|Publisher||East India Press|
|Publication Date||10 September, 2014|
|Series||Beowulf (Book 1)|
"Over the past 20 years I've discovered dozens of authors who have gone on to become New York Times bestsellers, and I've learned to recognize genius when I see it.
"In BEOWULF: A BLOODY CALCULUS, the genius is apparent from page one. You see, I look for a number of things in a writing sample: a powerful story concept, an engaging narrative, artistry in the prose, and an author with a powerful mind. Too often, a new author will fail at some level: but not Milo Behr. From page one, it was obvious that this is a rare and unique talent. Very often I will find tales with sophisticated artistry but which are intellectually barren. Or I will find genuine genius devoid of beauty.
"This author shows both a deep artistry in his work AND intellectual genius. From the staccato rhythms created in the opening lines to the reinvention of rules for punctuation, one can see instantly that this is a writer who keenly hears and feels the music in his words, yet there is nothing lacking in his content. Whether he's commenting on modern media, taking-on political ideologies, or wrestling with moral complexities, there is a delightful depth to Milo Behr's work.
"Yet the story never stagnates, never bogs down. Instead its a seamless fusion of virtuosity and insight. As I read, I kept thinking, "If William Wordsworth were alive today and writing cyberpunk, this is what he might write."
"He would strive to write something that was beautiful, profound, and ultimately affirming. There is something about Milo Behr's work that is at once contemporary yet iconic.
"I invite you to read it, and see if you love it as much as I do."
Lead judge for the world's largest
genre writing competition
"Behr's Beowulf: A Bloody Calculus is a work that demands I take a moment to comment.
"First, it succeeds on many levels. Immediately, it is utterly readable while still being impressive as 'literature', which is something rare and important. It manages this by pushing forward at a brisk pace, never getting mired in its own profundity -- never seeming concerned it will run out of ideas, insights, or momentum. Like all great works, it manages to be great without trying to be brilliant. It just is, and effortlessly so.
"Most fascinating to me as a composer was the way Behr deconstructed the idea of an epic poem in a fresh, contemporary, and courageous treatment. I am not sure what a literary academic would say, but Behr's Beowulf is a distinct form of what I can best describe as deconstructed poetry that pays homage to its roots while being true to itself as a futuristic telling. For those averse to poetry, the style will not be off-putting -- you will perceive it as prose, but prose whose rhythm is sophisticated in its subdivisions of time and its impeccable sense of proportion and pace. It does not plod, nor does it pound home perpetual repetitions of stress and repose. It is dynamic, complex, and it's very hard to pin down exactly why it works as it does.
"Finally, the way in which he breaks rules of grammar in order to achieve a concrete creative objective is a worthy lesson for creatives of any discipline about how and when rules can and should be broken. This consistency of honed purpose paired with the worthiness (and fun) of the subject matter and the depth of the author's insight catapult this work into my permanent library, and demand the time it took to write a thoughtful review, which is not something I often do."
VP, Composers Guild of America
The muggy air smells like piss. Or maybe kimchi. He's in a narrow alley between two old brick-and-mortar relics whose time was up decades ago--they'd have been history themselves if not for the Historic Registry, the Historic Society and the Historic Whatever-the-hell-else.
Not everything's worth saving, he thinks.
He chuckles darkly. Who is he to judge? He calls himself Beowulf, and trips around Manhattan in leather armor and a bear's head. He thinks: the buildings are actually ancient, and I just pretend to be. Something old and ugly at least has a right to its flaws--some integrity. But a persona like Beowulf . . . is it really an homage, or is it just tasteless copycat bullshit? He knows the answer to that, and it isn't flattering (after all, he'd studied Marketing at Columbia . . . not English Lit).
He's in a mood--has to do with why he's in this alley. It reminds him how his old man used to deflect compliments. He'd say: I'm just a very good actor, it's all a man needs. (A little modest humor. The man was a terrible actor.) But on days like today, Beowulf feels like a bona fide thespian.
A girl screams. The girl, the one he's here for. She's backed into a corner, nipped-at by a pack of pencil-thin punks in tight pants and peplum tunics. One of them wears a neon-purple balaclava, for godssake, and it looks like cashmere: a 5th-Ave. couture costume imitation of a real crook. Beowulf says for the camera: look out, they've got a badass.
He can't move in, not yet. Nothing's actually happened. Step-in now, and he'd just break it up. He wouldn't get any collars.
The follow-cams flit in near-silently: beetle-sized quadracopters with high-res, immersive cameras. The kids at home are getting their first look at the scene . . . the curtain rises, so-to-speak. Lawrence Booth builds it up to his millions of viewers--monologuing, setting the stage for a grand entrance. Beowulf hears the crowd chanting his name: Beowulf, Beowulf! On his HUD, he sees himself as Booth is broadcasting him: armor of distressed leather over alternating layers of visco-elastic polymers and graphene film. A pair of chromed pectoral plates glistens on his chest, matching the sheen of a helmet shaped like a bear's head, its maw open and menacing above Beowulf's own face, with sapphire eyes glowing. Beowulf, Beowulf!
Back in the alley, one of the peacocks makes a move. He shoves the girl, grabs her shimmering dress. It tears in his hand; she clutches it to her, preserving her modesty. Laughter. Beowulf mutters: if you think that's funny, wait 'til you see what comes next. The badass gingerly lifts his peplum, loosens the lacing of his fly, then shimmies in place trying to get his pants down. Not very menacing. Dainty, even. He says something lewd in a throaty croon.
