Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Books Received; Lucius Shepard “Dancing It All Away at Nadoka;” “The Glassblower’s Dragon;” “The Sun Spider;” Isaac Asimov “Robot Dreams;” Steve Aylett – Lint; Fred Chappell – Dagon; Robert Silverberg “Nightwings” + Neil Gaiman: The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes

Posted by Mike on August 21, 2006

  • Felipe Alfau – Locos: A Comedy of Gestures
  • Elizabeth Bowen – Collected Stories
  • A. Merritt – Dwellers in the Mirage
  • Harlan Ellison – Deathbird Stories
  • D. M. Thomas – Ararat
  • Camille Flammarion -Lumen
  • Fr. Rolfe (Baron Corvo) – Hadrian the Seventh
  • Connie Willis, ed. – The New Hugo Winners Vol. III
  • John Crowley – Novelties and Souvenirs
  • Gardner Dozois/Susan Caspar, ed. – Ripper!
  • Fritz Leiber – The Best of Fritz Leiber
  • Gardner Dozois, ed. – Year’s Best Science Fiction Twelfth Annual
  • James Blish, ed. – Nebula Awards 5
  • Alvaro Mutis – The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll
  • Manuel Muji Lainez – The Wandering Unicorn
  • Neil Gaiman – The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes
  • Joseph S. Lisiewski, Ph.D – Kabbalistic Handbook for the Practicing Magician

The Shepard stories include two uncollected pieces, one is one of the shortest stories I’ve read by him. The collected piece, “The Sun Spider,” in Beast of the Heartland (or Barnacle Bill the Spacer, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are on), is one of Shepard’s few overtly science fiction stories (you probably have to go back to the Clarion story for the last). I didn’t like it much for a reason I haven’t been able to place, although the relationship between the two protagonists (who trade off chapters as first person) makes for an interesting development later on. “Dancing” is an old Asimov’s story, about a man on the run and his experiences with some old music machines in the small town Nadoka. Definitely a very readable piece, but not anything eye-popping. “The Glassblower’s Dragon,” on the other hand, was a gorgeous short, probably the only uncollected story I’ve read from Shepard that I wish was (I found it in Nebula Awards 23, ahem). A couple’s relationship, probably at the end, is renewed through art, the descriptive power of the denouement still lingers in the mind.

Isaac Asimov’s “Robot Dreams” was in the same Asimov’s as Nadoka, so given I’d read most of his robot stories in the way past, I figured I’d give this Susan Calvin shorty a go. Asimov’s robot stories often remind me more of mysteries than science fiction, with the added dialogue of the philosophy of the sentience of the robot to spice it up. Short, sweet, and perhaps a little dated, it was still intriguing.

I’ve mentioned Lint in a few previous blogs, it’s a damn funny, if a not entirely perfect work. Part of the issue is that writer Jeff Link, which the book is a fake biography of, writes so obscurely it would make PKD’s VALIS seem like a young adult novel. There are dozens and dozens of quotes of Lint’s throughout the books, and few of them make any sense whatsoever, but often you’re still laughing at the deadplan delivery and the implication that there is some sort of profundity hiding behind the words. Lint is beyond eccentric, but it’s often how his friends, fan and business associates relate to him that provides much of the humor. There’s a page from a Star Trek script that never was filmed, that has Chekhov flirting with McCoy (thus coining the expression “Flirting with McCoy”) and some great cover pictures of old books including a repress of one in the yellow spined DAW format that still makes me laugh. And then Lint’s short-lived comic, “The Caterer,” which apparently has had one issue reprinted. I get the severe impression with this book that the humor of the book is directly related to how much you know the science fiction field, especially the pulp era (Aylett names all sorts of magazines from Astounding, Startling Stories, etc. to fake ones like Horrible, Terrible Stories and the like). Anyway I best not recount more detail cuz the book was stuffed with it. Great fun overall.

Dagon is Fred Chappell’s third book and is something of an homage to Lovecraft as well as being a Mythos story in its own right (although you might not know if it wasn’t for the usual namedrops of Cthulhu and the like, in fact these seem to add more to atmosphere than anything else). I wanted to read it because Chappell is pretty highly regarded, unlike many post-Lovecraft mythos writers, and it turn out to be a decent read, even if your sympathy for the protagonist flies out the window after he commits a baffling and horrifying act. Out in the country he is (and it’s not clear how) bewitched by an unusual looking daughter of a neighbor (shades of Innsmouth here) and gets drawn into what seems like a backwoods cult of sorts. It’s pretty well written (certainly better than most in the field) but it gets darker and more depressing as it goes, making the new agey ending something of a cop out.

Silverberg’s “Nightwings” is the novella rather than the novel, although I’m intrigued enough to try out the full novel now as this was a great piece. Reminded me in some ways of Wolfe’s New Sun books in its far future setting. A Hugo-winner it presents a future society with the thread of impending invasion at a time when most people don’t believe it’s going to happen. So you can imagine what does.

I’m not much of a comic book guy, mostly because I don’t need another hobby, but I was curious to check out this highly regarded series and wasn’t disappointed. While later volumes are supposed to be much better (because they don’t tie in as much with other comic characters like John Constantine), the artwork is fantastic and the story intrigues as it goes. I’m kind of amazed that in many ways the main protagonist of the story is a god of sorts, although so many other well drawn minor characters keep the narrative grounded. Great fun and I enjoyed it more than the first omnibus of Grant Morrison’s Invisibles, which is the only other book I own.

And Deadwood last night? Could have been one of the best episodes of the series.

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