WATCH OUT, SPOILERS! but I will try to keep things vague.
the name of the game is Influence. you're a good progressive super-society, you don't want toWATCH OUT, SPOILERS! but I will try to keep things vague.
the name of the game is Influence. you're a good progressive super-society, you don't want to interfere too much, just enough, in the small but important ways that will put this little not-so-super-society onto the right path. on the path towards respect for life and individual liberty, on a path away from domination and plutocracy. you want to work from the outside of it all, subtly, whispering in this ear, supporting that action, slowly moving and manipulating things in just the right direction so that things end up just the right way. you can't do it yourself of course, that would be too obvious. so you employ an agent. you have suspicions about this agent but in the end it does appear that your goals align. but what you don't know is that the agent in question is playing his own game, and the name of that game is Self-Abnegation.
if you are about to read this book please keep in mind this note about its structure: Use of Weapons employs two narratives in alternating chapters. the first narrative moves forward in time. the second narrative is composed of flashbacks in reverse-chronological order. plus a prologue and two epilogues that occur entirely outside of the narrative.
I have this sick side of me that I rarely let out of its locked room. much like The Culture, I'm a good progressive, against violence and pro-humanism, let's talk it out, let's understand the context, let's realize that there are no true binaries and we are just humans and we should all be moving forward together. yeah yeah yeah, I truly do believe that. and yet this sick side of me lurks there, wanting to not just be a decent human being but also wanting to smite my reactionary foes. and not just smite: hurt. I want to punish them for the things they've done and I want that punishment to be painful and emotional and physical and fucking traumatic - at the very least as traumatic as what they've visited on their victims. and then I want to kill them. that's not too attractive in general, so I'm rather shy about letting these thoughts surface in public. instead I just donate annually to places like The Center for Justice & Accountability, which is all about punishing these motherfuckers who think they can torture and slaughter at will and then just slink away into the shadows.
Iain Banks definitely understands this side of me because he clearly has this side to himself as well. (and I'm going to persist in referring to him in the present tense because authors are immortal as far as I'm concerned.) this side of Banks has popped up in every novel I've read by the man. he wants to be a righteous, bloodthirsty avenger too. fortunately he knows that nothing is ever simple and straightforward and if a person feels this way, wants to do these things, wants to break the unjust upon the wheel of justice - then maybe there's something about them/him/me that is broken too. Banks is definitely not the type of host who is going to make you your favorite cake and then let you eat it too. he'll let you have a few bites but then he'll smash your face right into it.
so when that intelligent, charming drone goes on a berserk killing spree and horribly slaughters those brigands intent on rape and murder and sexual slavery, he will make sure all of my pleasure buttons are pushed - they will die in horribly graphic and bloody ways, and deservedly. but he'll also make sure I realize just how sick it is that people even have those sorts of buttons. indulging in those sorts of pleasures feels good but it is just about the opposite of human growth. (hide spoiler)]
okay, the novel itself. in a word: brilliant. the characters are interesting and sympathetic. the structure is absorbingly complex. nearly half of the novel is composed of separate mini-adventures in a variety of locales with a changing set of premises and characters. these almost-short stories are wonderful to read, in particular if you can slow down and take them as they are: separate adventures. but they are all a part of a whole; their inclusion is not random. they share similar themes on such topics as the futility of trying to achieve true justice, the futility of understanding human nature, the futility of trying to find meaning in either the movements of history or the actions of an individual. that's a lot of futility, but Banks makes these little adventures so thoughtful and moving and often ambiguous that the futility is masked by the pleasure a reader can take in witnessing an author at the height of his powers construct a multi-leveled story that is telling many stories simultaneously.
the overarching narrative itself is quite compelling but - as with much of Banks - curiously half-baked as well. purposely half-baked? Banks clearly doesn't have much interest in creating a story that is all about satisfying resolutions and triumphant climaxes. he creates a thesis and then he expands upon that thesis; the narrative itself is not necessarily coupled with that thesis and so he doesn't spare much time trying to make them fit together. at the end of Use of Weapons, the reader learns that everything is cyclical and so will be happening again and again and again. societies will hurt their citizens and societies will hurt other societies; all weapons will be used, even the human ones; individuals, even the bravest, the cruelest, the most righteous... are simply that: one individual in a whole universe of individuals and so what can one individual truly do; human nature is fucked. and so I closed this rich wonderful book with all of its amazing adventures... and I felt deflated, melancholy, depressed. Banks doesn't make it easy for anyone - not his characters, not his societies, and certainly not his readers.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It's circa 1978 and Kenny isn't sure of much except that he has killer washboard abs and a big dick and he needs sex on the regular. He loves hiMONDAY
It's circa 1978 and Kenny isn't sure of much except that he has killer washboard abs and a big dick and he needs sex on the regular. He loves his girlfriend La Donna or maybe it's "loves" because he isn't sure about a lot of things except he's not satisfied. Not with his live-in girlfriend, not with his job, not with life. Ever hear of anomie, Kenny, especially the free-floating kind, the kind with no easy answers? There, I've diagnosed you. So what does Kenny need? At this point I think he needs a bj.
