Friday, January 24, 2014

Locked Room: A Katla KillFile by Martyn V. Halm

I found this piece thoroughly enjoyable, even though it falls into a genre I don't read much of (crime/thriller). This is a short story, so it's hard to talk about what I liked about it without giving too much away. I'll just say that the attention to detail is fantastic (I like learning about how things work) and that this story stimulates the same pleasure center in your brain that a good heist story tickles.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dweller by Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand lived in Ohio for a number of years and yet it's apparent that he didn't research* the Ohio Sasquatch before writing this book. Unlike the creature portrayed in Dweller, the line of Sasquatch native to Ohio does not have a mouth full of gnarly teeth and flesh-ripping talons. And the Ohio Sasquatch most certainly doesn't eat people! The Ohio Sasquatch is an herbivore and not savage in any way. In fact, you'll see Sasquatch all over Ohio lending a helping hand in various human communities, ladling out hearty homemade stews at local soup kitchens, working together to build playgrounds in poor neighborhoods, and serving as volunteer firefighters. This is not to say that there aren't lines of Sasquatch that fit Strand's description. They're just not found in Ohio. If he'd added one minor detail regarding the Sasquatch's origins in this book, it would have proved to be much more believable. Simply changing the title to A Kentucky Sasquatch in Ohio would have lent the work the authenticity it so desperately needs.

But how was the story? Early on, I suspected this was going to be basically a retelling of Stephen King's Carrie. Just substitute Sasquatch for telekinesis. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn't to be the case. I won't say any more than that. Pick it up and see for yourself what it's all about. You won't be disappointed.

*The only alternative to Strand's not having researched the Ohio Sasquatch is that he wrote this book to intentionally demonize them. Based on Strand's generally amicable online presence, I can't see this as being a realistic proposition.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells

Many will dismiss Wells' tale as a racist's fever dream, a parable that blames the failings of English imperialism on subjects who were just too beastly to be properly civilized. And it would be easy to do so. Wells was a vocal proponent of Eugenics, and the text of this book does contain passages like the ones I've reproduced below.

First, Moreau tells of how he used the delicate art of vivisection to carve a 'negroid type' out of an ape he had on hand:

“Then I took a gorilla I had; and upon that, working with infinite care and mastering difficulty after difficulty, I made my first man. All the week, night and day, I moulded him. With him it was chiefly the brain that needed moulding; much had to be added, much changed. I thought him a fair specimen of the negroid type when I had finished him..."

Then our protagonist describes another of Moreau's creations:

"The Satyr was a gleam of classical memory on the part of Moreau,—his face ovine in expression, like the coarser Hebrew type; his voice a harsh bleat, his nether extremities Satanic. He was gnawing the husk of a pod-like fruit as he passed us."

Although the above passages seem to be fairly damning evidence of a racially motivated agenda, I would suspect that Wells' prejudices inadvertently seeped into his narrative while, perhaps intentionally, writing another parable altogether. This work could just as easily be read as a warning against what he believed happens when a society turns its back on God and religion. Then again, he could simply have been writing a tale about the dangers of science in the hands of insane and wicked men.

And I think it's because of the various ways this story can be interpreted that it's been a perrenial favorite and will continue to be so for years to come.

Or, its staying power could be merely the result of Wells having written a great, imaginative story.

I particularly liked the scenes in which Moreau explains himself.

"To this day I have never troubled about the ethics of the matter[...] The study of Nature makes a man at last as remorseless as Nature."

I also was struck by the unexplored horrific cinematic possibilities of a film wherein Moreau's method of carving humanity into beasts using vivisection is shown in all its gory detail. Imagine a scene with Moreau carving up a beast in his laboratory with a voiceover of his monologue on pain playing throughout:

"The capacity for pain is not needed in the muscle, and it is not placed there,—is but little needed in the skin, and only here and there over the thigh is a spot capable of feeling pain. Pain is simply our intrinsic medical adviser to warn us and stimulate us. Not all living flesh is painful; nor is all nerve, not even all sensory nerve. There's no taint of pain, real pain, in the sensations of the optic nerve. If you wound the optic nerve, you merely see flashes of light,—just as disease of the auditory nerve merely means a humming in our ears. Plants do not feel pain, nor the lower animals; it's possible that such animals as the starfish and crayfish do not feel pain at all. Then with men, the more intelligent they become, the more intelligently they will see after their own welfare, and the less they will need the goad to keep them out of danger. I never yet heard of a useless thing that was not ground out of existence by evolution sooner or later. Did you? And pain gets needless."

