mark monday's Reviews > Malignos

Malignos by Richard Calder
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's review
Dec 08, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: buried-treasure, new-dimensions, futuristik, fantastickal
Recommended to mark by: Adam

far, far in the future, Richard Pike is a disreputable pimp in the Pilipinas Archipelago, a former war hero and expat from the Darkling Island, whoring out the love of his life - the demonic malignos Gala, a devout catholic born in the deep underworld, and a turncoat on her people during the great war between the Earth Above and the Netherworld. trouble comes our lovers' way, and the brave Gala is poisoned and simplified. Pike must journey to the heart of the Netherworld, to the mind-bending city of Pandemonium, to find her cure. a dark and surreal science fantasy quest ensues.

do you have a secret inner hipster, a snobby elitist who loves your little finds - ones that no one else seems to know about? i sure do. i get a thrill from liking things that few people will ever come across. but it's a sad feeling too. why haven't i heard about Richard Calder before now? why isn't his excellent Malignos better known? it seems unfair.

this is a pretty amazing novel. its dense & hallucinogenic imagery, casual sadism, and intense focus on perverse & not-so-perverse spirituality reminded me of the early, bizarre trilogies of Elizabeth Hand and Paul Park. even better, his use of arch & deeply ironic dialogue, his shallow & self-absorbed hero, and the oddly cheerful & light tone for some dark events were reminiscent of Jack Vance's equally picaresque and arty Dying Earth series. in this story of a tormented, murderous hero and his, let's say, larger-than-life sword, there is also more than a nod to Moorcock's Elric series - it seems almost like a straight-up homage. and, obviously, the basic narrative of this novel - a hero's descent into an underworld to save the life of his lady love - is also the basis of innumerable tales and legends.

the writing is wonderful. the imagery is gorgeous. the narrative is compelling. the characters are off-kilter but strangely iconic. the author, himself an English expat living in Philippines, brings to the table both insouciant verve and a lived-in understanding of elements of Filipino culture. this is science fantasy that made me pause and consider many things.

it is perhaps inappropriate to actually call this a "science fantasy". the history of this world is given careful pseudo-science explanation. (view spoiler) it's all so mindboggling and carefully thought-out... awesome!

there are many absorbing scenes, bizarre & beautifully described tableau, and moments of stylized dialogue & offhand musings to enjoy, to chuckle over, to slowly digest their implications, to read again, maybe to treasure. one of my favorite bits:

'If she embraces old superstition, Defoe, it is because the new superstitions that have currency in our world, superstitions that inhibit and finally destroy our sense of empathy, will lead us all to destruction.' Gala frowned. She did not seem to like the equation of her faith to superstition. Neither, perhaps, did I. But I was too damaged by war to be able to lift my face to heaven and put all my hope in the love everlasting. The only thing I feared more than the mummery of my own existence was the possibility that God also was an ostentatious fake.
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12/31/2017 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Kwesi 章英狮 Maligno, mmm... Sounds interesting! A Filipino sci-fi fantasy book.

mark monday it is very interesting. and surprising! i didn't expect to read about Subic Bay, Olongapo, etc in this. or about barrios, catholicism, and other things in PI. but it was all there, and very important to the plot.

Kwesi 章英狮 Talking about Olongapo, maybe if you are going to visit Philippines you might enjoy staying there. People called Olongapo as the land of foreign or if you want to challenge yourself go to barrios that have no electricity for adventure. I recommend Sagada. Thanks for reviewing!

mark monday Olongapo is where my mom grew up, well the outskirts i think. and i was born in Subic Bay.

Kwesi 章英狮 Weh? I did not know that? So whete do you stay at this moment?

mark monday i live in san francisco. very close to Daly City, which i am told has almost as many or even more filipinos living there than in Manila! american dad in the navy, filipina mother. we moved to the states in my first year. we went back to live there for a little less than a year when i was 5. being in a military family, we've moved many times. besides PI, i've lived all over the States (indiana, virginia, florida, kentucky, missouri, hawaii, and mainly california) and in Japan. i would someday like to go back to where i was born, hopefully with my mom. most of my female relatives on my mom's side married americans and now live in the States. and most of my uncles are either dead or in jail (lots of criminal activities on my mom's side of the family. they were very poor). so not much family left over there.

message 7: by Francine (new)

Francine Mark, I didn't know you were Filipino! So am I (Filipino-British heritage).

message 8: by Miriam (new)

Miriam mark, have you been to Vallejo? When my parents retired there from San Francisco, every Filipino friend I have said "Oh, Vallejo, my cousin/uncle/sister lives there!" My soon-to-be-brother-in-law is from there, he also has a filipina mother and military dad.

message 9: by mark (last edited Dec 14, 2011 06:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday Francine - yahoo, another half-breed in the mix! some day our kind will rule the earth. mixed breeds is the future!

Miriam - yep, many times back in my 20s when i worked at AIG. the administrative support staff were almost exclusively filipino/a (and a couple of the underwriters as well - i couple bits of brown in an sea of whiteness) and the younger ones felt i wasn't in enough touch with my culture, so i got to enjoy many house parties in Vallejo & Daly City. i got to hang out with DJ Q-Bert & the Skratch Pickles!

message 10: by Miriam (new)

Miriam House parties in Vallejo? Did the police come?

message 11: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday but of course! filipinos know how to get down.

Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly Imagine. A novel with a Tagalog title, set in the Philippines,written by an expat living in the Philippines, yet I've never seen or heard about it before.

BTW, "PI" was what the Americans called the Philippines before it was granted independence. Nowadays, "PI" translates to "Putang Ina" and you can ask your mother what that means, Mark (is your mother's maiden name Lunes?).

message 13: by mark (last edited Dec 15, 2011 10:36PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday Joselito wrote: "BTW, "PI" was what the Americans called the Philippines before it was granted independence...."

not so much here in the States. "PI" is what all, and i mean ALL, of my relatives use when they mean "Philippine Islands". it is probably an old habit that they haven't grown out of, one that is quite outdated in the Philippines. but still, it is what i grew up with and what i still hear to this day. i'm not saying i'm right and you're wrong (obviously if anyone is "right", you are the one who's right)... i'm just saying that that is my own reality so to speak.

"PI" translates to "Putang Ina" and you can ask your mother what that means

ha! how dare you talk to me that way Joselito, so disrespectful!! just kidding. of course i know what that means, it is a phrase i grew up with. but it is now hilarious to think that the phrase my relatives still use ("PI") now means something totally different these days. i will have to update them when i see them this Christmas! i'm not sure they will believe me but i will give it a try.

is your mother's maiden name Lunes?

my mother's maiden name is Rokomora. or Rokamora. i am always forgetting about which is the o/a.


i hope you can find & read Malignos! i am very curious at to your thoughts on that book.

Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly Maybe it's not even with a "k". I have a client(a college professor) with the surname Rocamora. I do not know of anybody with the surname Rokomora or Rokamora.

message 15: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Your PI explanation reminds me of an acquaintance from Mexico who attended Culver Military Academy several decades ago. She had the other hispanic students referred to themselves as SPICs (Spanish People in Culver) and were unaware of the, ah, alternate meaning.

message 16: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday ha! well, a sad kind of ha!

Joselito, don't know why i had the 'k' in there, twice. it is indeed Rocamora.

message 17: by Brad (new) - added it

Brad Thanks to your hidden hipster for helping mine discover this. I hope it likes it as much as yours.

message 18: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday me too! if you hate it, please be gentle with that sad, stunted, hidden hipster heart of mine.

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