What a fantastic title, am I right folks? A Natural History of Hell is the first I've read of many works by authors I found out about at 2016's ReaderWhat a fantastic title, am I right folks? A Natural History of Hell is the first I've read of many works by authors I found out about at 2016's Readercon. Almost immediately, from the first story, I have found that this collection is what I'm looking for from horror, and more characteristics that I didn't even know I wanted in a story! It is at times humorous (subtle and obvious) but can also incite feelings of dread and at times even awe and wonderment.
A natural history is defined, according to Merriam-Webster, as " the study of natural objects especially in the field from an amateur or popular point of view". The characters that populate the multifaceted "Hell" are as varied as the stories themselves. Amongst the damned, and deitrus of humanity, we come across witches, sorcerers, faeries, Death, demons, Satan, ghosts and a donkey named, naturally, Hermes!
Another nice touch is that there are thirteen stories in this collection.
Spanning several genres, perhaps only unified by the ideas conjured by the evocative title, the stories in A Natural History of Hell succeed in being provocative, engaging and highly entertaining. This is a solid collection of short stories, and I'm glad I still have plenty of works by Jeffrey Ford to experience....more
Woke Up Lonely is a novel about frustrated desires. Sure, loneliness is a huge theme and the treatment of it is how Dan rises to power in his cult. HoWoke Up Lonely is a novel about frustrated desires. Sure, loneliness is a huge theme and the treatment of it is how Dan rises to power in his cult. However, ultimately, loneliness is a symptom, not a cause. This can make the reading of the novel somewhat confusing, since a lot of the overt discussion is about loneliness. But Dan Thurlow being unable to "heal himself" implies a bit more going on beneath the surface.
The novel centers on two main characters; Dan and Esme; and four minor characters; Anne, Olgo, Bruce, and some guy searching for his lost twin sister whose name escapes me. They are all connected by a cult Dan founded called the Helix, which the government believes to be a developing, dangerous revolutionary group. The government wants to take down Dan (and thus, the Helix) and forces the individual conflicts of our characters to a head.
In the case of the four minor characters, this leads to some revelations and character growth as the events force a resolution in each of their cases. For Dan and Esme, however, the resolution of their arcs are in little doubt. Instead, their sizable portion centers around revealing who they actually are.
A lot of the book is also farcical in nature. These characters are tragic, but there's a certain wry humor narrating the entirety of the events. This wry humor makes the more outlandish aspects of the novel easier to accept.
Overall, a novel about frustrated desires will ultimately frustrate the desires of the reader. The key is to not do it so completely as to turn that frustration into bitter disappointment. In my case, Maazel succeeds in this. The problem of loneliness and frustrated desires are not resolved through any singular character revelation...It's questionable at times if it can be resolved. The individual character plots are wrapped up nicely, however...And perhaps the cure for loneliness and frustrated desires is an acceptance of smaller consolations....more
In the past couple of years, I've been craving a particular type of horror book. A cosmic horror, if you will...Or even if you won't, the horror wouldIn the past couple of years, I've been craving a particular type of horror book. A cosmic horror, if you will...Or even if you won't, the horror wouldn't care, it simply is. I found this book on a list of cosmic horror books and figured I would give it a shot.
This is not the book I was looking for.
North American Lake Monsters is a collection of nine short stories written mostly by the author (The Crevasse is a collaboration with another writer). The prose is easy and sometimes insightful. The characterizations are mostly well done, and the stories themselves represent more of a character sketch than a plot driven work.
But is it horror? Well, it uses horror elements, but a lot of these horrors (ghosts, unknown monsters, crazy folk) take a secondary or even tertiary role to the suffering of the characters as they experience life's horrendous downs. In many of the stories, you could take out the supernatural elements and still be left with a coherent story.
So why bother? What is the point? In some cases, it leaves an excellent effect at the end such as in The Monsters of Heaven. In cases like Wild Acre or The Good Husband, it provides the stimulus that not only drives the story, but contributes emotions (some of disgust) that otherwise would not exist.
In other words, Ballingrud is concerned with some of the darker aspects of human nature and uses horror to magnify them. These stories do not have sustained horror crisises or existential horror at humanity's precarious state in the universe. Rather, it has a mother's regret at what her life has become, a man's survivor guilt, and several people's frustrations at their inability to connect with those they love.
So this novella has been nominated for a Hugo award for this year, and it does deserve it!
Many of the Okorafor hallmarks are here. Creative environmenSo this novella has been nominated for a Hugo award for this year, and it does deserve it!
Many of the Okorafor hallmarks are here. Creative environment, ancient history that is hinted at but not explained, and interactions (or clashes) between different cultures.
This is all pretty well accomplished through the main character Binti, who anchors the different themes and conflicts in her own person: a Himba who desires to go to a galactic university contrary to her own heritage and upbringing.
Perhaps the biggest issue that Binti suffers is that, being a good novella, you do not get nearly as much story as you want. Luckily, at least two more books (novels, no less) are forthcoming, so we can view this novella as an opening act for a larger story....more
This book is a memoir. As such, it is fairly loose in structure and perhaps rambles on a bit. Of course, that's all right with Hayden, he is not writiThis book is a memoir. As such, it is fairly loose in structure and perhaps rambles on a bit. Of course, that's all right with Hayden, he is not writing a study or a textbook. Instead, he intends to humanize the intelligence community.
And boy, does he have a tough task! As director of the NSA and CIA during recent controversial times, he is able to give somewhat of an accounting for publicly maligned acts such as the torture of detainees for information, targeted killings by drones, the collection of meta data of phone calls, and being a Steelers fan.
In the end, I believe he succeeded in this aim. The intelligence community is demonstrated as having its own business culture, humanity, and even massive bureaucracy that prevents it from clandestinely violating human rights as it is often accused of. Add to this some insight into Iran and Pakistan, and this is a very informative book.
Those controversial practices will remain controversial, but in the debate of their merits and necessity it helps to have an accurate framework of the circumstances and players. This book helps provide insight into some of the players and gives a better interpretation than "evil secret police" or "Bond-like secret agents."...more
What makes this novel most interesting to me is that it is an illuminating view of World War II without being involved in what we would consider "TheWhat makes this novel most interesting to me is that it is an illuminating view of World War II without being involved in what we would consider "The main action." Instead, we spend the book with more administrative action and leave in London. Despite the almost complete lack of martial combat, the effects of the war on soldiers and civilians alike are shown in a realistic and sometimes intense manner. The army is not romanticized but neither is it presented as a complete farce.
Tragedy strikes quickly and somewhat often in this novel. Powell's subdued writing at these points are oddly affecting and poignant. I had actually finished a chapter during the intermission of a Gordon Lightfoot concert and was approached by a random stranger asking if everything was all right.
The Britishness of how these tragedies are processed (knuckle down, carry on chap! Righto!) might rub readers the wrong way who are more use to a melodramatic reaction to such tragedy. But hey, sometimes it's nice to see reactions that don't involve rending one's cloak, crying a river, and shouting "why?!"....more