Friday, October 21, 2011

The Flawed Mind - reviewed

Just got a GREAT review from Marcus Baumgart @ The Flawed Mind. Here's a taste:

"Andrez offers us one imagined future for Melbourne, and it has to be said that things don’t look so good. The dystopian Melbourne of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, pitched at some distance into the future, has the unique distinction of being the only city left in the world. Unfortunately, things are not going terribly well in terms of civil liberties, the political climate or the environment. In fact, things are comprehensively fucked up on all fronts, and the portrait painted is of an overcrowded, polluted metropolis groaning under the control of a government vested in corporate interests and busy herding non-conformists and misfits into extramural death camps styled as ‘hospitals’.

"Despite this undeniable grimness, the novel is also pretty amusing, and it mines the noir vein with gay abandon, to use an old-fashioned phrase. Andrez wears his pop-culture influences on his sleeve, and the result is a compote that mashes up a plethora of fictional frameworks into a believable, seamless whole. Readers who know Melbourne will enjoy seeing the geography of the city rezoned and remapped, polarised by the presence of a dome over the CBD that shelters the wealthy elite. And god help you if you find yourself in Richmond, which Bergen transforms into a demilitarised wasteland; Abbotsford and other inner suburbs don’t fare much better.

"I for one appreciate someone taking the time to imagine an Australia of the future, as it is a welcome change to the ubiquitous North American setting of much popular fiction, and science fiction. Nevertheless, that wouldn’t be enough to recommend it. Happily, TSMG is also a ripping yarn in the best dystopian, gumshoe tradition.

"Oh, and on a final note, you will thoroughly enjoy the company of the protagonist, Floyd Maquina – he is ruggedly handsome and generally ruined; witty, self destructive and self-effacing with his air of gracious defeat..."

You can check out more at Marcus' website.

We have a swag of other review and interviews up at the Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat website HERE.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Melbourne book launch of TSMG

So I'm now back in Tokyo, after a two week sojourn in Melbourne - the more prominent Melbourne in Australia rather than its silly namesake in Florida, which is 32 years younger. I get parochial about this because the Melbourne in Australia is my hometown, and also the setting for my novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.

I went down this time not only to rendezvous with friends and family, nor just to soak in the sights, sounds, smells and brilliant foodstuffs that the city does indeed boast. Because the novel was only recently published, it was high-time I did a book launch there; any excuse to have a party, and all that jazz. Anyway, we ended up doing the propaganda jaunt at a superb 1853 blue-stone abode in the city called Miss Libertine on Wednesday 10th August, and the turn-out was brilliant.

Suitably enough it was also pissing down with rain that evening.

I got in early to cut my teeth with some beer; I also cut up wads of cheese and a smoked sausage that, in Australia, we call cabana (suitably kitsch old school '70s art exhibition style, and far cheaper than serving up sushi!) plus we had salt and vinegar chips and chocolate teddy bears since they appear in the novel.

There were hiccups - the three-hour background score I'd put together, which included musical influences, soundtracks from appropriate films, my own hack Little Nobody muzak and some self-indulgent ditties, failed to fire-up. We also had technical problems with the DVD projector so we couldn't screen most of what I wanted to show. I skipped out on doing a book-reading - a part of me thought that a wee bit too pretentious in the circumstances - so I opted to opening myself up to an informal Q&A instead.

The only problem was that between the hob-knob of the occasion and scrawling inane messages on copies of the book, I had to remember names, catch up with mates and family members who showed up, and generally remind myself to make time for a sip or two of ale squeezed in between gas-bagging - so the Q&A fell on the back-burner a bit.

But management at the venue were wunderbar (thanks, Bo!), the vibe was fantastic, I had a couple of great happy-snappers (in particular Jason Maher) and no minor problems seemed to matter anyway.

Massive thanks to everyone who showed up and thereby created the vibe I talked up a sentence back - you all rock. While I'll admit to having been a bit stressed before the event, during and especially after I had a ball.

