Cellulitis. Home at least till Thursday taking antibiotics and wishing they'd given me some decent pain killers. :
Cellulitis. Home at least till Thursday taking antibiotics and wishing they'd given me some decent pain killers. :
Dan'l's Multiapostrophic LiveJournal
You are viewing 25 entries, 25 into the past.
19th May 2015
Cellulitis. Home at least till Thursday taking antibiotics and wishing they'd given me some decent pain killers. :
15th May 2015
Starting (I hope) a meme:
The Toast gives a list of 79 books which, allegedly, all white men own. Bold those you own. Italicize those you have read. Strikeout those you've never heard of. Bonus points if you're not a white male. :
1. Shogun, James Clavell
2. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
3. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
4. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
5. A collection of John Lennon’s drawings.
6. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
7. The first two volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin
8. God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens
9. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
11. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
12. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Oliver Sacks
13. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
14. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
15. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
16. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
17. Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
18. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
19. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
20. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
21. The Stand, Stephen King
22. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
23. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
25. It’s Not About the Bike, Lance Armstrong
26. Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Johnson
27. Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth
28. Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand
29. John Adams, David McCullough
30. Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow
31. Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis
32. America: The Book, Jon Stewart
33. The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman
34. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
35. The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
36. Exodus, Leon Uris (if Jewish)
37. Trinity, Leon Uris (if Irish-American)
38. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
39. Marley & Me, John Grogan
40. Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt
41. The Rainmaker, John Grisham
42. Patriot Games, Tom Clancy
43. Dragon, Clive Cussler
44. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
45. The Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone
46. The 9/11 Commission Report
47. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John le Carre
48. Rising Sun, Michael Crichton
49. A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
50. Airport, Arthur Hailey
51. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki
52. Burr, Gore Vidal
53. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
54. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan Read the first several and gave up
55. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer
56. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
57. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
58. Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter
59. The World According to Garp, John Irving
60. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
61. The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass
62. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
63. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
64. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
65. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe
66. Beowulf, the Seamus Heaney translation No, but I own & have read the Tolkien translation
67. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
68. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
69. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
70. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
71. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
72. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
74. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
75. Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon Started it many times...
76. I, Claudius, Robert Graves Started it many times...
77. The Civil War: A Narrative, Shelby Foote
78. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
79. Life, Keith Richards
Read: Titus Groan, by Mervyn Peake (2015-28)
Yes, of course I've read this before. Anyone who considers hirself even slightly familiar with the classics of fantasy should have read the "Gormenghast Trilogy." But, because I recently acquired a copy of the fourth volume (of what was never intended, by its author, to be a trilogy but something larger), as completed by Mr Peake's widow ... well, I thought a reread not out of place. :
"Titus Groan" is the title of the first volume and the name of the series's protagonist. Titus, seventy-seventh Earl of Groan, is born in its first chapter and, at eighteen months of age, inherits the title in its last. In between are plotting, murder, arson, midnight duels, madness, and much other fun stuff.
"Titus Groan" is, in a way, an anti-epic. Its hero does practically nothing (being an infant or toddler through the whole bulk of the book). It has, rather than an expansive, a claustrophobic feel; though there are wider vistas, most of the book takes place within the walls of the massive Gormenghast Castle. There is no magic, nor fantastic creatures. And, though a great deal happens, in a very real way this large book is simply stage-setting and putting-in-place for the second volume, which completes the first movement of the proposed series. "Titus Groan" is, in a Wagnerian sense, merely a prelude.
Did I say Wagnerian? The most obvious comparison is to Dickens, to his peculiar characters with peculiar names: but these characters (Sepulchrave, Prunesquallor, Slagg, Swelter, Flay, Sourdust, and so many others) are Wagnerian; they have each at least one textual leitmotif, and they interact not so much as characters as forces, with inevitability and finality. You would never mistake a line of one character's dialogue for that of another (save only the twins, Cora and Clarice Groan, and that is deliberate for they are one character in two bodies). Yet neither the leitmotives nor the distinctive speech patterns are "spit-and-clap-your-hands" style characterization; if anything, Peake's characters are better delineated than Dickens's - and certainly better delineated than Wagner's.
