With "Encounters with Enoch Coffin," William Pugmire and Jeffrey Thomas bring us an excellent collaborative fiction effort, hooved feet firmly planted...moreWith "Encounters with Enoch Coffin," William Pugmire and Jeffrey Thomas bring us an excellent collaborative fiction effort, hooved feet firmly planted in Lovecraftian mythos. Enoch Coffin takes shape as a darkly charming, Bohemian artist in the vein of Lovecraft's Pickman, but becomes more fully-formed and fascinating as each writer takes a turn at defining his occult predilections and often sinister motivations.
The only small caveat to the reader is that it is obvious this is a literary exercise, however skillfully executed. For example, in one chapter, Enoch "had never liked automobiles, and one of the benefits of city life was the public transportation," and in another chapter he drives his "beaten up old truck" to Dunwich, with no explanation as to his transformation. There are several more inconsistencies, which can be overlooked if the reader is in on the joke. In addition, there are chapters in which an attempt to make Mr. Coffin appear "youthful" in his lexicon simply don't work, and end up being an example of cognitive dissonance. Enoch may be a Hedonist and a Bohemian, but it seems only a Philistine would mutter "Hey, waiter! More nectar, yo.”
All in all, an excellent compilation of ominous tales that give flesh and form to the mystery of Enoch Coffin, and place him in the canon of the weird as a memorable icon.
Unless every selection is absolutely abysmal (not in the dreadful Lovecraftian sense of the word), I'm generally lenient with fiction compilations. Th...moreUnless every selection is absolutely abysmal (not in the dreadful Lovecraftian sense of the word), I'm generally lenient with fiction compilations. The editor knows that I have a penchant for the subject matter, and if I'm not moved by a particular story or feel that it was poorly written, I can at least say "they published this garbage, so why can't I be published?" I found only two or three of the twenty-one offerings in S.T. Joshi's "Black Wings of Cthulhu" that fell into this category, the rest ranging from moderately well-written and entertaining to exceptional and not to be missed.
Not all of these were period pieces as one might expect, but I do have a soft spot for such, and the highlights included "Pickman's Other Model" by Caitlin R. Kiernan, and "The Truth About Pickman" by Brian Stableford. The absolutely brilliant "Inhabitants of Wraithwood" by W.H. Pugmire makes the book worth picking up for this story alone. "The Correspondence of Cameron Thaddeus Nash" by veteran Ramsey Campbell offers a simultaneously humorous and chilling look into one of Lovecraft's forgotten aficionados, and "Howling in the Dark" by Darrell Schweitzer captures the hollowness and hopelessness of a Lovecraftian universe in chilling and effective prose. I am eagerly anticipating Volume 2 in late 2013, when the stars are right. (less)
Interestingly, Jason Miller seems to have found a market that seems to be largely untapped-that of a self-help system combining common sense financial...moreInterestingly, Jason Miller seems to have found a market that seems to be largely untapped-that of a self-help system combining common sense financial suggestions (often not so commonly known) with magical practice. As he states in the book, it is often advocated by those who wish to follow a spiritual path to eschew finances as unimportant, or the root of some universal evil. But he asserts that it is not money itself, but how it is used and perceived that is the problem. For those who cannot simply divest themselves of all material possessions and become Tibetan priests, he offers beneficial tips on ways to generate more income on both the magical and practical levels. Skeptics may dismiss the practices as "visualization" or "positive thinking." What matters is the positive results that are achieved. (less)
I ran across Roland Topor's "The Tenant," while searching for fiction that resembled the style of Thomas Ligotti. He has done the introduction, and it...moreI ran across Roland Topor's "The Tenant," while searching for fiction that resembled the style of Thomas Ligotti. He has done the introduction, and it is an interesting study as to how the literary world may be divided into "insiders and outsiders." It is his contention that while works such as Albert Camu's "The Stranger," or "One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand," by Nobel Prize-winning author Luigi Pirandello may be bleak, they offer a resolution to their basic themes that exhibit "an idealist tendency." Because of this, they are in the "insider," category. Roland Topor's works exhibit the anti-idealist (craven, defeated, twisted, etc.) and are therefore in the "outsider" category, keeping him from recognition by Nobel officials. Ligotti's own work resembles Topor's in many ways, and he portrays a compelling hypothesis. He contends that the preponderant number of "insiders" in humanity will not incorporate the views of the "outsider" into their philosophies, ideologies, national policies, or fraternal bylaws unless the work portrays an idealist flair.
Topor's basic premise: to believe you are someone is to be insane. This is effectively conveyed through brilliant prose and introspection by Trelkovsky as he seemingly descends further into paranoia and madness with each passing minute. But is he going insane, or is there really a plot against his life? "At what precise moment," Trelkovsky asks himself, " does an individual cease to be the person he - and everyone else - believes himself to be?" Instead of taking the idealist route exemplified by Pirandello in which the protagonist finds a oneness outside of himself, Trelkovsky descends further into nightmare and isolation. There is no shred of idealist philosophy there to save him. This may be too much for some readers (or Nobel Prize officials) however great the prose or the questions posed. Still, a brilliant work. However, I would recommend against seeing the Roman Polanski film beforehand, because it removes much of the ambiguity that I think is so central to the premise.
