Suppose Christopher Moore and Hunter S. Thompson had a love child. Suppose also that Clive Barker and Dave Pilkey (of Capt. Underpants fame) also had a love child. Suppose that those two love children themselves had a love child and that love grandchild then had a love child with Neil Gaiman. What would you have? I'm not sure, but I think it might write something like this book.
All of that is to say that this is classic, just-out-of-the-corner-of-your-eye horror novel that doesn't take itself too seriously and works in a lot of penis jokes. There! That's the category I'll use.
David Wong is the author AND protagonist in his wayward twenties who, along with friend John, gets pulled into a gory, interdimensional fight against an all-knowing demigod.
That this is a non-traditional novel is an understatement. The narrative doesn't follow a classic arc (owing, perhaps, to its internet-based heritage) and, in my opinion, doesn't hold together as well as it might throughout. It's more like a series of vignettes that should add up to something, but don't. Still, I found myself wanting to read on, if only because the author's imagination is so awesome....more
I received an unedited advance reading copy of this book via the Goodreads giveaways. It had all manner of endorsements on its covers and I suppose thI received an unedited advance reading copy of this book via the Goodreads giveaways. It had all manner of endorsements on its covers and I suppose they're probably right. But my primary reaction to this excellent book was "This is the Western China Mieville might have written had he not written Iron Council." It compares favorably to Mieville's work.
This is a wonderful story full of dark strangeness. In a metaphorical America, there is the settled "East" and the still un-formed "West". It's said that if you walk far enough west, things get wilder and eventually you come to the place where creation is not yet made - a place of land and sea and fog and roiling storms and strange lights. It reminds me of San Francisco.
Strange powers have emerged in the west. The industrial masses of the Line powered by their demonic Engines; the superhuman Agents of the Gun, hosts to their own demonic powers; and the ancient First Folk, who, it is said, cannot be killed.
Into this strange brew, we have three protagonists -- Liv, a psychiatrist of the East who ventures west at the request of a mysterious hospital for the mad; Creedmoor, an aging Agent of the Gun who has outlived most of his contemporaries and chafes at his otherworldly leash; and Lowry, loyal leader of the Line's minions and implacable foe of Creedmoor and the Gun.
All three are after the General -- a now-mad hero of the fallen Red Republic who is reputed to have, stored in his mad brain, the secret of a First Folk weapon so powerful that it would remove Line and Gun from the world forever and bring peace. Of course, everybody's after him and Liv gets caught up in the drama.
This is a long-ish book, and I gobbled it up in about five days because I couldn't put it down. While I was somewhat disappointed by the ambiguous ending (or, perhaps, sequel set up), I will be reading more of Felix Gilman's works....more
I'll always read China Miéville, but this was not one of his best efforts. The "hidden London" or "city within a city" is one of his more common themeI'll always read China Miéville, but this was not one of his best efforts. The "hidden London" or "city within a city" is one of his more common themes. Kraken one deals with the secret religions that breed in London's shadows, each with its own gods and special magics. When a preserved giant squid mysteriously vanishes from a London museum (container, preservative, and all), it stirs up the London cults like a hornet's nest. Who has the squid? What secrets will it yield? What power will it grant? It turns out the squid is one of the more powerful gods, even dead.
I felt this book went on too long. Its story line was convoluted and unnecessarily complex. The dialog was particularly British in this story as well, with aphorisms I occasionally found hard to follow. I finished it because I wanted to see what happened, but it was a bit more painful than Mieville normally is for me. Still, I look forward to the next book of his with relish....more
**spoiler alert** One of the best books I've read all year and a fascinating concept. Mieville has conceived of two "eastern european-ish" city-states**spoiler alert** One of the best books I've read all year and a fascinating concept. Mieville has conceived of two "eastern european-ish" city-states (Beszel and Ul Qoma) that are physically co-located, but logically and legally separated. Some streets belong entirely to one city while others share the space, with adjacent addresses in completely different countries. Residents of one city scrupulously try to "unsee" the other city's members. Flagrant failure to do so results in "breach", enforced by an all-seeing but never-seen police force.
Amidst this amazingly-effective plot device is Inspector Borlu - a Besz detective investigating the murder of a girl whose body was dumped in a poor section of Beszel, but who (as it turns out) was murdered in Ul Qoma. When the cross-jurisdictional authorities astonishingly refuse to handle the case, Inspector Borlu knows he's involved in something far more serious that a simple murder and he'll have to violate nearly every one of his beliefs to solve the problem.