So, the reader of this review may ask, what is it _about_? Simply enough: an heir is born to the line of Groan, which sets in motion a series of events that lead to (among other things) the burning of a library, several deaths (including that of Titus's father), and the rise to power of the ambitious, malicious Steerpike.
During his lifetime Peake was known more as an artist than as a writer, and the three volumes of the "Gormenghast Trilogy" are illustrated thoroughly, if not profusely, with his drawings of its characters, giving us a better sense of how to imagine these grotesques.
The prose, as one might expect from an artist, is visual. But more, it is sensuous, visceral, and decadent. Peake's vocabulary is large, but never showy; he knows the value of exact words and deploys them with gusto.
To call this series a "classic" is in fact misleading, for it has not influenced generations of imitators. The only conscious imitation of which I am aware is Moorcock's overt tribute to Peake, "Gloriana; or, the Unfulfill'd Queen." Yet it broods, like its castle, over much that has come in its wake, as if to ask, "Why the Lord of the Rings and not me?"
14th May 2015
Read: Strong Female Protagonist Book 1, by Brendan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag (2015-27)
This is the only webcomic I follow, and I'm pathetically grateful to get the chance to support it by buying a collection of chapters 1-4. :
SFP is the adventures of Alison Green, the former Mega Girl.
You see, somewhere in the 1990s there was a weird global storm; and sometime during the Bush2 administration, it was discovered that a bunch of children were "biodynamic," meaning blessed/cursed with a variety of powers and other mutations. Alison is one of the most powerful of the bunch, with Superman-level strength and invulnerability. For a while, as Mega Girl, she was one of the Guardians, a group of biodynamic individuals who fought crime and especially the minions of the mysterious Menace.
But when Alison actually met Menace, everything changed. For reasons best left unspoiled, he quit villain-ing and she quit hero-ing and they went their separate ways, he into business (where he quickly became a gazillionaire), and she into college (where she deals with, as the web page puts it, a "crippling sense of social injustice").
That is, roughly, where the comic begins. In these four chapters, Alison deals with her past and her future in a variety of ways. Ostertag's art and Mulligan's writing start out a little primitive but they grow fast and are, by the end of chapter 1, better than a lot of "professional" comics writers and artists.
And if you don't at least feel like crying at the end of Chapter Three, there's something wrong with you.
13th May 2015
Seen: Avengers - Age of Ultron (2005)
Warning for those who haven't seen this yet: There will eventually be spoilage in this review. You can read the first few paragraphs safely, though. :
Pretty much what you expect: things go fast and blow up. Heroes face villains with determination and courage and come out on top in the end, but at a cost. Blah blah blah. If you like this sort of thing, and I do, it's good of its kind.
There is apparently some discussion of whether Joss Whedon wimped out the Black Widow on this go-round. I don't think so, but I see the argument for it; I simply don't agree. She kicks some serious ass.
Interestingly, this movie (almost incidentally) seems to resolve an ongoing plot point in the "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" tv show, by killing someone who has been hunted there.
Impressive: in the first five minutes, in the middle of a battle scene, all the existing Avengers get scenes that display their character -- and how it has developed since the first Avengers movie. Captain America is just a little bit less naive; the Hulk can be calmed by the Widow; etc., blah blah blah.
If this is any one hero's movie, though, it's Clint "Hawkeye" Barton's. We learn a great deal about him in this movie, enough to make him not the second-class character he seemed to be in the first one but quite possibly the bravest of the bunch.
Of course, one can't say nothing about the villain. Created by Tony Stark (with help from Bruce Banner) to bring "peace in our time," Ultron first decides that the Avengers are a threat to peace, and then that humans must evolve -- into Ultron's kind -- for there to be peace. He takes a supervillain's usual long and extreme approach to this, thinking to create an extinction event that will force humans to evolve or die. (I *told* you there'd be spoilage.)
Three new characters of interest appear. Two, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, start as villains, in keeping with their backstories in the Marvel comics. As for the third, well, if you don't know who it is, you haven't been following this at all. Given the origin story and characteristics they've given him in this movie, though, it will be *very* hard to play him plausibly in future movies.
Anyway. I had a good time, so did my family, and what more do you want for your movie bucks?
