is the author of Watering Heaven (Signal 8 Press, 2012), Bald New World (Perfect Edge Books, June 2014), and Dr. 2. Bald New World was listed as one of Buzzfeed’s 15 Highly Anticipated Books of 2014, one of the Best Books of Summer 2014 from Publisher Weekly in a star review, and Watering Heaven was an Amazon best-seller and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Int’l Short Story Award. He has a variety of work published in places like the Adirondack Review, Camera Obscura Journal, Electric Literature, Evergreen Review, Gargoyle, Hobart, HTMLGiant, Indiana Review, Kotaku, New Letters, New Orleans Review, Rain Taxi, Toad Suck Review, and ZYZZYVA to name a few. He is also a VFX artist who has worked on films like Men in Black 3, Guardians of the Galaxy, Alice in Wonderland, and Hotel Transylvania and he has worked as a technical writer for LucasArts, the gaming division of LucasFilm.
I endorse this book without reservations of any kind other than to say it will offend members of The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Crickets.
I hope to read lots more by Peter Tieryas Liu.