It's amateur night and it's time for La Donna to shine on stage. Kenny is a supportive boyfriend in his own way, meaning he tries, meaning he at least tries being supportive in his head but that support doesn't come out of his mouth in a really believable way, meaning he's not really that supportive of a boyfriend. Sorry, Kenny - but I will give you points for good intentions. The author Richard Price gets right up in Kenny's head and it's amazing to see because Kenny is just about as alive as anyone I know. Price knows some things about the way people think and talk. He also knows that people are people and maybe it's just due to the time period but maybe it's not just that, but Kenny uses words like "nigger" and "faggot" on the regular and readers will just have to get used to it. That's Kenny and he may be harmless, at least I think he is, but I know that some readers will just loathe him right off the bat because of the way he talks and thinks. Not me though. He's just another human being trying to get by with a modicum of self-respect and satisfaction in life. So what does Kenny need? At this point I think he just needs someone to take the time to understand him. Despite the fact that he barely understands himself.
Kenny finds himself footloose and fancy free, well as much as an angsty person like Kenny could ever be footloose and fancy free. He accidentally meets up with some childhood friends and at first it's really great and then it's really not and then it becomes all about living in the past and resenting the present and resenting the people who come into our lives and inadvertently make us feel like our life is all about going through the motions. All those complicated emotions that Kenny can barely process. So what does Kenny need? At this point I think he needs some real friends.
His old childhood friend Donny from yesterday calls him up and suddenly morose, angsty, I-don't-know-what-I'm-upset-about-but-I'm-fucking-upset Kenny is stoked because yes! he has a friend! and they have plans tonight! It's awfully endearing and the whole book is awfully endearing in its mopey, angry, forlorn, super real way. But it all goes shitward because sometimes smoking pot when you are in the middle of some kind of existential crisis means despite having company over and chicken in the oven, you may just trip out in a bad way about how fucked you are feeling and you don't even know why so you and your friend just sorta pass out and then there's no dinner and the big night was a small, sad night and you feel like shit and you don't even know why. Poor guy(s)! So what does Kenny need? At this point I think Kenny not only needs to get in touch with his emotions in a real way, he needs someone to listen to him without judgment. Maybe therapy?
It's Friday and Kenny hates his job. He's a 30 year old guy who is a door-to-door salesman and even though that may mean he could get lucky with the ladies, that old fantasy (but probably not because there's a reason they are called "fantasies"), he still hates it. I'd hate it too. Kenny went to college and dropped out. He was in a frat at college but he dropped out. He was in the Reserves but the military is not for him. He was going to get married a while back but he made sure that didn't happen. He likes to read and so he thinks that means he could be a teacher but does he really read all that much and does he even have the skill set to be a teacher? Richard Price doesn't know and neither does Kenny and neither do I. Kenny feels he has one real skill in life and that skill is "making a move" but Kenny and Richard Price and I all know that his version of making a move is bailing on a situation for some reason or another. But that's neither here nor there and other cliches. Kenny hates his job and even more than that, he hates not having sex on the regular especially because he is a not-bad-looking guy with killer abs and a big dick, or at least that's his perspective. So what does Kenny need? At this point I think Kenny needs a new job and he definitely needs to get laid. There's too much pressure building up and guys needs sex. Well, who doesn't.
Kenny realizes he really needs more sex even though he just had some last night and it wasn't with his girlfriend. So he goes to see a whore and gets some more sex. Kenny is still unsatisfied. Poor Kenny? Yes, poor Kenny. I feel for the guy. Sometimes we don't know what is specifically driving us up the wall, maybe it's the job or the girlfriend or the hornininess or the lack of real friends but probably it's all of the above and so there's no perfect fix to that problem of having an imperfect life. Richard Price knows that and so do I and I sure wish Kenny knew that too. Kenny and Donny find themselves on Christopher Street and then they find themselves going to a bunch of different gay bars because reasons, and Kenny is completely uncomfortable about being around so many faggots and yet he's surprisingly not homophobic, just nervous and horny, and let me tell you, as a queer it was a real relief to know that Kenny is not a hateful guy, he's not going to judge me, he's just confused and horny like 9 out of 10 guys his age or any age. So what does Kenny need? At this point I think Kenny needs to have a real heart-to-heart with his girlfriend, the kind of talk that is truly open and honest and emotionally naked and almost impossible for 9 out of 10 guys to have who are his age, or any age.
