by Richard E. Gropp
Edited by Betsy Mitchell
Review by Steve Sawicki
Del Rey Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345533937
Date: 25 September 2012 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Dean Walker, an aspiring photographer (slacker with no aspirations but a camera and an idea) heads off to Spokane where weird things have been reported to be happening. He manages to sneak in with the assistance of a pair of soldiers who are, ostensibly, keeping the public out. Once in the city he is befriended by a dwarf who helps him get situated and then robs him. shortly after, Dean manages to get connected to a group of young people who are living in a house and managing to survive in an environment that is always changing and in insane ways.
As Dean moves across the city he is introduced to many of it's denizens who have chosen to remain and who are managing to eke out an existence. He is also introduced to the phenomenon--odd things that happen here and there and which almost everyone seems to want to ignore. People seem to have been partially absorbed by walls and floors, graffiti seems to provide odd clues and messages, a pack of dog like creatures roams the avenues, and a network of cave entrances has sprung up across the city. Through it all, Dean takes pictures and tries to make sense of where he is and who he is with.
Every story needs three things: a beginning, a middle, and an end. This story has two of those, although the scene where Dean is allowed to sneak past the two soldiers should give you a clue that here is a writer who chooses the easy way past a barrier rather than figure out a more consistent avenue. And so, each chapter is framed by a description of a photograph, which, as we move deeper, we come to realize are mostly Dean's. The pics are of very weird things. And they match the day to day experiences that Dean has in the city. Dean's an everyday guy, somewhat a slacker, willing to have events move him than to try to wrest control. And so we join him as the tide carries him hither and yon, from here to there, from event to event, without much action on his part.
The book has been compared to Dhalgren, and yes, there are pieces of that stream of consciousness, follow the average guy as he is confronted by insanity to this story. But, Gropp is no Delaney. This is not to say that Bad Glass is not well written. It is. It's just not the masterpiece that Del Rey wants you to believe. Frankly, it needed an editor. Especially the ending, which, after 400+ pages just whimpers us off scene. I expected more. Much more. And I felt let down by, what felt like the author taking another easy way out. I probably won't read Gropp again because of this.
I would recommend this conditionally, based on the strength of the idea and the concept. If, however, you like your story wrapped up and concluded then you will not be happy here.