That's Melbourne (Australia) for you.

I forgot how much I missed the place, even now - a decade after I left - and it just seems to improve with age. I think anybody who bothers to read this blog (hello? Anybody?) might've noticed I like to talk up fine wines, and there're some nice drops to be found in Australia. So the image of Melbourne aging away in a dank cellar - since I love my vintage stuff - is actually a positive one.

We're not talking dusty, damp and archaic, though there's plenty of gorgeous Victorian architecture to be found in this city with its fair share of mold. Melbourne has a comparatively short history but has hung on to a lot of that, while at the same time developing new twists and turns as it goes.

But I think being away gave me the detachment necessary to set my novel in a post-apocalyptic Melbourne in which the proverbial shit has hit the fan.

Anyway, a couple of days ago I left again, going straight from around 6°C in the early morning in Melbourne to 36°C and humid here in Tokyo - nice and sizzling in the sun; steaming in the shade.

And I'm buggered, but it's brilliant to be with the girls again. And missing Melbourne already - what a city.

Now I just need time to recuperate.

Photos by Jason Maher & Andrez Bergen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Goat in the Sky

There's now an in-depth interview of my editor Kristopher Young and me - by the cool Martin Garrity - online @ Solarcide, regarding Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.

Martin writes:

"TSMG is an odd sci-fi tale of corruption in a dystopian future, set in Melbourne, Australia. (Bergen is himself Australian, though he now lives in Japan) It features an immediately likeabe protagonist, Floyd Maquina, who is a government endorsed ‘seeker.’ Floyd’s job is to hunt the deviant menace that threatens the future of the last inhabited city on the planet. This could almost be a special edition, Vegemite-flavoured version of a certain Philip K. Dick story.

"But that ain’t even the half of it.

"TSMG is also homage to the golden age of film noir. It’s a cigar puffing, whiskey sipping, piano playing, bar lout, and the book may very well stir up memories of a black and white nature. Andrez makes a million and one references to movies (The Third Man and The Maltese Falcon, in particular, are heavily drawn on) and the settings are stuffed to the margins with inspiration from this classic era of cinema."

I actually really dug doing this interview; Martin was great to yack with and he asked some canny questions - and I really loved the head-to-head between he and Kristopher.

Anyway, you can read it if at all interested HERE.

Cheers, Martin! ;)

By the way, I'll probably skip updating this blog in future months, so if you want to keep abreast of anything, my other blog, JapaneseCultureGoNow!, is far more active. Plus there's the website for Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More TSMG reviews + Website

After a wee bit of thought - well, actually, not so much at all, I have to 'fess up - I've come to a decision that's hardly going to stir a blade of grass or two hereabouts.

So what's the big fuss? Well, I think that running this blog alongside my other one (JapaneseCultureGoNow!) is time-wasting, since a lot of what happens here is transliterated there anyway.

Also, it doesn't come across as quite so self-indulgent since on that blog I address other stuff such as, well, odds and ends of more off-beat Japanese culture (I guess the name itself gives that away).

Also, I just set up a website specifically for Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, which has a lot more info than this blog; you can check that out HERE.

So I probably won't update this blog quite so much in future.

However, we did just get a couple of great reviews of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and I'd like to share one here, just in case some lost soul is interested.

Farrago magazine is where I cut my teeth writing during my stint at Melbourne Uni, and they nicely just published a wunderbar review:

"A story based around a post-apocalyptic Melbourne where consumerism, class division, discrimination and corruption run rampant [in which] the humour and trivial observations... prevent Bergen’s novel from becoming cliché or a 'doom and gloom' vision of the future that would probably leave you crying yourself to sleep at night.

"All in all, Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat is a great read: a well-rounded book from a well-rounded individual. Bergen’s experience in journalism, photography, music and art amongst other things, easily translates into this expat Australian’s homage to Melbourne and its culture."

The rest of that review is HERE.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tobacco-Stained & Out There

Well, the novel is now out - in fact it has been for a month now - and slowly starting to garner the occasional review like the one at Forces Of Geek.

