The synopsis of this novel sounded like something right up my horror-reading alley, and it had potential to become a definite s brief plot etc: here.
The synopsis of this novel sounded like something right up my horror-reading alley, and it had potential to become a definite spine chiller had I not felt like I was reading a twisted Japanese version of the movie Poltergeist. Not only was this book a "been there, done that" sort of thing for me, but it moved at a snail's pace -- while some weird things happened, they did so sort of piecemeal, with a lot of space in between which for me only deadened any sort of creep factor I was looking for. Acknowledging that it did have its moments, these were not enough to make the sense of horror at all sustainable over the course of the novel. By the time the "last thirty pages" came along, which were supposed to have readers "holding your breath" according to the back cover blurb, I was just ready to be done and to leave the Kanos to their fate. I'll also say that there was a major opportunity to make this a stronger horror novel that was missed and if anyone wants to talk about it after reading, let me know. (view spoiler)[It has to do with the so-called "dark secret" alluded to on the dustjacket blurb (which actually, everyone except the Kanos' neighbors knew about already so it wasn't actually a secret at all - who writes this stuff?) and a certain memorial tablet and shrine that somehow forgot to be taken care of... (hide spoiler)]
Once again, I see that I'm the proverbial fish swimming upstream against the tide, since this book seems to be making horror readers everywhere happy people. I really, really wanted to like it, but the truth is that it just didn't wow me. I had decided to read a more modern horror story to prove to myself that I wasn't a one-trick pony taking pleasure only in vintage chills, but it just wasn't the right one for me. That doesn't mean it might not be someone else's cup of cha, but in this case, it just wasn't mine.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
First, before I say anything else, I have to offer a huge thanks to Anna for my copy and for keeping me in Snuggly's book-release email loop.
Simply pFirst, before I say anything else, I have to offer a huge thanks to Anna for my copy and for keeping me in Snuggly's book-release email loop.
Simply put, this book is beyond excellent. I'm still a relative newbie in the world of French, fin-de-siècle, and decadent literature, and a name that has kept popping up is Léon Bloy. So I was over the moon when Anna asked me if I wanted to read this book, a collection of 32 short stories which, in the words of Brian Stableford in the introduction to this volume, reflect Bloy's
"search for a particular naturalism of his own -- a naturalism which, not in spite of but because of its cruelty and its infusion with religious conviction, was markedly different in stripe from the Naturalism of Émile Zola." (xxiii)
Let me just say that if it's realism he was striving for, it shows in these tales in so many ways, especially in his interest in the more marginalized elements of society.
The Tarantulas' Parlor and Other Unkind Tales is a delightful blend of dark fiction, dark humor, savage storytelling and often outrageous observations; a majority of these little gems turns on the idea of exposing "someone who is not, or might not be, the person one supposes," an idea which is carried throughout the book. I will also say that some of these stories are wicked funny, subtle, laugh-out-loud worthy, and actually bringing forth a belly laugh in one case, "The Tarantula's Parlor." I also appreciate the way Stableford translated these tales -- there are a few instances where he'll leave a phrase or a word that doesn't fully translate well from its French context into English, and in footnotes he explains why. Personally, I find that a very smart way to handle translation issues that arise, and I do wish more translators would take the same sort of care in their work. And as an added bonus, each little tale begins with a dedication from Bloy to someone in his personal orbit, and Stableford gives the reader footnotes containing a brief background on the connection between the author and the person to whom the story is dedicated. It is a superb collection that serious readers do not want to miss.
My many and sincere thanks to Ksenia at Glagoslav for my copy of this novel.
I have to say right up front that this year I've beenI loved this book.
My many and sincere thanks to Ksenia at Glagoslav for my copy of this novel.
I have to say right up front that this year I've been introduced to some amazing books from smaller presses, and this is one of them. Set in the Ukrainian SSR in the 1950s, in the town of Chernigov, the story is narrated by police captain Mikhail (Misha) Ivanovich Tsupkoy, who was previously a military intelligence officer until he was demobbed and became an police investigator. The novel is, as he notes, his reminiscence of "a single incident from my long and extensive career," the death of one Lilia Vorobeichik in 1952. A suspect in her murder comes to light very quickly, an actor named Roman Nikolayevich Moiseenko, who eventually confesses to the crime, and then saves himself a court trial by hanging himself in his cell. Case closed? Well, we're only at page eight, so obviously not. As it happens, two events spark Mikhail to continue digging -- his best friend's suicide, and the interference of a certain neighbor of the dead woman who somehow manages to come up with the heretofore undiscovered murder weapon. This woman, dressmaker Polina Lvovna (Laevskaya), turns out to be the proverbial thorn in Misha's side, sowing doubt on his integrity as an investigator to whoever might listen to her, which turns out to be troublesome for our investigator. Also troubling is that everyone involved here has something to hide and that they have their own reasons for holding their secrets and their stories close.
