hello gorgeous! i am amazed. such a tender story of an AI trying to grow up, such luminous prose, glowing pearls of prose, layers of myth and fable anhello gorgeous! i am amazed. such a tender story of an AI trying to grow up, such luminous prose, glowing pearls of prose, layers of myth and fable and parable and dreams and dreaming and dreamscapes and science like magic. a tale retold in so many ways, characters like archetypes but real, so real! a child trying to grow up. parents who are brothers and sisters and lovers and children. such yearning! such emotion! such simple emotions, and such complexity. such brilliant clarity. an author perfectly in control of her talent. a weaving, a tapestry, an ancient story and a bright shiny new one. how many ways can a story be told and still feel fresh? Valente seems to know all the ways. and all the words, and all the metaphors, and all the things my own robot mind wishes it could say, to put into words, to make sense of things like life and death and growing up and wanting to be more, so much more, but not knowing what that more really is, can be, could have been, can still be. a tender and wistful dream of a story. it won the Hugo for Best Novella. well-deserved. a good recipe will taste rich and evocative of certain places, but will also be simple. it will focus on showcasing the ingredients. it will all come together in a beautiful kind of simplicity. i like to take my time with such a meal, but it's hard. so delicious! it looks so good and it is good for you too. Silently and Very Fast is an enriching and nourishing experience. warmth and kindness and sadness and a terrible wonderful ambiguity; the sweet breath of life and a darker taste of the unknown. all the important things. beautiful, beautiful! the story makes me want to have AI children of my own. i sigh, a longing sigh but i'm not sure what i'm longing for. see what you do to me? i can barely make my words make sense. i can't even get my sentences right, my metaphors straight. oh it doesn't matter, you are in me now.
HUMAN CHORD ACTIVATE! A Review Fantasia plus Spoilers in 3 Acts and a Prelude
SCENE: A young man - ROBERT SPINROBIN - sensitive and effeminate iHUMAN CHORD ACTIVATE! A Review Fantasia plus Spoilers in 3 Acts and a Prelude
SCENE: A young man - ROBERT SPINROBIN - sensitive and effeminate in appearance, sits in a threadbare apartment in turn-of-the-century London, with a newspaper in his lap.
SPINROBIN (to the audience): "Alas! Where is adventure? Where is the expansion of my mind? I - who possess the mystical vision of a poet - cannot be content with lowly drudge-work in an office! Oh how I long for my imaginary childhood companion - little Winky! - to take me on some soul-expanding journey! Oh, Winky! I miss our adventures!
But what is this!" (He looks down towards his paper)
SPINROBIN (reading from the newspaper): "'Wanted, by Retired Clergyman, Secretarial Assistant with courage and imagination. Tenor voice and some knowledge of Hebrew essential; single; unworldly. Apply Philip Skale.'"
SPINROBIN (to the audience): "I have found my grand adventure!"
SCENE: An empty rail station with a lonely but inspiring natural landscape looming in the background. Spinrobin stands waiting with his bags. A tall, imposing, heavily bearded man clad in knickerbockers - REVEREND SKALE - approaches.
SPINROBIN (to the audience): "Could this fearsome being be the Reverend Skale? My adventure approaches!"
SPINROBIN (to the approaching man): "Dear sir, I am at your service! Pray tell me what is required! My tenor is strong! My knowledge of Hebrew is improving! I have no woman! I am singularly unworldly! Tell me, Reverend Sir, are you leading me to some great adventure of the mind - indeed, of the very soul?"
SCENE: A dinner table inside of a gloomy mansion, lit by candlelight. The sound of moaning wind. At the head of the table sits Reverend Skale; on one side of him sits a nervous-looking Spinrobin and on the other side sits a young lady MIRIAM, who is staring at Spinrobin with a cow-like expression of - presumably - devotion and love. Standing behind Skale is an old woman and servant, MRS MAWLE, whose withered left arm is in a sling and who is holding an ear horn to her right ear.
SPINROBIN: "Dear Sir! Please tell me of the adventure that awaits us all! I understand it involves singing and the coming together of voices, the forming of some sort of "Human Chord"... but for what purpose? Pray tell!"
SKALE: "Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation Darkness stirs and wakes imagination Silently the senses abandon their defenses
Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendor Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender Turn your face away from the garish light of day Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light And listen to the music of the night!"
