The Bible Repairman and other stories by Tim Powers
Posted September 15, 2011on:
Published in 2011 by Tachyon Publications
where I got it: purchased new
why I read it: if Tim Powers wrote it, I want to read it.
Tim Powers has long been a favorite speculative fiction writer of mine. I describe him as a spec fic writer and not a “SF” writer because most of his books take place in the past. For decades, he’s been writing alternate history with a paranormal twist. Ghosts, voodoo, body switching, trapped souls, ancient demons, and mythological creatures abound. He’s writing what might have happened, what could have happened, what no one will ever tell you happened because no one would ever believe it. But if it comes from Powers, I’m happy to believe every word.
I’ve read a handful of his novels over the years, my long time favorites being Last Call, The Anubis Gates and On Stranger Tides. I’m sure I knew he’d written some short fiction, but I’d never come across any of it. When I saw a copy of his collection of short works The Bible Repairman, it was a no brainer to buy it. With 6 short stories (two of them really novellas) on the nature of souls and ghosts and things man perhaps was not meant to know, and a little blurb closing out each where he talks about how the story came into being, The Bible Repairman and other stories is a must have for any Powers fan.
here are my thoughts on a few of the stories:
A Soul in A Bottle (2006) – On occasion, Sydney visits Jean Harlow’s star on Hollywood Blvd and puts pennies on it. One day he meets a strange young woman. It’s not love at first sight, but it’s most definitely fascination at first sight. She’s shy and homeless, and he’s intensely curious. A rare book gives him a clue to her identity and the ability to save her. If he saves the woman he’s falling for, he’ll forget this whole thing ever happened. I think this was my favorite in the volume.
Parallel Lines (2010)- Caroleen, an elderly woman, keeps receiving messages from her recently deceased sister Beverly. They lived together so long, at first the messages help Caroleen get over her death. But are the messages really for her? They might be for the young woman next door who helps the old sisters out, running errands, doing laundry and such. It’s not easy for a ghost to send messages, the lines could easily get crossed.
A Journey of Only Two Paces (2011)- Apparently I can’t get enough of Powers’ ghost stories! In this one, James Kohler is called back home to handle the estate of an old friend, Jack Ranald. They’d be close in college, but these days saw each other maybe once or twice a year. Kohler doesn’t understand why he should be the executor of Jack’s will, but having dinner with Jack’s beautiful girlfriend is already making everything much easier. She convinced him to drive out to Jack’s old place yet tonight, and ask they drive to the old apartment building Jack owned, her questions become more and more cryptic. A crumbling, courtyarded California apartment building tenanted by a handful of very strange people and far too many cats, Kohler is smart enough to know something is very, very wrong. But what? He’s got to figure it out before they push him into that symbol drawn on the floor, and force him to read something that sounds so strange. . .
A Time to Cast Away Stones (2008)- this is almost famous and long awaited postscript to Powers’ 1989 novel The Stress of Her Regard. I’ve read the novel (and now the postscript), and I’m really wishing I’d payed better attention to my high school literature classes (or maybe like, taken one in college. Just for kicks, of course). If you’re familiar with the lives and paranormal curiosities of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Edward Trelawny, The Stress of Her Regard and A Time to Cast Away Stones is for you. Alas, I’m a cretin, and just didn’t get it. If I do ever sit that British Literature class, I’m going to come into it with Powers’ alt history as my basis, and my essay answers will be full of succubi and nephilim and “but he really died because of. . . .”
If you’re still on the fence about getting The Bible Repairman, buy it just for Powers’ blurbs about his inspiration for each story. He’s a brilliant story teller, but a pretty normal guy (phew, that’s a relief!). Inspirations included a creepy vine covered apartment building found by him and his wife on a weekend drive through California, a pizza place he worked at that was patronized by a homeless woman, random movies, and of course, dead poets. The newly printed version is from Tachyon Publications, but Subterranean Press did one that is rumored to contain Powers’ own illustrations. Although I don’t know that I’d trust anything drawn by that man, it would probably suck me into a ghost world or something!