7th May 2015
Read: Tailchaser's Song, by Tad Williams (2015-26)
Having read and duly enjoyed Williams's recent "Bobby Dollar" books, I decided me to go back and see where it all began. This book, his first, has been sitting on my shelves since 1985, but somehow I never got around to reading it. Well, now I have. :
It's an epic quest adventure about a brave young cat who makes a vow to find a friend, and winds up saving the world. (Or maybe not; the frogs and birds have a different perspective on the matter. But the squirrels agree...)
Fritti Tailchaser, of the Meeting Wall Folk, finds his friend Hushpad missing. Indeed, many of the Folk have been going missing. (His family goes missing, too, but that somehow gets lost in the shuffle.) He takes a mighty vow by the Tails of the Firstborn to find her or die trying.
He sets out on a journey that will take him (and some cat companions), first, to Firsthome and the Court of the Queen of the Folk, and then to ... well, the cover matter describes it as "cat hell," and that is as accurate a description as one could hope for: a cold, nearly-lightless underground place where the Folk are made to dig tunnels and eat bugs and worms. Here he uncovers a terrible plot to destroy the Folk, and their world; he is powerless to stop it, but is instrumental in freeing the one who can.
In the end, he finds Hushpad (of course) and not amongst the captives of cat hell, and finds that he is no longer the cat who set out in search of her.
The book is charming, funny in places, and full of the lore of a society strange to us and yet familiar.
6th May 2015
2nd May 2015
Read: A Call to Duty, by David Weber and Timothy Zahn (2015-25)
Has the "Honorverse" metastasized? :
To tell the truth, I'm not sure. With three side series co-written by three different co-writers, it's definitely a possibility though.
And yet ...
And yet this a good book of its kind, "its kind" being military adventure of the "young person makes good" variety. It is more than a little remniscent of Heinlein, if you shoved an Andy Libby-like character into a _Starship Troopers_-like scenario.
Travis Long recruits into the Royal Manticoran Navy, some centuries before the time of the main Honor Harrington sequence (before, indeed, the discovery of the Manticore Wormhole Junction so key to the main series). Manticore is a minor player in the local area. The big fish in this small pond is the Republic of Haven (not yet the _People's_ Republic), but everyone bows before the Solar League.
Long has two significant characteristics: a need for structure, especially regulations and "by-the-book," and a talent for out-of-the-box thinking. His character arc plays out in the tension between these two traits... and in the unspoken (indeed, unknown to Long) tension between his career and that of his half-brother, Baron Winterfall, who is a player in the political faction determined to build down the RMN.
Meanwhile, there are pirates. Or are they pirates? At any rate, someone determined to steal a modern warship from Haven. And Long will be there.
28th April 2015
Read: Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon, by Ari Weinzweig (2015-24)
Ari Weinzweig grew up in a Kosher household and seems to have spent the rest of his life making up for it. He is a foundin gpartner in the Zingerman's Deli line of businesses in Ann Arbor MI, where bacon is, apparently, a way of life. :
This book is two things: an anatomy of bacon, and a collection of recipes. The anatomy is chock full of fascinating personalities, stories, and descriptions of delicious variants on cured and (mostly) smoked pork - mostly, but not all, the belly, which is where American bacon comes from. (British bacon comes from the back and is much less fatty; they refer to our stuff as "streaky bacon.")
It is a book for bacon lovers, and who is not a bacon lover these days? History of bacon, types of bacon, makers of bacon, even the fabled bacon tree all factor into it. Plus Hungarian double-smoked bacon, Wiltshire cut British bacon, Canadian peameal bacon, pancetta, lardo, and guanciale.
What's not to like?
26th April 2015
Read: Concealed in Death, by J.D. Robb (2015-23)
At this point in a series, 30+ books in, the question that remains is, "How long can this go on without repetition?" :
And in some ways repetition has set in: the sex scenes between the primary characters, which were fairly "hot" in the first few volumes, have become pretty much rote, and could frankly be dispensed with without prejudice to the books, possibly even to their improvement.
