Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille

Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille cover


Not one of my better efforts, I think, but there are bits of it I like. It started out to be funny, developed a serious side, and I was never able to get the elements to blend the way I wanted them to. Grumble grumble. It’s always pleasant  to run into someone who liked this book; it means that I can still do all right when I’m not on my game.


Discussion Page

41 thoughts on “Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille”

  1. Jut thought I’d add that I’ve always had a soft spot for this book….I know what you mean about things didn’t quite gel the way you probably would have liked, but I liked this one anyway.

    Just thought I’d be one of those folks who tells you they liked it. :)

  2. Cowboy Feng’s was the first Brust book I read. I love, “I laughed, I cried, I fell down. It was good,” and I thought the characters were great. I should reread it.

  3. I liked it. Thought about it just the other day, too, when I purchased some truly amazing matzo ball soup at a local deli. I was sick, and it was magic.

    It was also part of a rather complicated good deed. Maybe that increases the healing power of the soup. I will have to ask either a Jewish witch or a really good Jewish cook.

  4. It also includes a statement of ethics that matters a lot to me, that has clarified a number of moral/political issues for me over the years: “The human race, all of us, are my people. Except for you who are trying to kill the rest of us. You can rot in hell.”

  5. This has always been a favorite of mine. Haven’t read it in about five or six years, mostly because it’s in one of the many boxes of books in the root cellar. Not nearly as much bookshelf space as the last house….

  6. I always liked it, too, even through three or four re-reads. I don’t remember when I twigged to the fact that the same guy who wrote this was the one who wrote the Dragaera books. D’oh!

  7. I bought Feng’s on iBooks a while back and discovered that Michael Flynns text for “the Wreck of the River of Stars” was attached. Not a bad read but not the book I was looking for.

    I tend to read in genre blocks and wanted to read Feng’s, Callahans, and Mundens Bar all back to back, but still hunting for a copy of Fengs that functions

  8. I really enjoyed this book. So much so that I finished it in one sitting. Something about it just tickled an itch that I had at the time. I even recommended it to my wife who also thought it was great. Thanks for writing this one. I think I even own two or three copies of it. Ha, ha!!

  9. I haven’t read your other books, Mr. Brust, but I’ve kept this one on my shelf for the last 24 years. I like the food, I like the intermezzos, I like what you write about love, and I like the idea of critical points in our personal histories where everything changes. Thanks for writing the book. I read it during my own intermezzos.

  10. I picked up your book, once upon a time, for just a few bucks in a discard bin at the library. It was old, battered, much dog-eared, but something about it caught my eye.

    I picked it up, and it changed my life. YOU changed my life.

    I make every single one of my friends who has the respect to call themselves a reader, read it. I recommend it to everyone I can, then reread it myself whenever my fingers are itching and my hope is low. Someone actually liked the book so much they stole my copy!
    (so i promptly went and bought another, haha)

    I was surprised to find on here that out of all your books (which I now need to stock up on), Cowboy Fengs was one of your least favorite. The story and the characters resonated so strongly with me, that I actually thought that the book had been a GLORIOUS one hit wonder.

    Words don’t describe how happy I am that i can go find more of your writing, in fantastical genres and worlds I never would have believed possible without your help.

    From one aspiring author to her huge inspiration… Thank you.

    Thank you so much.

  11. Thank you kindly, Sky. That means a lot. As I said above, it’s always especially nice to hear that someone enjoyed that one. Best of luck with your work!

  12. This is one of my favorite books to read in the autumn. I bought it brand new, probably in the mid-90s. I find the book highly enjoyable and constantly quote it at work, to friends, to family. Everyone looks at me askance when I do. It’s great. Mr. Brust, your work is responsible for assisting with the development of my sense of humor and appreciation of the coffee with cream, sugar and cocoa.

    I liked the story structure, the characters, the action sequences and the intermezzo’s. I thought it was an interesting way to develop characters and create an overall sense of disorientation. I got the impression Billy was an avatar for the author, especially when he was described with long hair and a mustache during the first encounter with the Physician.

    I always thought this would make a great television miniseries or at the very least an audio book/radio series (imagine being the narrator; it’d be the highlight of my voiceover career) and I especially enjoyed the Irish songs.

    Fun fact: as I write this, I’m listening to “A Rose for Iconoclastes.” I’d love to interview you sometime about this book and the music, if you’re keen on such things. Once again, thank you for writing this story and, though it may be an obscurity to some, it means a great deal to me.


  13. Cowboy Feng’s was the first book by you I ever read. I found it in a used bookstore, probably not too long after it was out. It may not be your best work, but I will always have a soft spot for it, because it brought me to all your other books. Of course, that also lead to me picking up Orca off a library shelf and it being the first Vlad book I read, which really colors the whole series differently, I think.

  14. I’ve always enjoyed your books, but Cowboy Feng’s is one I go back to over and over. i’m Never tired of it. this one and Brokedown Palace. I love how the interludes tell the rest of the story.

  15. I want to leave a comment after reading you said that this is not your best. This is the only book I have ever read more than once! I have never enjoyed a book more than this to bother picking up again. My copy is getting on the rough side though so I may need to find one in better shape so I can hand it down to my kids!

  16. This is my favorite of your books that I’ve read, and I love your books. Yes, it has some “meshing” problems between the humor and darkness, but in a way, that fits with the story as a whole, and the gradual revealing of the puzzle pieces of the story.