My publishers are currently putting together the digital versions for iPad and Kindle (stay tuned), but in the meantime the classic old school paperback - sorry, trees! - is up on Amazon UK, Amazon USA, Amazon Canada, Amazon Japan, and Alibris.

Even better, you can order direct from my cool cat publishers Another Sky Press, where the price for the paperback is much cheaper ($4.74 plus postage), and you also get bonus glossy bookmarks (see above) featuring the cover artwork on both sides.

If you feel like it, while online @ Another Sky you can contribute more so that the publisher, the cover artist (Scott Campbell) and I actually make some dosh in the long run.

The funky postcard is not yet available except here in Japan, but I'm working on it, and eventually hope to achieve world domination with bumper stickers, a Scout patch and iPad apps... even if I don't have one of those darn tootin' gadgets yet myself.

Bah; humbug.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 1

Something lighter here, as life appears to be edging back on track and into the realm of normality, at least for those of us in Tokyo and elsewhere - at a distance from the smoldering nuclear smoke-stacks at Fukushima.

Personally, I have a lot of reasons to celebrate.

One of these is my family, and my five-year-old daughter Cocoa, who is a just plain god-send. She's funny, talented, and growing up way too fast!

Another is my first novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, which was officially released through Another Sky Press at the beginning of April and is now available on Amazon. Yep, it's on Amazon (the UK, USA and Japan versions) and I keep clicking on one of these everyday to peer at the wayward tome and sigh - silently, of course. I don't want people to concern themselves too much with my mental state.

It just got reviewed by Forces Of Geek today, and the reviewer, Tony Pacitti, seems to completely "get" where I was coming from. I love what he says, even the negative.

He writes:

Constantly questioning his role at the end of the world, Floyd quickly finds himself stuck in the middle of a story that’s a delicious bit of Chinatown 1930s wrapped around a Blade Runner future with a dash of post 9/11 paranoia for good measure. Double- and triple-dealings lurk around every corner and for every twist and turn there’s a wisecrack and a nod to the gumshoes of Hollywood’s yesteryear.


When Bergen isn’t riffing on genres he’s taking frequent swings at the world we live in. Whether he’s shining a light on the gross imbalance between classes in an economic crisis or amplifying our obsession with cosmetic perfection to gaudy extremes, Bergen’s punches land frighteningly close to home.

You can check it out here. Wow.

Another reason to be cheerful is my new Little Nobody album, Hard Foiled, which is finally being released today. It's a collection of electronic/techno stuff I've cobbled together over the past couple of years and is being released through IF? Records.

There's a digital version via Beatport as well as a limited edition CD (with less tracks, but still clocking in at 70 minutes) via Lulu.

Last reason? I live in Tokyo. And I love Japan. This is my home.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TSMG review (from Amazon)

Just got this review via Amazon UK (thanks, Lotte).

Love this assessment:

"Bergen has a penchant for quick, witty dialog moments that border on the surreal, while the characters around Maquina are both painted with absolute care and pushed to offbeat edges. Hidden amidst these are about a million and one TV and movie references, some crystal clear and others obscure. The reverential homage to 1940s and '50s detective noir sits pretty alongside nods to the classic Hollywood musical like "Top Hat". The influences of Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" and Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" are all too clear, along with Japanese anime and '70s Asian cinema, compressed into a knowing understanding of Australian culture and slang.

"Then there are the little red herrings between the lines -- off-the-cuff references to things like "Star Trek", "Winnie-the-Pooh", "The 300 Spartans" and "The Charge of the Light Brigade", which were some of the ones I recognized; others I'm sure are there yet still to be found."

So nice for someone else to get where we were trying to come from!

The novel is also up on Amazon USA and Amazon Japan 日本 - but I still recommend getting it via my publishers @ Another Sky Press, as they offer cheaper rates, you can check out their other fine tomes, plus you get bonus free TSMG bookmarks from them!

Anyway, if you do take the time to go check it out... cheers!