A truly superb collection of short stories from a great author. every story in here is terrific: clever, unusual, thought-provoking. Many of the storiA truly superb collection of short stories from a great author. every story in here is terrific: clever, unusual, thought-provoking. Many of the stories deal with time in various ways, which I really enjoyed, and/or with humanity's idiotic tendency to let its technology outpace its morality (or its intelligence). "The Garden of Time" and "Deep End" broke my heart a little, while "The Subliminal Man" was so prescient of today's rabid consumer culture as to be seriously worrisome. (There's a short movie version on YouTube, too!). "End Game" and "The Overloaded Man" are small masterpieces of psychological suspense, and "The Voices of Time" had me researching genetics and 'the silent pair'.
Taken as a whole the book's Cold War-era origins are evident (stories written between 1957 and 1978), but given what's happening in the world recently, it feels rather timely. Plus ca change...
Apart from the 20 highly surreal pages that comprise the last four stories and which are just, well, beyond odd, this is an excellent collection by a master of the short form.
Ooh, and as a bonus, my edition has a foreword by Anthony Burgess, in which he calls Ballard "not [just] among our finest writers of science fiction, but...among our finest writers of fiction tout court period." ...more
An engrossing story with remarkable characters, this tale of growing up in 1970s Rhodesia/Zimbabwe is magical without being in the least sentimental.An engrossing story with remarkable characters, this tale of growing up in 1970s Rhodesia/Zimbabwe is magical without being in the least sentimental. Fuller's writing evokes a child's view of Africa in gorgeous technicolor, yet without romanticizing it at all (spoiler: people and animals die). Her parents and their passionate attachment to their adopted country are portrayed honestly, with all their flaws, but sympathetically and with great love. At one and the same time she makes me (a) fiercely envious of her footloose feral upbringing with elephants, guerrillas (yes, spelled THAT way), and beer for the children, and (b) thoroughly relieved that my childhood was completely opposite, with things like air conditioning, reliable toilets, and a complete lack of cobras. ...more
Iain Pears continues to astonish me with his range and flexibility, and this book did not disappoint in the least. Anyone who can seamlessly meld highIain Pears continues to astonish me with his range and flexibility, and this book did not disappoint in the least. Anyone who can seamlessly meld high-end physics, pastoral innocence, and 1950s Oxford professors is clearly a master.
The writing is so good that the words practically disappear so the story (the Story?) shoots straight into your head, the characters are vivid and engaging, and the plot...well, my mind is now officially blown. I did not see how the various strands could possibly come together but they did -- Pears links all three of the "worlds" whose stories he is telling into one that is chilling, inspiring, frightening, exciting, at the same time wildly improbably and all too plausible.
Don't try to hurry though this, whatever you do. This is a book to be savored and absorbed and pondered, not raced through and then tossed aside. The physics weirdness alone forces you to do some serious yoga with your brain; add in prose that is both supple and humorous, an obvious love of language and an appreciation of the power of stories to both expand and limit our minds, and what you have is something that is equally style and substance.
This is not a fluffy summer beach read that you can pick up for five minutes here and there. Set aside some serious time to get lost in it. You'll be glad you did....more
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of this and devoured it :) The author does a truly excellent job not only analyzing in detail hoI was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of this and devoured it :) The author does a truly excellent job not only analyzing in detail how Severus Snape evolves throughout the series, but also demonstrating how his interactions with the other characters -- Harry, of course, and Dumbledore, but also Hermione, Neville, his Hogwarts colleagues, Narcissa and Bellatrix, and others -- hint at something much deeper and different than appears on the surface. Reading this book gave me a much broader and deeper appreciation both of Snape himself and of Rowling's skills as a writer in creating such a complex, multi-dimensional character, and revealing him in such subtle ways. Highly recommended....more
Yet another book that I badly wanted to like more than I did. Too much of a rehash rather than a reimagining or expansion, and the Wonderland parts diYet another book that I badly wanted to like more than I did. Too much of a rehash rather than a reimagining or expansion, and the Wonderland parts didn't seem to mesh usefully, interestingly, or well with the England parts. The origins of the Jabberwocky were clever, I admit, and one does get the sense that Ada has changed and grown during her sojourn down under, but it's disappointing that she doesn't meet any new characters and just spends the whole book trailing around after Alice (yup, I guess that's where the title comes from). Siam seemed like a tacked-on character with disappointingly unrealized potential, as did some of the others (really, what is the point of bringing Darwin and evolution into a story about Wonderland??). There are some wonderfully poetic turns of phrase and a few nice philosophical bits dropped in, but they stand out as much by contrast to the blandness of the rest of the book as on their own merit.