    I bought it when it first came out, but misplaced that copy during one of my many moves, so I recently bought the ebook as well; I’d developed a real compulsion to read it again. I found that the story has carried well through the passage of years; it’s even ~scarily~ relevant to sociopolitics today, both here in the States and across the globe. And the plot has *stayed with me*; it’s one of a very few books I’ve read over my lifetime that still haunts the dark corridors of my subconscious and pops up from time to time to spook around in a tantalizingly apparitional way.

    What can I say? I laughed. I cried. I fell down. It changed my life. The end.

  17. Well I bought a used copy Cowboy Feng’s about 5 years ago, read the first few pages, couldn’t get into it. Fast forward to three days ago.

    I dove back in. And looooooved it. No matter the tech and how many starships and nukes humanity creates: good food, live music, and small group interactions are still going to be super important.

    Speaking of (writing about) playing music, the passages in this book aptly described the dynamic of musicians working together to create something cool. As a musician I have felt that exact feeling, although it has been a long time.

    The more I read, the more I thought Cowboy Feng’s is actually the first Incrementalist Book. Yeah. Also the Hags Disease stuff is super topical. I would say this book has aged extremely well.

    But one really weird thing. Yesterday when I read the intermezzo about Souci at 17, I knew with 100% certainty that I had read that specific passage previously. Probably close to the time when the book was first published in 1990. And yet I have no memory whatsoever of the book itself from that time. If you had asked me four days ago if I had ever read Cowboy Feng’s, I would have said “no.”

  18. That’s really nice to hear. For me, that book never came together to be what I wanted it to, but that makes it especially nice to hear that someone liked it. So, thanks.

  19. My pleasure. Thanks for writing it. Now that you have 30 years of perspective regarding this work, what did you want it to be that it was not?

  20. Interesting. Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide) and Stanley Kubrick (Strangelove) both destroyed the earth but kept their audience in stitches while doing it. But I know you believe a small group of determined people can change the world, and I agree with that. So maybe it was hard to see the striving and sacrifice of the small group from Feng’s as a farce.

  21. It seemed like various of the details didn’t come together as well as usual.

    It’s been awhile since I reread it, and the only specific detail I remember is Feng refusing to use a distance weapon, and somebody else completely understanding that. I inferred that his culture just didn’t do that kind of thing, and usually there would have been things in the text that made this clearer. Or maybe there were things in the text which did that, which I don’t remember.

    It just didn’t gel as well as usual, and I was very glad to read it.

  22. I’ll add my voice as someone who’s really enjoyed this book, and reread it multiple times. It may not have gone together in the way you planned, but it went together in a way that worked well enough.

    There is one thing that’s bothered me over the years, and I’m finally going to get over myself and ask — In the scene where they’re getting decorations approved for the restaurant, what’s the deal with the plastic banana? I don’t recall anyplace outside of that scene where bananas are mentioned, plastic or otherwise. I mean, the general theme of the decorations was “eclectic kitsch” but the dialog implied there was some special significance to the banana for Feng’s organization.

    I did some searching via Google for cultural references to plastic bananas and found two:

    1) I’ve found a handful of references to the use of plastic bananas as trophies for Ugly Hawaiian Shirt contests. This doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would need explicit approval.

    2) “Plastic Banana” was apparently a Rush Limbaugh-ism for anything he wanted to discredit as being “Fake”.

    #2 seems like the much more plausible explanation of the two — Essentially, by hanging a plastic banana over the front door, one could take it as surreptitiously saying “This is not a real restaurant”. While this would be the kind of ballsy statement that you’d want to get the boss’ approval before making, by virtue of its source, it doesn’t seem right.

    So, did I miss something? Was it an in-joke you’re willing to explain? Or maybe it’s just a red herring.

  23. Sorry for the delay in posting this–it somehow got shuffled to my spam queue and I just saw it. I’m afraid I no longer remember the origin of the plastic banana, but I can tell you that that book is loaded with in-jokes and references to things that were going on during that time–one of the strangest and most difficult of my life, associated with a group of very close friends.

  24. What amazes me about this book is that it never fails – every couple of years, out of the blue, a notice appears in my email that a new comment has appeared from someone else who enjoyed Cowboy Feng’s. .

  25. Well, damn.

    If anything ever jogs your memory, I’d appreciate an update.

    While I’d be interested to read the stories behind any of the references that you chose to share, the plastic banana was the one thing for which “These people have an extensive history together, and this is a reference to something not germane to the current story being told” wasn’t enough to just accept it and leave it alone.

  26. Barry, about the banana: Have you tried using it in a conversation? Like, “WHAT, by the Grand Banana, are you talking about?” No one asks what you mean or why there’s tropical fruit in your expression. Personally, I recommend announcing that you swear directly to the Grand Banana (with high emotion) while you’re delivering an oath. No one knows if that makes you sincere or facetious.

  27. @Mary
    Every time I re-read the book I’m inspired to work it into a conversation somehow. It never fails to win me an odd look or double take. Great fun!

  28. I’m back again. I still reread your book, though it isn’t the original I got from the discount bin at the library. I have gone through 4 editions of Cowboy Fengs now- I don’t think I’ve leant the book to someone yet without them wanting to keep it afterwards. So once again, my compliments and praises to the chef for a job well done.

    Your book holds a prize spot on my shelf.
    Thank you. Stay well and creative.

  29. I carry the quote “Do the Job” with me all the time. Its my favorite quote when dealing with my job, my life, everything. And I got it from this book.

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