Author Topic: Now Reading, pt 2  (Read 16792 times)

mgriffin

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Now Reading, pt 2
« on: October 01, 2011, 09:38:08 AM »
As I said, this kind of topic is one I'd really love to see more active on the forum. I've received some really good recommendations for authors and books from people here.

At the very least, I'll start cross-posting here the mini-reviews I post to Amazon or Goodreads.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

mgriffin

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2011, 09:41:29 AM »
Review: Engines of Desire by Livia Llewellyn

If not for a recommendation on the blog of author Laird Barron, I might never have picked up this excellent collection (to which Barron provided a foreword). Prior to the release of this collection, all I'd seen from Livia Llewellyn was "Brimstone Orange," too short a piece to give much of a sense of this writer's capabilities. I'm very glad I didn't miss what turned out to be one of the best single author short story collections I've come across in recent years.



Llewellyn's prose style is strongly visual and evocative. Readers who prefer their prose simple and declarative may find this a too rich, but those enjoy a writer with a vibrant, poetic approach to putting words together will love it. Especially as a debut collection, Engines of Desire is noteworthy for the strength and richness of its language.

That's not to say these stories are for everyone. The mood is uniformly dark, at times bitterly so. These stories cover a wide ground from post-apocalyptic science fiction to erotica, from psychological horror to dark fantasy. At first I thought the book might be too scattered genre-wise, but further along I realized the stories here were held together not by genre conventions, but by thematic commonalities and a consistency to the personal concerns of the characters, apart from place, time or the existence of monsters or magic. Whatever the trappings of one story or another, all clearly arise out of a strong, unified creative impetus. In terms of cumulative effect, these stories hold together quite well, both individually and as a collection.

The collection opens with "Horses," a bleak and psychologically extreme piece of post-apocalyptic SF. It effectively lets the reader know what they're in for. This is followed by a dramatic shift to what is effectively (despite the insertion of a few elements that feel vaguely "fantastic" but which are not really part of the story's core) a realistic story of a sexually obsessed and self-destructive college student. Llewellyn depicts the college girl obsessed with the wrong guy with the same raw desperation with which she draws characters beset by a disintegrating.

Among the rest of the collection, the best include "The Four-Hundred," the title story "The Engines of Desire," and "Her Deepness." This last, an ambitious novella, is a really impressive example of fantasy world building. Truly dark, deeply weird and at times surreal.

While a few of these stories were less effective on the level of compelling plot or characters than they were in terms of language and mood, I found none of them less than satisfying overall. If we can extrapolate from an author's debut collection to guess what they may be capable of, I really can't wait to see what Livia Llewellyn does next.

(rated 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads)
« Last Edit: October 01, 2011, 09:46:49 AM by mgriffin »
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mgriffin

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2011, 09:43:58 AM »
I won't go back and re-post all my Goodreads and Amazon reviews, but just one more, since it's only a week old.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

mgriffin

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2011, 09:46:31 AM »
Review: Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

I love short stories. I love Neil Gaiman's writing. Does it follow, then, that I love Neil Gaiman short stories?

Some of them, yes.

Smoke and Mirrors covers a lot of ground: humor, erotica, whimsy and horror. Included are several poems, some flash fiction pieces, and a number of conventional short stories. The tone, regardless of what mood or emotion a given story is going for, tends toward the straightforward. Unadorned, no-nonsense, but clear and effective.



Gaiman's favorite trick is to flip a well-known fable or fairy tale upside down -- to reveal events seen from a different character's perspective, or to modernize a traditional character or scenario.

"Murder Mysteries," a long story retelling interactions between angels going back to the very formation of the universe and the human sphere, may be the most ambitious and interesting thing here. "Snow, Glass, Apples" is likewise richly told and well written.

"Shoggoth's Old Peculiar," which visits a variation on Lovecraft's fictional town of Innsmouth, and "We Can Get Them for You Wholesale," about a guy who turns to an assassination service to help him deal with his frustrations, are particularly funny.

Many of other pieces were comparatively slight, though. In my recent review of Joe Hill's collection Twentieth Century Ghosts, I said the book might have been improved by eliminating the weakest 1/3 of the material, and I'd say the same thing here. A shorter book, but a much stronger one, would result. I give the collection as a whole 4 stars, but there's quite a bit of 5-star material here, as well as some individual stories I'd give 3 or even 2 stars.

Overall a hit-and-miss collection, yet it contains some very worthwhile stories fans of Gaiman won't want to miss.