If "angst" had a name it would be "Kenny" but at least he does the right thing and I'm proud of him. It was hard and he almost talked himself out of it but he did it. Good for you, Kenny. Small steps baby, small steps. And then Donny calls and he realizes yes! he has an actual friend! People need friends, it's a human requirement. The novel is minor note and full of free floating anxiety and angst and anomie but it's a minor note that strikes the human chord if you know what I mean. Minor note in the best sort of way, the real way, a book about a real person with real problems and I see myself and every guy I know in Kenny and I want things to end on a hopeful note because there's hope in life, it's a real thing. So what does Kenny need? How the fuck should I know, what does anyone need, you can't put a finger on it and you can't say ___ = your happiness, right there is the secret recipe, just follow the instructions and you'll be perfectly happy. Who's perfectly happy anyway? That's not life. Still... c'mon mark, try to help this dude out, what does Kenny need? I dunno. Maybe he needs a hug. I mean, who doesn't? I sure do. Not right now but you know, sometimes....more
you know this person, we all know this person, this particular kind of person. a real do-gooder, a person of the people, doling out the goodwill and tyou know this person, we all know this person, this particular kind of person. a real do-gooder, a person of the people, doling out the goodwill and the spare change and the spare arm to help that blind person across the street. you know the satisfaction they get from looking humble, acting humble, being anything but humble at the heart of them. reveling in their goodness; reveling in their superiority. selflessness disguising selfishness. this person loves 'em and leaves 'em too, except "love" is too strong, too emotional a word to describe the shallow physical connection that leaves out any potential for a genuine connection. this person looks at other people like they would look at a collection of amusing bugs. this person sees a person needing help but if it costs them something, anything, even just a bit of delay on their way to something super important, then they are going to pass that person by. this person doesn't actually like people all that much; this person despises them, more than a little.
you know this person because you have been this person! for at least a moment or a minute, maybe even longer, maybe it was something you had to get past. you know this person because this person is a part of you, unless you are some fairytale wonderland cartoon character who isn't capable of such things, of even thinking such things, and if that's the case - then fuck off! no, scratch that, don't fuck off; if you've never been this person, not even for a second, then message me because I wanna marry you. I've never been with a perfect person before.
you know this author, mark, or at least you thought you did. Camus! the very name brings up so many thoughts and ideas and college memories, so many references. it's an intimidating name because Camus is an intimidating author. at least I thought he was. but not the Camus who wrote this excoriating and brilliant little novella. The Fall is pure enjoyment. Camus gets into the head of his douchebag protagonist and makes you really understand him. and even better, he makes the experience so much more than a chilly intellectual exercise. Camus is funny. he's more than clever, he has a genuine although dark sense of humor - wounding but never callow wit. but more important than either the depth of his characterization or his darkly sparkling wit is the fact that Camus is a man with reservoirs of empathy. The Fall isn't just a hit job on some hypocritical asshole. Camus understands his character, intimately; he understands him by recognizing that his character is a trait within human nature. the deepest wounds come from the people who are armed with empathy - they know exactly where and how to hurt you. Camus holds up a mirror for his readers to gaze upon themselves. personally, I wasn't too big a fan of what I saw; I don't like that side of me. I hate confronting my own hypocrisies. but I sure did love the mirror itself! it was beautifully built, a real work of art....more
I love camping, and have loved it since I was kid. everything about it: walking in nature, splashing in water, setting up camp, the conversations arouI love camping, and have loved it since I was kid. everything about it: walking in nature, splashing in water, setting up camp, the conversations around the fire and the cooking and the early mornings waking up to the music of birds and insects, the nights spent in a tent or under the stars. Richard Laymon loves camping too: he spends nearly the first 200 pages describing a camping trip before bothering to get to the horror. the attack on the campers felt almost like an afterthought. I didn't mind the lazy pacing because it was really pleasant reading about this trip. characterization may not be the author's forte in general, but the characters here felt absolutely real. reading the various perspectives of child, teen, and adult took me right back to various camping trips throughout my life. Laymon gets all of the details right. and there's a genuine generosity of spirit displayed in this novel that makes it feel like something he wrote out of love for camping with a big group rather than just to bring in some money.
