Helen E. H. Madden’s The Little Death ends today, simultaneously ending her three year run of the Heatflash podcast. In honor of the awesomeness that is the novel The Little Death, here are 10 top things I enjoyed about it. Once again, 10top lists are neither in order nor exclusive. Please feel free to comment. I’ll try to avoid spoilers but no promises.
1. Dick, Philip K. Listening to this novel, especially once I get a quarter of the way through, reminds me of the paranoia, conspiracy, and noirish danger that embody many of the best of Philip K. Dick’s work. The hard boiled tone combined with a narrator with a very powerful personality makes for a very engaging read reminding me of one of my favorite authors.
2. Stan. He starts off seemingly a one off character who is neither important nor very likable. This is a mystery story and one of the traits of the genre is characters that seem unimportant can have deep dark secrets. His recurring role turns him into someone I almsot consider heroic, despite his painfully nasty attitude.
3. The reading. Let me paint you a sonic picture: a sultry voiced erotica writer reads her own work. A MILF with dyed hair is telling you a story of murder, sex, intrigue, and violence. The listening experience is… pleasant.
4. Girl power. Robin is a very strong willed protagonist. In a world that is pretty much completely stacked against her, where even her own body and mind can sometimes be the enemy, she manages to stay strong. Not all the time. She’s not inhuman. But for a crippled near death prisoner with no control over her psychic powers, she sure does kick some serious tail when needed.
5. Girl power. The neat thing is, unlike many “powerful” female protagonists, Robin never feels like a man playing the part of a woman. She is a female character, with very female concerns, and does not have much time or patience for Slade’s masculine bravado. It’s a hard thing for me to describe but an even harder thing to pull off.
6. Jones. Nothing is more heartwarming in this story then the Jones’s attempts to make life for the espers comfortable and happy. The espers are hated and feared by nearly everyone and he is a point of light in this dark tale. Ok, I’m totally kidding. He’s a sadistic pig.
The real 6. Jones. Considering he is just a normal human without any of the super psychic powers that mark most of the major antagonists of the book, he still often comes across as one of the most dangerous.
7. Luciente. Here’s where I really risk the spoilers. The point is that from the beginning Luciente keeps us guessing. I haven’t heard the final episode and I know some parts of Luciente really well. Some parts I hate, some parts I pity. I still don’t think I know the whole story.
8. Slade’s present to Robin. I don’t want to reveal this one for you anti-spoiler people but it is simultaneously incredibly awesome and incredibly sick- loaded with both love and irony at the point in a point in the story where it seems almost certain that things are going to be over soon. But they’re not.
9. Surrealism. One thing that draws me to many of my favorite books is biased narrators and their surrealistic take on events. Certainly this is true of Philip K. Dick. Robin’s inevitable declining physical and mental health, the fate of all espers in the world Madden has created, is fascinating and heartbreaking.
10. Or is it? The best part of this story is it tells you the rules quickly- how society works, how espers work, etc. It also tells you who told you those rules. Later, someone tells you a completely different set of rules. No matter how “inevitable” or “the way it is” things seem in this story, we’re always left wondering if there is more that the characters don’t mention because they just aren’t able to see the truth.
You can check out The Little Death and other works by Helen E. H. Madden at http://heatflash.libsyn.com/ and I highly suggest you do. Her podcast is going silent after today but there is plenty to catch up on- for those 18 and older. I highly suggest starting with The Little Death.