The Bottom of the Sky is about two boys, Isaac and Ezra, who are science-fiction fans. They fall in love with a girl they meet at one of their sci-fi club meetings. But it also revolves around a mysterious science-fiction novel called Evasion, which is revealed in fragments, through multiple narrators, as its featured time traveler visits the US military’s Green Area in Iraq (dubbing it Grynarya, as if seen through a science-fiction lens), the World Trade Center on 9/11, and other locations in time and space.
Translated from Spanish, The Bottom of the Sky will prove especially enjoyable to anyone familiar with science fiction’s major writers. Fresán employs an obtuse referential style, in which Philip K. Dick becomes Warren Wilbur Zack and Howard Phillips Lovecraft becomes Phineas Elsinore Darlingskill, along with intentionally transparent aliases for other luminaries of the field. This proves entertaining in its own right, but Fresán’s true purpose is to create a fragmented sense of otherness as he tells his own tale.
Fresan’s characters are aware of the tropes and customs of science fiction but forge their own paths while recalling them. One narrator notes the difference between his long, parenthetically noted sentences, and the shorter, more direct descriptions common to early science-fiction novels. Fresán’s comparisons can be poetic, or amusing, or disturbing—and sometimes, all of these at once:
Hole-riddled bodies, all of a sudden, acquire the texture of comic strips that when enlarged … we discover are composed of dots. All those red dots.
Bearing the hallmarks of science fiction but written with the thoughtful intensity of a literary novel, The Bottom of the Sky aspires to something greater than the sum of its parts, and largely succeeds.
Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.