Now, when a novel starts out with a murder, it's easy to understand why it might be labeled as crime fiction, but The Investigator turns out to move well beyond the standard crime tropes to become a serious piece of historical fiction taking the reader beyond the novel's present into its past and back again. It can come across as murky or even a bit frustrating at times, as Tsupkoy travels hither and thither between Ukrainian towns interacting with a complex set of characters over and over again; however, among other things, what seems to come out of this (for me, anyway), is that the people who live here are very much connected to their past histories, to each other, and most especially to the very troubled history of this area, and that it is impossible to separate any one of these elements from the other. I won't say why, but this point becomes very, very clear by the end of the book. There is a LOT of ambiguity here to be examined, and the stories that are eventually revealed are beyond satisfying as far as my own interest as to what drives people to do the things they do. I'll also say that there are some very big surprises to be had that I wasn't at all expecting. Sorry to be so vague, but I don't want to give away a single thing.
Highly, highly recommended -- this is definitely NOT your usual crime novel, for which I am so very grateful. ...more
Another beautiful book by Yuri Herrera, the second of a planned trilogy. I hope the third is translated and published very soon -- I love this writer'Another beautiful book by Yuri Herrera, the second of a planned trilogy. I hope the third is translated and published very soon -- I love this writer's work.
In The Transmigration of Bodies, a man known as The Redeemer acts a go-between to ensure the safe exchange of the bodies of two young people, in order to return them to their families. His other task while doing so is to try to fix things so that there is little if any blowback from either side because of these deaths. This is what he does: the Redeemer has over a number of years gathered a reputation as someone who fixes people's situations, someone who has helped others who were thus able to keep "their hands clean of certain matters." Once again, as in his Signs Preceding the End of the World, he begins with an opening that takes the reader right where he/she should be -- this time we're in an unnamed town in the middle of a plague, a perfect beginning for a book that examines ongoing violence, crime and death in Mexico. The focus on the "bodies" of the title is also very, very interesting, but I'll leave it for others to see how. There is so much more to glean from this book and from Signs Preceding the End of the World, both short books that pack a big wallop, and both books that highlight an amazing writer's mastery of his craft. Again, highly, highly recommended. ...more
After a shaky start and then a couple of hours of research prompting a restart, this book turned out to be an amazing read. And those of you who markeAfter a shaky start and then a couple of hours of research prompting a restart, this book turned out to be an amazing read. And those of you who marked this book as "fantasy" may be disappointed to discover that it is nothing of the sort. It's a work of historical fiction, narrated by a fictional fifth-century monk during a time of crisis for the early Catholic church. And quite frankly, in light of what's happening in our world today, it is a very timely read. You can read more at my reading journal where i am embarrassed to say I posted the author's last name incorrectly, (ouch) or just continue on here.
The author begins this tale with a first-person narrative revealing that the story that the reader is about to experience had been found in 1997 during an archaeological excavation of ruins to the northwest of the city of Aleppo in Syria; more specifically, a set of scrolls were found that tell the story of an "anonymous monk" who had later given himself the name of Hypa, and who, during a forty-day period of seclusion in the year 431 AD, had written this story. It is an uneasy time in the Christian world -- as Hypa notes, 431 was an "unfortunate year, in which the venerable bishop Nestorius was excommunicated and burnt to death."
While I'm not going to go too much into plot here, the story (aka this novel) handed to us by the anonymous translator of Hypa's chronicle interweaves Hypa's personal account of his journeys, both spiritual and physical, his doubts and "constant uncertainty," along with the known history of the early Catholic church of this period. Hypa writes his narrative urged on by the titular Azazeel, who is best known as the tempter causing Adam and Eve to be exiled forever from the Garden of Eden; he is also, as Hypa comes to understand in a feverish delirium, an inner alter ego, "another me." Hypa's story takes him from childhood, where he first became a victim of Christian intolerance toward nonbelievers, into Alexandria to medical school. It is also in Alexandria under the auspices of Bishop Cyril (called Pope there), who lives by the words of Christ
"Think not I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword,"
that Hypa hears his fellow Christians proposing the most inhumane treatment of Jews and other non-Christians in their zeal to "cleanse the land of the Lord." However, as appalled as he is and while he gets the hypocrisy all around him, one particular event begins to challenge his faith, and he leaves, never to return. From Alexandria he wanders through the Sinai desert, making his way into Jerusalem, where he meets Nestorius; from there he makes his way to the monastery from which he is writing the account of "everything which has happened in my life." It is also a novel that just begs the question of how heresy can exist when truth/orthodoxy seems to be an elusive concept.
To be very honest, I got to about page 112 or so and really wasn't getting much out of this novel. However, I turned back to all of the blurb raves about it at the beginning of the book and decided I must have missed something, so I started it completely over again. First, though, I spent some time doing some research on early Christian history, theological debates etc., to make myself familiar with the Cyril/Nestorius issues as well as Arian and other heresies before returning, this time much more confident. It's not necessary, really, but it's just a personal thing -- I want to know what I'm reading, especially since I was not too familiar with the theological issues at stake here. My point is that it seems to start out slowly but it does pick up, so for Pete's sake, don't apply that silly 50-page rule here, or the best parts of this novel will be lost. I can certainly and without hesitation recommend this book. ...more
I really, really liked this one. It's so twisted! I thought it was a crime novel but no way -- this is a very dark book overf catching up once more.
