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Crash Gordon and the Mysteries of Kingsburg…
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Crash Gordon and the Mysteries of Kingsburg (2007)

by Derek Swannson

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4910381,872 (4.47)2
EASTER SUNDAY, 1973: Just before dawn in Kingsburg, California, six-year-old Gordon Swannson, asthmatic boy genius, gets his ass kicked by a spectral Easter Bunny'an event that sends his already hyperactive imagination spiraling toward paranoia. Gordon becomes convinced that ghosts and other weird entities inhabit a daimonic reality that can interact with our everyday world. He starts seeing mystery and danger everywhere in his isolated farming community. He even thinks his best friend, Jimmy, might be possessed by demons....JUNE 7th, 1979: Reality catches up with Gordon's worst imaginings on the day after his thirteenth birthday, when his father dies by crashing a Cessna into the living room of their house. Gordon sets out to discover whether the plane crash was an accident or something far more sinister. Before he finds the answer, he'll experience puberty, Pink Floyd, trout fishing, lesbian vampire movies, and midnight cliff-diving with the Hells Angels'all while learning to cope with the trauma-induced narcolepsy that inspires his nickname, Crash Gordon....HALLOWEEN, 1982: Gordon meets Jimmy's Uncle Lloyd, an obscenely rich insurance broker to the rocket industry who makes Woodward and Bernstein's Deep Throat look like a low-level bureaucrat. With Lloyd acting as their demented mentor, Gordon and his friends embark on a road trip to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. Along the way, Lloyd lectures them about such diverse topics as hypnotism, assassination theories, MKULTRA, COINTELPRO, and the kidnapping of Patty Hearst; serial killers, satanic sacrifices, interdimensional energy portals, and the remote viewing program at the Stanford Research Institute; shamanism, ayahuasca, Terence McKenna's tryptamine-fueled encounters with the Logos, and the role "future causality" plays in the world's current fate. And that's only a prelude to Lloyd's startling explanation of how Gordon and Jimmy have become unwitting participants in a CIA mind control experiment known as Project MONARCH....ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!! "If you like smart, literate, and humorous Conspiracy Theories about secret societies, alien manipulation, Freemasonry, narcolepsy, Templars, and the occasional psychedelic acid trip (and who doesn't?) then this book is for you!" ?The Alternative… (more)
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The book that introduced the memorable character of Crash Gordon to the world, this is an origins story that shows us Crash’s history, from childhood as an imaginative, gifted and somewhat paranoid kid through young adulthood. While reading this fantastic trip through a series of incredible, funny, mind-bending adventures it was hard not to think of Wolfe’s ‘Electric Kool Aid Test” and much of the writing of Hunter S. Thompson. But this book is never imitative or derivative. The characters, particularly that of Gordon Swannson (who later becomes Crash Gordon) are truly originals and it is their personalities, along with the author’s elegant and irreverent writing style that keep you engaged and entranced throughout. This is truly not a “simple” book. On one level it’s a coming of age tale filled with strange happenings, conspiracy theories and cabals, acid trips gone awry and pervasive narcolepsy. On another it presents some serious political theories and introduces multi-layered characters with complicated emotions and motivations. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are willing to be open to the wild ride that is Crash Gordon’s life and to thinking about the mundane in new, often revelatory ways, I think you’ll love this book. ( )
  ETC752 | Jul 8, 2014 |
Captivated and engaged by the very first page, I have enjoyed every bit of dialogue between Derek Swannson’s characters, along with their background and the thought processes shared. Their idiosyncrasies and flaws are brought to the forefront as a means to show the lessons we might learn from adversity. It's reading that reminds you how to be thankful, without the condescension typically applied in other books. The suggestion that there is a plan and that it isn't necessarily some big celestial idea will be found intriguing by anyone who questions traditional religion.

Gordon's pseudo-uncle, Johnny Hoss, was my favorite character—a cantankerous but well-intentioned devils' advocate who helps Gordon let off steam, gives him a beer every now and then, and generally eases the blows when Gordon is rejected by his father. When Gordon is feeling like a general disappointment, Johnny picks him back up and dusts him off and even helps him forget his problems. Johnny reminded me of a favorite uncle of mine that I looked up to; I'd have a hard time imagining that he wouldn't be a favorite to anyone else.

I've utilized all my free time to read this book and I’m eager to read the second in this series. I've also heard whispers of another book from this author that could maybe potentially theoretically be in the works... but don't quote me. I love an author who can fully develop his or her characters, and I love the underdogs most of all—I identify with them almost exclusively and begrudge the alpha dog characters even when they show humility and pain. I'm sure that says much about me, but regardless—don't hesitate to buy this book. I've been wowed and enthralled since page one. I immediately felt for Gordon because his parents really suck and his friend who is his neighbor is not the nicest kid, although maybe that’s just how boys behave.

To a certain degree you almost expect Gordon to die halfway through the book. His life is just filled with knock out after knock out. I won't tell you any more, except to say that I've read a lot of genres and science fiction is becoming a favorite by far. This book is a great example of why. There's real life written into these pages. The characters and the places the author takes you will tap into your own memories, both good and bad. This is DEFINITELY one of those books that will stay with you long after you finish reading it. ( )
  MouthyGirl | Jun 23, 2014 |
Being that this is my second exposure to mister Swannson's work, I really wasn't quite sure what to expect. I read through one of his other books (the second in this series) when a friend recommended it to me and. . . Well, I was thoroughly hooked, but missing a fair bit of context to really enjoy some of the finer points and in jokes.

So when he gave me a copy of the first book, I was really curious to see how this would pan out. Sometimes first books tend to be those books in which the author is getting their feet under them and so tend to be a bit rough around the edges.

