Even Adam Smith knew, the market is not kind. And when you have a market saturated by minimum viable products (i.e. easily accessible, watered down slush), then it’s likely the more subtle, intelligent material for sale will be overlooked. In short, I thought the market had chewed up and spit out David Marusek years ago. His stories “The Wedding Album”, Counting Heads, and the like were just too niche, too sophisticated to be appreciated by a wider, paying audience which typically supports writers’ careers. And then last month in NetGalley I find his return. More than fifteen years since his last published effort, David Marusek is back with the first in a planned trilogy of science fiction novels: Upon this Rock (2017, Stack of Firewood Press).
Set on the very edges of civilization in the Alaskan wilderness, Upon this Rock opens at the border of a national park where the park service and a fundamentalist Christian cult are at odds over land ownership. Poppy Prophecy, tyrannical leader of the cultists, exerts control over every aspect of his family’s lives, from clothes to punishments, daily activities to prayer. Preaching the apocalypse is nigh, he prepares them for nuclear winter in an abandoned mine that may or may not be on park property. Jace Kuliak is one of the park rangers caught up in the feud. A hard-working, pot-smoking young man, he finds himself not as passionate about irritating Poppy’s family as some of his fellow rangers, and is content enjoying the beauty and peace of the park and his daily work. But one evening both Jace and Poppy witness a strange light in the sky that seems to descend onto the park. The object eventually found, nothing is the same for the rangers in the aftermath—Poppy’s cult family, Jace, or the world.