The stage is suddenly darkened.
SKALE (in baritone, slowly increasing in volume: "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa... POWER OF HUMAN CHORD! ACTIVATE!"
There is a flash and then a spotlight focuses on the table and there appears a little dancing mannequin of Reverend Skale.
MANNIQUIN SKALE (in tiny, childlike voice): "See what I do! I become small! He-hehehehe!"
The spotlight goes off and footlights illuminate a huge puppet version of Skale looming in the background, face contorted in maniacal laughter.
GIANT PUPPET SKALE (in huge, booming voice): "See what I do! I become large! Ho-hohohoho!"
Light returns to the stage; the mannikin and the puppet have disappeared. Skale is smiling widely like a madman. So is Mrs. Mawle. Miriam is still mooning at Spinrobin, whose mouth is hanging open in surprise and fear.
MIRIAM (to Spinrobin): "Oh Spinrobin! You are so tender, so wise, so very sensitive! I am yours! You are my Master!"
SPINROBIN (nervously, to Skale): "Bu-bu-bu-but what is thi-thi-this? The human voice is capable of such unnatural wonders by simply uttering the right notes? By naming the unnameable? I have always imagined this to be so, even as a child when playing with my beloved imaginary companion, Winky! But what will our human chord provoke? And what shall happen if a human chord is sung... incorrectly? (He looks significantly at Mrs. Mawle's ear horn and withered arm). What is your ultimate goal, Reverend Sir? Into what shall we be transformed?"
SKALE: "We shall become GOD, you dullard! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA! HA!"
SCENE: A forest. Spinrobin and Miriam lie huddled behind some bushes, gazing at the back of the stage. There in the background is a huge mansion engulfed in flames (painted backdrop) and the sounds of a woman's alto and man's baritone can be heard singing fervently. The singing voices suddenly turn into agonized shrieks before being drowned in the sounds of crackling flames and a mansion collapsing.
SPINROBIN: "So that didn't go as expected."
MIRIAM: "You carried me away! Oh brave Spinrobin, my beloved, my Master! We shall live happily ever after! (She laughs hysterically, then covers his face with kisses.) There are many things I can do for you that we couldn't do in Heaven! Oh my sweet darling... let me meet Mr. Winky!"
SPINROBIN: "Well I guess I really didn't want to become God anyway. Heaven can wait."
a tale out of time: an old myth reinvented; a new myth born. a wayward bride, a forlorn husband, their son - a pitiless hunter. a defiant old woman; aa tale out of time: an old myth reinvented; a new myth born. a wayward bride, a forlorn husband, their son - a pitiless hunter. a defiant old woman; a melancholy old man. trolls delight in delight; unicorns are for slaughter. question: what is Time in Elfland? answer: a fantasy! twelve men want magic. madmen shall take captive a king. borders shall be crossed and boundaries may be as fleeting as dreams. be wary of what you wish for! love shall conquer all and death shall be no more.
prose like poetry, like music. the novel: a silvery lake stretching to shores unknown. i gazed at this lake by day and its surface shone with sunlight: the world and all its colors flamed bright and fierce. i took a lonely boat ride by night and its surface glistened with moonlight, reflecting the beyond... i stared into those starry depths and saw the infinite: an entrancing sight!
☼ ☾ ☀
☼ ☾ ☀
message 5: by mark
i read the first 50 pages last night. love it so far. especially enjoyed all the animals' (and the child's) reactions to the troll.
i thought i had read this novel many years ago, but none of it feels familiar. so maybe not.
some really lovely writing overall.
message 6: by mark
read another 50 pages in the park today. a perfect place to read this novel.
still impressed by the charm of Dunsany's flowing prose. and the subtlety, the pointed comments here and there. like the bit around the king taking the 'witless lad' from a mother who knows that her son will accomplish more staying at home then going on some foolish quest with a foolish king. but kings will take what they want.
also really enjoyed the equally subtle, equally barbed depiction of the depressing, unnecessary finiteness of organized religion that will automatically call 'heathen' any activity that is directed towards nature and the cosmos rather than towards rituals and memorization.
message 7: by mark
i fear i may be propping up this thread as if it were my own personal journal!
anyway, two bits of Dunsany's commentary that i thought were particularly well-done:
"He was an incongruous figure with his stave and his sack and his sword; but he followed one idea, one inspiration, one hope; and so shared something of the strangeness that all men have who do this."
