Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Now Slouching Toward June to be Published

Review: Rudy Ch. Garcia. Death Song of the Dragón Chicxulub. Somos en escrito Literary Foundation Press, 2021. (Coming June 2021)

Michael Sedano

June lurks just around the corner, not near enough you can feel its breath on your neck nor see how it butchers its victims leaving behind the parts it doesn’t eat. But close enough to start looking behind your back.

Sorry, that’s not June. That’s the beast, the dragón, animating Rudy Ch. Garcia’s monster thriller and tongue-twister, Death Song of the Dragón Chicxulub. June is when publisher Somos en escrito Literary Foundation Press (link) unleashes the horror thriller for eager readers.

There’s lots of reasons to be eager, I’ll focus on three: Death Song of the Dragón Chicxulub is a rare Chicanocentric fantasy novel. Death Song does some teaching. Chickxulub brings lots of fun.

Rosaura Sánchez, Beatrice Pito, Ernest Hogan, Mario Acevedo, Rudy Ch. Garcia

Chicana Chicano fantasy novels are uncommon enough it’s still possible for someone to have read every work of the genre, and for its writers to know one another. Garcia, for example, once sat on a sci-fi/fantasy literary panel with Rosaura Sánchez, Beatrice Pito, Mario Acevedo, Ernest Hogan, and Jesus Salvador Treviño. Had some monster devoured that table, 90% of the writers of Chicana Chicano fantasy would have been swallowed up in Riverside.

Garcia sets Dragón in New Mexico and Mexico City, with narrative visits to ancient Aztlán along with an origin story that’s plausible enough younger readers should be careful not to take speculation as fact. According to Garcia, the Mexica got booted out of Tenochtitlan and wandered in a great northwestern circle until landing back in Mexico City, pursued at every turn by El Muerte Blanco.

It’s far too easy to suggest the name of the critter is a clumsy metaphor about assimilation into anglo cultura, but with an anglo protagonist named Miguel Reilly doing some cultural slumming on his way to freshman year at some fancy university, the metaphor’s easily accused. Having Reilly bouncing against raza caricatures in New Mexico and a hot indigenous woman in old Mexico is grist for Garcia’s mill. To the author’s great credit, he lets the trope speak for itself and doesn’t try to milk it with author’s messages in bright lights.

Chicana Chicano readers will appreciate the publisher’s stylistic convention of not translating Spanish, nor does the author take pains to offer some appositional translation into English. Chicana Chicano readers live in code-switching comfort. Those italics are their own muerte blanco on Chicana Chicano Literature.

Miguel is an interesting protagonist. Garcia positions him as a well-informed amateur anthropologist using his money and social standing to conduct participant-observer research.  Reilly is troubled by becoming too much a participant, a classic researcher’s conflict. Garcia has his kid abandon that scientist’s value. Magic, a brujo, Miguel’s fate and ancestry, the allure of that woman, send the boy in unplanned directions. 

The reader gets an heroic quest and a 300 pages of fun. There’s a people-eating monster. Magical people do magical things to and for the kid. You know that movie where hunters track a monster with technology? That’s here. Writers, Garcia’s descriptions of light, visibility, and sensation, are few but gems of synaesthesia.

When the old brujo wants to assess Miguel’s worthiness for discipleship, he asks if Miguel’s ever written a poem? Miguel later uses the query to melt the heart of the unmeltable Maritza. Kismet. That Maritza’s a formidable woman, the men in her circle fear her even as they lust after her. 

That dragon might occupy the title and the heart of the plot, but this novel’s about relationships and self-discovery, about theory, belief, and action. Toss in some history, a lot of local color, too much alcohol, and readers will have a blast while learning a few cultural insights. 

Kick back until June, then let Death Song of the Dragón Chicxulub do what speculative fiction does best, keep you entertained and turning pages.


RudyG said...

That's what I wrote? Qué chingaus. Gracias, Sedano for what I feel is a special review. You can hear and read the first chapter, plus a synopsis here: rchgarcia.com

Fafi said...

Excellent, detailed review and insightful critique.