Nabokov's fun with language and his ability to "play" the reader is on full display in this book, with phrases like "My heart itched" and "a shoe withNabokov's fun with language and his ability to "play" the reader is on full display in this book, with phrases like "My heart itched" and "a shoe with a hole in it basking under a fence," and a narrator so unreliable that he's even unreliable in conveying just how unreliable he is. An excellent read that will leave you wondering what really happened on more than one level....more
Not so much a genre mystery as an exploration of the damage that suspicion and fear can wreak on a community, in the manner of The Crucible or the claNot so much a genre mystery as an exploration of the damage that suspicion and fear can wreak on a community, in the manner of The Crucible or the classic Twilight Zone episode, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street. The characters are well-drawn and the writing adept (I was not surprised to discover that Dobyns is also a poet), while the narrator -- an outsider in more ways than one -- is an interesting choice on the author's part that adds a somewhat unsettling sense of objectivity and distance to the events that unfold. The eventual revelation of the murderer is almost a sidebar to the main event: the psychological deterioration of the residents of the town. A good enough read that I plan to try another of Dobyns' books.
Like Forever Amber or Gone with the Wind but not as rich. Good as far as it went, but it felt like the Cliff's Notes version -- should have been threeLike Forever Amber or Gone with the Wind but not as rich. Good as far as it went, but it felt like the Cliff's Notes version -- should have been three times as long with lots more detail to really let you get inside the character's head, understand why men were obsessed with her, why she made the choices she did, what she felt about them. Without that it all feels a bit shallow and I ended up feeling more than a little sympathy with Mary Anne's children's opinion of her....more
Ah, so much good stuff in here: love, treachery, murder, madness, innocence, obsession. The 19th-century period details were wonderful: Bedlam, new idAh, so much good stuff in here: love, treachery, murder, madness, innocence, obsession. The 19th-century period details were wonderful: Bedlam, new ideas about treating mental illness, travel options (the "night mail" sounds so romantiv), women in the workplace, the telegraph, etc. I was particularly fascinated by the highly detailed descriptions of the Dead House, the great efforts Germans of the time took to ensure no one was accidentally buried alive (among other things: ten thimbles, one fitted onto on each of the corpse's fingers, attached to little bells!).
Mrs Fontaine is a wonderfully amoral villainess, even managing to retain a tiny bit of sympathy in the reader's heart for her motive (though not of course for her actions). For most of the book I was convince that she would (view spoiler)[accidentally poison her beloved daughter (hide spoiler)], which would have been an ironically suitable punishment, but what did happen was even better, and so over-the-top it was positively awe-inspiring. Jack Straw was a delight as a secondary character, so endearing in his devotion to Mrs Wagner and so well-spoken despite his madness; he reminded me strongly of Renfield from Dracula. His knack for pointing out other people's madnesses and stupidities was highly amusing -- Collins seems to feel that the obviously mad aren't nearly as dangerous as the ones who conceal their madness. Or who are just plain stupid.
A tad predictable, if you have read other 19th century thrillers, but still a lot of fun.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Torres is an amazing author, a crafter of beautiful prose that evokes not only emotions but states of mind and being. The title of theWow. Just...wow.
Torres is an amazing author, a crafter of beautiful prose that evokes not only emotions but states of mind and being. The title of the story can be interpreted in several ways, and the backwards arc of the narrative, in opposition to the forward arc of characters' lives, somehow makes their changes through time all the more intense and touching.
Here's one of my favorite bits:
"I handed Nigel his scarf, which he had knitted himself, poorly. How proud he was of its garish colors and its holes and dropped stitches, the inelegance of it all. I had watched him from bed, many nights, knitting in the lamplight and playing records with our little fat, deaf cat on his lap, and I had thought him beautiful, soft, cozy..."
There is nothing more domestic than someone knitting with a cat on their lap; the contrast between this image and the idea of a "wild state" forms the central tension of the story. And "reverting" -- does that refer to the main character's end state, or the "end" of the narrative which is years ago? The tiny detail of beginning the story with the main character finding a golden feather, which brings to mind the phrase "free as a bird," punctuates the narrative beautifully.