"And now the four that were left were all of one mind, and under the wet coarse cloth that they hung on poles there was deep content in the evenings. For Alveric clung to his hope with all the strength of his race, that had once won Erl in old battles and held it for centuries long, and in the vacant minds of Niv and Zend this idea grew strong and big, like some rare flower that a gardener may plant by chance in a wild untended place. And Thyl sung of the hope; and all his wild fancies that roamed after song decked Alveric's quest with more and more of glamour. So all were of one mind. And greater quests whether mad or sane have prospered when this was so, and greater quests have failed when it was otherwise."
message 8: by mark
also, Orion hunts and kills a unicorn. disgusting! i am no longer on your team, Orion.
although that was a rather amazing chapter. the final lines were startling.
message 12: by mark
more unicorn hunting, argh! this is such a turn-off to me. i'm not even automatically against hunting, as long as the meat is used. but unicorns are basically magic horses - and who hunts horses for chrissakes.
still, the novel remains a pleasure. loved the chapter with Orion almost stepping into Elfland, but getting pulled back by his faithful hounds.
loved the part with the Freer (Friar? not familiar with the word "Freer") condemning magic and then while walking home, utters a spell against magic. ha! delicious bit of irony. Dunsany's stance on this fake binary set up by the Freer is clear.
and man that whole chapter on Lurulu the troll acquainting himself with earthly ways, and earthly time, was just marvelous. it was wonderful to see how Dunsany describes the passing of earthly time in such a way that it felt as strange and magical as elfland itself.
message 13: by mark
finished it tonight. wonderful! the chapter with the Elfland King trying to soothe his daughter had some of the most beautiful writing i've ever read. the ending, the slowly moving line as Elfland takes over Erl... entrancing. the whole novel is magically written. prose like poetry, like music.
☼ ☾ ☀
for two far superior reviews of this splendid classic, read the ones by Mark and Keely:
"Hilarious and intriguing. Ghosts, families, religious factions. A homosexual rape scene, so it is a comedy. P
the Goodreads pop-up add for this book:
"Hilarious and intriguing. Ghosts, families, religious factions. A homosexual rape scene, so it is a comedy. Physics and love.
ha ha, didn't realize that rape was ever funny! "homosexual rape" must be even more funny! the very idea of homosexual rape is pure hilarity! probably just putting the word "homosexual" in front of "rape" should be enough for a whole day's worth of belly laughs! homosexual rape must be an hysterical experience! i think about it and i just laugh and laugh and laugh! hahahahaha, homosexual rape! so many lolz!
i'd really love to meet the person who wrote that pop-up ad so i could share my appreciation of their writing! let me just sit here for a moment and consider what would probably be a gut-bustingly hilarious conversation.
a smart young lady trying to find herself in California. the assassination of her father - America's counterterrorism chief. a portrait of Kashmir befa smart young lady trying to find herself in California. the assassination of her father - America's counterterrorism chief. a portrait of Kashmir before all the ugliness and horror. the life of a man: lawyer, Jew, printer, resistance fighter, diplomat, husband, lover, father. a portrait of Kashmir - the ugliness, the horror. the life of a man: acrobat, actor, husband, freedom fighter, terrorist, chauffeur, assassin. a courtroom drama. a tale of a guy who really knows how to handle himself in prison. a troubled young lady finding love and thirsting for revenge. a miniature epic. a work that is sublime and transcendent. a frustrating book. a masterpiece!
the first section of the novel follows the life of young urban sophisticate India, a documentarian and the daughter of a famous father. right off the bat, i had issues. Rushdie's voice is justly famous for its idiosyncracy. he is a "witty" writer. his voice is polished, erudite, disarmingly casual, sometimes dry, sometimes broad, intellectual, political, personal. Shalimar is full of sharp, wry characterization that is delivered in prose that is complicated, flowing, detailed in long sentences and even longer paragraphs, with much use of striking bits of offbeat imagery. the dialogue can be realistic but just as often feels archly stylized. i couldn't help but think that many characters spoke like Rushdie himself must speak. all of this became rather off-putting, as if Rushdie was oh such a clever man - like that oh so clever gent who goes on and on at a cocktail party, entranced with being the center of attention while never noticing how genuinely pretentious and condescending he sounds (i'll admit here that that dreary kind of cocktail party person is frequently... myself. sigh). this is not to say that the first section wasn't often funny. it was. particularly in Rushdie's depiction of the all-american boy-next-door type, and that type's glorified kind of anonymity. but you can still really want to smack a funny person upside the head if their humor comes wrapped in up-his-own-ass cleverness. at least i did. and all that said, the last part of the section - an assassination and a daughter's removal from reality: brilliant. just brilliant.
