Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Suite in Four Windows


         Occasionally, I find myself saying "I like (x) because of what it does to my head." The feeling that a work is wandering around, opening doors and rearranging things as it pleases, realigning pathways for different thinking. And I haven't encountered something that captures the feeling of a created work rearranging mental furniture the way David Rix's A Suite in Four Windows does. In Rix's slim novella, he manages to perfectly nail the sensations of a mental topographical shift, and also captures the sensations of listening to the bizarre composition that forms the center of the novella*. 

                           And sensation is really the name of the game, so to speak, as Suite is less of a narrative and more of a mood and character piece. While the narrative is there, the novella is much more about sensation and idea than character and action. 

More, as always, below. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Blue on Blue


                             I don't think I've ever encountered a book as dreamlike as Blue on Blue. And not in the same sense as the surreal stories I read or anything like that, no, when I say Blue on Blue is "dreamlike," I mean in the sense that it honestly feels like a dream. There's a sense of more commonplace surreality and bright, pastel poetics that Quentin Crisp brings to his novel, that dreamlike sense that everything is absolutely strange, but that everything is exactly where it's supposed to be. Of course there are gigantic sapient brine shrimp running an attraction called the Sea Monkey Kingdom. Of course the Buena Vista (which I assumed looked like Sleeping Beauty's Castle from the Magic Kingdom) is a lucid dream palace. And of course all of these things are kind of  In Blue on Blue, Quentin Crisp creates an intriguing world with wonderful sensations and feeling, and I'm definitely going to seek out more of his work. 

More, as always, below.       

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Jottings from a Far Away Place

                            There are some books that command your undivided attention. That's the best way I can put it. There are simply books where having music on in the background or reading in a place where one could become distracted just isn't feasible. Sometimes it's because the material is dense, or the plot is heavily involved, or simply because the narrative style is just that immersive. In the case of Jottings from a Far Away Place, it's because Brendan Connell has written a book that's best contemplated and absorbed, and the best way to do that is without all that many distractions. 

                           It's a book that does things to my head in the best way, a book where each section has its own unique rhythms and place, but that builds on the sections by featuring recurring characters and themes as it goes along. If nothing else, I have to say the closest thing I've ever read is either the Zhuangzi or the works of Ryu Murakami (with their own brand of meditative gorn), and Connell manages to distance himself from those works pretty thoroughly just by dint of being a lot more bizarre.

                         In the end, I'd suggest reading a little of this one to get familiar with it. While it's a fantastic book that gets inside your head in just the right way, it'll definitely take a little to get the rhythms down. 

More, as always, below. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Scarlet Gospels


                  I waited nine years for this book, and I'm still not completely sure it was worth it.

                   It's a good book, to be sure. And I didn't give up on it the same way I gave up on, say, Abarat (which is a huge rant I will deploy at another time. Maybe for post 200) by the same author. And, let's be honest, any meeting between Harry D'amour (the detective from Great and Secret Show and Lord of Illusions*) and the being people can't help but refer to as "Pinhead" (Him what was in the Hellraiser series**) would be final for one of them, if not both. But I couldn't help feeling like this was possibly a tired and annoyed farewell to his work, melding the dark, beautiful fantasy of his later works (D'amour's dominion) with the brutal, gruesome horror of his earlier works (you know who) in an effort to put them all to bed for good. 

                   I'm not quite sure if it's just because I expected a four to five hundred page doorstopper about the ultimate battle between the reluctant champion of humanity and Barker's most terrifying agent of change, or because it dealt a final blow to stories I hoped would continue and I'm being entitled and pissy. Maybe it's that Barker took one of my favorite characters and flung them in a new direction. But either way, the book annoyed me. 

                   If you're in the mood for a vivid, twisted fantasy involving a team of occult investigators in Hell, great. If you're in the mood for some of the most fucked-up scenes in horror outside of maybe the Edward Lee crowd***, you're in the right place. But I don't believe this'll go on the shelf next to Imajica, The Great and Secret Show, Books of Blood, and Everville

More, as always, below. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Quantum Thief


       I have not been able to stop talking about this book for months (yep, two of them now) and I want to discuss it. I first came upon Hannu Rajaniemi when I reviewed his short story collection for one of my compensated gigs. While I didn't think much of The Quantum Thief before then and had written it off as a cyberpunk crime novel (as well as confusing it with M.M. Buckner's War Surf for some reason), I was impressed enough by his short stories to read an excerpt of Quantum Thief, and from there instantly fell in love with it. 

           It's kind of an interesting balancing act to juggle techno-utopianism with fin-de-siecle French pulp novels (the gentleman thief and the master detective archetypes kind of originated with the Arsene Lupin novels quoted as the epigraph to this novel) with a kind of wild high fantasy and some odd quantum entanglement-influenced technological twists. And Rajaniemi nails it one hundred percent. He juggles things with an incredible sense of play that, while the story may not exactly be new to me (I'm wary of any plot that involves someone reclaiming their memory) is exciting in the way it's told. 

And it is brilliant.

More, as always, below.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Nuklear Age


        There are some very rare instances where I cannot actually reveal why I like a book so much. It's annoying, it's true. Private Midnight was a book like that. There are books out there that, to explain the reason I love it so much, would ruin the beautiful bounty the book has in store. But if I tell you guys too little, then I'm not doing my job as a reviewer*. So I have to give something away. 

                     I suppose I'll just frame it like this. This is a book where the charms are not immediately obvious. It rewards careful reading, and at some point you'll either start to figure out what's going on, or you'll get annoyed and leave it be. Yes, it's a strange, kind of silly story about superheroes. Yes, it kind of goes for unsympathetic comedy. But if you're patient with it, and you stick with the concept, then it's rewarding in ways that few novels, few concepts, hell, few pieces of media hit you.

                But if it doesn't draw you in, if you don't start to wonder about what's going on, if it doesn't "click" for you, you can walk away no problems. I'm not going to call this flawless, I know better. Nor am I going to insist, no matter how much I want to, that you read this all the way to the end. This is not a book that works when forced on the unwilling, and I'm pretty sure that's why it was self-published in all its printings. It's been said that you can write for an audience or write for yourself and hope an audience finds you. With Nuklear Age, Brian Clevinger clearly did the latter. Hopefully, it works for you.

More, as always, below. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children


         I like this book in spite of the book. That's the best way I've found to say this. I've been going around and around in circles about Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and what I liked, and what really annoyed me, and it comes down to this: I like the book in spite of what the book is. There's a great dark, atmospheric story that exists within these pages. There's also a great, creepy found-photograph novel. And as this was Ransom Riggs's first novel, and definitely the first novel he wrote with such a concept in mind, And...found document novels or works can be kind of finicky to begin with. Depending on the work, and depending on the source used, it's possible to get any number of permutations, from House of Leaves  to S. to Pale Fire to everything in between. And a novel using creepy Victorian photographs and an abandoned Gothic-novel children's home is...pretty much exactly in my wheelhouse, let's face it. You could get a more Caius book, but only by virtue of the main bulk of my reading material being "very weird shit"*. 

                            But there are...difficulties with this one. The concept needs to hang together a little better than it does, and while it's a fantastic novel, it's kind of hampered by its own premise, a premise that is good on its own, but a little awkward in its execution. But by no means should that discount that the book is full of atmosphere and weirdness, interesting world design, and a very quirky mystery at its heart. 

More, as always, below.