Book Review – My Soul Cried the Spaceman by Levin A. Diatschenko
Levin A. Diatschenko’s speculative fiction novel My Soul Cried the Spaceman is a psychedelic romp reminiscent of the work of New Wave SF authors like Barry N. Malzberg and Philip K. Dick, not to mention beat authors like William S. Burroughs. Resolutely counterfactual from the outset (we are introduced in the opening salvo to concepts such as a string of alternate Earths, Deep Space Amnesia or space drunkenness, and a series of kooky rules for space travel not likely to be found in NASA’s textbooks), this is about as far away from Golden Age authors like Asimov and Clarke as you can get. John W. Campbell, longtime editor of Astounding and lynchpin of the aformentioned Golden Age, would likely turn in his grave at the thought of a novel like My Soul Cried the Spaceman.
But it’s all good fun. Our spacecraft is the Wanderjahre, our captain is Gulliver Spendthrift, and his trusty sidekick is a sphere of yellow light answering to the name of Orb. In tone, Diatschenko’s novel recalls the work of Douglas Adams or, more recently, Simon Haynes. Early on in the piece, our protagonists happen upon a piece of space junk – a coffin – the contents of which may shed some light onto the bizarre customs of the inhabitants of the nearby Earth: Earth 13. The whole place seems to be gripped in a never-ending funeral procession, which we soon learn is about to lead to the end of the human race on this particular Earth. There isn’t a whole heap for poor Gulliver Spendthrift to do except for patrol the local cafes – as long as he steers clear of the local coffee.
In the course of his adventures, Spendthrift encounters a cast of characters with names like Bleak, Noxious and Venominous. A mysterious stranger named Villiet offers the secret signal of the Astronauts’ Guild, which may shed some light onto our hero’s predicament, if only he can remember what his mission entails. There’s a black metal band (or is that a Blackened Death metal band? Blackened Doom Metal?), a sordid tale that could have come straight from the pages of the aforementioned William S. Burroughs or perhaps Philip Jose Farmer, and a troublesome robot for good measure. And that’s just the entree.
Levin A. Diatschenko is an indie author based in Darwin (which is in the Northern Territory of Australia, for those readers from afar) and he’s the author of several previous novels. You can read an interview with him by Jeremy Balius or check out his official website. He has a play out called Darwin Vs Matilda and seems to be an interesting character in general. A note on cover art in closing: both My Soul Cried the Spaceman and The Rooftop Sutras feature stunning cover art and design which far exceed that which would normally expect to find from an indie publication. My Soul Cried the Spaceman is currently only available in ebook form, but The Rooftop Sutras can be had in hardcopy from Lulu. Just ensure that you’re on the correct Earth when you place your order.