Her lover was a supernova who took worlds with him when he died, and as a new world grows within Ekhi, savage lives rage and love on a small ship in the outer reaches of space. A ship with an agenda of its own.
Critically acclaimed author of weird fiction Paul Jessup sends puppets to speak and fight for their masters while a linguistic virus eats through the minds of a group of scavengers in Open Your Eyes, a surrealist space opera of haunting beauty and infinite darkness.
Cover artist: Daniele Cascone
Her lover was a supernova. She smiled when he came- his bright burning light rocking her body, impregnating her with the essence of stars. Through the metal bones of her ship she felt the gasses enter her- felt the compound light exploding inside of her. Her hands clawed at the cracked vinyl of the chair, her legs spread to either side with toes stretched out- her mouth in piercing screams of ecstasy.
“With unique imagination at work, Open Your Eyes bombards the reader with stunning imagery, from living spaceships to mechanical butterflies.”
-Ekaterina Sedia, Author of The Secret History of Moscow and Alchemy of Stone
“Open Your Eyes is surrealistic space opera in the tradition of New Wave experimentalism, echoing the fantastic imagery of Samuel R. Delany and the angst-ridden identity paranoia of Philip K. Dick, all bound together in a distinctly modern vision of a post-technological future bereft of a human core. Jessup’s bone spaceships and resurrecting crews tumble into the core of a mystery which is consuming the very hearts of suns. Go along for the ride, and open your eyes.
– Jay Lake, author of Escapement and Green
Evocative, moving, elegiac, and sometimes surreal, Jessup’s Open Your Eyes is a space opera novella that lives and breathes in the 21st century. It blends together the best of fast-paced adventure and intriguing characters. Open Your Eyes is truly a nova in the science fiction universe.
–Alan DeNiro, author of Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead
There are certain writers who instantly transport readers into new, unfamiliar worlds that are completely different from the universe we know. After only a few bites, the reader sits back, gasping, and reaches for the water glass. Then, eyes watering, he or she dives back in, licking the plate clean and asking for seconds. Think of Samuel R. Delany or Cordwainer Smith.
Welcome Paul Jessup to the ranks.
Open Your Eyes is billed as a cross between horror and science fiction, which is a little like describing filet mignon as a cross between cows and the laws of thermodynamics. More to the point is the publisher’s description of the book as “surrealist space opera.” Suspension of disbelief? It’s best to nail your belief to the ceiling for the duration.
Jessup’s novella ends up being notable specifically because it would never have appeared in The New Space Opera 2, as the pleasures it offers are so incredibly unique and different. Open Your Eyes shows us just how much possibility exists in the sub-genre of which Dozois and Strahan have only just begun to scratch the surface.
In Jessup’s supernova-bright novella, his first stand-alone publication, pregnant space voyager Ekhi is rescued from her ailing vessel by the crew of a scavenger ship. Their captain, mysterious, doll-like cyborg Itsasu, mourns her husband’s death, and has been yearning to bring him back to life with the “Ortzadar engine” her ship is secretly carrying. She reluctantly allows Ekhi to join her crew, but keeps her under strict supervision. The other crew members struggle with various personal issues brought sharply into perspective by a sudden alien invasion and the discovery that the ship’s AI is playing a deadly game of its own. Jessup describes his surrealistic space opera vision with bleak, elegant prose and a dash of black humor. (Apr.)
The style is prose that, unlike much of contemporary science fiction, is intelligent and visually dynamic. I could see the bones of the space ship, see the butterflies in the cage that made up half of Mari’s face, and feel the crackling skin of the centuries old captain Itsasu. Each character has his or her own motivations for being on the scavenger ship. If Ekhi’s case, she was rescued after her lover went super nova, but there was one thing none of them suspected, that the Heart of the ship had its own plans. Beware a space ship that has a mind of its own.
Darkly imaginative, this space opera grabs your attention from the sensual opening scene to the last pages where all hope seems lost. From a beating heart to the love child of a cosmic coupling, the novella is a compelling read. Reminiscent of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, the idea of language as a virus is more compelling and without the complicated ins and outs of Stephenson’s work. It really seems more poignant that the characters don’t know how or why it worked, and neither does the reader. The dread builds up as the inevitablity of infection looms over the scavenger ship’s crew.