I picked up House of Mystery because it was recommended to people who enjoyed Fables, and I can see the appeal. The concept is one of almost existenti...moreI picked up House of Mystery because it was recommended to people who enjoyed Fables, and I can see the appeal. The concept is one of almost existential horror. Five people end up in a strange house, and they cannot leave its grounds. Essentially, they are trapped in a nightmare they can't wake up from. I have had those dreams where I can never get where I'm supposed to go, no matter how many diversions in direction I make. Finally I wake up out of sheer frustration and the futility of the effort. I liken the feeling of this to how the characters must have felt (or still do).
Inside the house is a bar where all sorts of beings (many not remotely human) can enter and drink and eat, and they can leave. They pay for their drinks by telling a story of their choice. The drama of this piece is processing the stories of the visitors, and learning why the five characters ended up in the house.
The newbie is Fig, and she has a very strange connection to the house. She designed it, in fact. A house of her dreams that she was told by her professor didn't make sense. Yet here it is. Despite the fact, she wants out of the house. She'll learn that she's not alone, but the other four have accepted the fact that they won't be leaving the house anytime soon.
The House of Mystery is a cleverly constructed creation in which this strange house and its trapped denizens set the framework for the explication of other stories, told by the visitors to the bar within the house. The stories are varied in tone. One in particular was very gruesome, bringing back memories of dealing with such a situation in real-life veterinary practice. Another takes a very different look at fairy tale princesses and their search for their true love prince--a jaundiced one at that. One is about a mafia assassin who gets the best of his would-be murderers. It's hard to pin these into one genre except by calling the sum total speculative fiction. The artwork conveys much in each story, and about the house and the five people who are trapped within it. This is one of those graphic novels where I trained my eye to examine everything in the picture, so I didn't miss anything important to the story. I liked that different drawing styles and inking/coloration, and lettering techniques are used in each story to convey a narrator change and also the distinct tone of each story.
It's hard to say exactly how I feel about this overall. 'Like' isn't the right word. Let's say I appreciate it for what it is, thus the four star rating. While not all the stories were to my personal taste, I was left with an overall positive feeling towards this graphic novel, and my interest has been perked in continuing this series.(less)
The Unwritten strikes me as being somehow 'impressive'. It's hard to clarify what I mean, but the idea of it and the execution was very well done. It...moreThe Unwritten strikes me as being somehow 'impressive'. It's hard to clarify what I mean, but the idea of it and the execution was very well done. It delves into the very fruitful literary territory of metafiction, where reality and fiction intersect. I find I truly enjoy metafiction, probably because of being such a lifelong bookworm and having my head stuck in a book for most of that life (since I was four).
In the case of Tommy Taylor, it's a painful intersection. His father is a famous novelist of children's books (in the vein of Harry Potter) who suddenly disappeared. Tommy is left depending on the uncertain income from coasting on his identity as Tommy Taylor, the eponymous character of the books his father wrote. When a lady shows up at a comic book convention and challenges his identity, the stuff hits the fan, and the adoring fans of the books become hateful, vengeance-seeking stalkers. Tommy's life implodes. But things only get worse, when he develops enemies that hail from the so-called mythical landscape of the books.
One of the things I liked the best about this graphic novel was the illustrations. It is clean and elegant. The lettering is also well done and distinctive. My eyes wanted to stay on the page and observe every detail, whereas with some graphic novels, there is too much to look at (so I pick and choose), and some aspects of the frames seem to fade into the woodwork because they are deemed less important. This book is a great midpoint where neither clarity or detail is compromised.
I also liked the prose and the storytelling. I felt sorry for Tommy. He really got a rough deal being who he was, and in effect powerless to change his life. I hope that he does gain some agency and authority in his life situation.
I do have to say I didn't care much for some aspects of one of the sections. The idea of tackling horror conventions since they were at the house at Lake Geneva in Switzerland, where Mary Shelley (and apparently John Milton earlier) wrote the famous masterpiece they are known for, was a good one. I just didn't care for the gory turn of the story. I think it pricks a sore spot I have about the horror genre in general--the sacrifice of story and genuine narrative content for splatter and gore. I understood the purpose of this, but it just seemed gratuitous (although I admit it was still tastefully done).
The last section was rather odd initially. I didn't get why Rudyard Kipling was the narrator, until well into the story, and then the lightbulb came on. It ties in very well with this developing and expansive story and endows it with increased sense of threat and risk.
I still have a lot of questions, and I want to keep reading this series because it has my interest and attention. I hope that Tommy will come to understand his troublesome situation and discover the hero within.