the second section takes us into the past, to a Kashmiri village named Pachigam. my God, this section was beautiful! Rushdie's prose sings. the story of this village, its wonderful characters, two young people in love, the myths and legends, the magic, the rivalries, the coming of military types from India and revolutionary types from Pakistan, the stories within stories, the feeling of time moving inexorably forward, the troubling hints of bad times on the horizon, the grand passions, the small things, the humanity, the color and light and life and all the glorious details of a world that is no more... marvelous! just marvelous. i wanted to live in this world. here is also where it becomes absolutely clear how much Rushdie respects the strength of women and the power of art (art in cooking, acting, theatre; art as a tradition and a lifestyle). there is a dreamy kind of wish fulfillment happening in this section. things are not idealized and the narrative is not a sentimental one and characters are not one-dimensional - and yet this section is so full of people surviving in hard times, people living their lives to the fullest, people standing up for each other and being brave and being honest and being utterly themselves - i read this novella-sized section in a state of bliss. it is beauty on the page. i could read the story of this village over and again. swoon!
the third section is the story of Max Ophuls. his name is that of a brilliant, classic director. he has a sinister, cringing assistant named Ed(gar) Wood(s). hey that's the name of another brilliant, classic director, a low-rent one, one who exists on the exact opposite part of the film spectrum as Ophuls. is this another example of Rushdie being clever for the sake of cleverness? perhaps. it doesn't matter. this section is also fantastic. Rushdie knows how to write thrilling wartime drama. Rushdie knows how to write tales of escape and derring-do and brave flights across troubled waters. is there anything the man can't write? this section starts in World War 2-era France, the life before the war, the resistance during, the politics and the spies and the lives lived in hiding. it gives you a brave heroine as well - complicated, butch, tender, merciless, independent, an incredibly sympathetic lady, and - much later - a stone-cold bitch. then Rushdie takes you out of France, into India, and into a disturbing affair. the fall of a Kashmiri villlager turned mistress. Rushdie writes of great events but keeps the personal front and center. he keeps things intimate and he keeps his characters real. Rushdie knows how to write.
some serious spoilers follow!
the fourth section returns to the Kashmiri village of Pachigam and is a tale of horror, why is that. it details the ruthlessness of religious fundamentalism and the madness of mindless militarism and the bloodthirstiness that occurs when the two meet, why is that. it shows us traditions dying, traditions being slaughtered, small things ground under the boots of smaller minds, villages burning and women raped and people tortured and beloved characters being hurt and broken and tormented and demeaned and killed, why is that. the authorial voice remains stylized and that should lead to some distance between story and reader but if anything the wryness and the stylization and the continued use of magic make the brutality even more stark and horrible, why is that. humans are fucking miserable bugs to treat each other this way and yet that's how it is and people die and people don't care and people live to rationalize their disgusting lack of humanity and people die who only want to live and people die and people die and people die, why is that. i hate people, why is that. i read this in an airport terminal while my flight was delayed for hours and it was hard not to cry and so i took many smoke breaks to try and let the heaviness lift a little and i kept returning to the book and i started to feel a strange feeling of being altered, of looking at things from very far away, of wanting to be far away, and yeah i did start crying, why is that. i'm writing this now and for some reason the tears are flowing again, why is that. why the fuck are people so fucking cruel and why is history a record of cruelty and why should humans be alive anyway, why do they do the things they do, i will never understand that, just thinking of what humans do to each other fills me with such sadness and rage and confusing feelings that i barely understand, why is that. people are so fucked up, why is that why is that why is that why is that.