“Then I am a religious man [...] as every sane man must be. It may be, I fancy, that I have seen more of the ways of this world's Maker than you,—for I have sought his laws, in my way, all my life [...] And I tell you, pleasure and pain have nothing to do with heaven or hell. Pleasure and pain—bah! What is your theologian's ecstasy but Mahomet's houri in the dark? This store which men and women set on pleasure and pain [...] is the mark of the beast upon them,—the mark of the beast from which they came! Pain, pain and pleasure, they are for us only so long as we wriggle in the dust."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jeffrey Ford Story in SUBTERRANEAN PRESS MAGAZINE (Winter 2014 Issue)

If you've not had the pleasure of reading a story by Jeffrey Ford, here's an opportunity to do so risk-free. His story "The Prelate’s Commission" is in the Winter 2014 edition of Subterranean Press Magazine.

You can read it online here.

Or you can download a FREE copy of the magazine in which it appears in either MOBI or EPUB formats.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Draculas by Blake Crouch, Jack Kilborn, Jeff Strand, F. Paul Wilson

I didn't find the setup or the ending to be particularly satisfying. And I found some of the banter between characters to be pretty hokey (especially the constant quoting from action movies).

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me say that this is one crazy, action-packed read. It's nearly non-stop from start to finish. I liked the depiction of the vampires. They're not sexy or sophisticated. They're like sharks in a feeding frenzy. There were also a handful of nice little illustrations that highlighted some of the crazier concepts. These were a very nice touch. (See an example to your left.)

When I learned that this novel was written by FOUR(!) authors, I was pretty skeptical. I thought the mix of styles would be jarring and distracting. But I didn't find this to be the case at all. It was really pretty seamless throughout. Nice work, gentlemen. Nice work.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Dinner by Herman Koch

I think I fell for every trick the author had up his sleeve on this one. I flew through this book like I was expecting the last page to reveal to me some magical secret of flight or something. Of course, it did nothing of the sort. But I love it when a book hooks me like this book hooked me.

I liked that there is one minor detail that makes this a work of science-fiction. I won't mention what that is, as that would spoil things for the reader. Also, some readers might get to the end and have no idea what little detail I'm referring to. Which is fine, it doesn't have to be a work of SF if you don't want it to be.

The writing was excellent. I was continually impressed with the apparent ease and deftness with which the author dealt with shifts in time and space. I was never lost and the switching back and forth and further back in time really added to the tension of the narrative.

The only issue I had with this book was with the basic premise. I find it hard to believe that any set of parents would agree to meet for dinner to discuss a horrible crime their children have committed. It seems to me that the likely future Prime Minster of Holland would really rather meet by a noisy waterfall and ask that everyone remove the batteries from their cell phones so as to thwart any potential eavesdroppers. The fact that this story centers around a dinner at a posh Dutch restaurant is fine. It adds a nice structure to the overall proceedings. I just saw no real need to make it explicitly a date to discuss a heinous crime over haute cuisine. It should have been treated as an 'elephant in the room' type scenario.

Recommended to people who might like to read something that's like a cross between the works of Ira Levin and Donna Tartt (75% Levin, 25% Tartt).

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Boston Posh by Wol-vriey

Wol-vriey is the L. Frank Baum of our perverted 21st Century!

There are striking similarities in the worlds Wol-vriey builds to the Land of Oz and its various interconnected fairylands. Both authors create patchwork characters out of inanimate objects, animals, and people parts. Geography plays a large role in separating the species they invent. Characters are repeatedly hacked to pieces and reassembled through magic. Their worlds are populated with strong female characters, often wicked and powerful ones. With a few exceptions, their men are often stupid and ineffectual.

You may be asking yourself: Well, what about Wol-vriey's obsession with transgender characters? There's nothing like that in the land of Oz! Well, there you'd be wrong. Baum's Ozma was transgender. She was born a girl, was transformed into a boy to live out most of her childhood before being transformed back into a young girl again and attaining Oz's throne.

In Oz, you'll find Glass Cat. In Wol-vriey's Boston Posh, you'll find Glass Horse. Baum has Utensia, a land populated solely with kitchen utensils. In Boston Posh you have a telekinetic race of sentient Forks. Baum gives us the Wheelers, a race of creatures with wheels for hands. Wol-vriey gives us the Mermaids on Motorcycles. Both authors give us creatures made of porcelain, dragons, talking animals, and transmogrification as punishment. Both authors give us kidnapping schemes, riddles, horrible puns, and absurd quests to find bizarre magical objects. Both authors give us automatons and portals to other realms.

Wol-vriey's Boston Posh is so very much like L. Frank Baum's Oz, just with more genitalia and gore.

Highly recommended.