I was pleased to see Laymon control his sleazier traits. nearly every character is a horny character, but unlike past novels, I didn't get the sense that he was salivating while writing about his characters' sexuality. rape - a Laymon hallmark - unfortunately is present, but he restrains himself there too. although I could have done without it entirely, I did appreciate that he showed an unusual sensitivity this time. and there is a teen romance that is surprisingly tender and charming. Laymon even shows some compassion for the novel's antagonist - an old woman trying to survive in the wilderness despite being saddled with a brutally violent rapist of a son.
so overall this was an atypical novel for this author. sweet-tempered in tone, more concerned with the details of a trip than creating a tight and focused narrative. I liked that a lot. it also involved the supernatural, which is unusual for Laymon. the last quarter is definitely gripping. plus it includes zombies, because why not....more
...there was a young man who bought a house. it was a nice house. next to his nice house was another house, no. 19. and in that house was an enchanti
...there was a young man who bought a house. it was a nice house. next to his nice house was another house, no. 19. and in that house was an enchanting young lady and an infirm old man, her uncle. and in the garden at no. 19 were strange things and strange deeds, rituals and dances in the moonlight, things conjured, crawling huffing things, old gods addressed and sometimes answering...
...there was an author named Edgar Jepson. he wrote many books and they were popular. but now he is forgotten, alas! such is time, always moving forward and leaving things in the past... ...there were 7 Lords of the Abyss. their names: Moloch and Nodens and Adonis and Mithras and Shiva and fair Ashtoreth and the one dearest to the hearts of the residents at no. 19... furry-legged, cloven-foot Pan. time moved forward and left these gods in the past. but they wait still, in the Abyss.
Pan, more than all the others, wants to get to know you. come play with Pan! or maybe he'll just come to you...
Jepson has a lovely way with words: charming, witty, at times even dainty. his story is poignant and pleasant to read. even better, this cautionary tale of horror is happily free of caution, or any old-fashioned moralizing. there may be ancient gods and there may be pagan rituals to call up those gods, but our hero and heroine - and indeed the author himself - are refreshingly free of any judgmental nonsense towards forbidden books and forgotten horrors and strange acts that take place in the dead of the night that let loose an unknown menace and create a pervasive sense of disturbing wrongness that begins to infect the entire neighborhood, even causing the poor nearly-deaf maidservant to become stricken with terror at the thought of going in the garden. it's all such a lark! well, until it's not.
there is actually a moral to the tale: if you are an old adventurer who has spent his life traveling throughout the world in search of all of its hidden mysteries... 'tis best not to wait until your golden years to use your secret knowledge to conjure up who knows what. especially if you aren't in complete control of your physical and mental faculties. nothing good can come of some doddering senior on the verge of a stroke messing about with such things!
well this short story was hella fun. a film crew of an Unsolved Mysteries type tv program travel to "Slovetzia" in search of werewolves. naturally enowell this short story was hella fun. a film crew of an Unsolved Mysteries type tv program travel to "Slovetzia" in search of werewolves. naturally enough, they become prey. since they are all obnoxious Hollywood types, I was avidly looking forward to their slaughter. no disappointment there! the protagonist reminded me of this repulsive Hollywood type I was forced to have dinner with one time (my family's in the business); afterwards, at his barely furnished yet clearly super expensive apartment, he regaled me with tedious tales of his various threesomes - his girlfriend sitting on his lap the entire time! even worse, he made a point of looking from my sister to his girlfriend and back again while telling his tales. the nerve! how can a kid who is barely in his mid-20s already be so rotten? but now I'm rambling. anyway, our hero Josh is just like that guy, whose name was also actually Josh. coincidence? Brett James gets Josh just right. he also gets the pacing and the humor just right. he's a funny guy and I giggled throughout the story. giggling is not too good a look for me, so I giggled in a quiet, dignified fashion. so yeah, good story. Brett James knows how to write and I'm surprised he's an unknown to me. I'd read more by him.
after looking "Slovetzia" up, I learned that it is an imaginary country in which the Fran Drescher vehicle The Beautician and the Beast is set. nice. Fran Drescher! haven't thought about her in years. that crazy voice, that big smile. I think I sorta had a crush on her once.
also, werewolves are my favorite. fuck vampires and zombies.
