The second volume of The Secret books of Paradys is more of the same high-Gothic, colourful, arcane, mysterious fiction as the Book of the Damned, butThe second volume of The Secret books of Paradys is more of the same high-Gothic, colourful, arcane, mysterious fiction as the Book of the Damned, but more of a piece, the tales tied together more directly into a consistent single story....more
A lovely little short from Pullman. This is a gem of a story, wonderfully crafted and creepy, set in the same reality (I think 'universe' is the wrongA lovely little short from Pullman. This is a gem of a story, wonderfully crafted and creepy, set in the same reality (I think 'universe' is the wrong term, considering) as the wonderful His Dark Materials trilogy. An Oxford don and his visitor discuss a pair of works of art that always seem to end up together and may be connected to some deaths.
Atmospheric, and somewhat bringing to mind a Tales of the Unexpected vibe....more
An odd book, this seems to have grown out of a jokey discussion between Ann and Jeff Vandermeer about the potential Kosherness of fictional beasts. ThAn odd book, this seems to have grown out of a jokey discussion between Ann and Jeff Vandermeer about the potential Kosherness of fictional beasts. The problem is, it doesn't seem to have grown very much; each entry is a page or a little more and there isn't enough in the description of the animal to server as a bestiary nor enough in the few lines of discussion that follow the either flesh out the ideas, give much in the way of Jewish dietary philosophy or even provide much humour.
Definitely one of the best time travel stories I have ever read, The Anubis Gates mixes SF, magic, literary history, Egyptian mythology and herme4.5/5
Definitely one of the best time travel stories I have ever read, The Anubis Gates mixes SF, magic, literary history, Egyptian mythology and hermetic magic into a tale that is superbly plotted and rollickingly told.
Brendan Doyle, a literature professor and expert on the obscure 19th century poet William Ashbless is recruited by reclusive millionaire J. Cochran Darrow for a secret project, which turns out to be a jaunt back to 1810 to see Samuel Taylor Coleridge give a lecture, where Doyle finds himself stranded and involved in plots from all sides.
This is my first read of Tim Powers, and he writes character and action well and his plotting, as I said before, is top-notch - I'd love to see a timeline of the events laid out, in fact. The interactions between those who travel through time and the events that have already happened - either historical or within the story - mesh perfectly without ever seeming forced. The reader does sometimes see these coming, but not in a way that detracts from the enjoyment of reading.
One oddity is that there are points when you feel that this was a much longer book that has had chunks excised - mostly the jumps are unremarkable, but occasionally there is the feeling that the reader could have done with seeing what happened in the gap, such as when Doyle refers to his embarrassing interview in Fleet Street which happened, as it were, off camera.
Minor niggles aside, this is justifiably a part of the Fantasy Masterworks series....more
Valente's writing grabbed me from the first page, and swept me away in just the way that September - the 12 year old heroine of this book - is swept aValente's writing grabbed me from the first page, and swept me away in just the way that September - the 12 year old heroine of this book - is swept away to Fairyland. It is a sublime fairytale, breathless with invention and Oz-like technicolor - indeed, not just sight but every sense is sated as September pursues adventures through the strange world and stranger inhabitants. And this is key; our heroine is not dragged, she is not Chosen (this is made explicit toward the end) SHE has chosen this adventure and continues to be the motive force. At each juncture - while she may be following advice or guidance or orders - she chooses her path and, more than once, she has the opportunity to turn aside and go home but perseveres because of her commitment to the friends she has made.
With nods to Lewis Carroll (and many other magical tales), this is wonderfully told and constructed story which, as should all fairy stories is layered and relevant, a point to the story (more than one, in fact) that is lesson without being a lecture, a moral without being moralising. And, being a true fairy story, there is of course some fear and darkness, some pain and some blood.
I couldn't help thinking that, were this to be filmed, it would have to be directed by Dave McKean, or possibly Henry Selick, the directory behind Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
I think my first read of Catherynne Valente has made me a fan. ...more
The first of Tanith Lee's "The Secret Books of Paradys" features three tales set in a shadow version of Paris across a span of several centuries; whilThe first of Tanith Lee's "The Secret Books of Paradys" features three tales set in a shadow version of Paris across a span of several centuries; while no dates are referenced, the settings appear (by the furniture and references) to be post-revolution, early Renaissance and late 19th century respectively.
The prose is dense and rich (short of purple, but it did take me a few pages to adjust from the sparer writing I've grown used to), and the style in each section subtly different reflecting its era. As usual, Tanith Lee is firmly Gothic - both in the tradition of Radcliffe, Lewis, Poe and Chambers - as well as the fact is feels as though it should be accompanied music from the Sisters of Mercy and All About Eve.
The first-person narrators and supporting cast are those on the fringes of society - Stained in Crimson is told by a louche left-bank poet who stumbles into a game with a mysterious brother and sister, which may have been fated; in Malice in Saffron a country girl running from abuse by her step-father joins both a nunnery and street-gang, her double life allowing her to exact vengeance on those who have harmed her and wider society; and in Empires of Azure a journalist is pulled into the web of connections between a female impersonator and ancient magic.
This gender fluidity is, in fact, central to each of the tales, manifesting as either literal transformation or subterfuge. Likewise, the gender power relationships often flip unexpectedly - literary tropes of direct action by men and manipulation by women are introduced and reversed. Rape makes an uncomfortably frequent appearance, although it is not confined to female characters.
It must be said that few of the characters beyond the central ones are drawn as more than sketches, but this suits the mythic quality of the stories and is not really a weakness. The first two parts, Crimson and Saffron, are truly excellent, affecting tales, although Azure felt to me somehow unfinished; the writing felt rather less polished and the construction lacking, while the ending somewhat pointless, otherwise The Book of the Damned may well have been a five star book....more