Mike’s Prattle


Archive for February, 2010

John Varley – “Tango Charlie & Foxtrot Romeo,” “Press Enter [],” “The Pusher,” “Just Another Perfect Day,” “In Fading Suns & Dying Moons,” “The Flying Dutchman,” “Good Intentions;” George R. R. Martin “With Morning Comes Mistfall,” “The Hero,” “The Exit to San Breta,” “The Second Kind of Loneliness,” “A Song for Lya,” “The Stone City,” “Bitterblooms,” “The Way of Cross and Dragon;” “Nightflyers;” “And Seven Times Never Kill Man”

Posted by Mike on February 26, 2010

OK Varley and Martin … a bunch of stories by both that were perhaps roughly contemporary, with both writers being mainstays of the awards. These are all really good and I have to admit being well behind making write ups on these things, these days I can barely keep up with it. Read the rest of this entry »


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Zoran Zivkovic – The Writer, The Book; Charles L. Grant – The Last Call of Mourning; Ramsey Campbell – Demons By Daylight; Lucius Shepard – The Father of Stones, Surrender, Bound for Glory; Caitlin R. Kiernan – Persephone

Posted by Mike on February 10, 2010

“The Book” would probably be considered Zivkovic’s third novel, if the sizes of them didn’t verge novella or if they weren’t linked mosaic stories and such, in fact it’s fairly difficult to classify the work of this man in any useful way. “The Writer” is a short story usually found bound together with the novel, but I believe it was his third world chronologically so I read them in that order. “The Writer’s” a rather hilarious story which reads like an autobio of a would be writer (more or less Zivokovic) whose own creative needs are sublimated by an aggressive A-type friend writer who slowly and surely ends up taking up all of his resources. It was quite funny, and reminded me a lot of the same sort of thing happening in music where the hangers on end up becoming high maintenance. It all climaxes in a sort of bizarre dream that works with all the imagery and shows activity on a more subconscious level.

“The Book” is even stranger, as the book itself, as if it were an ambassador of the whole book race began to tell the stories of its struggles, how badly they’re treated, dirtied up, cut out – a very postmodern and humorous look at a subject from a new angle that nearly every bibliophile would chuckle over. It weaves this way and that for some pages before human perspectives take over almost as if they exist as evidence and a book is taken from creation to release through the hazards of the agents, publishing companies and would be writers. The whole thing, perhaps doesn’t quite come together as a whole, but it’s amusing and bizarre enough to be worth the read.

Grant’s “The Last Call of Mourning” is the third in his Oxrun novels series and I believe the last that seems to be part of a chain of horror romances. This one’s sort of hard to explain because it acts as a mystery through most of the book without really any supernatural elements or even horrific (that is anything in this direction seems more suspense-like). It entails the daughter of a wealthy family starting to break away by opening up a new book store in town. As with all these early Oxrun books, they develop by small scary near death experiences until they get the attention of the protagonist and her potential love interest until the overall mystery comes out into the light, the villain comes out and the book ends. Except this time there’s a mean little twist at the end.

Ramsey Campbell’s Demons By Daylight is his second (and second Arkham House) collection, a few stories which I’d read already via Alone with the Horrors or the Cthulhu Mythos collection Cold Print. The remainder I found fairly weak, 2 or 3 rather poor shorts and a few that might be among the low end found in Horrors, including one really strange romantic short I liked where a young man meets his soul mate during a vacation only for some bizarre twists to render it nearly incomprehensible as he tries to find her again only to realize he’s on a different time stream. It still ended up being quite haunting though. Overall though what hasn’t been since reprinted is very minor Campbell.

More Lucius Shepard novellas including the third in the Griaule series, The Father of Stones, which series Shepard announced on his blog recently as undergoing a future release. This one’s never been collected, as he didn’t like the story (I’m hoping this gets corrected with the Griaule collection) and I can almost see why to some extent. Not that I didn’t like it, I thought it was incredible entertaining as the Griaule stories enter the medium of a legal mystery but it seemed to me there weren’t enough clues transmitted early on to justify a lot of the incredible twists towards the end. But as always the characters and prose shine and I’m more and more finding it an incredible and original milieu. Overall I think the story’s positives far out way any negatives.

“Surrender” is a novelette set in Guatemala and deals with journalists and guerilla warfare and most importantly a reoccuring message of how damaging the influence of US foreign policy has been in the third world. It also manages to do this succesfully with zombies, as the protagonists run across the results of a horrible experiment gone awry as they investigate.

“Bound for Glory” is like a surreal alternate history of the west where a couple end up trying to take a train trip through an America whose midlands have been damaged by some sort of catastrophic event leaving a mysterious and manipulative zone that influences travellers in the middle. It all takes place on a train that begins its journey only for the protagonist’s partner to start to mutate and the train become under attack. The ending is moody and speculative, as always questioning the experiences and what they really meant. A good example of why I dig Shepard’s work, it can be both adventure story and something meaningful at once. And for me, this wraps up the Ends of the Earth short story collection which as a whole is simply magnificent, at least as good as the fantastic Jaguar Hunter. Now I’ll take a break for a while before starting on the next novel Kalimantan.

“Persephone” is Caitlin R. Kiernan’s very first published story, I’ve decided to try and read her work in as chronological an order as I can muster it (except when I need to check something out before hand). Anyway it’s a first story anyone would be proud of I think, a tragic science fiction story of a woman who foregos safety protocols on a newly explored planet and undergoes a horrible transformation as a result. But even here the prose is promising, poetic and rich with metaphor, I’m really looking forward to more.

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RIP Kage Baker

Posted by Mike on February 1, 2010

Yesterday, speculative fiction lost one of its great talents to cancer. In fact, I still vividly remember subscribing to Asimov’s in the 90s and finding Kage’s Company stories to be among the magazine’s highlights at the time. Obituaries are always sad, but this one just totally took me by surprise, she seemed like she would be as immortal as one of her Company protagonists. And it saddens me also that I still haven’t moved farther into the series, something I will redress soon. Always a reminder there’s so little time…

One of her editors gives a fabulous tribute here. My thoughts go out to her friends and family.

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