...something so big and yet immaterial, out of reach and yet reaching for you; two men on a canoe trip down the Danube - what wonders! what beauty! wh...something so big and yet immaterial, out of reach and yet reaching for you; two men on a canoe trip down the Danube - what wonders! what beauty! what bliss! - find there are worlds and things beyond us, terrible and awe-inspiring things, inexplicable things, things that rise from the willows, things that bore spiraled holes in sand and flesh; Blackwood an author who embraces nature, its wonders and beauty, its terrible terrors; Blackwood an author who searches for new dimensions, places beyond reach and yet reaching for us; Blackwood an author, a poet, like a Thoreau, hallucinating; two men quivering in their tent, one striving for rationality and finding hollow reasons and imperfect logic, the other understanding - but understanding what? - and with that knowledge comes its own logic: the need for a sacrifice; things that amaze, that mystify and strike fear and cause worship, things that rend your canoe, that take your possessions, things that patter around your tent and touch its surface and press invisibly upon you, things that search for the little humans that have wandered in their midst... ...more
the good: the art is lovely and I liked the oddness of a story that features art that looks like an homage to Boys' Adventures serials from the 20s anthe good: the art is lovely and I liked the oddness of a story that features art that looks like an homage to Boys' Adventures serials from the 20s and 30s being put in service of a dire Lovecraft plot. I always appreciate the tension that occurs when simple, often primary color-based palettes, intelligent use of shadow, and retro stylization are used to tell a story of darkness and terror. Blue Velvet, Parents, etc. so that was an interesting choice by Culbard. or maybe it's just his style?
some not-so-good things too. Culbard's occasional updating of Lovecraft's dialogue felt distinctly off. he plays around with the narrative itself in a minor way, but also in a way that I found unnecessary and often irritating. this adaptation spends too much time showing all of the preamble before getting to the exploration of the alien city, and the result is a story that ends up being surprisingly dull. and sadly the art itself fails when depicting that city - it looks like a futuristic place of jetpacks and rockets rather than something truly alien and therefore truly disturbing. that is a big, big fail.
this is a 2 star book but I feel the need to give it an extra star because I'm obsessed with the cover. so evocative yet so unreal. eerie. I'd like it to be painted on one of my walls. Culbard, can you do that for me?
such curiously precise sentences, so exact, so perfectly constructed. they tell you everything and nothing. it's the meaning between those words, thesuch curiously precise sentences, so exact, so perfectly constructed. they tell you everything and nothing. it's the meaning between those words, the implications of what is not being said that disturbs. those slippery places, those half-conscious spaces. admire Aickman for his perfect prose and his marvelous subtlety and his dry, dry wit. but love him for what he doesn't tell you, for taking you to a place where your mind must operate on a different level, someplace new and vague and troubling. he paints a picture of the night sky: the clouds and the treetops and the moon, all the stars in all of their strange remoteness. it is up to you to turn them into something, to make of them constellations - and other shapes.
I was surprised and a bit saddened to see two excellent reviews of this book insist that it is not horror. Dark Entries is horror at its most profound. horror doesn't simply scare; it inspires dread and a certain kind of chilliness, a creeping sort of understanding that the mind often resists. he provides a story that will read like a dream and he provides a meaning that he will only hint at; it is up to the reader to connect the two, to turn the oblique and the opaque into something that has its own logic. nightmare logic. Aickman is one of the absolute masters of the horror genre.
Dark Entries is Aickman's first solo collection. perhaps this early in his career he was more invested in creating horrors that were at least somewhat tangible and familiar. somewhat.
Ringing the Changes has a town that embraces the undead, and a couple that becomes trapped there. it has a suspenseful and eventually hair-raising narrative. but it is not about the undead; it is about the distance between two lovers, the distance that becomes apparent when contrasting the new and the old. a younger woman sees things her way, and rushes forward; she may quail in fear but she will dance with the dead. an older man sees his age, his ineffectuality; he will try to cross a gap and he will fail, impotent.
The Waiting Room has a traveler stranded in a train station, home to ghosts who were buried beneath. it is a ghost story and it is not a ghost story. it is about loneliness, a man as an island, a man alone and unconsciously yearning for a community, for support in his lonely world. he sleeps, and lives a brief dream of a happiness he has never had. he barely recognizes his own desperate need.
Bind Your Hair has a woman engaged to a man, and visiting his perfectly nice relatives in the country. a loving home that feels increasingly like a comfy trap, a soft and pillowy place where she may lose herself. it has a country village where people gather in the evenings, their clean strong limbs bared to the moon... for what purpose? it has two children, a peremptory guide and a savage biter. our heroine can barely resist them. bind your hair; bind away all that is you and become one of us.
Choose Your Weapons has a young man fall madly and inexplicably in love with an inexplicable, possibly mad young woman. it has hypnotism and a doctor who may know all. it has a crumbling house and a woman with two faces and a servant who grows younger. it has empty spaces at the heart of it, the gap between love and the reality of living, the excruciating smallness of minds that are obsessed by small things - things like money, class, a name, an appearance, poverty, wealth. can love ever be stronger than such small things when one part of the pair values the latter over the former? Choose Your Weapons has one of the most nightmarish narratives I've seen in an Aickman story, as well as one of the most startlingly, beautifully abrupt endings.