Beowulf shakes his head. Well, that'll do.
He springs out from his shadow, crouches, and brings a gauntleted fist up into the guy's groin with enough force to permanently change his disposition. A squeal like a stuck pig, and Beowulf reaches up and plucks the balaclava from his head, revealing a face lightly made-up in shades of blue and silver--and screwed into a rictus of poignant pain. "Smile," Beowulf says, "you're famous." Then he feels arms wrap around his neck from behind. Really? Fighting back? Damn: now he's gotta play for keeps. He launches himself up and back, catching the man behind him and shoving him backward into the building's crumbling masonry. He hears a grunt and a forced exhalation. Reaching back over his shoulders with both hands, he grips the guy's jacket and hauls him up and over, slamming him down on the ground, belly up. Beowulf snaps his fist into a pretty face, jabbing twice to the nose, and twice to the mouth. Porcelain teeth inlaid with gold and silver splinter and push inward, and a pasty nose flattens with a crunch and a spurt of crimson, leaving the face a bloody ruin. With a growl, Beowulf looks up for another target.
But no-one moves. No-one so much as breathes. The four remaining perps crouch in terror, hands stretched out in front of them, palms spread in surrender. They look at Beowulf, horrified. One of them weeps openly. Another has wet himself.
Beowulf feigns a lunge. The biggest one falls to his knees bawling, "no, no, no." Another one flaps his hands, as though desperate urgency might save him, then starts crying, calling on Allah for help as he wraps his face in his arms.
On Beowulf's HUD, a mass of red dots turns gradually green, and a countdown reaches zero. "We have a verdict," Booth yells. Beowulf hears it through his implants. "Ladies and gentlemen of the great city of New York, we have a verdict." Cheers. Open-and-shut case; most of them are. Surveillance footage and live follow-cams paint a pretty clear picture.
The perps' names scroll onto Beowulf's HUD, and he reads them aloud. "The people of New York City find you guilty of attempted rape, aggravated assault and resisting arrest," he barks. "I am authorized to detain you for immediate transport to the New York State Annex on the dark side of the moon. If necessary, you will receive emergency medical treatment en route." Beowulf puts his boot on a trembling shoulder, and shoves a guy to the ground. He does that three more times, to the others, then pulls a stack of magnetic bracelets from his belt. He yanks hands behind backs and slaps the bracelets on. "Ever been to the moon?" he asks. "Don't get your hopes up." A pause. "It's not really made of cheese." The joke falls flat; well, you can't win 'em all. One guy rocks backward too far from his spot, and gets a nasty electric shock. He whines, then groans. Beowulf frowns. "You can't move in those things," he says, "you'll get a shock." He turns to the guy in the jacket with the bloody face, pats him down. He finds a lump, reaches into a breast pocket, and comes away with a small electronic device.
The immediate trauma has apparently withered just enough for a new angst to blossom: reality. Their new reality. Beowulf sees it written on their faces. It isn't prison. It's exile. To the damn moon. And there's no comin' back. (With Podkletnov/Noever tech, inflatable biospheres and synthetic leaves, getting there and sustaining life is downright affordable. Which yields nearly four billion hectares of land no-one wants to live on.) Beowulf looks across the line of them: painted nails, painted faces, sculpted coiffures. They may survive. But if they do, they'll wish they hadn't.
Badass has quit his whimpering, and looks up at Beowulf, sees what he's holding, what he'd taken out of the other guy's jacket. "Man," he says, "we hadna plan 'ado naught." It's a dialect they call Parse; the rich-kid imitation of a street slang born of crossbreeding a dozen immigrant idioms. "Too far's all. Feckin' round. Non surveillance widdat gadget. Free reign, see? Jus feckin' round. Too far." And Beowulf believes him. Then the other guys start in, all yelling at the one with the flat face. "You za dumbass, you!", "Za gadget 'sa piece a' shite!", "Whatta now? Oh, gawd, whatta now?"
Beowulf walks over to the victim. She's curled up in her corner. He gives her a hand, and she takes it. He swipes through his haptic field and a quadracopter approaches. It's bigger than the follow-cams, and it's carrying a small case. He takes it down, opens it, pulls a bundle out. He holds one end and drops it, unfurling it. It's a silk robe. Booth sent it. Beowulf places it over the woman's shoulders--Rachel, she says her name is. The follow-cams get a nice shot of it, and Booth goes off on "chivalry not being dead." She draws it shut, then leans on Beowulf and cries. He stands with her there, holding her, until the cops show up.
He walks away, the "gadget" in his hand. It's one of Booth's. He sells them on the grey market. They're supposed to confuse surveillance, blast cameras with wide-spectrum noise. They don't work, and they've got GPS locators on them. But people think they work. Booth's idea of stirring the pot: getting people to do things they wouldn't do, if they thought they were being watched. Booth says he's just giving mud to pigs--they'll do what they do anyway, but this way they'll do it stupid. But Beowulf doesn't see it that way. When you grow up being watched, it gets in your head. It's a psychological thing: an overbearing presence, but intimate too, like an extra conscience. Shut that off, and even basically decent people can do some weird shit.
So a woman was nearly raped, or believes she was, anyway. And a bunch a' stupid kids are shipping out for the bloody moon. Beowulf even hurt a couple of 'em bad.
Some hero. He feels an ache building in his throat. He bites his tongue and squeezes his eyes shut.
I'm just a very good actor, he thinks. It's all a man needs.