Raising Hell: By Norman Spinrad, 108 pgs. By Jim Woster

Spinrad is best-known for his science fiction. His novel The Void Captain’s Tale is great, but any summary is going to make it sound horrible. Here, I’ll try: it’s about life on a spaceship that’s powered by a woman’s orgasm. See? But the story works. And his novel The Iron Dream “purports” to be a sword-and-sorcery novel penned by Adolf Hitler—another doubtful premise, but that story works, too.

Raising Hell is part of PM Press’s Outspoken Authors series, in which, according to the company, writers “present their most provocative work in a [format] designed to fit in your pocket and stretch your mind.”

Spinrad’s book comes reasonably close to the mind-stretching part with its essay, “The Abnormal New Normal.” The essay, while ultimately a manifesto for political and economic action, is essentially American History Since the Civil War in Twenty Pages. For me, it crystallized my understanding of how the Republican Party went from being the party of Abraham Lincoln to being the fraternity house of doorstops and arsonists.

Whether you’re someone for whom the cost of higher education is mind-stretchingly prohibitive, or you’re tired of being the person who’s always joking about your ignorance of history, “The Abnormal New Normal” would make a sturdy cornerstone for a DIY education.

The book shares its title with its opening novella, in which Hell’s damned souls organize a union and go on strike—it’s pretty good, in a ‘50s Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction kind of way. –Jim Woster (PM Press, PO Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623, pmpress.org)