I'd recommend this novel to lovers of books and literature in its various forms. (less)
George Mann and thirteen other writers provide new mystery-solving fodder for the famous duo of Holmes and Watson. I say well done over all. A couple...moreGeorge Mann and thirteen other writers provide new mystery-solving fodder for the famous duo of Holmes and Watson. I say well done over all. A couple of the stories were a bit dry (and I fell asleep reading those), but I enjoyed most of the stories. I liked how unique each one read, yet Holmes and Watson are true to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creations. You wouldn't think an author could combine them with Martian aliens and Lovecraftian monsters, but you'd be wrong.
I'd recommend this overall to Sherlock Holmes/Watson fans.
A thoughtful and eloquent collection of short stories of varied themes. Most fit into the speculative fiction genres, but some are mainstream fiction....moreA thoughtful and eloquent collection of short stories of varied themes. Most fit into the speculative fiction genres, but some are mainstream fiction. I think Richard Freeland is very comfortable with and shows a love for the written word.
Fungus of the Heart is a short story collection that is rather aptly named. The stories do probe into the mysteries of the human heart, although their...moreFungus of the Heart is a short story collection that is rather aptly named. The stories do probe into the mysteries of the human heart, although their subjects are not necessarily human. However, they show emotions that humans would be intensely familiar with. The fungus part of the title represents the weird, strange, perhaps even unpalatable edge hinted at in many of these stories. I like that Mr. Shipp was able to capture that dichotomy between being a monster--so alien on close examination--and inside, so identifiable, nearly ubiquitous, like fungus is in our world.
Not exactly stream of consciousness storytelling, but quite free-flowing and non-linear story structure, often leaving me scratching my head mentally, trying to figure out exactly was going on in the stories. They begin and end at seemingly random moments, but there is a feeling of closure in most, at least for the moment. Not a full resolution, but enough conveyed to give the reader the feeling that whatever Mr. Shipp wanted told about that particular story ends up on the written page. Beauty might not be what Mr. Shipp was going for, but I did see beauty in these offerings. The open, honest emotions flowing through them, and the highly visual and sensory imagery appealed to me, although he does go to some dark places here. These offerings ponder the highs and lows of life: love, loss, war, rage, alienation, fear, identity, all those things, and more.
The imagination exhibited here was impressive. I would love to sit down with Jeremy Shipp and ask him what his source of inspiration is. How he is able to fearlessly put down on paper what must wander through his mind, and do it in such a way as to avoid pretentiousness. There was never that sort of feeling as I read. Merely honesty, a sharing of himself with the reader. That’s pretty brave and fearless, because people aren’t kind to each other when a person opens himself up to others for examination. I definitely admire him for doing this here.
Although I didn’t always ‘get’ the stories, I got them on an emotional level, and that’s what spoke to me as I read Fungus of the Heart. Mr. Shipp has a way with short stories that will lead me back to him, probably in the near future. I think fans of Caitlin R. Kiernan would like this collection.
When I picked up an urban fantasy novel by this author called Nightlife, I had no idea then how big a fan I would become of her writing. Since then, s...moreWhen I picked up an urban fantasy novel by this author called Nightlife, I had no idea then how big a fan I would become of her writing. Since then, she’s been an autobuy for me, because of my love for Cal and Nik Leandros, and how Ms. Thurman managed to show the depths and the power of the relationship between siblings. With Chimera, she does it yet again. One might be encouraged to dismiss this book about a man’s quest to find his brother who was stolen from his family ten years ago a rehash, but it truly is not. Because there are so many stories of siblings to be told. No two brothers have the same relationship, and in this story, she has conveyed a completely different relationship between Stefan and Lukas/Michael-- with depths that are equally fathomless, but one that is utterly distinct from the brotherhood between Cal and Nik.
Stefan Korsak is a young man who has lived for one thing for the past ten years, to find his younger brother, and bring him home. He has literally given what was left of his soul to this quest. He has even entered the family business. Stefan’s father is a big Russian Mafiya boss, and now Stefan works for one of his dad’s ‘friends’ as a byk, a bodyguard. He doesn’t do the enforcer dirty work, much, other than having to beat people up occasionally. But he’s a lethal guy all the same. He has acquired lots of skills that will help him in his quest to find his brother. When his source for information on his brother, Saul, finds out that there was a boy in a field trip at the mall matching Stefan’s brother’s description, Stefan gets a ray of hope for the first time in ten years. With Saul’s help, he breaks his brother out of the strangely prison-like medical facility that his brother has been living. But that’s only the beginning. He has to keep himself and his brother safe from a very scary man who runs the facility, the mob faction that are on the hunt for Stefan, and convince Michael that he is his long-lost sibling.
