This slim alternative history takes us to WWII Paris, still occupied by the Nazis, but equally so by the colorful shifting visions and wild compositeThis slim alternative history takes us to WWII Paris, still occupied by the Nazis, but equally so by the colorful shifting visions and wild composite creatures of the Surrealist movement*. Harnessed by occult methods and released in a conjunction of greed and crossed ideological wires, a prodigious blast of imaginative power - the "S-Bomb" - rolls in waves over the city, transforming everything as it goes. Partially contained in the high-numbered arrondissements, traditionally bohemian, and cordoned off from the Nazi-occupied center, the citizens of "New Paris" go about life during wartime in a brave new world.
In Mieville's best book since Embassytown, his politics, playful imagination and innate Weirdness find a charming balance. In a tale that's part spies and rebels, part art history, and all wide-eyed phantasmagoria that wonders what it would be like if art really could change the world, Mieville packs his best aspects into a small but unforgettable gift. I loved this book. 5 stars.
*Familiarity with the Surrealists isn't absolutely necessary, but be prepared to Google some of the more obscure elements. Mieville thoughtfully includes notes on his sources, and you'll really want to take a look at this stuff anyway....more
Jeremy Bates may be on to something here. At first I thought the "Scariest Places" shtick seemed kind of goofy, but boy does Bates put those places toJeremy Bates may be on to something here. At first I thought the "Scariest Places" shtick seemed kind of goofy, but boy does Bates put those places to good use. In the first installment, Suicide Forest, he conjures up a palpable sense of dread, but the characters kept on doing REALLY stupid things, seemingly only in the service of generating plot twists.
The good news is that this second installment, set in the labyrinthine tunnels of the Paris catacombs, feels more authentic. Most of the characters are experienced "cataphiles" -- urban explorers well equipped for the dangers of their passion. (Plenty of batteries, proper equipment, even something like a map.) The only noob is our narrator Will, an American who has come to Paris to recover from personal tragedy. When his alluring language-practice partner Daniele invites him to take a trip underneath Paris with her cataphile buddies to investigate the source of a disturbing found video shot in the tunnels, he goes along on what becomes a nightmare for the entire group.
Again, the location does a lot of heavy lifting - dark, endless, unmapped tunnels full of bones are pretty creepy to begin with - but Bates' descriptive skills bring you on an amazing virtual tour of the Catacombs that you're unlikely to get in real life. And it's not all just bones; along with our intrepid explorers, you'll discover deeply hidden rooms full of murals, or furnished with rotting antiques, even a purported Nazi bunker. But it wouldn't be a horror story without something lurking around the next turn, in the dark. The dark is also a big star in this show.
The details of that lurking fear I'll leave to you, but I will say the plot moves along at a galloping pace, and it's hard to put down once you've started. One thing I didn't love was the way POV chapters were handled. The switch from Will's POV (the primary one) to other, less central characters' felt jarring sometimes, but I'm not sure how the full story could have been told in the way it was without them. Barring that stylistic nitpick, I really enjoyed The Catacombs; it's a quick, atmospheric and suspenseful read. 4 stars. ...more
In the first installment of Keep Mars Weird, Pollack delivers trenchant speculative social satire . . . with a whole lot of of weed jokes thrown in foIn the first installment of Keep Mars Weird, Pollack delivers trenchant speculative social satire . . . with a whole lot of of weed jokes thrown in for good measure. As silly as if Christopher Moore met Seth Rogen, but right on when it comes to the scathing critique of hipster culture run amok. Part 1 (of six, I gather) gets four solid stars. I look forward to part 2!...more
I hadn't reread "AtMoM"* in years, and it turns out, remembered less than I thought. Oh, the majesty of those uncanny ruins half-submerged in ice! Oh,I hadn't reread "AtMoM"* in years, and it turns out, remembered less than I thought. Oh, the majesty of those uncanny ruins half-submerged in ice! Oh, the screeching of the benighted penguins: "tikili-li!" Close encounters with a shoggoth! But seriously, sometimes old HPL does go on (and on), however "AtMoM" is a masterpiece of narrative tension.
*As I noted earlier, I'm actually reading The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, but "AtMoM" is pretty much a novella, so I'm crediting a full book for it. If you are a fan, you need to check out this beautiful edition; in addition to maps and original "Weird Tales" illustrations, it also includes quite a number of restored sentences, some of which add significantly to the feel of the stories....more
I'm always swearing I'm not going to start any new series, but when I read the first chapter of this book, "The Red Empress," included as bonus materiI'm always swearing I'm not going to start any new series, but when I read the first chapter of this book, "The Red Empress," included as bonus material in Unseaming, I was instantly hooked. (Proof: I haven't reviewed Unseaming yet.)