[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

mgriffin

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2011, 12:16:14 PM »
Now reading:

Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme
by Tracy Daugherty


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Dave Michuda

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2011, 03:43:30 PM »
Blackout by Connie Willis

The first of two book story of historians from 2060 traveling back to WWII London to do firsthand research.  I've read another of Willis' time traveling historians books, "The Doomsday Book", and liked it a lot.  So far "Blackout" has been a good read with a ton of detail about London during the evacuation of Dunkirk, the blitz & the evacuation of London children to the countryside.  I believe "Blackout" along with "All Clear" won the 2011 Hugo award.

« Last Edit: October 03, 2011, 03:37:58 PM by mgriffin »

Seren

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2011, 01:15:16 AM »

and


Found these in a friends house - same editions as the ones I had 35 years ago, prices 60p and 40p respectively.

There is a point in the Lost Worlds book, towards the end, which reminded me of one of the reasons why I was so interested in science fiction as a youngster.

I still find it easy to believe, looking up at the stars, that there is life out there that is not only 'intelligent' but also 'civilised'   (' ' marks used to denote we may not know what those words might entail in a universal context) - that has no interest in travelling the vast distances between stars just to stick probes up our backsides. Civilisations that might just know how to exist in a positive sense and from whom we could learn wonders.

I think that sense is still strong in me and sort of expresses itself in many areas of my life - not that I am waiting for something bigger than us (whether god or aliens) to make things better - but just knowing we can do better than we are and maybe one day we'll be lucky to meet those that already have.....


And just read this again for the same sort of reason.

may well dig out my copy of


and see if I still have

mgriffin

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2011, 03:38:52 PM »
Blackout by Connie Willis

The first of two book story of historians from 2060 traveling back to WWII London to do firsthand research.  I've read another of Willis' time traveling historians books, "The Doomsday Book", and liked it a lot.  So far "Blackout" has been a good read with a ton of detail about London during the evacuation of Dunkirk, the blitz & the evacuation of London children to the countryside.  I believe "Blackout" along with "All Clear" won the 2011 Hugo award.






I think Connie Willis is a pretty entertaining writer, from what I've seen. Generally I find myself less interested in alternate history or "visitors from the future check out the past" stories.

I thought it was interesting, all the debate about whether to consider "Blackout" and "All Clear" as one book or separate books for award nomination purposes. Interesting to hear Jonathan Strahan and Gary Wolfe discuss it on their excellent Notes From Coode Street podcast earlier this year.


(Also should mention... I first posted my response by hitting the "modify" link instead of "quote," and added my remarks to the end of your post, hence the "edited by..." note at the end of your post. Sorry 'bout that!)
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Jeff Sampson

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2011, 08:46:42 PM »
I really appreciate the reviews and recommendations I read of books I'm not familiar with, despite the slight feeling of depression they induce. "So many books, so little time".
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hjalmer

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2011, 09:53:39 AM »
the stones of summer

saw mark moskowitz excellent 2002 homage to reading (the stone reader)
and the mysterious one time novelist dow mossman
and his vanishing into the literary aether

bought a signed copy because of the movie long ago
and finally read the novel

similar to kerouacs town and the city
and saul bellows the adventures of augie march
a bildiungsroman and deep internal american journey

great novel
great movie


h



headonist

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2011, 12:56:38 PM »
Martinus - Logik (Swedish for "Logic")

Danish author/philosopher with an unique cosmology.

mgriffin

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2011, 01:40:45 PM »
Just received a lush, beautiful new edition of Thomas Ligotti vignettes.

This may display a little better on my blog post about it (see here:
http://griffinwords.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/thomas-ligottis-the-agonizing-resurrection-of-victor-frankenstein/ ) but I'll try to paste the pictures and comments below.

My copy of the new Centipede Press edition of The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein by Thomas Ligotti just arrived. Haven't started reading yet, but the book is so beautiful it inspired me to take pictures.

Centipede often throws in extra stuff with your order. Last time it was some large art prints on loose sheets, plus a National Geographic map of Mexico. This time it was a book (not a Centipede edition) along with a note explaining that they thought this would appeal to fans of Thomas Ligotti.





This photo makes the book look tiny but it's actually quite tall.





Front cover view on top of slipcase.





Hypnotic endpapers.




The illustration opposite the title page gives a sense of the quality of the artwork inserts.



Many beautiful color illustrations. What a luscious edition!



By the way, this book is already sold out at the publisher, though there are reportedly a few copies available at dealers here & there.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

mgriffin

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2011, 04:37:22 PM »
Just finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Sometimes I finish a book and I want to spend a lot of time thinking about it, and maybe write a discursive and possibly self-indulgent response to it.

Other times I finish a book and smile and say, "Damn, that was fun! More like this, please."  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was like that.