But the rest of the book? Not so much. "Robb" has built herself a large and fascinating cast of characters (including, well, a few spear-carriers), and develops them continually from book to book. Not every character appears in every book (thank God), but a solid core do, and they continue to grow both forward and backward. (Backward: in this book we find out how Eve's best friend Mavis got the way she is.)
So anyway. Roarke is about to redevelop an old building, swings the sledgehammer for the ceremonial first blows, and finds what can't really be called a body anymore behind a false wall. Eve comes in on homicide detail, and before the search is done, twelve bodies are found. All young girls; all skeletal.
So the hunt is on for (what will prove to be) family secrets concealed fourteen years ago. Justice ultimately will _not_ be served, but something will be. And the adventures of Eve Dallas continue to be good fun.
25th April 2015
Today would have been Mort Weisinger's 100th birthday. :
24th April 2015
Read: Coming Home by Jack McDevitt (2015-22)
From his first novel, _The Hercules Text_, right through this one, Jack McDevitt's fiction has been all about uncovering ancient secrets. Sort of what Dan Brown might have done if he wrote science fiction, and was actually a decent writer. :
Be that as it may: this is the seventh novel about Alex Benedict, dealer in antiquities on the planet Rimway, ten thousand years or so from now.
There are two intertwined plots. The first concerns the starship _Capella_, which disappeared some years ago with Alex's uncle Gabe on it. It is caught in a spacetime warp and surfaces for a few hours every five years. It's about to surface again, and people are determined to save those aboard.
The second concerns the greatest antiquities of all: those from Earth before the Dark Ages that almost ended starflight. In particular, Alex finds himself on a quest for the "Apollo cache," a collection of priceless artifacts from the Florida space museum that was moved several times after the rising ocean took most of Florida. The last move was at the opening of the Dark Ages, and nobody knows where the cache went.
But a recently-deceased archaeologist turns out to have had an item from the dawn of the Space Age hidden in his closet, and that puts Alex on the hunt...
The pacing is sure and steady and the mysteries build, with someone determined to throw Alex off the track, until at last the tragic truth is uncovered in the first denouement (of several).
This book is too good not to have been nominated for awards; yet it seems it wasn't, probably because it was a series book, and, of course, because Puppies. Ah, well.
Hubba Hubba Hubble
Today is... :
...the 200th birthday of Anthony Trollope.
...the 75th birthday of Sue Grafton.
...the 25th anniversary of the launching of the Hubble telescope (on shuttle [b][i]Discovery[/i][/b], STS-31.
Also, I believe a little something began in Armenia one hundred years ago today, but our Glorious Leader says we mustn't call it by its name, so I'll leave it unnamed.
20th April 2015
Read: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, by C.S. Lewis (2015-21)
For all my CSL fanboyism, there are still books by Lewis I have not read, and two massive ones I have yet to finish. This was one of those I had not yet got around to. Now I have. :
It consists of fourteen essays, selected and collected by Walter Hooper, who has made it his life's mission to ensure that every thought of Lewis's has found its way between book covers. This is not an entirely bad thing, nor an entirely good thing; it is what it is.
Hooper's selection here, a mere three years after CSL's death, is (by my lights) excellent. There are three general essays on medieval literature; three on Dante; five on Spenser; and one each on Mallory, Tasso, and Milton.
Of these, I found the essays on Dante most congenial and interesing, no doubt because I have read a great deal of Dante. But the second most interesting to me were the large selection on Spenser, and I have read no Spenser at all - a lack which I now see that I must, sooner or later, rectify.
The essays on Mallory and Milton are essentially textual criticism, and a bit dull. The essays on medieval literature are quite enlightening, though, as Hooper points out, the third is almost unnecessary if one has read "The Discarded Image." And the essay on Tasso is interesting, but not enough to make me seek out a copy of his work.
So if, as I have said before, the purpose of good criticism is to give us new insight and possibly send us back to the original works - then, Mr. Lewis, mission largely accomplished.
15th April 2015
Read: The Evolution Man (or, How I Ate My Father) by Roy Lewis (2015-20)
This popped up in my Amazon recommendations, and I ignored it. :
Then a friend lent it to me. I'm sorry I didn't buy it and shall at some point rectify this. This book is really funny -- not the laugh-out-loud kind, exactly, but the continually-bemused kind; more P.G. Wodehouse than Donald Westlake.