I can easily visualize this as a movie. It has that feel, with clear images and a story that draws the eye and the focus of the reader. Stefan is damaged, fascinating; a character who inspired a lot of loyalty and devotion in this reader. In his mind, he doesn’t think much of himself. He feels that his potential for a good life is over, since he failed to protect his brother so many years ago, and has sold his soul in the family business. But he’d do just about anything to give his brother a second chance. This book reminded me very strongly of the TV show Supernatural, with the relationship between Dean and Sam. Dean is much like Stefan. He has little self-worth, and all his love is for his brother. He was raised from a very young kid to always watch out for his brother, and if he does nothing else in life, he will complete this mission. Other than that, they aren’t that much alike. But I saw that cord of recognition in Stefan, and the author builds a very different man from this foundation.
What I liked about this story was being inside Stefan’s head, and seeing what he views himself as, but knowing that he is much more than that. I totally fell for him. I loved seeing how having his brother back healed the broken parts of his soul, and gave him hope, a four letter word that was alien of his vocabulary for a long time. I liked seeing how much of a survivor he was. He’s a street-smart, clear-thinking young man, who has his own moral compass. Not purely black and white, but more focused on the greater good, which is taking care of his brother. If he has to steal a car to do that, no problem. He doesn’t want to be a killer, but if it takes that, he’ll do it. I wanted Stefan to be happy, and I hope that he will be. I hope that he will have more to his life, so much more, than he turned his back on. He certainly deserves it.
Michael’s character was also great. He was raised in this facility for one purpose, to kill. Every lesson learned focused on making him the optimal assassin, and nothing more. However, Michael found out the hard way that he didn’t have the heart for it. His days were numbered as the ‘program failures’ tended to disappear in the middle of the night. Fortunately, a man claiming to his brother (a fact he doesn’t believe) takes him away. Given the choice of going with this man or staying in the facility, it’s a no brainer. Now, Michael has to learn to be a normal human being, which is somet hing he has little experience with. Although Michael has a lethal ability, an incredibly intelligent brain, and enhanced healing abilities, he’s still a seventeen-year-old kid. He acquires a serious junkfood habit that Stefan indulges although worries enough about him to buy vitamins. He is curious about sex and girls, and he purchases a ferret. And along the way, he becomes attached to this guy who is determined to convince him that he is Michael’s long-lost sibling. The love he develops for his ‘brother’ scares him, because he could one day lose Stefan, and he has nothing in his short life that belonged to him for keeps, if at all.
I liked the view of the United States through a windshield and roadside motels. The mundane which is very fascinating when one takes the time to look at it. If you have ever taken a road trip across America (or any small part, you know what I mean). Every state and even parts of the same state has a distinct feel, but the overall flavor is “This is America.” This motif reminded me of Supernatural, as the Winchester brothers spend their lives on the road, going from hunt to hunt. In this case, Stefan and Michael are running for their lives.
Another refreshing aspect to this story was the inclusion of Stefan and Michael’s Russian heritage. Although Stefan’s Russian is the colloquial, everyday, user-friendly version, he retains a very strong sense of the culture. His dialogue is realistically seasoned with Russian terms (which is great since I am learning Russian right now), and his values reflect those of a second-generation Russian-American, with a background in the Russian mafiya thrown in for extra flavor. Miss Thurman showed the daily life of a man born into this crime life very authentically. Stefan had a father who was cold enough to order men killed at the dinner table, and his job as a Mafiya boss was the elephant in the room for Stefan growing up. All his uncles were associates in the family business. Clearly, it was difficult for him to divorce himself from that life and to yearn for something better. But Stefan would have willingly left it behind, if he could have found his brother without those resources. Because his true family is his brother, especially with Daddy Dearest gone underground to elude the Feds on his case.
This is a deeply personal story. It is one of those speculative fiction stories that throws you a loop, because it’s really about people, and the relationships we have with those we are related to by blood, and obligation. There is enough of the sci-fi element to earn its place in that genre, but moreso it’s about humanity and relationships, one in particular. I became deeply involved with this novel, and I found that I came to regard Stefan and Michael as real people. I really appreciated that about this story, and the lessons it contained. Love doesn’t give up, ever. Love sacrifices. And love recognizes what is lost. What is family? It’s not always what we believe it is. It’s a lot more than we can imagine. (less)