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i-o: input output
Simon Logan
Prime, 110 pages

i-o: input output
Simon Logan
Simon Logan has been writing in the small press since 1999. He has some 80 acceptances in markets across the globe, online and in print. Another collection of his earlier work A Small Collection Of Mediocre Stories is available from Rainfall Books.

Simon Logan Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Gabriel Chouinard

To put yourself in the proper mood to read Simon Logan's collection i-o: input output, I suggest the following preparations:
Drive to an industrial park. Preferably in Detroit. Park.
Insert Tetsuo: The Iron Man into your portable DVD player. Kill volume.
Insert Ministry's The Land of Rape and Honey into your CD player. Crank volume.
Sit back. Watch. Listen.
When they're done, settle back and read.

Simon Logan's fiction stands poised, triangulated, frozen in a half-step between the interstices of science fiction, horror and fantasy. The eight stories in i-o are all half-steps, frozen moments, pieces of industrial waste cast up on the shores of literature. And they're good.

The book opens with "prism: the mechanisation and deconstruction of beauty," a fitting overture to the collection. It's an effective, bleakly horrifying tale that spins the love between an industrialized mutant and his found glass lover:

While they battled, I caressed Prism beneath her ugly shawl and as the days progressed I found myself sliding underneath the sheet and joining her in the oily darkness.
Logan describes a world that exists in nightmares, a post-Cyberpunk industrial wasteland that is terribly, woefully possible. Throughout, i-o is drenched in atmospheric detail, which is Logan's true strength as a writer. His visions of an apocalyptic universe of factories and assembly lines, mechanical creations, mutant bio-engineered replacements for man, the nameless and faceless workers that are the cogs of a manufacturing society are startlingly crystalline, as vividly reflective as Prism herself.

Each story in i-o describes another facet of Logan's burned future, a building of a vision piece by piece. In "coaxial-creature [above]," we are introduced to the workers that labor in the cables and pylons far above Reykjavik, who hide in a rubber ball when electrical storms rack their workplace, until one of their number creates a pair of goggles that allows them to see into the storms. In "partofit," we are taken inside a nightmarish factory, where the production line takes on new meaning:

And, as I have done seventeen thousand eight hundred and seventy six times before, I reach into the pocket of my plastic bib, withdraw a small hollow pipe and peel back a layer of flesh from the part before me as if it were a mutated onion.
Never mind that titles like "coaxial-creature" and "partofit" and "akin to insects" could have been taken from the liner notes of Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral. The stories in i-o are jagged, relentless, bleak shards of unreality that serve as a creepy, effective warning of what could be. i-o does what most horror, what most science fiction fails to do. It tackles the question of where technology is taking us head-on, ramming the question down the reader's throat through its intense, stylish prose.

In "Ignition," one of the most effective stories in the collection, Logan introduces a pair of nihilistic anarchists, one a bomb-maker, the other a bomb-carrier. "Ignition" is a tour-de-force down the rusty well of loneliness, self-loathing, madness. As in J.G. Ballard's Crash, the reader becomes an unwilling participant in the unrelenting spiral between life and inevitable death. Dragged along by the protagonists, and prodded along with Logan's straight-razor prose digging into our backs, we witness the destruction of two lives in an explosive climactic blink of an eye. It's effective, riveting storytelling.

And Logan has a lot of Ballard in him, lurking in his poetic flair and his fascination with industrial ruin and rusted decay. But like Ballard, Logan's work is elevated by style; his atmospheric slices soar when they could have sunk into repetitive, dismal ruination. Within i-o, the setting is half the story, more than just a backdrop; as in Ballard's work, the wasteland becomes an active character.

i-o is not a flawless collection. In particular, it could have used a rigorous editing. But the slipshod production lends character to the collection as well, giving it a found-art depth that contributes to the overall package. And while a couple of the stories read like snippets from a whole, Simon Logan is nonetheless a talented newcomer that is relentlessly carving a new genre for himself, paying no attention to established genres.

If you're brave enough, pick up Simon Logan's i-o. And the next time you drive past an industrial park, you'll find yourself looking over, expectant, braced for an explosion....

Copyright © 2003 Gabriel Chouinard

Gabe Chouinard helms s1ngularity and blogs at hyper machine interfaces.

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