Dave Weaver's The Black Hole Bar was published by Elsewhen Press in June 2014 as an e-book. The paperback edition will be published in September 2014.
Information about Dave Weaver:
Ever since, as a boy, Dave Weaver first watched invading Daleks trundle across London Bridge in grainy BBC monotone, thrilled to Doctor Quatermass' discovery of Martian corpses buried deep in the London Underground and read about mankind's tenuous grip on existence being almost wiped out by marauding Triffids, he has loved science fiction, particularly the British variety.
A graphic designer by day, Dave has been writing by night for over a decade. With numerous short stories published in anthologies and webzines, he has had two novels published by Elsewhen Press. Although much of his writing hovers on the shifting borders between fantasy and reality, science fiction has never been far away. After years of creating his own future-scapes of flawed space exploration, dystopian visions and time-warped analogies, Dave has his own tales to tell of future worlds and fantastic revelations. He firmly believes that the seeds of the future are all around us; it's not as far away or different as we might like to think.
Information about The Black Hole Bar:
Simon, a traveller with time to kill before continuing his journey, enters an inn on the outskirts of London. Inside he meets a motley crew competing to tell tales for their own amusement. So starts Dave Weaver's new novel, The Black Hole Bar, which has already been compared to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Boccaccio's Decameron. But these raconteurs are not pilgrims, nor are they hiding from a plague – Simon is on his way by rocket to Titan, rather than on horseback to Canterbury; the tavern is the Black Hole Bar, although being high up on Level Five of Docklands Spaceport it isn't too far from Southwark; the tales are not told by a knight, squire, nun, merchant, clerk, parson, franklin or manciple, but by a programmer, advertising copywriter, dancer, financier, customs officer, marine biologist, sports star, and port worker.
Simon works in the public relations department of Me-Grade Incorporated, an international Methane gas conglomerate. He's an industrial journalist, on his way to yet another off-world assignment, this time a three month trip to Saturn's moon to write a promotional piece about the harvesting of the Methane lakes on that forbidding world. But Simon is a troubled man. He's sure his wife is having an affair during his prolonged absences; he's bored with his job; and unsure where his life is going.
Simon has stumbled into what was supposed to be a closed session for the Black Hole Bar Writers' Group, who meet once a month to take part in a short story competition; the winner’s trophy is a small chunk of meteorite simply termed ‘The Rock’. As an interesting way to spend his last Earth night and forget his troubles for a few hours, this is perfect. Simon writes stories too and he’s been looking for a set-up like this for some time. Begrudgingly they let him participate. The stories begin, and Simon starts taking the competition far more seriously than he intended.
Each of the bar's denizens tells two stories, stories that are variously strange, amusing and occasionally downright scary. The writers all have their own histories to impart, lives crossed by tragedy and drama come tumbling out one by one into the cramped little room and as they do so, we, the invisible uninvited presence at Simon's side, learn more about the background of this future world: its wars, its governments, its strange new customs and social groupings. A world which is at the same time recognisable as our possible future but also chilling in its recent past. Not far from the spaceport the old capital of London lies deserted, abandoned first but not least in the wave of dirty bomb outrages committed by the growing fundamentalist armies who have sworn to topple the Corporate States of the Euro-zone and New America.
As the night progresses personalities clash, secrets are disclosed, and friendships made. And Simon finds himself slowly but surely falling in love. But he still has a date with Titan to keep. It's getting late, very late, and he should leave... but the competition has yet to conclude. Simon's heart tells him to stay but his head says go, now, before it’s too late and you lose everything. How will his own tale end...?
A REVIEW OF DAVE WEAVER'S THE BLACK HOLE BAR
Dave Weaver's The Black Hole Bar is a fascinatingly different kind of a science fiction novel. This novel differs greatly from other science fiction novels, because it's almost like a short story collection but isn't, and the story centers itself around a storytelling competition. A few novels and stories have been written about bars and different kind of competitions over the years, but there's something original and unique about this novel that sets it apart from other novels and stories.
