Allen Ashley's The Planet Suite was published by Eibonvale Press in May/June 2016.
Information about Allen Ashley:
Allen Ashley is an award-winning editor, writer, poet, creative writing tutor, event host, critical reader, writing mentor, singer and lyricist. Allen is available for readings, running workshops at any level, moderating panels, hosting literary and musical events, and writing-related consultations.
Allen currently runs five regular creative writing groups including a Novel Focus Group and the advanced science fiction / fantasy group Clockhouse London Writers. Allen has also run workshops at various literary events and festivals including Alt-Fiction, the British Fantasy Society’s “FantasyCon”, Finchley Literary Festival, Greenacre Writers Literary Festival, Kilburn Literary Festival and Newham Festival of Science Fiction.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about The Planet Suite:
A new expanded edition of Allen Ashley's first novel.
13 Lines on “The Planet Suite”
The Planet Suite is a tour de force of memory, mythology and astronomy.
The Planet Suite is "A work of genius" - Rhys Hughes
The Planet Suite is “the course for the future” - Brian Aldiss
The Planet Suite takes the reader on a whistle stop tour across the planets and bodies of the solar system.
The Planet Suite is a concept and collection of myths, ideas and speculation.
The Planet Suite is the definitive Slipstream novel.
The Planet Suite is “highly recommended” - Tony Lee
The Planet Suite was the first published novel for British Fantasy Award winner Allen Ashley.
The Planet Suite has long been out of print and only available for inflated sums online.
The Planet Suite is a fractal novel consisting of short segments for each major planet.
The Planet Suite is a unique artefact.
The Planet Suite is an essential addition to your bookshelf.
The Planet Suite is now available in this expanded, improved, authorised edition.
A REVIEW OF ALLEN ASHLEY'S THE PLANET SUITE
Before I delve into analysing and reviewing the contents of this novel, I'll mention briefly that it is a revised, improved and authorised edition of the original novel, which was published by TTA Press in 1997. This Eibonvale Press edition has plenty of additional content.
I'm glad to say that Allen Ashley's The Planet Suite is one of the most rewarding and most intelligent speculative fiction novels I've ever read. It's a mesmerising, thought-provoking and memorable fractal novel about memories, mythology and astronomy. It's something unique, because it has an extraordinary structure: it consists of short fragments that together form a highly unusual yet strangely coherent whole.
The Planet Suite defies easy classification, but it can be classified as slipstream fiction, because it blurs and crosses the boundaries between science fiction and literary fiction. I consider it to be one of the finest slipstream novels ever written and declare it as a masterpiece of slipstream fiction.
This novel consist of the following chapters:
- Seven Rides to Venus
- Jupiter - and Beyond
- The Last Martian Artefact
- The Call of Uranus
- Mercury Me
- First World Tour
- Sun and Moon
- Cometh the Comet
- The Saturn Alias
- George Bloody Orwell
- The Rise and Fall of the Universe
- The Space Between the Asteroids
- Neptune the Mystic
- Light into Darkness?
- Cosmic Scrapbook
- Music from the Spheres
- The Perils of Pentavir
- The First Book Feeling
- A Few Reviews from the 1990s
- Original Back Page Blurb
- Spaced Out in the Slipstream
- The Almost Final Word
- The Astronauts
The first chapter, "Seven Rides to Venus", contains seven glimpses into Venus: In 'Only Skin Deep', explorers have arrived on Venus and make an interesting deduction; 'Eye of the Beholder' tells of Jane and how her life is currently a little strange; 'The Way Back to the Womb' tells of explorers who are on a mission on Venus; In 'Sniff This' Jane and her brother Eddie visit the Bank Holiday Fair; 'Foaming at the Mouth' tells of space flowers from Venus and how they affect people; In 'Anal Retention' teenagers play in a dangerous place called The Wastelands; and 'Ear to the Groud' effectively concludes this story. These seven glimpses contain science, science fiction, exploration and human emotions in an exceptionally memorable format, because the author has created a story that has several layers of depth. Each of the subsequent chapters adds more depth and fascination to the story.
