Friday brought a heavy package from somewhere deep in the heart of England. It weighed in at about 3lbs or so, and was nicely padded with bubble wrap to protect its contents. On unwrapping it I discovered an advance reader’s copy of Powers: Secret Histories, a book compiled by John Berlyne and soon to be published by the good people at PS Publishing.
As I skimmed through it I began to realise what an extraordinary book it is. Advance reader’s copies are typically published by presses to generate pre-publication buzz for a book, but are often simple, uninviting affairs. Powers: Secret Histories is anything but that. Running to over five hundred pages, printed in full color throughout, filled with images of books covers, scans of manuscripts, notes and so on, it’s a fascinating object. It’s also profoundly odd.
Why? Well, as I was thumbing through the book I began to wonder who it was for, what it’s purpose was? Readers of this journal will be well aware of the work of Tim Powers, author of The Anubis Gates, Declare, and many other works of wonder. He is one of the best fantasists ever to grace our field and Powers: Secret Histories is an exhaustive, annotated list of everything he’s ever published. There are all kinds of other additional materials, from pieces by Dean Koontz, China Mieville and others, to novel outlines and a chunk of an unpublished novel.
It’s fascinating, but Powers: Secret Histories is a book that must be expensive to produce and accordingly is going to put something of a dent in your monthly book allowance should you buy it, so should you? After all, it’s a list. I think the answer to that question can be found in your answer to this one: would you buy The Collected Works of Tim Powers, if a publisher were to do a handsome uniform edition bringing together all of his novels, short fiction etc? If your answer to that question is yes, then this is a truly essential book. Why? Well, because it’s the Bonus Features DVD that goes with the boxed set. There’s extra material, some Powers commentary and so on. And if you love Powers’ work, it’s engrossing and totally worthwhile.
I’d also like to take a moment to acknowledge Peter Crowther and PS Publishing, who are taking an incredible punt on this book. At a time when publishing is looking to the commercial mainstream, Crowther is producing something rich, strange, and a little quixotic. We should celebrate his courage and support his efforts. The field is better for the book he produces.