the fifth section returns us to modern day California. tale of a troubled young woman trying to be strong. tale of a man so hollowed out by his lack of love that he is nothing but a terrible shell with a terrible purpose. tale of some courtroom shenanigans. tale of a prison break. tale of a tale of a tale of a tale. things come together; things come apart. Kashmir is more than Kashmir - it is a living symbol for so many things. there is always room for love, even in the middle of vengeance. sometimes the lack of love is replaced by something else. sometimes hate is like love. sometimes things just can't be understood or explained. Rushdie tries, he really does, he tries brilliantly. his sentimental humanism is obvious in the very motivation of Shalimar the clown, who is not your typical terrorist. i don't mind the sentimental humanism; sometimes i crave it. Rushdie is a humanist who has not let the fatwa destroy his sense of decency or fairness, his need to see a person's tale from all angles, to see the why and the how of humans turning into monsters. Rushdie understands both the futility and the necessity of revenge, different forms of revenge. Shalimar the Clown ends on an exciting note. Shalimar the Clown ends on a mysterious note. what will happen next? is there any hope? perhaps i am more of a pessimist than Rushdie because he clearly has hope while i think of humans and often feel hopeless. Humans Off Earth Now! but maybe not. there's hope yet, right? it is a strange and terrible and wonderful feeling to read a book that gives and then takes away and then gives back - just a little - a kind of faith in humanity. hey look the book is bigger on the inside than the little thing you are holding in your hands....more
ugh, i just came back from a pathetic work event and the main word that comes to mind is lazy. this event should have been inspiring; after all, its mugh, i just came back from a pathetic work event and the main word that comes to mind is lazy. this event should have been inspiring; after all, its main purpose is to celebrate the volunteers who are the backbone of my agency. instead what i had the displeasure of experiencing was something that was just tossed together in the most lazy, uninspiring way - as if just the fact that the event was occurring was reason enough for its existence. it happens every year and so that's that. and so why bother about putting something together that is interesting, exciting, or truly honors the folks that it is supposed to be for. all the free drink tickets in the world couldn't solve the problem of the emptiness that was at the heart of this event. and those free drink tickets definitely didn't help fill the emptiness i felt at being a part of such a lackluster enterprise.
the event reminded me of this book. it is a collection of stories by a Bay Area author, mainly about a bunch of low-lifes and their daily lives. or rather their daily lives with a little spice thrown in. a snapshot of a day in the life of a low-life, except this day is slightly special. also tossed in the collection were various attempts at horror and personal narrative and at least one essay on Women (Women as the Mother of All Things, the Ancient Cybele, snore). i wanted so much more from this collection. just as a baseline, i wanted writing that was not so amateurish. Bay Area low-lifes are potentially a source of much rich material and they deserve a lot more. a hell of a lot more. they deserve something with actual resonance.
the author seems to know his stuff and - as the folks in reality tv competitions are so fond of saying - he clearly has heart. but the writing was often so eye-rolling that i couldn't help but think that this was cobbled together by various efforts coming from various creative writing classes. and so it was often distinctly embarrassing.
like the unfortunate event that i attended, i had to wonder: why even put this out there if it is so uninspired, if the execution is so shoddy? just because? that's not a reason... it is a waste of time. just because should never be a reason to do something that involves other people.
although a 1 star book overall, i'll give it another star for a few minor reasons. first, the story about Speedy's first day out of prison was genuinely interesting, and had a smashingly eerie segment taking place at a trucker's rest stop. apparently this is the first chapter of another novel by the author; i probably should have read that one instead. anyway, second: i love the cover. that guy is cute in an off-kilter way and the photo is funny. third, love the title. "Gun Sex".... love it. and last, this collection of stories inspired me to delete several of the more cringingly amateurish efforts that i had posted under my profile's story section (all of which come from my college or immediately post-college years). anything that inspires self-editing in a person as self-absorbed as myself is worth a star. so yeah, an extra star makes this one 2 stars. fine, i can live with that. also, this is a drunk book review. sorry, author....more
"But this time it is different. The awakening from the episode, the restoration of clarity and consciousness a
sometimes his prose can be quite lovely
"But this time it is different. The awakening from the episode, the restoration of clarity and consciousness are swept outward, away from the tangible familiarities of the sitting room. Her desk and the beloved star-patterned floor rug are given flight, along with the fine drapes that clutch at the broken window, hesitantly, then finally let loose to succumb to winter's wind."
but sometimes his prose can be a bit less than lovely
"Mark - Sounds like you have a thing for boys dressed up like trolls, you need to see someone for that you creepy boy hunter. They'll trick you out in prison and oh yeah, SNAP your garbage neck. Twist on the end of that dildo breath."
and a bit less than charming
from Chris Roberts to Miracle Jones subject Re: The Editor as a Goodbye
Nobody takes you seriously - I know, you're a pig twat. Fiction Circus - you got that right. Ah, the lowly zine that is your destiny tampon breath.
oh, Chris Roberts.