This is all I'll write about the contents, because I want to avoid writing too many spoilers. I'll only mention that all of what I wrote above is part of a complex and intelligent narrative structure that offers plenty of food for thoughts and also reveals things about humanity and the universe.
It's great that this edition contains two additional sections - The Additional Chapters and The "DVD" Extras - because they serve as a special kind of an icing on the whole novel. They provide quite a lot of additional fascination to readers and deepen the reading experience. "Music from the Spheres" is an especially fascinating chapter, because it tells of one of the characters (Arthur Holkman) from the novel and his lost opus Music from the Spheres. The last segment of this chapter is delightfully amusing, because an arts correspondent reviews the opus and is brutally honest in his review. I also enjoyed "The Perils of Pentavir" and found the author's way of addressing creation myth and religious elements fascinating.
The characterisation is excellent. It was fascinating to read about the character's feelings and what they did, because the author has captured the essence of being human in his character portrayals. I also enjoyed reading about the childhood memories and the backrounds of the characters, because they were explored in an excellent way.
Simon's love for Jane Wylie is one of the themes in this novel. This doomed love is depicted well. There's something delicately harrowing about the way the author writes about Simon and Jane that is reminiscent of real life, because he describes real human emotions in an honest way.
Allen Ashley writes intriguingly about science and uses scientific facts and elements to his advantage. The fragments detailing the events during the planetary exploration trips are fascinating and feature several minor details. I enjoyed reading about the planets, their surface terrain and climate, because the descriptions were interesting. The author fluently combines imagination and science to create a fascinating vision of the planets and their environments.
The mythological aspects and elements of this novel are captivating, because the elements are infused into the story. The chapter "Sun and Moon" has perhaps the most original approach to the Sun and the Moon I've ever seen on the pages of speculative fiction novels, because it has a fairy tale kind of a feel to it. It reminded me of stories written by Rhys Hughes. "Helios" is an excellent and thought-provoking chapter, which features an intriguing approach to creation myths.
It's amazing how effortlessly Allen Ashley combines elements of speculative fiction and literary fiction, because nothing feels forced. The various science fiction elements and literary elements fit perfectly together and the lack of linear structure highlights them.
I like Allen Ashley's writing style and find his meaningful and subtly complex prose excellent. The author weaves several stories about the planets into a though-provoking and intelligent reading experience that features space exploration, society, relationships, love, memories and reality in a highly compelling and unique way. I greatly enjoy his narrative technique, because he has written short and intriguing fragments for each major planet. Together, all of the fragments form an immersive reading experience that will linger on your mind for a long time after the final page has been read.
There are several sexual elements in this novel and they are all handled well. I like the author's way of writing about sex, sexuality and sexual situations, because he doesn't away from sexual content and approaches sex in a bold and uninhibited way.
The Planet Suite is a novel, which needs your undivided attention. If you allow yourself to be seduced by its compelling and strange atmosphere, you'll find yourself rewarded with a complex and multilayered reading experience. If you rush through it, you'll miss out on a lot of details and depth, because the author has added many elements to his story and each of the subsequent chapters brings more depth and details to the story.
By the way, if you want to enhance your reading experience, I recommend listening to "The Planets" by Gustav Holst while you read The Planet Suite, because it's a perfect companion to it (I personally recommend listening to the recordings that have been conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, Simon Rattle and Yoel Levi, because they're great, but it doesn't really matter which recording you listen to). In case you're wondering whether Gustav Holst appears in this novel or not, I can mention that the chapter called "First World Tour" will intrigue you, because the diary entries by Holst are simply brilliant.
If you've read works by such authors as William Burroughs, David Rix, Douglas Thompson and Nina Allan, The Planet Suite will be of interest to you. If you enjoy reading something out of the ordinary and find experimental fiction appealing, you'll be pleasantly surprised by this novel, because it's something different.
Allen Ashley's The Planet Suite is an excellent slipstream novel. It is unlike anything that has been written by other authors, because it offers readers an exceptionally creative, insightful and complex view of life, humanity and the planets. It's a compelling reading experience, because it contains the best possible elements of the slipstream genre in a highly satisfying format.