The School Friend has a writer returning to her hometown and finding her friend much changed, living in a perhaps haunted house that is notable for its drabness, its prosaic and dusty blandness. a school friend, once uniquely intelligent and idiosyncratic, turning drab, prosaic, dusty, and bland. the heroine slowly explores the house and the discomfort slowly increases. the horror seeps in from the frame until the whole picture is submerged. what's it all about? the meaning is hidden between the sentences, implicit never explicit, a teasing game for the author, a puzzle for the reader to work out. here are the clues: two independent women; sexuality and gendered roles; childbirth and parenthood; a descent into the horrible mundane and an ascent - maybe - into the terrible unknown. my favorite story in the collection....more
synopsis: ambitious band goes to a remote Yorkshire mansion to put together their first demo. scary shenanigans ensue.
not much to say about this one esynopsis: ambitious band goes to a remote Yorkshire mansion to put together their first demo. scary shenanigans ensue.
not much to say about this one except that I quite liked it. it is basically a classic haunted house tale given some intriguing flourishes (a house that can physically bring people back against their will, people dreaming about their eventual deaths) and some modern trappings (favorite bit: at one point the band uses THE POWER OF ROCK 'N' ROLL to fight the mansion's evil - and it's not even corny when it happens). Simon Clark can be hit or miss and in this one he hits. when he's on, he's on, and The Tower has excellent pacing, a wonderfully creepy and atmospheric setting, and a snappy but not superficial tone. characters are quickly and sharply etched, and some are given a surprising amount of depth - in particular the first victim's fascinating backstory and amusing perspective on the situation at hand. best of all is the fantastic character of the dog, who SPOILER of course saves the day and best of all, lives!
favorite Clark novel so far: Blood Crazy. if you like horror, you should really do yourself a solid and check it out.
to beef up this so-called review, here are some seasonal images that I found quite heartwarming:
8:30 pm Ok I didn’t go out and get drunk with my co-workers because reasons, and yet now here I am at home broodingtime again for…
DЯUNK BOOKE REVEIW!
8:30 pm Ok I didn’t go out and get drunk with my co-workers because reasons, and yet now here I am at home brooding about work and wanting a drink. What to do, what to do? Need some distraction. How bout some graphic horror and my good buddy, Maker’s Mark? Let’s do this!
8:45 pm Ritualistic sex murders, ok! Demons? Maybe so. “Incubi” must be the plural for incubus, I guess. Didn’t know they did their business in groups. Now I’m thinking of packs of fratboys. Ugh, what a terrible image, packs of fratboys calling themselves incubi, roaming around. Oh wait, I was in a frat. Ok, not all fratboys want to roam around performing ritualistic sex murders. Or maybe I was just an exception to the rule?
9:05 pm Man that was a whole lot of semen. Feels like a reason for some more whiskey.
9:30 pm Ed Lee is a terrible writer when it comes to writing about women. It’s like he’s never met one. Realistic female characterization is just not his bag. It is kinda cute that he’s trying so hard to sound like he actually knows how a woman thinks. But these don’t sound like any women I’ve met. It is pretty cool that they all like sex so much though.
9:45 pm Wow, Ed Lee also doesn’t know how to write about fine dining. Hmm, some pate and a nice hard cheese sound really good with this whiskey, I think I have some in the fridge.
10:10 pm Oh shit, pubes that are nine inches long. Sorta hard for me to wrap my mind around. That’s some bush on these incubi.
10:20 pm I have no idea why Ed Lee would use the word “poignant” to describe a man “supervising” a woman masturbating. Huh. I guess poignancy is in the eye of the beholder.
10:40 pm Uh oh, Becky Black likes to fuck. Doesn’t bode well for her…
10:55 pm Wow, Amy is smoking some grade-A cocaine out of crack pipe. Never seen that before.
11:07 pm“Like sipping rainbows” … Becky Black, get outta there! That eurotrash dude is probably one of the incubi! No one human says those kinds of things!
11:30 pm The characters are much better when reading this drunk. Wonder if Ed Lee wrote this drunk.
11:47 9m Hey ur her supervisor!! You should not have sex with her! Bad judgment!!!
12:00 am Midnight hour Need more whiskey.
12:10 am Gross. But sorta interesting too. Is this from Ed Lee’s research or he just make this up? Baalzephon!
12:20 am Time for sexy lesbianism!
12:22 am Eh I’ve seen better
12:32 am“The fresh air did not enliven her. It made her, in fact, feel keenly sullen.” I don’t like that sentences
12:50 am Aww Stewie’s sweet and he means well. And he’s bi just like me! Us bi guys really are the best. Cheers to you, Stewie!
