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Rudy Rucker
Jim and the Flims
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2011

Night Shade Books
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-1-597-80280-2
Publication Date: 06-07-2011
248 Pages; $24.99
Date Reviewed: 09-06-2011
Index:  Science Fiction  Fantasy  Horror  General Fiction

We all get the afterlife we deserve. And why not? Since nobody knows boo about what happens to us after we die — if anything — the next world is ripe for exploration and imagination. Fortunately, we have the very fertile imagination of Rudy Rucker, and his safari into the spirit world, 'Jim and the Flims' is just as quirky and enjoyable as everything else he's written. Rucker knows how to bring the spark of life to the realm of death.

Rucker's novel is unfolds at a seemingly relaxed pace, as Jim Oster tells us an all-American life story; high school, weird surfers, college, a tech job in Santa Cruz that blows up. Filled with dreams of tech stardom, he creates his own bit of tech — which kills his wife and pokes a hole in reality. The downside is that the wildlife of the afterlife can slip through and hound Jim in Santa Cruz; but the upside is that Jim may be able to rescue his wife from death. No matter what happens, Jim's life is now going to be really, really weird and exceptionally entertaining to read about.

Rucker's characters are so rock-solidly realistic and down-to-earth that we believe the most fantastic things that they say. His eccentrics are the scary people you meet at parties — or on the street — who in this case, actually are tuned in to another reality. Jim Oster tells us the story, and his voice is so sweetly understated, so perfectly pitched that Rucker is able to walk you around the streets you know and into worlds where Jivas, blue baboons and cruiser couches seem utterly the norm. Because we love the earthbound characters, all the weird critters seem equally believable. Rucker walks on the wild side, but the people we meet seem just like us because they have the same concerns as us. It's a smart move that anchors a wild ride.

Rucker is also smart with his flights of fantasy. He knows how to craft a surreal world where the rules are consistent but utterly strange, and is able to create images that convey plot elements and speak to the reading unconscious. And while Jim Oster has this sort of rambling feel to his voice, Rucker's novel, in part a science-fictional re-invention of the Orpheus myth, has real tension and narrative drive because we believe both in the utterly bizarre creatures and the utterly mundane characters. Rucker's a master at creating technology that transports readers into the absurd.

The real appeal of 'Jim and the Flims' is that it is a perfect showcase for Rudy Rucker's ability to craft a story that is both totally familiar and absolutely like nothing you've ever read before. He's consistently entertaining and a very genial writer. Being in this book is a pure joy, even when there are elements of terror. Rucker's ability to create ordinary characters who must confront the extraordinary makes this book quite accessible to anyone willing to stroll on the beaches of Santa Cruz, check out the weird surfers and take in the gorgeous sunset. Somewhere in between is everyday life — but as Rucker's novel shows us, everyday life is weirder than we think and filled with more hope than we might expect.

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