Torres touched my heart with this short story. I will definitely seek out more of his work....more
A diverting collection of short stories, but not outstanding. If you've read a lot in the genre you'll find them fairly predictable, and the narrativeA diverting collection of short stories, but not outstanding. If you've read a lot in the genre you'll find them fairly predictable, and the narrative voice in almost all of them is far too similar given how wildly different the point-of-view characters are. The exception -- and I think the best story in the collection -- is the last one, "Mystery, Inc." There's a delightfully Victorian and subtly Lovecraftian feel to this story of a small independent bookshop owner and how he deals with his competitors....more
Decently written page-turner in that it does keep you wanting to find out what happens next, but with some flaws in character and internal logic. ExceDecently written page-turner in that it does keep you wanting to find out what happens next, but with some flaws in character and internal logic. Except for Lisa herself, whom I liked very much and whose story drew me in, the characters were all a bit flat. I found protagonist Riley's brother more interesting than Riley herself (never a good sign!) but his long-standing hatred for Lisa just didn't ring true to me. Also, I remained unconvinced of the central hinge on which the whole thing turns (i.e., (view spoiler)[that Lisa had no choice but to run -- surely it would have been better to stand trial?? If she'd told the truth there's no way she would have been convicted, or at least she would have gotten off lightly (hide spoiler)] If you like stories driven by secrets from the past and are in the mood for something that doesn't demand a lot from the reader, this is a good fit.["br"]>...more
An excellent collection with a lot of variety in theme, tone, setting, etc. Has two of my favorite unicorn stories: The Silken-Swift by Theodore SturgAn excellent collection with a lot of variety in theme, tone, setting, etc. Has two of my favorite unicorn stories: The Silken-Swift by Theodore Sturgeon and Mythological Beast by Stephen R. Donaldson ("YOU ARE NOT OK. YOU ARE NOT OK.")...more
Not Great Literature but not bad. The heroine is a little ditzy for my taste (I lost count of how many times she gets rescued by her not-yet-boyfriendNot Great Literature but not bad. The heroine is a little ditzy for my taste (I lost count of how many times she gets rescued by her not-yet-boyfriend-but-you-know-he-will-be) and the title has absolutely nothing (ok, maybe 0.5%) to do with the book, which always disappoints me. I like a well-chosen title. However, I'm glad I read it because (a) it whiled away a few hours in an amusing manner and (b) it introduced me to the historical character of Lady Hester Stanhope. I must now go and read All The Things about her....more
SK is just an amazing storyteller. Some of the stories in this collection have been published before (Ur, Blockade Billy), but there are more than enoSK is just an amazing storyteller. Some of the stories in this collection have been published before (Ur, Blockade Billy), but there are more than enough tasty new ones to make a substantial meal. Each of the stories has a small coda, "Thinking of [xx]" with the name of someone whom King associates with the story, either explicitly as inspiration or homage, or indirectly, related in some way to the story's theme. Summer Thunder, for example, which features a motorcycle, closes with "Thinking of Kurt Sutter" -- Sutter is the man behind the opulently violent biker series Sons of Anarchy
I love the title and the way King fleshes it out in the introduction: an apparently harmless old merchant, whose obsequious grin and helpful manner conceal his true nature, all red eyes and nasty sharp teeth, spreading out his glittering offerings on a dusty, intricately-woven carpet to tempt the unwary buyer...caveat emptor indeed!
Of course there are a few classic Kings: The Bad Little Boy (first time in English, apparently, which seems odd since King is an American author), Mile 81 (as your mother always told you, stay away from strange cars!), Ur (a high-tech version of Neil Gaiman's Library of Dream). And Drunken Fireworks is just plain laugh-out-loud funny, because we've all known people who are far too competitive for their own good, and in their lust to win walk themselves not just out on a limb but right off the end of it.
But overall there is a different feel to this collection than to his earlier ones -- slower paced, less manic and more reflective. Many of the stories strike me as more melancholy than the usual King fare. The characters are coping not so much with supernatural demons as with real ones: old age, loss, futility, regret, cynicism, hopelessness, lack of empathy. Batman and Robin have an Altercation (a senile old man and his son), Premium Harmony (an indifferent husband and wife), Afterlife (there are no do-overs, not really), The Bone Church (one of two poems in the book, an eerie, dreamlike elegy), Mr. Yummy (an old man remembers his youth), and especially Herman Wouk is Still Alive (inspired by a 2009 car accident).
And although none of us (hopefully) will ever face a crazy spider-clown in the sewers or be chased by a killer car, every one of us will know these natural "demons" sooner or later....more