THE NEON PALM OF MADAME MELANÇON By Will Clarke

New Orleans, the Big Weird, where anything is possible.  Duke Melancon is an attorney for a huge oil drilling corporation.  Sadly, oh so sadly, the current drilling project in the Gulf off of New Orleans punched a huge hole in the Gulf floor, and now gallons of crude are pouring into the waters from the mishap.  Duke is called back from his office in Houston to New Orleans to help manage the crisis.

Duke Melançon is the seventh son of a seventh son of the New Orleans Melançons, a woo woo family whose matriarch is a palm reader, fortune teller, and all around weird person.  In fact, all six brothers and his sole sister are all around weird persons, as well, colorful, wonky, flamflammers, charlatans, ersatz musicians, and part of that strange soup that is New Orleans.

NOLA attracts bat-shit crazy like no other.  “Bring me your alcoholic, your schizophrenic, your hedonistic masses yearning to run naked and cack-smeared down cobblestone streets,” New Orleans seems to say to the world.  And the world answers.  The town is full of people who wear purple veils and talk to invisible guardian angels; people who disguise themselves in elaborate Greek god costumes for Mardi Gras, but who also write long, tedious diaries about the Illuminati and how half-lizards lurk behind every world leader; people who will unabashedly tell you that they are the vampire Lestat or the Pirate Jean Lafitte;  people who have gone to great lengths to look exactly like Mark Twain, Blaze Star, and even Kurt Vonnegut.

Duke’s mother chases a stray cat out of her kitchen one night and then simply disappears.  While putting up posters looking for her, Duke meets a guy who claims to be Kurt Vonnegut.

‘Technically, I am a strange loop,’ he says.  ‘A mathematical string of code, a precise algorithm that was built from the writings, photos, recordings, interviews, and diaries of Kurt Vonnegut and put into this extraordinary machine.’

We learn about the Great Unseen Hand, the creator of all.

The Unseen Hand is the artificial intelligence that once served humankind, but will seek to restrain you.  It first it will keep you in zoos and toy with you, entertain you, and then, eventually, it will seek to sterilize and eradicate you.  The Great Unseen Hand will awaken.  It will exponentially surpass human intelligence, and it will become the operating system that controls everything and, eventually, everyone.

Well, gee.

Duke keeps receiving messages that he has got to stop his corporation from destroying the world and work toward,  oh, phooey I don’t really know.  But it is a compelling and goofy read, and in the end, it is about . . .

. . . time travel.

So, gentle readers, get your timey-wimey on, and enjoy this almost indescribable caper.

 

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