The Black Hole Bar reminds me a bit of the classic The Canterbury Tales (written by Geoffrey Chaucer), because it's a similar kind of novel. This novel, however, does not feature pilgrims, but writers who compete who's the best storyteller and try to win the prize, the "Rock". This novel also reminds me a bit of The Decameron (written by Giovanni Boccaccio). Hmm... I guess I could say that this novel is a science fiction version of The Canterbury Tales.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
Simon Trentham is the protagonist of this novel. He's a writer (journalist) and works in the publicity department of the methane gas conglomerate, Me-Grade. He's on his way to a flight to Saturn's moon, Titan. While he's passing time he wanders into The Black Hole Bar and meets strangers there who are telling stories. The strangers form a group called Black Hole Bar Writers' Group and they try to win "The Rock", which is a small chunk of meteorite. Simon persuades the group to allow him to enter the competition. When competition begins Simon finds himself torn between staying in the bar and catching his flight to Titan...
Simon is an interesting protagonist, because he's an industrial journalist who has a difficult relationship with his wife and who's bored with his job. The author writes fluently about his troubled life and feelings.
The members of the Black Hole Bar Writers' Group are also interesting characters. The group consists of Ben Ramsden, Kate Hardy, Bernard Ndiaye, Carl Podolski, Juliet Aguillard, Janice Fullerton-Jones, Zandor Yilmaz and Daniela Rodriguez. Each of the writers is different from each other and they come from different backgrounds: Ben Ramsden is an advertising copywriter; Kate Hardy is a sports star (she's the national electro-real-tennis hope for the next Corporate Olympics); Bernard Ndiaye is a tech programmer; Carl Podolski is a customs officer at DSP (Docklands Spaceport) and one of the founders of the writer's group; Juliet Aguillard is a financier and very powerful player at the financial hub in the remnants of the City; Janice Fullerton-Jones is a marine biologist and she's one of the founders of the writer's group; Zandor Yilmaz is a port worker at the space port's launch towers; and Daniela Rodriguez is a dancer. These writers have different personalities and traits, and they react differently to things that happen around them.
The locale is a bit exotic, because the happenings take place in a bar on level five of Docklands Spaceport on the fringes of the dirty bomb ruined city of London. Simon's attraction to this seedy yet quaint bar was almost imminent, because he was looking for a place to spend time before his flight to Titan.
Here's a bit of information about the writers' stories without spoilers (each writer tells two stories):
- Simon Trentham: "Blow-up" and "In the Icehouse". "Blow-up" is a well written story about a doctor who tries to figure out what happened to a man who went crazy. "In the Icehouse" is a good story that takes place in the Icehouse which is used for ice research.
- Ben Ramsden: "Control Mechanism" and "The Laughter Room". "Control Mechanism" is an interesting and well written story about a man who gets involved in politics. "The Laughter Room" is an intriguing and satirical tale about how society considers laughter to be offensive.
- Kate Hardy: "Moneymen" and "Digger". "Moneymen" is a touching story about young Sarah whose teacher has asked pupils to take things from before the Greater Depression to school. "Digger" is a compelling story about Agnes and her dog, Digger.
- Bernard Ndiaye: "Dreampark" and "Outpost". "Dreampark" is a fascinating story about virtual reality and games. "Outpost" is a good story about a pilot in space and contact with an alien mind.
- Carl Podolski: "Call for Dave" and "Mission to Mars!". "Call for Dave" is a fascinating story about projected thoughts. "Mission to Mars!" is a very good story about Mars and Martians with an interesting surprise ending.
- Juliet Aguillard: "Flight to Samarkand" and "Sunshine City". "Flight to Samarkand" is, to be short, a story about a flight to Samarkand. "Sunshine City" is an exceptionally well written story about Matthew who lives in Sunshine City where the lights are always kept on.
- Janice Fullerton-Jones: "Charlie's World" and "The Leviathan Awakens". "Charlie's World" is a great story about Charlie who gets sick. "The Leviathan Awakens" tells about whales and communicating with them.
- Zandor Yilmaz: "Field Disruption" and "The Last City". "Field Disruption" is a thrilling story about Tunguska explosion. "The Last City" is an especially interesting story about a dying city and war.
- Daniela Rodriguez: "Friendly Planet" and "Nightlight". "Friendly Planet" is a well written story about a planet onto which mankind may migrate to if things go well. "Nightlight" is an intriguing story about Elle and destruction of the moon.
