Buddhas Dream of Enlightened Sheep
If you’re wondering what the novel will be like, it’ll be fairly different from the previous stuff I’ve published. “Domo” and “Negev” are both pieces from narrators who talk relatively formally, for one reason or another, and are fairly respectful. Buddhas Dream of Enlightened Sheep, on the other hand, is about a guy who says things like, “I knew the dame was trouble the moment she walked into my office.” Like that– the dame is certainly trouble, but Ellison’s light years from his office.
It’s scifi, first and foremost. I’m working hard to make the world real, despite the ever-present cybernetic overlay of illusion that most people experience, despite the fact that at least one of the characters would tell you that the world of “meat and priests” (to borrow a phrase from the esteemed R. Domo) is as much an illusion as dataspace.
But it’s also hardboiled noir. I’m huge, slobbering fan of Raymond Chandler; I’ve read every book of his I can find, except for The Lady in the Lake, because I’m saving that one for a day when I need a guaranteed good book. So I encourage you: Soak it up. Enjoy it. I don’t do deconstructions of things I dig; I usually like to take the tropes I love and run with them as far as I can make it work. It won’t be mock or taking apart noir; I’ll be reveling in it.
If the book had a soundtrack, it’d probably all be things like this:
Here’s a small excerpt:
The offices of Planetary Governor Offerhaus were pretty nice. Polished shelves of some dark wood I’d never seen– Native stuff, according to dataspace. Lots of books, though I got the feeling that inside the leather I’d find mostly Alexandria city council meeting minutes and collected tax reports for the past few decades.
The Governor himself had all the grace of beached whale stuffed into a silk suit and none of the charm. The only hair anywhere visible was a mustache like a wire brush growing out of his lip. It was a little jarring. Inappropriate, maybe.
He was impressively annoyed, though. He glared at me when I dropped my coat on a chair near the door and he kept glaring when I dropped myself into an arm chair in front of his desk. The ugly looks almost gave me pause when I lit up. Almost.
“ ‘Ello, guv’na– Aw, come on. I’m sure there’s a sense of humor in there somewhere.”
“We weren’t really expecting the Shogun’s Hand to come all this way.”
“Well, travel’s part of the business.”
Offerhaus drummed his fingers against his desk. They were strange fingers, like he’d stolen them from someone else. Narrow and free of fat and a little bit darker than the rest of him. “You’re an important man, Ellison. Why is Shogun Alexander wasting your time out here? For a murder?”
“You know as well as I do,” I paused to suck down on my cigarette and skim over some bit of information offered up by one of my free-ranging bodhisattvas, “That this wasn’t just any old murder.”
“I’m sure it was.”
“Shaveling monks don’t kill people, Offerhaus.”
“Shavelings kill people all the time, Ellison.”
I yanked a sheet of paper off his desk to knock ash into. Somehow, he managed to look even more pissed. “Get an ashtray?” I suggested.
“Shavelings don’t kill people,” I repeated. “They do before they become monks, but that’s the whole point of the system, isn’t it? Take the nembutsu implant and Amida-Buddha liberates you from all that squishy physicality stuff. Back here, in meatspace, there’s no one home to do any killing anymore.”
Offerhaus squirmed. Maybe he was trying to roll back into the ocean.
“You see why Alexander’s concerned.”
“And so you see why I’m here. If someone’s messing with the system, that’s trouble.”
“The system is foolproof.”
“Silly me. I’ll call the boss up and let him know it’s all A-okay. Can I borrow your ansible?”
“Are you really trying to bully me, Ellison?”
“It’s what I do.” Innocent smile. Spread the hands. All that saintly iconography jazz.
Fingers came to a stop, except for the pointer finger. It must have missed the memo and kept drumming away without any accompaniment. “What do you want, Ellison?”
“What a question.”
That last finger finally got the hint. It ground to a halt and bunched up into a fist with its fellows.
“I’ve got a whole list, Governor. A long one. The headline is my fervent hope that, for once, you kids won’t do that whole yappy little dog routine that you always do.” I took one last drag and snubbed the cigarette out on the sole of my shoe. “But I know that’s not gonna happen, so I’ll skip down to the part where you point me at the body and the suspect.”
“It’s been arranged, Investigator. The PD has assigned you a liaison.” He squared the papers on his desk and made a sound like an old engine not turning over. “Don’t forget your coat. It’s raining out there.”
(c) 2014 by Joshua M. Young