Mike’s Prattle


George R. R. Martin “The Sworn Sword,” Bradley Denton – The Calvin Coolidge Home for Dead Comedians…, Lucius Shepard – “Vacancy”

Posted by Mike on March 19, 2007

Oh yeah, I’ve been reading again, yes I have. It’s so rare lately that I was almost shocked with what I got finished. I’m gonna go backwards this time.

Martin’s “The Sworn Sword” is part of his Dunk and Egg “sequence” that is set earlier in time in his Ice and Fire series. I’d read the first novella, in Legends, right after it came out, but for some reason I wasn’t as quick to jump on this one, in Legends II, right away. I’ve long been weary of high fantasy, to the point where I barely start series anymore, or at least not open-ended series or series with gigantic books. While I wouldn’t quite classify Martin in the same area since his work veers closer to historical fiction, tends to be grittier and has no elves or orcs, the medieval era its set in also seemed to annoy me a little. The good thing about the Dunk and Egg stories, is they’re small stories, outside the bigger epic, and somewhat intimate as far as that’s concerned. This one had a few nice twists to it as well as the type of excellent characterization you expect from Martin.

Brad Denton’s collection, the name I’m starting to weary of typing out it’s so long, is actually the partner of another collection called “The Conflagration Artist,” Both were originally released together as part of a limited edition sort of thing, although both are available, quite expensively, through Wildside press. They both won the World Fantasy Award at the time, which is about all I need as a recco as I tend to do pretty good with that award. This collection is no different. The big title story features something of a purgatory for dead comedians, where the mysterious homerunners are the purgers. The story is pretty hysterical as it follows one such comedian through his afterlife in the home. The writing just snaps off the pages. Another story, about a young Mark Twain during the civil war creates an entirely different tone, but one no less skillful. I was really happy to have Conflagration Artist on the shelves as well as a couple of his novels, after finishing this up.

Shepard’s “Vacancy,” is his newest novella, although by the time I got to writing about it, it wasn’t! You can find it here. A typically great piece of work from a master, this story at heart is about a man whose bad karma is about to catch up with him, the karma basically related to the way Americans generally ignore and bulldoze over the cultural values of the countries’ its far more powerful (or maybe well off) than, of course, set in a much more personal milieu. Shepard’s work is generally very hard to classify, although this is one I’d call a horror story off the bat, although you’ll have to read it to see why. It’s all beautifully drawn from the descriptions of Florida to the great characters.


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