Exquisite PIRATE UTOPIA packs a lot of power

Reviews keep rolling in for Bruce Sterling’s triumphant PIRATE UTOPIA.

In the March 2017 LOCUS, Karen Haber is impressed by the book.

PIRATE UTOPIA is a rarity – an illustrated book from Tachyon Publications.  It delivers on many different levels: as an engaging alternate-reality tale by Bruce Sterling that is peppered by historical figures from our own timeline, as an illustrated work by World Fantasy Award-winning artist John Coulthart, and as a study in enlightened use of art historical references in book design.

The red ink used on the book jacket makes the Soviet Constructivist cover really pop while tying in nicely with the red endpapers inside.  The bright primary color gives added energy and contrast to Coulthart’s black and white Italian Futurist illustrations.  It’s an extremely nice package in terms of quality, design, and artwork.  Let’s hope this is a beginning of a trend at Tachyon.  This small but exquisite volume packs a lot of power for its size.  Lovers of artful books won’t want to miss it.

Chris M. Barkley at FILE 770 nominates the work for the Hugo Award.

Based on a true story of a similar city that actually existed between 1920 and 1924, Sterling takes a small piece of obscure history and turned it into a brilliantly funny and by turns, grotesque piece of alternative-diesel punk history.

Among the cast of characters who are part of the action are Guglielmo Marconi (the inventor of radio), Benito Mussolini (as a newspaper editor!), Harry Houdini and H.P. Lovecraft (as American spies?), and Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels (as innocent bystanders?).  The crazy quilt of a plot is just barely on the sane side of satire and is always twisting and turning in unexpected directions. Bruce Sterling deserves a lot of credit for turning many of the tropes of the genre of its head to make the story work.

Finally, a word about the artwork; all of the marvelous and madcap illustrations in Pirate Utopia are the work of John Coulthart, who also wrote an entertaining essay about how his work in the book  was influenced by Futurist artists of the period.

There a LOT packed into this little volume and it is quite a triumph for Bruce Sterling and Tachyon Press.

In February for the fourth consecutive month, the book appeared on the Borderlands Books best seller list.

1. NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman
2. IN CALABRIA by Peter S. Beagle
3. INVISIBLE PLANETS edited by Ken Liu
5. THE STARS ARE LEGION by Kameron Hurley
6. KINDRED: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL by Octavia Butler and John Jennings
7. PIRATE UTOPIA by Bruce Sterling
8. UNIVERSAL HARVESTER by John Darnielle
9. MIRANDA AND CALIBAN by Jacqueline Carey

For more info on PIRATE UTOPIA, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover and illustrations by John Coulthart