I really enjoyed this book. It's wildly imaginative and has a great tone - the book combines the unrestrained fantastic elements of a childrens book wI really enjoyed this book. It's wildly imaginative and has a great tone - the book combines the unrestrained fantastic elements of a childrens book with a very adult approach, so that a brothel full of freaks or a man with a head injury being kept drugged on amanita-laced urine by a pedaristic confidence trickster is presented no less whimsically than a group of educated apes negotiating business contracts with a man dressed as Uncle Sam through the intercessions of a clairvoyant pig (which is not to suggest that the book doesn't take many dark turns). It's also written in a wonderfully rococo style that practically pulses with energy. And the characters are all very engaging, drawn as big bold archetypes for the better part again in a style reminiscent of a children's book.
I suppose that's part of the point, really. The main thrust of the novel is the way Fevvers is perceived and how she exploits it (tellingly, she calls herself a "new woman" but practices the oldest profession, and the book is a sort of examination if how these facets of her personality are reconciled) but it"s also a strange reimagining of a classic adventure tale if running away with the circus, in which all the magic and marvels are present but ultimately rendered banal by the nature of the enterprise that is the Circus. Above all, though, it's marvellously entertaining.
One thing I found myself wondering as I read this is what Magical Realism actually is, and whether it's distinct from Fantasy as a genre. I'd say it's a subgenre, as it is distinct, but no more than High Fantasy is distinct from Dark Urban Fantasy. It seems to consist of presenting a world like our own in which magic or the miraculous is an accepted part of life, but not a dominant one - in which folk tales occasionally turnout to be true, stepping on a crack will sometimes break your mother's back, magical thinking works from time to time, the forgetting if a massacre can literally change reality, and tiger's can be taught to waltz. Kept to those confines, it makes sense. It therefore also makes sense to note that Nights at the Circus would be a magical realist work, but The Master and Margarita (which is a far more conventional "intrusion into our reality by otherworldly forces" story, and also has shapeshifting cats and a witches sabbath) is Literary Urban Fantasy....more
The art and writing are both great, but the story itself is a big step down from the other books. I kind of wish more time had been spent exploring thThe art and writing are both great, but the story itself is a big step down from the other books. I kind of wish more time had been spent exploring the worlds Dream visits and the people he meets and discovering what makes them tick....more
I think the oddness of this book may be a result of the success of the first two. By the end of the nineties, you couldn't move for dark, quirky thrilI think the oddness of this book may be a result of the success of the first two. By the end of the nineties, you couldn't move for dark, quirky thrillers about emotionally damaged FBI agents or nigh-incredibly ghoulish "themed" killers. So I suppose maybe Harris thought "This book is going to sell eben if it sucks. I might as well take some chances, do something different and memorable, and hopefully annoy as many people as possible in the process".
This book is deeply, deeply weird. It doesn't work as a thriller. It barely holds together as a conventional narrative. The writing quality ranges from moments of oddly poetic brilliance to ham-fisted crap delivered with the subtlety of a farrier's hammer. But it's a page turner. And something about it gets under the skin. If the purpose of a horror novel is to on the one hand indulge the reader's voyeuristic sadism while on the other hand leaving them deeply troubled about themselves. then Hannibal succeeds admirably.
I also like that Lecter refers constantly to a cookbook by Alexandre Dumas. Harris himself clearly followed Dumas' recipe very closely when composing this book....more
I really liked the idea of the Collectors Convention, although I feel like it sort of devolved into a confused commentary on comic book fans at some pI really liked the idea of the Collectors Convention, although I feel like it sort of devolved into a confused commentary on comic book fans at some point.
Anyway, the art is great. the balance between impressionistic weirdness and actually being able to tell what's going on was managed extremely well. I look forward to the next volume (and the preceding one, which my local library branch didn't have).
My only real complaint is that I wish Morpheus didn't look quite so much like a dorky amalgamation of David Bowie and Robert Smith....more
A good premise and some interesting things happen in it, but it never really went anywhere.
I also thought it was odd that the parents' reactions wereA good premise and some interesting things happen in it, but it never really went anywhere.
I also thought it was odd that the parents' reactions were never shown. I find it hard to believe that every single kid who caught the bug was turned-out of home/didn't think their parents would care for them and ran. Maybe they weren't all rejected, and the author just didn't want to show those parts? And how come there's never any sort of medical or police reaction? I guess the author was leaning hard on the metaphor angle? I'm not sure.I'm not saying it needed to be a full-blown science-fiction story, I just think a premise this good could have benefited from having the fall-out be more fully explored, and that as it stands the book is kind of pointless and might have worked better as a realistic story about teenage runaways....more
The first two and a half books were a brilliant build-up to what turned-out to be a confused and disappointing conclusion. It was kind of interesting,The first two and a half books were a brilliant build-up to what turned-out to be a confused and disappointing conclusion. It was kind of interesting, but not very entertaining. It's also kind of annoying that a book about removing God would rely so much on the use of a Deus Ex Machina. Again. And again. And again.