It's a dirty, disturbing vision of a year 2044 when just about everyone has given up living in the real world in favor of a virtual realm called the OASIS. People are so caught up in this game-like way of life they scarcely notice what's going on outside. OASIS creator James Halliday has just died, and though he is the world's wealthiest man, he's also a hermit who left behind no heirs. He left behind an elaborate contest within the OASIS in which anyone and everyone can search for a hidden easter egg, and whoever finds it will inherit his vast fortune as well as control of his company. Millions set off in search of the egg, and when the novel begins the search has been underway for about five years, and nobody has yet found even the first of three keys, which will open the three gates (also hidden) which are necessary to obtain the egg.

The above may sound like spoilers but this is basically the setup within the first few pages, and the story proceeds from there. We meet Wade Watts, a young "egg hunter," and follow his interactions with others on the same quest.

The quest itself is entertaining, but the real thing going on here is that James Halliday, a child of the 1980s, has sprinkled throughout the message he left behind announcing the contest a large number of hints and red herrings all taken from 80s pop culture -- dialog from John Hughes movies, lyrics from an Oingo Boingo song and more. There are a few cultural tidbits on focus here which are outside my own historical interest -- never much of a Black Tiger player here -- but far more elements I recognize from my own trip through the decade of my adolescence. Arcade games like Tempest, Pac Man, Joust and Battlezone, movies like Blade Runner and Monty Python's Holy Grail... the music, the Dungeons and Dragons. Such a lot of fun here! This is one of those books I want to recommend to anybody and everybody within five years of my age (those born in the 60s), and it might even be fun for people outside that range.

All Ernest Cline seems to have done before this book was to write the screenplay for the film Fanboys, a sort of trial run for the sort of geek obsessions on display here. I can't wait to see what he does next, and fully expect to read this book again. Highly recommended, unless the kind of cultural references listed above are totally uninteresting to you.
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hjalmer

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2011, 09:40:27 AM »
the last werewolf
glen duncan

deep and rapacious
a tortured metaphysical journey

sublime, sexy and provocative         h

mgriffin

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2011, 10:02:29 AM »
I loved The Last Werewolf! Probably my favorite novel of the year. Here's the review I posted on goodreads.com:

When I first heard The Last Werewolf mentioned, I guessed it was some cynical attempt to glamorize werewolves, maybe make them "hot" or contemporary. We've all seen what's recently been done with vampires and zombies.

I saw enough recommendations from people I respect to convince me to give it a try, and I'm so glad I did. The mythical aspect of werewolves is right up front from the beginning, and Duncan handles that aspect with seriousness and intelligence -- more like Anne Rice's vampires than those of Stephanie Meyer. Where the novel most stands apart, though, is in its literary qualities, the language itself. I'd read nothing by Glen Duncan before, but found myself immediately impressed by his style, attitude and wit.

I mentioned Anne Rice's vampires. This reminds me more of Rice's Mayfair Witches series, actually. Better than that, though. It's a story of long stretches of time, colorful characters, exotic locations, liquor, books, money and mythology. The Last Werewolf goes from celebrating raunch and gore, to more serious philosophical considerations of love and life and death.

This is certainly among the best few books I've read in the past five years, and I'm very pleased to hear Duncan's working on a sequel or two. I love this novel, and give it my highest recommendation.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

Dave Michuda

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #15 on: November 04, 2011, 08:08:00 PM »
Mike,

So glad to see you enjoyed Ready Player One.  That one is next up for me as soon as I finish Connie Willis All Clear.  Can't wait.

I didn't know anything about The Last Werewolf until just now reading the last two posts.  I guess I'll have to give it a shot.

So many books, so little time.  Too bad I read slower than molasses in January!

Antdude

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #16 on: November 05, 2011, 12:18:41 PM »
I'm intrigued by Ready Player One. I'll have to check that out, Mike.

Currently reading Salvation's Reach by Dan Abnett. It's the latest in his Gaunt's Ghosts series. If you're a fan of military SF, this is some of the best work out there. His previous books in the series are all available in omnibus editions, which is how I discovered them. Highly recommended.
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hdibrell

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #17 on: November 05, 2011, 03:15:53 PM »

I didn't know anything about The Last Werewolf until just now reading the last two posts.  I guess I'll have to give it a shot.


Me, too. That sounds interesting. I never would have thought of reading it until I read Mike's review. I need to go find it Monday.
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hjalmer

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2011, 10:56:46 AM »
h

vj books has signed copies

http://www.vjbooks.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=glen+duncan+&author=glen+duncan&title=

if you like that as an option
i figure it will have literary legs for collectors


enjoy the lupine shivers      h

Dave Michuda

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Re: Now Reading, pt 2
« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2011, 02:57:45 PM »
Mike,

Totally agree with you on Ready Player One, "Damn that was fun!"

Next up is Capacity by Tony Ballantyne.  Personality constructs in processor space "live on after physical death as sentient digital beings should have been a good thing. Instead, as Helen and Justinian are about to discover, it just means there are more ways to die."