I had always been intrigued by Crowley's myth and legend after running into accounts of him for years in popular culture. He was dubbed "the wickedest...moreI had always been intrigued by Crowley's myth and legend after running into accounts of him for years in popular culture. He was dubbed "the wickedest man in the world," by the British Press, and some authors have claimed evidence that he was a British spy. He was seen on the cover of "Sgt. Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band," by the Beatles in the category of people they deemed to be the most influential thinkers. Black magician, madman, poet, explorer, big game hunter. What was real and what was fantasy? Israel Regardie served as his personal secretary for a time, and purported to give a more balanced view of the man, his actions and philosophy. He did this effectively, without playing into the religious indignation that is prevalent in so many accounts, and painted a picture of a man who was neither a spiritual saint or completely evil. Whatever Crowley's definition of spiritual attainment actually was ("Do What Thou Wilt" is still open to interpretation) he had very cogent, rational points about the damage that sexual repression linked to religious dogma has done to society as a whole. The only fault I would give the book is that while Regardie does an excellent job in attempting to ascertain the workings of Crowley's mind and his motivations, he falls into his own ridiculous psychoanalytical dogma with his speculations on Wilhelm Reich, homosexuality, and other topics. Still, worth reading for anyone who wants to know more about Crowley without the sensationalist Judeo-Christian spin. (less)
The horror genre appeals to many because it often involves evil people getting their just rewards without any moral misgivings, or revenge fables. Let...moreThe horror genre appeals to many because it often involves evil people getting their just rewards without any moral misgivings, or revenge fables. Let The Right One In could be placed in that category, although it could be argued that the main character Oskar isn't particularly sympathetic--he steals, lies, and has vivid, violent fantasies toward people who are tormenting him. Then again, I identify with Oskar, because who hasn't had such dark thoughts at one time or another when pushed to a breaking point?
John Lindqvist is highly influenced by Stephen King in his style, and even includes an homage by mentioning the book "Firestarter" several times (not to mention Dostoyevsky and Socrates), but he is equally as good if not better in creating unique, believable characters in truly suspenseful situations. The reader can feel the chill of the weather in Blackburg, contributing to the sense of isolation and loneliness that follows Oskar. The cultural references from 1982 (Rubic's Cubes, etc.) are interesting to anyone who lived through that era. The horrific incidents that occur might be too much for some readers, and would never have made it past a ratings board to be included in the movie version, which is really less bleak and focuses more on the love story between Oskar and Eli.
Lindqvist is a new favorite in the suspense/horror genre, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next. (less)
I hold contempt for people who hold contempt for genre fiction. I think some of the greatest tales ever told, as well as some of the most important mo...more I hold contempt for people who hold contempt for genre fiction. I think some of the greatest tales ever told, as well as some of the most important moral lessons, have been conveyed through stories easily categorized as horror, science-fiction, or post-apocalypse. How does this relate to McCarthy's "The Road?"
To paraphrase Solomon, there is nothing new under the apocalyptic sun. McCarthy's basic concept has been done over and over in tried and what some would consider trite genres. As I was reading, I immediately began to think of Stephen King's "The Stand," which thoroughly entertained me about fifteen years ago with the "Captain Trips" virus that decimated earth's population. King is particularly good at fantastic apocalyptic scenarios, and the film adaptation of his short novella "The Mist" even resembles "The Road" in some respects (a rare case of the film being better than the story). Just think of any fairly decent zombie movie that you have seen, and there are probably some plot parallels. What is the difference, and what makes this novel outstanding literature?
The director Sam Raimi once said that "I write stories about the fantastic things that frighten me, because the things that truly scare me are too horrifying and not entertaining enough." Apparently, McCarthy has decided to write without the genre metaphor about concepts that strike fear in most people. Helplessness. The potential loss of a loved one. The possibility that there is no God and no afterlife. And perhaps more disturbing than any of these, the possibility that none of it matters.
Without giving anything away, there is a ray of hope towards the end, which may satisfy those looking for an "against all odds" aspect. But it is the brilliant characterization of the love of a father for his son that stands out for me, along with some truly brilliant writing.
If you are the type to listen to background music while you are reading, I would highly recommend either Eluvium or The Dead Texan. Both of them convey the sense of solitude and desolation that is present in the book.
P.S.: I am hopeful regarding the movie adaptation of The Road starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee coming out sometime 2009.
Thomas Ligotti is indeed "quite unlike anything else being published," according to the Science Fiction Chronicle. I first came upon him at the sugges...moreThomas Ligotti is indeed "quite unlike anything else being published," according to the Science Fiction Chronicle. I first came upon him at the suggestion of a friend due to his resemblance to Lovecraft. There is a similarity in tone and feel to Lovecraft or Poe, and he skillfully creates a pervading sense of fear and dread in each of these stories. In addition, the depth of the questions he poses is worthy of a philosophy textbook, but not in a way that is boring or dry. He begins with Lovecraft's basic foundation--what if there really is no meaning in the universal scheme of things, or if there is a meaning, what if it is inherently nightmarish and evil? He often does not rely on concrete plot structure, which may annoy some readers and put him in the "either you love him or hate him" category. But to me, his lyrical prose and skill in "looking into the abyss" puts him in my top favorites. (less)
I picked up this book because of a penchant for young protagonists, as well as the synopsis and cover art. In addition, som...moreI hate to give bad reviews.
I picked up this book because of a penchant for young protagonists, as well as the synopsis and cover art. In addition, some reviews maintained the book was told effectively from the viewpoint of a child with Asperger's syndrome. Seeing as I suffer from this, I was expecting a realistic and engaging portrayal that might parallel my own childhood in certain ways.
It is not clear that Sebby suffers from Asperger's, and this is never explicitly stated. If anything, it seems that he suffers from mild retardation as a result of a fall from a window at an early age. A novel written in the first person limited from a child's perspective is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off, and unfortunately Kiara Brinkman misses the mark. This is definitely a first attempt, and perhaps she will improve with future efforts.