The premise is simple enough: Ernest's family invents much of neolithic technology in a single generation. But where this could be drearily like Jean Auel (whom this book precedes by some years; it was originally published in 1960), it is saved by one simple comic premise: the characters, and especially father Edward, are consciously aware of, and indeed motivated by, evolution.
Edward, having discovered fire, argues with his brother Vanya (who thinks coming down from the trees was a mistake): "...is this really the turning point? I thought it might be, but it's hard to be sure. Certainly _a_ turning point in the ascent of man, but is it _the_?...But then, Vanya, there has been an element of the artificial life since we took to stone tools..."
The back cover blurb suggests that the book resembles a drawing-room comedy. I disagree, but it has some of that _feel_.
Anyway, this is quite a funny book, and I have no problem recommending it to anyone with a sense of humor.
14th April 2015
Read: Thankless in Death, by J.D. Robb (2015-19)
This is, if I am counting correctly, the thirty-seventh novel in this series. It's been a while since I read the thirty-sixth, and I was wondering if I was getting tired of them, but, no, I quite enjoyed this one. I guess they're a guilty pleasure, but what's to feel guilty about, really? :
J.D. Robb also writes romance novels with a suspense edge under the name Nora Roberts. As Robb, she writes near-future science fiction police procedural murder mysteries, with a tinge of "hot" romance. The series, for those coming in late, is about Eve Dallas, Lieutenant in the NYPSD Homicide division, her husband the gazillionaire Roarke, and a by-now immense cast of supporting characters. (This novel actually ends with almost all of them in one place in a sort of equivalent of an Oz Party.)
As Thanksgiving nears in twenty-sixty-something, a lazy young man finds his delayed manhood by murdering his parents. At last, he has found something he enjoys enough to work at. And, before anyone knows they're dead, he's looted the estate and gone on the lam.
This is a pure procedural, not a mystery as such at all: Eve knows right from the start who done it, and when, and how; the problem is to catch him before he kills again. Eve, Roarke, and the others will of course catch the criminal; the questions are when, how, and how many people will he kill first.
As I said, I quite enjoyed it. It's not the kind of amazing read I've ranted about several times already this year; it's a popcorn book, which is as good an explanation as any of why there are so damn many of them.
11th April 2015
Read: Kill City Blues, by Richard Kadrey (2015-18)
The fifth book, or second book in the second trilogy, of Kadrey's series about "Sandman Slim," James Stark, the "monster who kills monsters." :
In the last book Stark had escaped from Hell - not as a damned soul, but as an unwilling Lucifer - and stuck Mr. Munnin, who turns out to be a fragment of the being we call "God," with the job. To make matters more complicated, the Angra Om Ya, the beings who (allegedly) really made the Universe, are trying to come back, and they're pissed. And Stark is missing the Qomrama, the one weapon that _might_ defeat them ... if he can it back, and if he can figure out how to use it.
He starts raising Hell in L.A.'s magical community, and finally gets the clue he needs - the Qomrama is in Kill City, a giant fallen (literally) shopping mall inhabited by the dregs of magical society. With a team of his closest associates plus one he doesn't want, Stark invades Kill City. Not everybody is going to make it out alive...
The action is paced carefully. The dark wit is constant. The characters, and especially Stark's, are compelling. And it sets everything up pretty well for the finale, or so it seems.
10th April 2015
You reap what you sow...
My two cents on Puppygate. :
The Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies have, for all purposes, poisoned the well, but they have especially poisoned it for themselves. Fans and editors have long memories, and there are going to be a lot of people who will simply refuse to buy *anything* by *any* member of the S/RP slate for a *long* time.
7th April 2015
Read: Robert A. Heinlein, by William H. Patterson (vol 1)(2015-17)
Full title: Robert A. Heinlein in Dialogue with His Century, volume 1: Learning Curve :
This thick and heavily benoted volume tells the story of Heinlein's life from birth to the commencement of his third (and final) marriage, showing, along the way, how a Socialist who ran for office as one of Upton Sinclair's EPIC (End Poverty In California) Democrats transformed into the not-exactly-a-Conservative Heinlein ultimately did become.
