Mr Torso

March 17, 2008

Mr Torso, by Edward Lee 

 

Mr Torso, by Edward Lee.

 

Limited edition chapbook, very short, very difficult to obtain, very expensive. Only the fact that I’m a bit of a Lee completist dragged the wallet out for this one.

Mr & Miss Torso, to give it the proper title, is one of Edward Lee’s select group of extreme horror stories — or in this case, novallas. It’s the utterly nasty, brutal stuff you’ll never see on mainstream shelves unless you crack the shrinkwrap on American Psycho. The plot… well, despite what you might imagine, it isn’t about a serial killer. Which makes it all the worse…

I can’t really go into it in much more detail because it would give away the story. I can say it’s gross as all get out, but leavened (as most of Lee’s most extreme tales are) by a strong (and bloody) vein of humour running through the whole. I don’t know, rednecks quoting Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche whilst undertaking the most unimaginable of atrocities and swilling moonshine make me laugh, for some reason. Don’t they you? 😀

Mr Torso fits into Lee’s grotesque canon along with the stomach-evacuating (literally) delights of The Bighead, The Minotauress, Teratologist, Gast, Portrait of the Psychopath as a Young Woman, Ever Nat, Partners In Chyme, The Pig, Header, The McGrath Model SS40-C, Series S, The Stick Woman… the list goes on. Utterly splattery fun from pretty much the hardest of the extreme horror hardcore writers, and several miles more nasty — and delightful — that his also rather extreme mainstream material. If you can ever find a copy, well, you’ve been warned.

 

 

Look To Windward

March 17, 2008

Look To Windward, by Iain M Banks

Look To Windward, by Iain M Banks.

Back again after a little while off due to miserable personal circumstances. I’ve read a lot lately but because of the aforementioned many of the titles have gone out of my mind. Will rectify that at a later stage.

Look To Windward is a hard sci-fi novel in Banks’ ‘Culture’ series — a sprawling, pseudoutopian future effectively administered by vast AIs called Minds who benevolently interfere in the development of other civilizations. This particular novel deals with one of those interventions when the Culture, for all its good intentions, gets it wrong and becomes responsible for a stellar war, the destruction of two stars and the deaths of three billion people.

The story starts slowly, with flashbacks to the war and a dual plot dealing with a Culture Oribital Habitat preparing to commemorate the war via a symphony created by an expatriate timed to coincide with the light from the exploding stars visibly reaching their location. The second storyline follows that of a delegate from the defeated system coming to the Habitat on what is ostensibily a peace mission.

As the tale evolves, it becomes darker and more monstrous: no-one is who — or what — they seem, and an elaborate and horrendous revenge is being planned. And what level of revenge can you go to when the original stakes are three billion dead?

The first hundred pages were a little difficult to get through, in my opinion… but then suddenly it clicked, and clicked hard. A sense of dread and inevitability began to build and continued to rise until the very end, when Banks utterly turned the tables and hit me with a series of brutal, often macabre twists and turns that rose to a shuddering crescendo of betrayal and ruthlessness I simply wasn’t expecting — and thoroughly enjoyed. Particularly intriguing was the portrayal of a behind-the-scenes area of the Culture that was capable of eclipsing the military juntas of the beaten world and the revengers alike in sheer ruthlessness. And how it ‘exampled’ some of them…

Loved it and wanted more. And I have more, because Matter, the most recent Culture novel, is upon the to-be-read pile as we speak…