Dark, disturbing, and inventively disgusting, The Black Fire Concerto envisions a post-apocalyptic America where The Storms, otherworldly and deadly, have mutated the land and its people. They also brought magic, new and powerful and sometimes very black. Here there be ghouls -- and worse than ghouls: cannibal cultists and megalomaniac magicians who aren't afraid to harness the horrors the Storms left for their own ends.
This book really is unflinchingly gory and body-horror heavy, but there's also something that is bright and refreshing about The Black Fire Concerto: its two protagonists. Erzelle, a young harpist in servitude as house musician at a gruesome gastronome's club, and Olyssa, the imposing, mysterious traveler that rescues her -- are both women. So rarely do we see women cast as epic heroes that Allen's tale took me by surprise.
And it certainly is something different. When Erzelle joins the majestic Olyssa (think King's Gunslinger crossed with the goddess Athena in a bad mood) on a quest to find Olyssa's missing sister, they face events and obstacles by turns magical and utterly nightmarish. But it's their master-and-apprentice pairing that makes the story pure gold. I don't usually get exerted over lack of adequate female representation in fantasy, but I guess it must be pretty bad for me to react so strongly to seeing it done right.
Not for everybody, and definitely not for the squeamish, The Black Fire Concerto is luxuriously nightmarish dark fantasy, and I'm going to be tapping my foot impatiently for the next book in "The Stormblight Symphony." Now, please, Mr. Allen....more
Clever and fast-moving, this Lovecraft goes West story is good fun. I'm curious to see how the sometimes slapstick antics of Bain's characters play ovClever and fast-moving, this Lovecraft goes West story is good fun. I'm curious to see how the sometimes slapstick antics of Bain's characters play over the long-form Riders Where There Are No Roads, so I'll be picking it up!...more
Funny, original, suspenseful. A total page-turner, even. The Martian and its author Andy Weir deserve every accolade they are earning, and I can't waiFunny, original, suspenseful. A total page-turner, even. The Martian and its author Andy Weir deserve every accolade they are earning, and I can't wait to see the movie (which already has a stellar array of talent attached).
My half-star dock is purely about my own ignorance, but be forewarned -- if you don't have much of a scientific background, some passages may make your eyes glaze over. I'm sure the science is impressive (and accurate, I'm told), but sometimes it made me feel stupid.That being said, if one has to be trapped on Mars, Mark Watney is an excellent companion. (And I'm sure he'd be happy to explain the science stuff if I could only ask.)...more
As a kid, I absolutely loved this book, but for the life of (the adult) me could not remember the name. A GR trivia question brought it all back -- IAs a kid, I absolutely loved this book, but for the life of (the adult) me could not remember the name. A GR trivia question brought it all back -- I need to read this one again! It might seem a little tame by today's standards, but when I was 8-or-9 reading The Saturdays felt like having the adventures myself. A classic....more
Though bleaker than the first book -- if that's even possible -- The Curse of the Wendigo is another cracking adventure in monstrumology from Ri4.5/5
Though bleaker than the first book -- if that's even possible -- The Curse of the Wendigo is another cracking adventure in monstrumology from Rick Yancey. This time, Pellinore Warthrop and young Will Henry trek to the trackless wilds of Canada, seeking a fellow monstrumologist who has gone missing in search of the infamous Wendigo. Their ordeal in the virgin forest nods to a certain other tale of The Wendigo, but this time it doesn't end there: the "curse" follows them home to America, and in its ravening hunger, this beast will leave a trail of bodies strewn across Manhattan . . . some of them belonging to beloved friends. This monster is even more dangerous than the slavering, subhuman Anthropophagi of the first book . . . for the cunning Wendigo not only hunts its prey, it knows its prey, and once you hear it call your name, there is no escape.
Darker, scarier and far more devastating than its predecessor, The Curse of the Wendigo once again serves buckets of blood and viscera, but also engages more deeply with the emotionally scarred monstrumologist, and baldly shows how punishments for our past actions can reverberate on our present. I'd say the themes are actually fairly adult -- the moral weight of guilt, love lost, hope slashed, and aspirations denied sits heavy on the book; even the "victory" is imbued with loss and a sense of failure. Definitely for older teens, who may better intuit the emotional world this book charts.
Though I did miss the slightly quippier tone of the first book, The Curse of the Wendigo is certainly haunting, and beautifully written in a style that would please Mr. Blackwood immensely. I'm fully invested in this series -- cannot wait to read The Isle of Blood...more