Crash Gordon and the Mysteries of Kingsburg does suffer from the occasional waffling where the author takes you on tangents that might not seem relevant at first but actually tie deeply into the plot threads which are otherwise expertly woven throughout the book. These tangents are also called back to obliquely in the second book making those little 'aha, I see what you did!' moments very enjoyable and a treat to read.

All in all, Derek's high brow played as low brow writing style amuses and enthralls. There have been times where I burst out laughing at something that, without any context at all would sound absolutely ridiculous, but within the world of the story makes perfect sense (but is just as hilarious). “I’ve been giving aliens asthma attacks?” Comes to mind.

There are some small tics where the author is getting a handle on things (you'd be hard pressed to find any one person who could do all the work needed to make this kind of plot sing) but once the momentum gets going, you're in for one hell of a ride.

If intelligent, slightly surreal, plots are something you enjoy, you really need to pick this up. I know I'm going to be looking for more! ( )
  TammySilverwolf | May 27, 2014 |
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Have you ever read a book that has people around you looking at you funny because you can't help but laugh out loud at the hysterics? Well this is one of those books. I love the authors storytelling ability and his view of a 6 year olds mindset - from thinking he is James Bond and a lady killer to marrying his dog, Can't wait to read more from this author. ( )
  sportzmomof5 | Apr 28, 2014 |
Crash Gordon and the Mysteries of Kingsburg, by Derek Swannson is a surprising and terrific book, and one of a very few lesser-known, self-published/small press (not sure which) books that have stayed with me since I finished reading it – more than a year ago! Be warned, however, that CGMK is not an easy read; it’s challenging, thought-provoking, following on (and fitting squarely within) the most advanced post-modern “traditions” of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

Like Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, CGMK is dirty, dangerous, and not to be recommended; but anyone who’s otherwise inclined to read it should be encouraged. Unlike GR, however, it’s the last half of CGMK – not the first 50 pages – that seems most demanding of the reader’s focus and stamina. Even the author anticipates, “people have probably taken a look at the book and said to themselves, ‘There’s 616 pages of this stuff? [Forget] that … I'm going back to David Sedaris.’” Readers disappointed with CGMK’s ending (and there will be some; but, no!, I’m not telling) should consider whether and how it works with the book’s larger theme(s) and overall structure.

For me, CGMK calls to mind some of the best Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut, with flavors of Franz Kafka thrown in, and a “dash” of Joseph Heller to taste. It begins with the imaginative wild-ride of a 6- or 7-year-old boy thrust into the world (this one) at the tail-end of 1960s turbulence. That world is full of corporate materialism, a perennially plastic mix of 1970s excess, and heightened tension between promises of technology and reverence for natural (and supernatural) orders of the universe. A case in point (not to make too much of the detail): readers (ahem!) “old” enough to remember Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlors may appreciate their perfectly objective depiction here, with enough of a storyteller’s satirical slant to understand them in context as sublime, sinister, and just a bit ridiculous; but, OH! WHAT GREAT FUN THEY ARE! (Or are they?)

As an aftertaste, CGMK left a host of unanswered questions, inexplicable mysteries, and puzzling conundrums, particularly in the last half, where it gives free-reign to a wildly speculative, inter-connected, almost stream-of-consciousness flow of conspiracy theories and new-age mysticism. Rich stuff, to be sure; and rewarding, even if it’s “just” fiction. Some (most?) of the loose ends are likely meant to never be answered (in this life). For a few personal examples, and putting aside particulars of the text (i.e., no “spoilers” here, although that’s hardly a concern!), I wonder: Is the author using conspiracy theories and mysticism (masterfully!) first and foremost as literary devices; or does he want to impart deeper meanings and truths, or inspire soul-searching? What’s really the relationship between “Crash” Gordon Swannson and Derek Swannson in CGMK; is Derek the same as the author; and is their relationship (if any) intentional, stylistic, incidental, mystic – or all of the above? And – going further afield (as CGMK gleefully invites readers to do!) – what’s the relationship between “Crash” Gordon Swannson of CGMK and “Crash Gordon,” reportedly the author of Nitt-Witt Ridge (A Big Sur Freak Fable)? (Incidentally, NWR is the only other title currently appearing on the publisher’s website; see http://www.librarything.com/work/8214436
and http://threegracespress.com/.) The only answer I come up with is a resounding “Yes; No; Maybe,” and not necessarily in that order. Be that as it may, and – to borrow a phrase – "so it goes."

Finally, I heartily congratulate the author, his editor(s), and his publisher (one and the same?) on a highly professional finished product in the book itself, with excellent production qualities and (except that it’s soft-cover) apparently made to last. While I’m normally willing to go with an author’s stylistic oddities in service of the work, I’m (probably abnormally) sensitive to typos, faulty sentence structures, smudged ink, and other thoughtless or unintended shortcomings that I find in many self-published/small press editions. None of these nuisances are evident in CGMK, however; and the “irritants” here, such as they are, seem integral to the work – like grains of sand in oysters, which ultimately produce pearls. Regrettably, our LT review copy landed under wet towels in the bottom of a beach bag – not my doing (I promise!), but somehow fitting if one considers the indignities visited on Crash and his cohorts throughout these pages.

CGMK gets 4 of 5 stars only because I would save 4½ and 5 for the very, very best. Still, on a statistical bell-curve, I deem an honest 4 to be high praise indeed. Most importantly, CGMK needs a wide audience (and vice versa). If you’ve read this far, go get the book – and enjoy! ( )
2 vote jasbro | Nov 20, 2010 |
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Maybe this world is some other planet's hell.
—Aldous Huxley
Ethos anthropoi daimon.
—Heraclitus
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For my three graces
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Picture six-year-old Gordon Swannson skulking along a shag-carpeted hallway in the predawn stillness of his parents' 1960s-style suburban ranch home.
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