Mieville is the best right now at gritty urban-lit. You can smell the alleyways and feel the scraps of paper flutter by in the cold morning wind as you read this book. But this book is more than just a well-told and readable story; it's a brilliant allegory about the unseen white spaces in our own perceptions. It's about how we struggle without the pre-conceived boxed we all use to simplify our daily existence and about how these preconceptions can be exploited. The citizens of Beszel and Ul Qoma have trained themselves since birth to see only what should be seen. Mieville's message here is that we all do the same thing -- only they're more honest about it....more
I heard a recent interview with China Mieville that put this book into perspective for me. In this interview, he talked about writing in a different gI heard a recent interview with China Mieville that put this book into perspective for me. In this interview, he talked about writing in a different genre for each book and I began to see the pattern. The Scar is a romance (of sorts); The Iron Council is a western; Perdido Street Station is horror.
Un Lun Dun falls into that category of young adult fantasy stories like Inkheart and the recent Abarat series by Clive Barker -- slightly creepy alternative worlds in which the child becomes the hero and all the adults are clueless.
While I enjoyed this book, I didn't enjoy it as much as I did his others. I liked the fact that he set up a classic story ("the chosen comes to save the shadow city") and then veers off road almost immediately. As always, his settings are richly drawn, cloaked in shadow, and slightly scuffed. And his characters are utterly believable.
What I didn't like about this book as much (though I should have), is that the entire thing was a series of puns -- Black Windows infesting the creepy Webminster Cathedral; the UnGun that fires nothing; Smoglodytes....more
Normally, I have the greatest respect for Charles de Lint. There's a class of dark fantasy that deals with things just unseen -- the flash of movementNormally, I have the greatest respect for Charles de Lint. There's a class of dark fantasy that deals with things just unseen -- the flash of movement at the end of the dark, empty hallway, the sound of your name being whispered up close when no one's around, the door in the alley you never noticed before. This whole class of story has a number of masters -- China Mieville is its warlord; Neil Gaiman is its prophet; and Charles de Lint is its maestro.
That said, this book wasn't that good. Too many female characters exploring their feelings and being supportive and crying about past wrongs. And the male characters all sat around and did the same thing. This story would have been better if it weren't told from so many points of view -- there's way too much understanding going on here. All I wanted was a good read.
I picked this up because I'd read (and really enjoyed) other de Lint books and because it was a prequel to Widdershins which is sitting in my to-read pile gathering dust. So, I'm going to approach the next book carefully and drop it if it begins to feel like this one....more
China Mieville's first novel is typical of the dark, urban fantasy that he's become known for. But this one had a special intensity that amazed me.
I'China Mieville's first novel is typical of the dark, urban fantasy that he's become known for. But this one had a special intensity that amazed me.
I've always thought that villains are far more interesting than heroes. In King Rat, the villain was heinous and irredeemably evil in a peculiarly personal way. The story builds up slowly, teasing you with one face of evil and then another. And when the full scope of the drama is finally unveiled, you're involved with the story in a very personal way.
The story was also enriched by Mieville's blurring of the line between man and beast in ways that are not entirely comfortable to the reader. He drags us down into the animal world so vividly that you want to take a shower when you're done.
For all that, it was an intense story, one that reads very quickly. I raced through this book in just a few days, blind to my surroundings each time I opened the book. And when the bad guy finally gets what's coming to him, I sat there on the plane, reading the words as fast as I could, seeing the scene in my mind, curling my hand into a tight fist, and whispering "Yes!"....more
I'll begin by pointing out that this was not an easy book to read. Multiple protagonists, long flashback scenes, and multiple story lines that came toI'll begin by pointing out that this was not an easy book to read. Multiple protagonists, long flashback scenes, and multiple story lines that came together in the end. While it was challenging to read, it furthered my appreciation of Mieville's skill as a writer. This was also an awfully hard story to pull off.
On the surface, this is a story about freedom. Readers familiar with Mieville's world (Iron Council, The Scar) will know that autocracy, repression, brutality, and economic disparity are strong themes of his. In Iron Council, a multi-ethnic group of workers manages to free themselves from the establishment and escape to their own lives. They become a symbol for the oppressed in New Crobuzon as well as a target for the authorities. The story is about how they came to be and what happens in New Crobuzon when they finally return amid war and civic unrest.
