Count Geiger’s Blues follows the adventures of Xavier Thaxton, arts editor at a major Southern daily called the Salonika Urbanite. Thaxton thinks himself a superior man. His aesthetic standards are so lofty that he regards superheroes as pop-culture cock-and-bull, rock music as audible rubbish, and soap operas as the contemptible spew of script-writing committees.
While skinny-dipping in a pool polluted with radioactive waste, Thaxton is afflicted with superpowers all his own and becomes that which he most scorns. A radiation-induced ailment, the Philistine Syndrome, forces him to assume the persona of comic-book hero Count Geiger to allay its career- and indeed life-threatening symptoms.
Michael Bishop’s Count Geiger Blues, a novel of intellectual heft and self-spoofing kitsch, is a take on superheroes like no other: a rollicking foray into high and low culture that mines the vicissitudes and tragedies of everyday life for serious belly laughs and bona fide heartbreak.
"Sad and funny at once, Count Geiger's Blues shows Michael Bishop's extraordinary range. Bishop's work is a treasure."
—Greg Bear, author of War Dogs
"Comic books may never be the same. Michael Bishop ranges over the whole exuberant, tacky, imaginative, pathetic province of popular culture, mining subtle layers of meaning. If you thought superheroes with 'powers' were only for wishful adolescents, think again. In this deft, funny, and profound novel, Bishop makes his unorthodox and reluctant hero the embodiment of more crazy social forces than a dozen lesser writers could pack into a dozen lesser books. A true tour de force."
—Nancy Kress, author of Yesterday's Kin
"The astonishing thing about Count Geiger's Blues is the way that, beyond its zany premise and calculated hyperbole, the novel deals substantively with matters ranging from Nietzsche's ubermensch to radioactive waste disposal to the tension between high and low art. Michael Bishop has achieved what most postmodernists can merely talk about: the creation of a superhero who is first of all a believable human being."
—James Morrow, author of The Madonna and the Starship
"Michael Bishop is a master at weaving various threads into a seamless fictional whole. Here this eloquent American writer brings his considerable gifts to the myth of the superhero. Any novel by Bishop is well worth reading—and discovering, if you are unfortunate enough to be unfamiliar with his work—and Count Geiger’s Blues is no exception."
—Pamela Sargent, author of Farseed
"Count Geiger’s Blues is a groundbreaking novel, one of the first to use superheroes for literary purposes beyond mere adventure, and it influenced me deeply. It’s a satire of a pompous man whose body rebels against high culture and craves the ‘low’—in other words, a stand-in for every snob who doesn’t understand what the tropes of genre can be made to do in the hands of a master writer like Bishop. It’s smart, observant, and hilarious, fueled by outrage at what humans will carelessly do to each other. But in the end, Bishop’s innate humanity takes the story beyond satire, for there are scenes in the book that have haunted me for years."
—Daryl Gregory, author of Raising Stony Mayhall
"Set in the metropolis of Salonika in an alternate-world New South, Count Geiger’s Blues offers a variety of deft phildickian satire and the sweet humanism of classic Bishop."
—David G. Hartwell, editor of The Science Fiction Century
"Count Geiger’s Blues is an entertaining satire about the ongoing battle between High and Low Culture, which is essentially the prime offensive in the Great Postmodernist War. Beautifully written, witty, poignant and sharp in its insights, by turns baleful, ironic, moving, absurdist, realistic, joyous, camp, serious, goofy, and alarming, it demonstrates that science fiction can be richer—more aware, more authentic—than other kinds of writing; and it proves beyond both reasonable and unreasonable doubt that Bishop, together with Christopher Priest, is the finest exponent of this grander vision. This book is a blessing, but a Bishop’s blessing carries even more weight than a Priest’s."
—Rhys Hughes, author of Better the Devil
"The most ambitious comic books are no longer merely comic—may even incorporate tragedy in a critique of modern life as savage and acute, in [their] way, as the ferocious satire of Dante’s Inferno. Count Geiger’s Blues also goes beyond humor—well beyond, in its remarkable closing chapters. But they build on all that has gone before. In unleashing a startling talent for comedy and a wide-ranging knowledge of pop culture in both its absurdity and splendor, Michael Bishop has written his best book yet."