Chris! listen, please! that Pushcart nomination happened almost a decade ago! "Hazy Shade of Winter" is just a short story! (although no doubt an interesting one.) constant internet trolling does not count as a literary endeavor! get off of Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, FailedWriter, Manscape, and the dozens of other internet sites that addict you... and get back to work! seriously, your public deserves it! both of them!
before i sign off, here's a little gif that can help you with the problems you appear to be having with your Twitter account:
your devious passivity and willful naivete know no boundaries! your crimes are many!
your poorDAVID COPPERFIELD: MASTER VILLAIN
oh you architect of doom!
your devious passivity and willful naivete know no boundaries! your crimes are many!
your poor doting mother - hustled off to an early grave, and you do nothing! you repay the Murdstones' attempts at improvement with intransigence and a savage bite! you return Mr. Creakle's guiding hand with laziness and scorn! you do nothing as your idol Steerforth humiliates Mr. Mell! you run from honest work in a factory! you must be too good for that! you impose upon your poor dear aunt Betsy Trotwood! you immediately discount poor umble Uriah Heep! how dare you condescend to him! you say nothing as Rosa Dartle defames good honest people! over dinner! you introduce that atrocious snake Steerforth to those good honest people! you terrorize your poor landlady! your drunken shenanigans with Steerforth are revolting! good Agnes was no doubt secretly appalled! you caution Traddles to avoid generosity with Micawber! mind your own business, Iago! you stalk your boss's daughter! only Jip recognizes your villainy! you entangle poor Julia Mills in your scheming! you attempt to extract money from your workplace - but fortunately Mr. Spenlow and his partner are wise to your gambits! you continue to stalk poor innocent Dora - even after her father's untimely death! and no doubt your villainy was the cause of that! you bind Dora to you! the poor doomed natural! you set the servants against her! you make her hold your pens, you tyrant! you help Uriah Heep cause a good Doctor much stress! you cast aspersions on that Doctor's own wife! her cousin! their marriage! you strike the poor umble Uriah Heep across the face! a resounding blow! you monster - berating and "improving" Dora to an early grave! the poor natural, the innocent child-wife! even Jip dies at your feet! you humiliate and drive away the poor umble Uriah Heep! you allow poor honest Ham to plunge into the sea - to his death! you fail to save your friend Steerforth from his own watery death! you allow Rosa Dartle to heap abuse upon his grieving mother! you laughingly exile two families to criminal Australia! you secretly gloat and sneer while witnessing the very proper Mr. Lattimer and poor umble Uriah Heep behind bars! your most dastardly deed: stringing along the good Agnes - for decades! and finally, you bind her to you in a long-game marriage-plot! i fear for her safety!
oh Diabolic Doady!
oh you monstrous villain, David Copperfield!...more
page turner, page turner! lady wakes in park with no memory! battered & bruised & bloody! surrounded by dead people! that she killed with herpage turner, page turner! lady wakes in park with no memory! battered & bruised & bloody! surrounded by dead people! that she killed with her bare hands! cause she has special powers! the same special powers that i have often imagined myself having if dreams came true! quelle coincidence!
the narrative is propulsive. the ideas are automatically right up my alley. the whole thing is clearly built for fun; i gave it to a colleague and he immediately halted the book he was reading because the jacket description alone was enough to give him a massive boner. same here. but... i could have been challenged or surprised a bit more. the narrative goes back and forth between the present day actions of the woman before us and past letters that the woman she used to be wrote to her - which could have opened up many interesting possibilities. not even necessarily literary possibilities but maybe something along the lines of a potboiler-cum-meditation-on-memory like Memento. but nope, all those letters from the past serve a very straightforward function: infodumps. hella infodumps. entertaining and intriguing infodumps, and nothing more.
