This is an old review I’m still fond of. You might enjoy it, too. If you manage to find the book and have fun with it, even better.
Dinner at Deviant’s Palace by Tim Powers is a bit difficult to find these days, but is well worth the effort. This post-apocalyptic novel set in the future California won Philip K. Dick Award in 1985, inspired a very popular computer game Fallout, and there’s also a Cradle of Filth song called “Dinner at Deviant’s Palace”.
What’s It About?
A traveling musician and a former “redeemer” Gregorio Rivas, who is trying to have a peaceful life, accepts to do “just one more job”, another “redeeming”, meaning to rescue the girl he was once very much in love with from the “Jaybirds”, hippie-like followers of the messiah Norton Jaybush. A pretty straightforward quest story leads him from one place to another while he struggles to keep his sanity and to battle both his inner demons and outside enemies.
Is It Good?
Some writers of anything sci-fi/fantasy believe that no research is necessary, that anything goes because it’s “not real”. Never mind lack of motivation, poor storytelling, nothing making sense, ignorance about the most basic of details… Tim Powers refuses to write like that; the research he does for each and every one of his books could earn someone a PhD.
On the other hand, some writers do a considerable amount of research, and then attempt to put all of it in the book, even if it slows down the storytelling to the speed of a very tired turtle, even if the reader doesn’t have the slightest wish to know every single detail of every book the author had read. Tim Powers doesn’t fall into that trap either.
What this author seems to believe is that books should be fun to read. Yes, considerable research should be done. Yes, the writer should know a lot about the subject of his writing – but all that knowledge serves to write a believable novel, not an encyclopedia. Also, Powers’ writing is easy to read, he avoids distracting the reader with his style and lets the story and the characters speak for themselves.
There is nothing accidental in the writing of Tim Powers. A religious leader Jaybush? Jesus, Jaysus, Jebus, Jaybush… A deformed name for a very deformed character. Dinner at Deviant’s Palace is full of such playfulness, which never slows down the book – if you notice it, you might enjoy it, if you don’t notice it, you’ll have fun with the rest of the novel.
Is It Fun?
Although the post-nuclear apocalypse is a bit outdated as a subject, Dinner at Deviant’s Palace is still a very fun read. The quite ordinary beginning of the novel becomes crazier as the book goes on, so the reader encounters a hippie-like (but much darker) religious sect, telepathy, a parasite from outer space called “hemogoblin” (not a typo), another parasite from outer space, radioactive fish, narcotics, a lot of music and much much more. Oh, and doughnuts.
While the above list may seem random, nothing in Dinner at Deviant’s Palace is accidental. Everything there, no matter how unusual, even crazy it seems, has its proper place, and Powers’ superb writing makes certain that everything stays under control. The reader neither gets lost in this wild ride, nor is overwhelmed by weird things, nor the creativity suffers because of the writer’s self-control.
What’s the Verdict?
Dinner at Deviant’s Palace is a lavish, lucid, carefully crafted and extremely fun novel, a novel difficult to put aside, a novel you love to come back to, to listen to the wild music again, to fight the hemogoblin and crazy sect members and the Deviant himself, to be the hero rescuing the damsel in distress, and to fall in love again, while running away with nothing but doughnuts.