But this is also a story about groups and identity. It's a story about how any group has its oppressors and oppressed. It's a story about making hard personal choices and understanding who you really are....more
This is a rich tale, full of darkly persistent themes. Author John Connolly has taken a number of traditional children's tales, morphed them, and wovThis is a rich tale, full of darkly persistent themes. Author John Connolly has taken a number of traditional children's tales, morphed them, and woven them into a story about a English boy during WWII who loses his mother to disease, loses his father to a second wife, and retreats into his own world of books, which gradually become dangerously real.
There are several interesting things about this book, above and beyond it being a pretty good story. Connolly draws on many ancient stories to create this novel -- it feels a bit like Joseph Campbell's Heroes series in that the themes from fairy tales are consistent across cultures and centuries. This gives the story an unsettling sense of being a little too close to home. Any of us that read a lot, we're sitting there saying "that could be me".
The last 100 pages or so of the book contain an appendix in which Connolly discusses the fairy tales he chose to use in this work. The original fairy tale is reprinted along with a discussion about it. That backstory added quite a bit of richness to the whole experience for me....more
**spoiler alert** Set in the same world as Mieville's Perdido Street Station, this story revolves around a linguist who is captured by pirates and tak**spoiler alert** Set in the same world as Mieville's Perdido Street Station, this story revolves around a linguist who is captured by pirates and taken to a vast, mobile ship-city called, appropriate enough, Armada. There, she finds herself dragged into the byzatine politics of the pirate metropolis, when all she wants to do is go home.
Like Mieville's other books, this one is dark and sad and heavy. But it's not quite as engaging as Perdido Street Station. It's a bit more cerebral and a bit slower. I still liked it, but it didn't engage me like his previous one.
The Scar ostensibly stands for a distant nexus of arcane power left by an ancient civilization. What it really stands for are the physical and emotional scars left on our protagonist as she finds she's been used cruelly by two opposing factions in the war for Armada's future. It's a "I-won't-look-back-I'm-stronger-than-was-before" kind of story that, were it not for the oppressive tone, might actually do well as a Lifetime movie.
This is one of the richest, most imaginative, and darkest books I think I've read. The pages drip with imagery and the palpable sense of impending dooThis is one of the richest, most imaginative, and darkest books I think I've read. The pages drip with imagery and the palpable sense of impending doom almost made my fingers bleed as I turned the pages.
This isn't horror, not exactly, though it's definitely a dark story. The novel takes place in the city of New Crobuzon, a city of mostly humans, but a lot of aliens, too, on a distant world. The city is a mixture of Victorian London and modern-day Calcutta with some basic thaumaturgy and mysticism thrown in. Perdido Street Station is the city's heart -- where the train lines cross, the skyships dock, and the not-to-be-fucked-with militia is headquartered.
The story is about a down-on-his-luck rogue scientist involved in a socially-illicit affair with an insect-like khepri sculptress. One day, an angel shows up on the scientist's door and wants help getting his wings back, which had been removed because of an unspoken crime in the past. In the meantime, the city's drug trade is booming and something dark is about to be unleashed on the city.
All these story lines converge in an ending that was the only part of the book I found slightly dissatisfying. I still give it five stars for the richness of the dish. Only the ending kept it from being a perfect meal....more
Charles de Lint is probably one of the most brilliant writers at making you feel wretched one minute and then tremendous the next. He is not well kno Charles de Lint is probably one of the most brilliant writers at making you feel wretched one minute and then tremendous the next. He is not well known, but has produced an admirable body of work, all of which I'd term as Dark Fantasy. Many of his books center around the archetypal town of Newford (which I've always thought of as in Canada, for some reason) where dark and dangerous things always seem to happen. This is not horror, but a shadier side of fantasy. Reminds me a lot of Neil Gaiman, though I suppose I should say the opposite since I read de Lint first....more
Very compelling and scary -- just the right mix for kids books. Someone gave me a copy of this a few years ago and I kind of ignored it until it cameVery compelling and scary -- just the right mix for kids books. Someone gave me a copy of this a few years ago and I kind of ignored it until it came up in the rotation. After reading the first half of it, I rushed out to buy the other two in the series so I'd have them immediately. Very, very creative....more
Dan Simmons' first book is probably the single creepiest novel I've ever read. I believe it won a Stoker award for horror fiction. The ending is not sDan Simmons' first book is probably the single creepiest novel I've ever read. I believe it won a Stoker award for horror fiction. The ending is not suitable for parents of small children.
This book was out of print for a while, so can be harder to find....more