but... page turner, page turner! young woman is named Miffanwy, rhymes with Tiffany! she works for a secret government agency that is staffed by people with super powers and whose goal is to protect the world from super-powered and supernatural threats! including the evil Belgian Grafters! the high-level administrators have titles named after chess pieces! cool! my favorite is one who lives in multiple bodies and whose name is Gestalt! Miffanwy is in charge of domestic operations and her title is The Rook!
you know what i hate? well, many things, but in this instance the answer would be cheap snarkiness. ugh, i even hate the word. "snarky"... such an ugly word, like it was made up by a 12-year old. the only cheap snarkiness i appreciate is the kind that pops out of my mouth or from my keyboard; otherwise, it needs to be good or the eye-rolling will commence. Good as in the films of Howard Hawks. or Joss Whedon, some of the time. unfortunately, most snark is of the CW or SyFy networks variety, which to me is just lazy, shallow writing. unfortunately this novel is full of cheap snarky dialogue that comes out of nearly every character (that is when they are not sounding like The Lord and Lady of The Masterpiece Theater Manor). and so characters end up sounding just like each other and as if they just stepped out of one of the Scream films. it grew tedious. and hey, Daniel O'Malley, listen: high-level government administrators in both the U.S. and the U.K., particularly ones who are women, probably do not refer to other women as "chicks" on a regular basis. now that was just intolerable to read.
but... page turner, page turner! ignore the bitching above! this book was all kinds of fun and i read it like reading was going to be declared illegal at the end of the night! pure pleasure! i can't wait for the sequel! plus no tedious romance to speak of! yay! woot! win!
a favorite fantasy: i inherit a sprawling and eerie mansion, preferably on a cliff or overlooking a lake, somewhere remote. it can be populated by ecca favorite fantasy: i inherit a sprawling and eerie mansion, preferably on a cliff or overlooking a lake, somewhere remote. it can be populated by eccentric characters but preferably it will be virtually empty. i spend most of my days exploring the various rooms, discovering passageways, musing on the mansion's mysterious history. i spend most of my nights by a fireplace, reading a book from the impressive library, hearing the wind howl, wondering if the various dangers will be able to break in. or maybe they are in the mansion already? maybe they live here, in secret places. bits of Gormenghast and the Overlook (minus the child-killing) and other strange estates combine into one delightfully sinister place. i want! i assume this fantasy springs from over two decades of life in sunny, un-mysterious california. do people fantasize about living in california? hard to imagine. although i suppose i do love it here.
so that's why i picked up this book. the promise of the cover and - rather less so - the description on the back spelled out a premise that automatically intrigues me, a place where i can send my mind to for a little while. alas, my mind did not find much of interest at the Deadfall Hotel.
ok, quick synopsis: after experiencing a tragedy, Sad Sack and his precocious daughter are invited to live at the Deadfall Hotel. he is the new manager. and what he is managing is a sprawling, mysterious, eerie place where ghosts go, where supernatural beings come to live but mainly die, a final stopping-off point of sorts.
i wanted to like this one, i really did. and for a short while, the elegance and occasional charm of the writing lured me in. Tem is an accomplished professional, no doubt about it. he has a gift with words and with the odd phrase or off-kilter image. he also has a somewhat poetic hand at reinvention: the novel is in six parts, and three of them revisit the werewolf, the vampire, and the zombie in surprising and original ways. good display of ambition, author. but, sadly, in the end it felt half-baked and i was left disappointed. actually, not "in the end" but approximately a third of the way in.
i grew tired of Sad Sack constantly putting his daughter in danger. ridiculous! like watching those tired scenes from a horror film when the group splits up and gets picked off one by one. my eyes rolled many times. this is a surreal and fantastical novel, but it became an increasingly aggravating itch to see that poor girl thrust into danger again and again by her father and the annoyingly eccentric former manager. irresponsible Sad Sack! complacent former manager! characters act like they are lobotomized! for fook's sake, the girl gets mauled repeatedly by demonic cats and still gets sent right into the thick of them to try and save the day. she's a little kid, dumbasses! and dad & daughter continue to live there, no matter how much danger she's put in. i don't care if something is trying to be surreal and dream-like... but when the logic breakdown is this complete, it is time to get out of the vehicle and find a new ride. just. too. ridiculous.
and, nearly as bad, the surreal and the dream-like parts were (1) not the point of the novel - they felt more like self-indulgent flourishes; (2) distracting - it grew wearisome watching reality disintegrate yet again and then whaddyaknow, next chapter we're back in reality; (3) ...silly. super-silly.
quintessential Jack Vance adventure novel. swiftly-paced, drily witty, deeply ironic, byzantine in its layers of back-story and multiple displays of wquintessential Jack Vance adventure novel. swiftly-paced, drily witty, deeply ironic, byzantine in its layers of back-story and multiple displays of world-building yet happily trim and stripped-down in its actual verbiage, featuring a sardonic young hero, his icy love interest and various mysteries that he is only slightly interested in solving.
