Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Kirby McCauley ed. – Frights, John Varley “The Phantom of Kansas,” “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank,” “Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance,” “Bagatelle, “The Funhouse Effect,” C. L. Grant – The Hour of the Oxrun Dead, Joseph S. Lisiewski – Kabbalistic Cycles and the Mastery of Life

Posted by Mike on July 7, 2008

Been a long time since I did a “recent reading” report, enough that I’ve managed to forget the essentials of most of what’s in the title. For most of the first half of 2008, I’ve managed to find little time to read thanks to life and blog(s), but I’ve been increasingly getting in the mood of late and have managed to get some things read over a couple long weekends.

It’s been so long since I read McCauley’s Frights collection that I barely remember most of it, which probably reflects my opinion to some extent. I vaguely remember the Russell Kirk story about a drifter in an abandoned town and I can’t at all forget about Ramsey Campbell’s “The Companion,” especially the creepy last lines, a story about a man in an abandoned carnival ground. I think to some extent I got less frights out of this than weird tales with a twist, which may be why I don’t remember it much. The short short by Gahan Wilson I was pretty sure I’d read before about what was done with a dead man’s corpse whose original owner wanted it preserved to continue travelling – definitely a delight.

The several John Varley stories cross both “The Persistence of Vision” and “The Barbie Murders” and are chronologically the several stories in the Eight Worlds future history leading up to his first novel, The Ophiuchi Hotline. I’m enjoying this series quite a bit and really like how despite the same future history, every story seems to be radically different and always dealing with the human effects of future technlogy. Particularly “Bagatelle” with the human/cyborg bomb being talked out of detonating and the man on a vacation around the Sun who starts to see the whole thing going south like in a pulp novel in “The Funhouse Effect.” Each new entry just adds more to the whole series and I’m quite looking forward to Ophiuchi. It’s quite a bit of fun for me to check these out as I used to really like Varley when I was a kid, mostly based on the Titan trilogy, most of these stories I never read around the time.

Charles L. Grant’s Oxrun Dead is the first in the series of that milieu and it seems like the first three are hybrids between horror and romance, and as such seemed kind of dull and probably not at all where the series ends up. It seems like it was created on the tail of the wave that gave cinemagoers “Rosemary’s Baby,” in this case a town whose secret societies have deep, dark secrets. I barely remember how it ended, especially as I finished it a couple months ago or so, but seem to remember thinking it had some mystery elements too.

Lisiewski’s Kabbalastic Cycles kind of bothers me for a couple of reasons. First and foremost the author seems like one of those Amazon heavy hitters who leaves reviews on his own books (or at the other end of the pole has acolytes who might as well be clones), which is a major turn off in my book, in fact had I known this was going on I’d never have bought it. Second, he’s got it so bad for “new agers” that it becomes a distraction during the text, an obsession you’d not expect an adept to be so focused on. Third, he’s often recommended by Mark Stavish, whose work I do like a great deal, a fact that balanced out the other two negatives for me. Overall the book attempts to modernize Agrippa’s cycle of planetary hours by way of the Kaballah and the tarot, putting it all into a system with (apparent) practical use. Basically you find out sunrise and sunset, split that time into 12 periods each ruled by a different planet and go onto chart future plans by acting under certain planetary influences. A planet rules a particular day and a particular hour and a system is divised that turns them into a particular kabbalastic path, under which conditions vary for a particular action.

It’s true, the book, in order to truly evince its worth needs to be worked from considerably, but there were a number of theories and outlooks in the book that reduced my confidence to an extent that I ended up being on the fence in terms of whether I wanted to give it a try or not. So in terms of this, I’d have to grade it or me an incomplete, as I wasn’t particularly motivated to take it any farther as it’s a system in and of itself and reminds me an awful lot of charting transits in astrology and the like, which I tend to find a waste of time.

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