1:00 am Hey is Ed Lee’s writing better or am I just drunk and out of it
1:15 am Maybe just need to go to bed. I dub thee 3 STARS because I dunno. But doesn’t feel right But who cares. Ok just skip to the end and see
1:20 am OH NO STEWIE NO!! ! WHAT THE I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS HOW COME BI GUYS ALWAYS THE VILLAIN. 2 STARS, BOOK, 2 STARS!!...more
this marks my second (and possibly last) foray into the surprisingly expansive world of Star Wars tie-in novels. my first was Han Solo's Revenge backthis marks my second (and possibly last) foray into the surprisingly expansive world of Star Wars tie-in novels. my first was Han Solo's Revenge back when I was 10 or so.
the plot involves the Empire prison ship Purge and its ill-fated encounter with a not-quite abandoned Empire Destroyer. things are lurking aboard this gigantic ship, both viral and on two legs. I had a good deal of fun racing around this immense zombie labyrinth with the suddenly very small cast of characters. Death Troopers employs the standard amount of characterization befitting a zombie novel: sharply drawn characters are given just enough backstory and depth to make their individual deaths somewhat meaningful or tragic.
I'm not sure what I was expecting before reading this, other than I was sort of excited because ZOMBIES IN SPACE. and not just any space, Star Wars space! it's the little things in life that excite me. the writing is competent and I don't recall groaning audibly at any point. it was increasingly tense, briskly paced, not weighed down by info dumps and the like. not a bad book by any means, and I don't want to underrate the palpable tension that this book eventually created. I turned the pages rapidly.
my biggest issue is fairly petty. I just really, really, REALLY did not appreciate the horrible pathos of a scene where a child weeps over his fallen parents, attempts to wrap their dead arms around him for comfort, and then is painfully killed by zombies. that the child is an alien (wookie) and that the story itself is a fun, shallow adventure did not make this easier. I've had issues with these sorts of scenes in genre novels before - pathos followed by brutality involving children - and as before, this scene took me right out of the book. maybe genre authors should stay away from exploring scenes of atrocity in depth when a glancing fly-by will do. I find it vaguely offensive that something like that is used merely for shock value; if a similar scene occurred in a book with genuine emotional resonance, I'd be upset but not actually offended. or maybe this is just a trigger for me? I dunno. but anyway, fuck you Joe Schreiber for putting that scene in there.
the only other problem I had is that I really, really, REALLY wanted to see some zombie storm troopers lurching around and described as such. that image was one that I was looking forward to quite a bit. not much luck there. there's just a whole bunch of zombies and they include storm troopers among their ranks. eh.
because I am the sort of fellow who has a whole folder full of Star Wars storm trooper images, I think I will attempt to satisfy my storm trooper-centric desires by posting those images. enjoy!
interesting collection with a wide variance in quality. there's enough outstanding material to make this an important addition to any horror collectiointeresting collection with a wide variance in quality. there's enough outstanding material to make this an important addition to any horror collection.
but such a horrifying cover, and not in a good way. thanks a lot, cover, for making sure I will never read this book in public.
"The Yougoslaves" by Robert Bloch: perfectly executed tale of a gentleman vampire encountering vicious ragamuffins and their repulsive, bestial Fagin. a mordantly amusing lark that doesn't stint on the horror. I know I'm in the presence of a master of the form when realizing I've been smiling with glee the entire time.
"The Last Illusion" by Clive Barker: private investigator fights demons from hell over the soul of a magician. tremendous fun. Barker put together a glorious urban fantasy tale well before urban fantasy was even a thing. a world weary noir hero, two lost women, a pale villain and other striking antagonists, even a demon sidekick of sorts. the author's fertile imagination and smart sense of humor made this one thoroughly enjoyable, from its startling opening to its hellzapoppin finish.
"The House of the Temple" by Brian Lumley: the collection's Lovecraft-inspired entry. melancholy American inherits the Temple House and travels to Britain to explore its mysteries. hits all the right notes in just the right way: atmospheric and morbid, full of mysterious letters and dictates from the past, and of course the requisite Lovecraftian monster - lying in wait to ensnare the protagonist, as it has so many others before.
"Murgunstrumm" by Hugh Cave: feverishly paced novella about a group of fearful vampire killers taking on a grotesque, ghoulish innkeeper - the titular Murgunstrumm - and his vampire pals. Cave wrote this in the 30s and it has all the hysterics, shouting, and blazing-eyed righteousness of horror films from that period. plus it opens with a bold escape from a madhouse. great stuff!
"The Late Shift" by Dennis Etchison: a strikingly nihilistic story about a zombie work force. Etchison makes sure that the reader is aware that all trajectories move downward. the prosaic uses to which the undead are put make the horror almost infuriating in its dreadful banality.