Jubal Droad is a high-caste Glint in the land of Thaery, on the planet Maske, on the outskirts of the Gaean Reach. unfortunately being a noble son of Glint means practically nothing in the big city of Wysrod, where his homeland of Glentlin is an embarrassing country cousin to more sophisticated family members. Jubal is instantly identified as redneck. he gets offended. Jubal gets offended quite a lot; he chafes frequently at any sign of snobbery or high-handedness. fortunately for Jubal, he is a lad with both connections and some very dear secrets, and he is quickly given a job as an "Inn Inspector". which is code for glamorous, jet-setting spy. Jubal barely cares. it's just another job and his main goals are making lots of cash, getting his revenge on with a noble who offended him, and then, well, he doesn't know. doing something. he'll figure it out. whatever. and so the Grand Adventure begins! ha.
that 'whatever' is one of the wonderful qualities of this novel. this may be a novel featuring a spy tracking down a nefarious villain across three worlds, while getting embroiled in the affairs of the aristocracy and dealing with a violent regime change back home, but the tone of the whole thing is so charmingly nonchalant. Jubal may be seething with fury and resentment in general, gnashing his teeth with frustration at the cold treatment he receives from a lady who turns him on with that cold treatment, and forever haggling with his boss over money... but he is also so nonchalant about it. most characters in Vance novels are this way: oh so sardonic. i love the elegant and stylishly low-key way that all the characters converse with each other. this may be a pulp novel of sorts, but it is also pure style. Jack Vance, as ever, has a skilled and delightful way with words. i read this all in one long afternoon in the park and it was pure enjoyment.
Masque: Thaery has a real economy of words and yet the various science fantasy ideas on display are well thought-out, wide-ranging, just brimming over with creativity. there is enough imaginative awesomeness in this book to fill a whole mega-series of science fantasy, and yet the novel clocks in at a slim 216 pages.
i found two things to be particularly enjoyable.
first HEY THIS WHOLE PARAGRAPH HAS A BIG SPOILER. at one point, Vance spends several pages detailing various luxury tours that are available on a vacation planet. the tours described are wonderful flights of the imagination and i loved reading about them. but i did wonder - why spend so much time on something that has nothing to do with the plot? and then i forgot that, and continued to enjoy the narrative. but at the end - with the surprise reveal of the villain's surprisingly banal motives being based on mercenary exploitation of natural places for luxury tourism - the lengthy descriptions of luxury tours elsewhere made quick sense. i reread them again and noticed the subtle things that had escaped me at first: native animals being exploited; natural places being transformed and prettified for tourist eyes; sex tourism; the drug trade; exploitation of natural resources; etc. i appreciated the subtlety of the foreshadowing, and i appreciated even more the secretly furious perspective of the author on such things. who would have guessed that Vance would be such an ardent progressive when it comes to environmentalism? the heinous and gruesome ending for the villain illustrates exactly how Vance feels about raping natural places. plus some fairly brutal irony in the actual mode of (slow, slow) death.
the second thing: a lot of odd footnotes and a really random glossary. here's one entry from the glossary, describing points an employer must consider when using the services of the human-ish Djan:
One Djan performs aimlessly unless supervised.
Two Djan become intense; they either quarrel or fondle each other.
Three Djan create a disequilibrium; they work with agitation and resentful energy.
Four Djan form a stable system. They respond equably to orders but exert themselves only moderately and indulge themselves in comfort.
Five Djan form an unstable and dangerous combination. Four will presently form a group; the fifth, ejected, becomes resentful and bitter. He may go "solitary."
Six Djan yield one stable set and a pair of defiant lovers.
Seven Djan create an unpredictable flux of shifting conditions and a turmoil of emotions.
Eight Djan, after considerable shifting, conniving, testing, plotting, backbiting, yield two stable groups.