Patterson's style is immensely readable, except for a tendency to repeat facts several times, occasionally in close proximity, as if he believes his readers incapable of remembering them. Like his subject, he educates by entertaining.
This is no whitewash job; Heinlein's part in several incidents (notably his first marriage) are not laudable. But he comes across, in general, as a good human being trying to do the best he can in a difficult world.
If you're a Heinlein fanatic, as I am, you must own this (and presumably the sequel).
100 years ago today...
...both Henry Kuttner and Billie Holiday were born. Both, alas, were taken from us too soon. :
3rd April 2015
Seen: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014)
These movies are good, dumb fun, and this is quite likely the best of the bunch. :
Plus this is not only Robin Williams' last film, it was the next-to-last for Mickey Rooney. So I feel perfectly justified in spending my time on it. So nyaaah.
For those who have not been keeping up, there's a McGuffin at the Museum of Natural History in New York that causes all sorts of things to come to life at night. (It isn't quite clear how it decides what should come to life and what shouldn't, but let that pass.) Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) has been working as a night guard at the MNH since the retirement of guards Cecil (Dick van Dyke) and Gus (Rooney), and has come to love and respect a number of its nocturnal residents.
In this installment, the McGuffin - the Tablet of Ahkmenrah - is slowly losing its power. Ahkmenrah suggests that his father, who's at the British Museum, might know how to recharge it, so Daley and Ahkmenrah are off to London - along with Teddy Roosevelt (Williams), Jedediah (Owen Wilson), Octavius (Steve Coogan) and others.
In the meanwhile, Larry's son, Nick (Skyler Gisondo - his first time in this part) is growing to youngmanhood, and what he wants is no longer necessarily what his father wants. He comes along to help his father in London...
...where, of course, the various exhibits at the British Museum come to life. The movie includes a good, quick tour of the Museum. Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) becomes, not the villain, but the hero who doesn't know what's going on - he's never awakened before, right? - and takes the tablet to bring to his liege in lieu of the Sangraal. (He's rather disappointed when his liege turns out to be an actor (Hugh Jackman as himself).)
Naturally, there's a happy ending - in fact, _two_ of them - but it is, they are, earned.
26th March 2015
A very happy...
...90th birthday to composer and conductor Pierre Boulez :
...75th birthday to Nancy Pelosi
25th March 2015
read: Maplecroft, by Cherie Priest (2015-16)
Did anybody ever ask _why_ Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her father forty whacks? :
Cherie Priest has taken the trouble to ask that question, and she has come up with a disturbing answer: her father and stepmother had been possessed by _something_, and Lizzie's life, as well as that of her sister Emma - if not indeed their souls - were in dire and immediate danger.
Some years later, that _something_ is coming back and much stronger than ever. A professor at Miskatonic University is trapped in its clutches, and the Borden sister's home (called Maplecroft) is beseiged by things that are not human. The entire town of Fall River is in danger.
Given her past, Lizzie daren't appeal to the neighbors for help...but it arrives, in the form of the town doctor, who lied on the stand to keep Lizzie out of jail, and who sees things all too clearly.
The horror starts fairly gentle, but Priest gradually ratchets it up. I read the last 80 pages at a sitting, turning pages like there was no tomorrow.
19th March 2015
Read: Bloodchild, by Octavia E. Butler (2015-15)
Okay, here's a book, and it's a collection of short stories, and they're extraordinary short stories, and what more can I really say without spoilage? After all, there isn't that much plot to a short story... :
Well, first of all, I can say that the title story is one of the most disturbing things I have ever read. It isn't a horror story, but it has the power to horrify.
I can say that one of the major foci of these stories is biological speculation - human and alien - and that Butler's ideas are inevitably original. But the stories are always about _people_. The ideas are more than backdrop, they propel the people into revealing circumstances - revealing not so much about the individual as about the species.
I can say that Butler was (she died in 2006) one of the most skilled crafters of sentences and paragraphs SF has ever witnessed, that she deserves to stand with Delany and Wolfe, Le Guin and Sturgeon and Russ.
And I can say that there are two essays about writing in here. One is about how Butler came to be a writer; the other is about how you might do so if you are so inclined.
That's all I can really say except: *read this book*!