Where the hell is the tension in a book where every problem is resolved by a magical coincidence. A coincidence dependent on mysterious forces at work that are guiding the inhabitants of the universe towards a better tomorrow. Because obviously when you set-out to dispel the delusional mysticism of the Catholic faith, you should immediately replace it with a bunch of fashionable pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo about shadows and divine plans and the transcendent beauty of existence. Still it was a good book. It just could have done with a more satisfying conclusion. Everything involving Metatron (and the angles in general) was absurd. It was like a bad Davies-era episode of Doctor Who....more
This is a really good book. The ideas are interesting and well-considered, and there are enough compelling stories in here to fuel several dozen qualiThis is a really good book. The ideas are interesting and well-considered, and there are enough compelling stories in here to fuel several dozen quality films. Even the ending, which seemed weak at first, makes sense in the context of trying to express a sort of confused, lingering, "Is it really over? And if so, where the hell do we go from here?" feeling. The only problem with it is that the narrative voices of the different characters are too similar. Be it an Australian astronaut or a Chinese doctor, they're all basically the same person. This doesn't detract from it, though....more
All the stories in this collection are entertaining, some are really quite interesting, and a few are genuinely great. However, given that this was aAll the stories in this collection are entertaining, some are really quite interesting, and a few are genuinely great. However, given that this was a selection of stories from what was originally a much longer text, I kind of wish that the translator/editor had picked slightly fewer stories about fox spirits and ghosts turning into hot chicks and boning scholars. I always thought that was a cool idea for a story, but honestly after reading this book I could happily go five years without encountering another supernatural love story....more
The horror tales in this collection are a bit uneven. My favourite stories were probably "The Black Stone" and "Pigeons from Hell". The first is a verThe horror tales in this collection are a bit uneven. My favourite stories were probably "The Black Stone" and "Pigeons from Hell". The first is a very simple tale the success of which rests on a particularly ghoulish vision of an ancient sacrificial rite. The second is a wonderfully lurid tale of voodoo-enabled revenge.
I was also particularly fond of the Steve Harrison detective stories. Not so fond of "Children of the Night" and "People of the Dark", both of which were basically the same story (man hits his head and relieves a past life as a slayer of abhumans). And I'm still not sure how I feel about "Skull-Face", which was so over-the-top I couldn't help but enjoy it, but which was marred by amateur writing and some very silly characterisations.
Overall I liked this book, though. As someone who only really knows Howard from his Conan stories (which I love), it was curiously satisfying to wade through the demented, blood-soaked lunacy of some of his other, lesser-known works....more
A very engaging collection of narratives, but philosophically it's just another vague mess. I wish it had all been science fiction, since those were tA very engaging collection of narratives, but philosophically it's just another vague mess. I wish it had all been science fiction, since those were the most engaging parts. "An Orison of Sonmi-451" and "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After" were two extremely good science fiction stories that between them built-up a very intriguing picture of a plausible future history. I never really wound-up caring about the plight of Frobisher at all, the extremely enjoyable first half of the Pacific Journal was let down by a weak conclusion which damaged the book as a whole, and I'm still not really sure what the Luisa Rey mystery (as much as I enjoyed it) had to do with anything, beyond setting-up the fact that Seaboard's reactors were being used in the world of Nea So Copros. The reincarnation angle was extremely weak, especially considering the fact that several of the characters appear to have been fictional.
I'm not sure why I'm complaining, though. As sheer escapist literature this is great stuff, and cutting the stories in half is a nice trick for making you want to find-out what happens next....more
Finished the Opium Confessions. The information is interesting, but mostly of that vague, generalist sort that could only have been considered usefulFinished the Opium Confessions. The information is interesting, but mostly of that vague, generalist sort that could only have been considered useful in the early 19th century. The writing, however, is superb - an over-sexed mezzanine of verbiage - with any number of scenes and incidents that stick with you long after you've closed the book. The dreams in particular, though quite short, are striking in the power of their imagery. The book could have done with a few more freak-outs, to be honest. True of most things, I suppose.
Have read a bit of Suspiria de Profundis. De Quincey seems to have gotten a hold on some of his wilder linguistic impulses, directing them with a bit more power and foresight. I'm pretty excited to find-out just how much of this stuff Dario Argento took to heart....more
There's a great deal to admire in this book. Across three hundred pages and four billion years, Stapledon serves-up everything from doomed utopias andThere's a great deal to admire in this book. Across three hundred pages and four billion years, Stapledon serves-up everything from doomed utopias and world-spanning eugenics programmes, to autocratic super-brains, Martian invasions, terraforming, time-travelling telepaths, super-minds, degraded sub-men, conscious stars and more philosophy than you can shake a stick at. The central question of the book seems to be how humanity can remain sane, and achieve something close to perfection, in an indifferent universe where death lurks around every corner. Is perfection possible to begin with? If not, is there a philosophy we can adopt which will somehow render the seemingly inescapable cycle of rise and fall, doomed to end with the death of the stars and seemingly devoid of redemptive qualities, palatable to all concerned?
The conclusion seems to be that there comes a time when you have to face facts - that, while the universe is a thing of beauty, it's a terrible beauty, and no matter how far we "progress", we'll never be much more than a bunch of precocious infants groping in the dark. Three superior races arise in course of this book, and each is undone by some folly or other - usually a natural accident on a cosmic scale, handled poorly by people not quite mature enough to deal with the ming-boggling ramifications of the situation, and a little too wedded to the old ways (no matter how admirable those ways might seem) to think outside the box.
There are some silly bits, and some of the speculation in the first few chapters might seem a bit quaint, but all in all this is a damned good book.