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Prince of Christler-Coke
Neal Barrett, Jr.
Golden Gryphon, 244 pages

Prince of Christler-Coke
Neal Barrett, Jr.
Neal Barrett, Jr., of Austin, Texas, has written novels and stories in the fields of mystery/suspense, science fiction, Westerns, historical novels, YA novels and what some term "off-the-wall" mainstream fiction. His novelette "Ginny Sweethips' Flying Circus" was a finalist for both the SFWA's Nebula Award and the Hugo Award, and his short story, "Stairs", received a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. In 1997, he served as Toastmaster of the 55th World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Perpetuity Blues and Other Stories

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

Neal Barrett, Jr., is a consistently strange and interesting writer who has been publishing SF for over 40 years. He has also written mysteries and historical fiction and likely other genres. Prince of Christler-Coke, his latest novel, is not untypical of his work -- set in a somewhat decayed future America, mostly comic but with a darker undertone, very much a "road novel".

Asel Iacola is the newly come-of-age Prince of Christler-Coke, one of the corporations that dominates America East. The book opens with his arranged wedding to the rather dim Loreli, from the family of Pepsicoma-Dodge. But almost at this hour his family is attacked, a scheme of Asel's hated rival Ducky Du Pontiac-Heinz as well as a power from the West, Califoggy State's Peter Cee, of Disney-Dow. Asel's family is obliterated, and Asel is sent to prison in Oklahomer, forced to wear tacky middle class clothing and feed himself.

At his prison, the National Executive Rehabilitation Facility (NERF), Asel meets Sylvan Lee McCree, former High Earl of Dixie-Datadog, a powerful Southern corporation. Despite Sylvan's unexpected dark coloring, Asel and he soon become friends. They share both an upbringing as children of corporate privilege, and a comedown at the hands of jealous rivals. Asel determines to escape NERF, and Sylvan agrees to accompany him. So they steal a truck and set off on a desperate trek, leading by narrative inevitability to a confrontation with the despicable leader of Disney-Dow.

On the way Asel and Sylvan encounter many strange folks in the poor and desolate stretches of the middle of what was once the US. The Techs-Mechs Rangers. The Oklahomer Wall. The beautiful but celibate and evil Nones of Our Lady of Reluctant Desire. A talking "bair". Truckers. A barmaid with a heart of gold. Mechanical people. And so on ...

Prince of Christler-Coke is fast-moving and full of clever detail. The dialogue is sharp, funny, true to the characters. Barrett has great fun, as does the reader, with slightly off-center place names -- New Whoreleens, Two-kum-curry, Sandy Monicker -- and with other changes such as food names. The plot is perhaps a bit rambling, with an honest but not spectacular conclusion (though a spectacular conclusion would not have been believable or "honest", most likely). Asel is likeable despite his unprepossessing origins, and his changes in viewpoint are gradual enough and incomplete enough to convince. The weird future is not terribly plausible but it's not really meant to be -- it's just for fun and satire. In short -- an enjoyable satirical SF novel, well worth the read.

Copyright © 2004 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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