"Firstborn" by David Campton: a wonderfully weird tale of a botanist, two poor relations, and various experiments with both plant and human. never the two shall meet! or shall they? what happened in the past shall inform, queasily, what will be happening presently. from the mad scientist to the histrionics, Firstborn's retro flair is a lot of fun.
"Amber Print" by Basil Copper: the story of a haunted print of the classic film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". Copper is a master at writing strange stories in a distinctly old-fashioned style and this story follows suit. there's something delightful to me on a personal level about a tale featuring two friends sipping wine while discussing film classics from a collector's perspective... even more delightful is Copper's skill at creating a discomfiting, hallucinatory experience for both his characters and his readers.
"Crystal" by Charles L. Grant: an American abroad in London finds trouble after purchasing a strange painting. enjoyably perplexing tale of a death magnet and women who are both victims and villains. I enjoyed the inexorable move from the prosaic to the horrible and Grant excels at making his tale feel real. that said, the central character's final decision doesn't ring particularly true based on his development throughout the story.
"The Horse Lord" by Lisa Tuttle: family moves to an upstate property governed by a hostile force. this was a really original take on the old children-being-possessed standard. a little bit of fascinating history, a little bit of kitchen sink reality, a little bit of gray atmosphere. the image of children dancing like horses was perfectly eerie; even better is the shocking ending.
"Bunny Didn't Tell Us" by David J. Schow: not only is a limo buried in that cemetery, there's something buried in that limo too. eh. was sort of funny but basically one-note.
"Out of Copyright" by Ramsey Campbell: spooky nonsense by one of my favorite horror authors. Campbell is capable of much better. that said, the focus on the sinister shapes that dust can take - floating in the air, settling on furniture, settling on you - felt pretty original.
"Pig's Dinner" by Graham Masterton: effectively disgusting blast of gore. but I'm sorry but my power to suspend disbelief doesn't extend to accepting that a man who has just had his entire crotch ripped out can somehow still operate heavy machinery.
"The Jumpity-Jim" by R. Chetwynd Hayes: an historical pastiche concerning the tribulations of a young maid new to the sorcerous ways of certain manor folk. florid, superficially characterized, unconvincing. the unearned darkness of its gotcha ending also aggravated me. but the repulsive Jumpity-Jim itself is a fine creation, and worthy of a better vehicle.
"Junk" by Stephen Laws: the intro calls this "techno-terror", which... no. its goal of creating a horrorshow set within an auto junkyard was certainly accomplished; how it reached that goal was unfortunately quite predictable. the story reaches its heights in the description of the eerie being at the heart of it all.
"The Satyr's Head" by David Riley: a muddled, overlong mess describing the unappealing side effects of owning an unappealing little curio. it's clear that Riley is attempting to harness some of Lovecraft's xenophobia and fear of hidden dark desires, via regular bits of racism dropped randomly throughout the story and the protagonist's increasing self-loathing over his incipient homosexuality. but sadly the confused - rather than ambiguous - storytelling only makes his tale come across as racist and homophobic, rather than as a commentary on such things.
"Buckets" by F. Paul Wilson: the worst of the bunch. you know those right-wing Christian "haunted houses" that function as gory morality lessons concerning drug use, premarital sex, homosexuality and the like? this story is one of those haunted houses: an OB-GYN doctor gets his bloody due at the hands of ghost children he's aborted. verdict: an eye-rollingly moralistic and offensive piece of garbage that pretty much guarantees I will never read anything by this ridiculous author again.
there are two absolutely perfect tales in this collection. they couldn't be more different from each other.
"The Black Drama" by Manly Wade Wellman: Lord Byron... immortal warlock! sorta. this late 1930s novella is pure dazzling fun. a formerly down-on-his-luck actor's memoir tells the story of a sinister and charismatic fellow who puts together a lost play purportedly written by that infamous libertine/ revolutionary/ mad genius, Lord Byron. The Black Drama has atmosphere to die for (a creepy lakeside theater), fun heroes, heaps of references to cinema and theater and Byron, and a beguiling villain. Wellman's prose is so smooth and engaging; his plot is the very example of page-turning. this story made me immediately add its author to my Must Read More list.
"The River of Night's Dreaming" by Karl Edward Wagner: a woman escaping prison soon finds herself within another. it's hard to know what to say about this one except that it has everything I want from my horror. everything! luscious prose, brilliant dialogue, a dreamy narrative, layers upon layers of ambiguity, the past coming back to haunt and slowly infiltrate the present, a heavy-breathing erotic charge (of the lesbian variety), mind-bending twists and turns, a sublimely disturbing end. plus references to The King in Yellow. everything!...more