Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Eclipse Trilogy: A Song Called Youth by John Shirley

The Eclipse Trilogy (also referred to as A Song Called Youth trilogy) is a series of three science fiction English language cyberpunk novels by John Shirley, (Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona).

The books depict a dystopian future, set in a hypothetical mid 21st century where a new Russian Soviet has invaded Western Europe, causing massive disruption and destruction. Their armies were only repelled by the (unseen) use of tactical nuclear weapons, resulting in a stalemate, somewhat like the middle years of World War I. The New Soviet--more oligarchic than communist--has been stymied. But now Europe is in chaos, the USA is in crisis. To keep order and free up troops for actual fighting, NATO has contracted with the Second Alliance Security Corporation (SA), a right-wing, private security company of mercenaries, an anticipation of Blackwater-style privatization of the military. Second Alliance is part of a hidden (fascist) agenda unbeknownst to most of those who hired them. The heroes of the series are the New Resistance, who are fighting to expose and defeat the SA's racist policies and attempt to grab power.

The scope of the story is worldwide, but the main action mostly takes place in Europe, on a small Caribbean island and on humanity's first space colony.

An updated, re-edited version of the trilogy is being released by Dover Books, starting with A Song Called Youth: Eclipse, in October 2017.

On the book jacket of the 2012 rerelease, William Gibson calls Shirley "cyberpunk's patient zero." Bruce Sterling is quoted as calling the trilogy "a complex, bizarre, and unique vision of the near future, with a kaleidoscopic mix of politics, pop, and paranoia." Since its original publication in the 1990s the series has shown to be prophetic of the growth of Christian fundamentalism in the US, the use of domestic spying via drones and increasing international anxiety about race.

Tapping anxieties about rising global nationalism, Shirley presents a Goya-esque vision of war-torn western Europe, bombed out and unstable in the early years of the 21st century from a resurgence of Russian militarism and the collapse of NATO. The Second Alliance, a government-sanctioned multinational police force, has rushed in to restore order and revealed itself a nightmarish incarnation of every fascist and fundamentalist power fantasy. The only defense against the Alliance's creeping totalitarianism is the New Resistance, a polyglot pick-up team of rebels that includes Rick Rickenharp, a tripping retro guitarist whose artistic and political sensibilities are sinuously intertwined, and John Swenson, a mole whose soul is blackened through his infiltration of the Alliance. Stitched together from vivid swatches of action and intrigue alternating kaleidoscopically between Earth sites and the orbiting FirStep space colony, the novel offers a thrashy punk riff on science fiction's familiar future war scenario.

Eclipse Penumbra
Eclipse Penumbra
From the beginning, thwarting the Second Alliance had been the first priority of the New Resistance; now the SA had decided it was time to return the favor. Resistance could not be allowed to interfere with the progress of the SA’s master plan. The elimination of the rebels would clear the way for Project Total Eclipse, which in turn would stretch the SA’s shadow over every remaining outpost of humanity, selecting scapegoats, directing violence, and creating an immutable new order.

The Penumbra of the Eclipse…it would establish complete SA control over the Grid, the space colony, and the survivors of the war – and decide the fate of humanity itself.

Eclipse Corona
Eclipse Corona
A review on Goodreads says:

A satisfying and solid end to the trilogy. The war is over, the good guys have won. For now.
The theatre moves purely to Europe here, as the propaganda war in the US disables any influence over there. There are, again, a few pieces that jar, new plot points, new villains, not foreshadowed or introduced earlier in the trilogy that they seem to have come from nowhere. It makes the book feel slightly incohesive, but maybe more real, a better description of the chaos of real war when neither side has a plan that has gone from A to Z without a hitch.

The ending is great, exactly what it should be, as we hear for the final time Street Fighting Man playing out over the news. While not perfect, the trilogy is damn close, and one I'll no doubt be returning to over the years. Assuming that it is just a fiction, that Shirley's vision of fascist Europe remains a fantasy, or else it's going to end up on a "banned" list pretty damn soon.
And for that, and for everything else, it needs to be read.

[assembled from Wikipedia and Goodreads]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at

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