The contents of the above mentioned stories range from the imaginative to the shocking. Each story is unique and differs from other stories.
There are two extra stories in the epilogue because of a tie, but I'm not going to write anything about them, because I don't want to reveal what will happen in the competition. I'll only mention that both of these stories are excellent.
Because there are probably many readers out there who want to know a bit more about the stories and their contents, here's more information about some of the stories:
- "Moneymen" is a memorable story about what happens when Sarah brings something wrong to school. Sarah realizes that her mother will have to pay for what she brought to school.
- "Charlie's World" is a brilliant and touching story, because it tells of how the world ends. In this story the world doesn't end violently, but with a whimper. Because the protagonist is a young boy of seven years old, the story is very powerful.
- "Field Disruption" is an interesting story about what possibly caused the Tunguska explosion. This is an exceptionally thrilling story, because it features what happens when something materializes in the same space-time co-ordinates.
- The Pest-Offender's Register is a brilliant and satirical invention in "Digger", because society has changed and dogs are considered to be a pestilence. In this story dogs are said to be bad for people.
- "Sunshine City" is one of the most unforgettable stories in this novel, because it tells of a society in which the lights are always kept on. The mysterious Keepers add good tension to the story.
- "The Leviathan Awakens" features an interesting topic of communicating with whales. The author's approach to this subject is intriguing and he writes about it in a perfect way. Although this story is short, the author has managed to create tension in a surprisingly effective way.
The beauty of this novel rises from the different stories and their contents, because they reveal in what kind of a world the storytellers live in. The world that the stories reveal to the reader is familiar, but also totally different from our world, because many changes have occurred during the years and disturbing things have happened around the world.
It was interesting to read how the stories revealed information about the world and its current state. The stories were based on what has happened, but they also contained references to happenings that may possibly occur in the near future. For example, one of the stories is tied to global warming and another story tells about how things have changed when Earth's natural resources have been depleted. I can also mention that the Greater Depression is an interesting invention, because the society changed during that time and many people who had links to old banks were killed. There are also brilliant and disturbing references to cannibalism.
The author has managed to add depth to the novel by writing about how the members of the group react to the different stories and what they think about the happenings in the stories. Because each of the group members has his/her own opinions about the happenings and their own personal experiences and thoughts are often revealed in their opinions, it was interesting to read what they thought about the stories.
I liked it very much that Dave Weaver had written stories that allowed the reader to think about the happenings in them. I've always been fascinated by novels and stories that offer food for thoughts (it's nice to read thought-provoking stories).
I enjoyed reading about how caught up in the storytelling competition Simon became and how he had to wonder if he'd be able to get to his flight or not. He was mesmerized by the characters and the stories, and he wanted to find out if it was possible for him to win the prize. I won't reveal what happens to him, but I'll mention that it was interesting to read about how he reacted to the outcome of the competition and what happened to him.
Simon makes sharp and accurate observations about the characters were great. He also wondered what the other persons were doing in the bar. His interaction with the other characters worked well. I especially enjoyed reading about what happened between Simon and Danni. The interaction between the other characters was also handled admirably by the author.
I have to mention that the score card is a nice addition to the novel, because it gives every reader a chance to evaluate the stories by giving points to them. (The score card can be found online on the publisher's website.)
I previously read Dave Weaver's debut novel, Jacey's Kingdom, and found it interesting. In my opinion the author showed lots of promise in Jacey's Kingdom, because it was a bit different kind of a fantasy novel. After reading The Black Hole Bar I can say that he has matured as an author and is capable of writing original stories. He clearly isn't afraid of writing something different and that's a good thing, because it's nice that there are authors out there who are willing to write original stories. I look forward to reading his future novels.
I liked this novel very much and found all the stories interesting (there's a charmingly pulpy feel to the storyline). That's why, on a scale from one to five stars, I give this novel strong four stars for its entertainment values and thought-provoking contents.
If you're looking for new and intriguing science fiction to read, The Black Hole Bar will be of interest to you, because it differs nicely from other new novels and offers well written entertainment for science fiction readers. I think that this novel will appeal to all readers who are interested in entertaining science fiction novels, because the author has created a fascinating vision of the future world.
My final words are: The Black Hole Bar is novel is intriguing, well written and thought-provoking entertainment for science fiction readers!