I really, really liked this one. It's so twisted! I thought it was a crime novel but no way -- this is a very dark book overflowing with paranoia, one that seriously played with my head.
When I got to the end of this book, my first reaction was a very jolting "what?" but in the space of a couple of seconds, it changed to "ah, I get it." Saint Peter's Snow was originally published in 1933 by Austrian publisher Paul Zsolnay, whom the Nazis labeled as a "Jewish" publisher, causing many of his writers' works (including that of Perutz, also living in Austria) to be banned in Germany. I mention this little tidbit of information because it might help to put the book in historical context, which is very important in this case, and also so that anyone who may be interested in Saint Peter's Snow won't have the "what?" reaction I did because I'd completely forgotten about it. Enough of that, now briefly to the book.
I was seriously caught up in this strange book from the beginning because as the novel opens, the main character, Georg Amberg, has evidently been in a deep coma, and on coming out of it, has lost his memory. First, what he thinks he remembers and what he's told is the reason why he's laid up in a hospital bed are two different animals; second, he thinks he's been there five days but he's been told it's been five weeks, and third, he's absolutely positive that the hospital porter attending him is a disguised Prince Praxatin, "the last of the house of Rurik." Huh?? So right away the reader feels a sense of disorientation along with the main character, and that feeling continues throughout the rest of the book. The story then launches into Amberg's recollections about the time leading up to his hospitalization, but the reader doesn't quite know if this is a product of his damaged memory or if what he's saying is actually what happened. It's a balancing act where the reader walks a fine line -- you have to decide if what Amberg remembers is actually true and if you go that route, then you have to wonder why the doctors, nurses and others may be trying to insist that he's delusional. It's an interesting scenario, for sure, and I found myself trying to find clues to support both sides of that argument, and there are a number of them scattered here and there throughout this story.
I think that's about all I'll say for the time being except for the fact that the word "sinister" can most definitely can be applied to this book, along with twisty, dark, and strange. If anyone's at all interested in trying this novel, don't read anything that may spoil it. The back-cover blurb, in my opinion, gives a bit too much away, but I will repeat and agree with the part that says
"Saint Peter's Snow is a conspiratorial, politically charged tale of suspense about the mysterious workings of memory, and the lies we choose to believe."
It's also a highly-satisfying novel I can recommend to anyone who, like me, loves obscure fiction. Kudos to Pushkin Vertigo for another winning reprint. ...more
I can just picture someone somewhere reading the back-cover blurb of this book where it says "The Queue is a chilling debut that evokes Orwellian dystopia, Kafkaesque surrealism,..." and wondering why he/she should read it if it's done before. Well, it's certainly true that there are a lot of books that focus on people faced with the absurdities of a totalitarian government, but in this book, what strikes me is how optimistic some people are in believing that despite everything, if they just wait long enough, the state will take care of their problems. Never mind that the Gate, the bureaucracy which is the unseen "absolute authority" in this unnamed country, is never actually open to the citizens -- although rumors abound as to when it might open, people have been waiting long enough for help that a huge queue has formed and continues to increase in size while nobody ever seems to move. Meanwhile, the Gate continues to issue laws dictating that people will need permission from the state for an ever-growing number of activities, some as absurd as can be, but people continue to wait with some measure of hope for what they need. And it's in the queue, really, where life goes on -- there are rules to be followed, commerce taking place, religious activities and activists, protests going on, and information being disseminated -- so that at some point, the queue becomes a society in its own right.
There are a number of other stories here in this novel, and it hits on so many things thematically, but I'll leave those for others to discover. And as I said, while there are certainly any number of books out there that explore this sort of thing, this one is certainly different than most others I've read. Looking at what other people have to say, The Queue is garnering some excellent reader reviews, although one reader called it "decidedly dull," with an ending that isn't "conclusive." I will say that this book is not an easy read in the sense that answers/explanations aren't handed to you on a plate, and that it does take a fair amount of patience to read, for which in my opinion, you'll be rewarded. At the same time, as I read it, images were just exploding in my head, which is a good thing and to me the sign of a well-written novel. For me, it was a serious page turner, a book I didn't want to put down for any reason.
recommended. And it's definitely not same-old same old, which is an added bonus. ...more
Idealism, anarchy (in different forms), freedom. I won't be posting about this book here in any sort of depth for a little while (not out until May),Idealism, anarchy (in different forms), freedom. I won't be posting about this book here in any sort of depth for a little while (not out until May), but despite what others have said, I really liked this novel. The longer I thought about it, the more I came to appreciate what the author is saying here. I do think it will be highly misunderstood, and it definitely follows a different sort of structure (i.e.), not a plot-based novel, but one more based on ideas. This book is really more for out of the box sort of thinkers rather than those who are highly dependent on plot lines. But I think aside from a few issues, it's a really good one, encompassing both modern and historical times. And by the way -- the second half of the book is about a thinly-disguised Alexander Berkman (think McKinley assassination) and Emma Goldman. I have to give it some more thought, but I really liked this one.