Shaking off the rust

November 14, 2008

Last time I was here was August. Bloody August. Time flies, no?

Well, things happen. For me, it’s interesting to note the general decrease of good blog content as everyone seems to wend their way over into Facebook or MySpace or twitters meaingless bullshit at each other. Everything is short and fragmentary and nobody seems to have very much to say. Me included.

I may not have been writing a lot about it but I’ve certainly been reading a lot; have to prise them books out of my cold, dead hands to stop me, to paraphrase a well-known lunatic firearms fringe. Also trying to write myself, as nearly 40,000 words of PM2 can attest. I had a real run on that too, especially when I took some time off, but now that I’m working again it’s more difficult to find the time. Which is probably an excuse, but time does seem to slither away like a headless snake bloodily slopping its way over an embankment and that was possibly the worse metaphor ever. Anyway. Should resolve to crack that 40,000 word barrier this weekend.

Reading-wise (oh god where to start):

Bought an enormous amount of Brian Lumley lately. Predominantly the ‘Necroscope’ series, some of which is criminally out of print, but, frankly, almost anything with his name on it. I never thought I was a particular fan of the Lovecraftian/Derleth Cthulhu Mythos until I started reading Lumley. Appears that I am, since a great big leatherbound hardcover of all of Lovecraft’s work in this vein, The Necronomicon, is winging its way towards me from Amazon UK as we speak.

Speaking of the Necroscope series, it’s excellent, although why the book covers persistently have blurbs shrieking, “If you like Anne Rice you’ll love this!!!” I have no idea. Anyone who thinks they’re going to get Lestat in a Lumley book might be in for something of an unpleasant surprise. Lumley’s vampires intermingled with psionic espionage and cold war machinations, and are less of the hand-wringing ‘Sweet-Lord-it-is-a-sad-sad-lot-to-be-a-vampire-oh-woe-is-me-never-to-see-the-sun-again-I-shall-existentially-pontificate-for-three-hundred-years-blah-de-sodding-blah’ and more of the shapeshifting horrendous monster that bites peoples’ heads off in one gulp type. His posit that vampires (Wamphyri) are infested by leechlike parasites which metamorphically change human flesh into fleshwreaking and bloodslurping monstrosities is highly entertaining, but more: his adversaries, psychics and spies, are quite unique in literature — a kind of James Bond crew with a unique array of very diverse psychic talents including the ability to speak to and raise the dead. (As a side note, the books all have lovely skull-themed covers, both English and American editions, which make me smile and chuckle evilly to myself)

The Necroscope series is Necroscope, Wamphyri!, The Source, Deadspeak, Deadspawn, Blood Brothers, The Last Aerie and Bloodwars. Thus far. There’s a few more I haven’t got through yet (The Lost Years, Resurgence, Invaders [come back into print, you swine: you’re holding up the bloody series!!], Defilers, Avengers, The Touch). Muchly recommended. Not a doubt when I finish ’em I’ll probably go into the whole thing in more detail, if I can staple my fingers and my attention to this blog again…

  

Currently reading Stephen King’s new short story collection, Just After Sunset. Just about every other book gets put aside when a new King appears. Not terribly far into it yet but ‘The Gingerbread Girl’ already deserves a special mention for creepy psycho of the week, whilst ‘Willa’ is an almost surreal ghost story. Lovely.

Should give a shout-out for Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, a door-busting brick of a book that’s a weird twist of monks, mathematics, science fiction and the end of the world. Difficult to quantify and it started a little slowly, but then abruptly grabbed me by the eyeballs and hauled me in. Very much enjoyed.

And can’t leave without mentioning Neal Asher, because two of his books showed up at the same time. Shadow of the Scorpion deals with the backstory of one of his perennial characters, the Polity Agent Ian Cormac; The Gabble and Other Stories is short (although some were novella-length) pieces expanding on elements of his sci-fi universe with a lot of emphasis on his completely weird and wonderful creations, the gibberish-talking, utterly unpredictable and occasionally human-eating gabbleducks. Superb, both of them.

 

 

An odd little one: Skull Cathedral, by Tim Waggoner — short story that’s barely a book, dream-like (nightmare-like, more accurately) and horrific descent into someone’s head via way of machinery, hideous fantasies/hallucinations and altered perceptions. Recommended for that shelf we all have (or is it just me? 😀 ) which overflows with bloody bodily fluids on a regular basis. Particularly liked the moment where the protagonist discovered he had rectal sphincters for eyes, all appropriately plumbed in as well, in a crowded restaurant… I mean, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? >:)

 

 

Will stop there for a moment: rambling. This blogging thing is hard lately… I read too many books. Run out of bloody shelf-space again… :O

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White Ninja

May 7, 2008

I Am White Ninja Pickle etc

 

I Am White Ninja And You Are My Pickle Sidekick, by Scott Bevan and Kent Earle.

 

Unutterably stupid and weirdly popular comic series now collected into the above handy chunky book form. Appeals very much to my no doubt equally unutterably stupid sense of humour. For example:

White Ninja Pie

Support some struggling artists — and by the artwork sample you can see why they’re struggling, oh yes — by buying what’s actually a very funny product. You won’t be sorry: well, you might be, but it would be too late then. 😛

Ugly Heaven, Beautiful Hell

February 7, 2008

Ugly Heaven, Beautiful Hell 

 

Ugly Heaven, Beautiful Hell, by Carlton Mellick III and Jeffrey Thomas.

 

A dual book comprising two unlinked novellas: ‘Heaven’ by Mellick and ‘Hell’ by Thomas. I enjoy both authors so this was a treat for me.

‘Ugly Heaven’ is bizarro: very typical Carlton Mellick III, and exactly why I like his writing. People die, appear in what they think is Heaven and a strange roadtrip through an utterly alien environment occurs. That’s usually Mellick down to a T — in this instance the roadtrip includes such sidelines as:

  • the bodies of people in Heaven are without orifices, and bodily functions have to be dealt with by slitting them open and sewing them up afterwards
  • what comes out of your body may not be what goes in, eg: insects and strange gloppy foodstuffs
  • behind the backcloth-drawn ‘reality’ of Heaven are vast organic machines and even stranger worlds

Carlton Mellick III is an acquired taste and no denying it. I acquired it long ago and never looked back. If you like your stories seasoned liberally with complete weirdness and your invented worlds beyond ordinary feats of imagination, then look no further.

In contrast, ‘Beautiful Hell’ is more cohesive, and effectively an in-name sequel to Thomas’ superb Letters From Hades. Within these pages the damned try to get through their damned lives in gorgeously depicted and realised Boschean helltropes (today’s Newly Invented Word that you may all worship at the feet of)… but the ordered structure of Hell is crumbling as some of the controlling demons begin to question their roles and form relationships with the damned — and a particular book, which happens to be Letters From Hades, is subversively circling through a damned underground and stirring the pot even further. Add such maleficopolitic (today’s second Newly Invented Word that you may fall over and froth at the mouth about) themes to the imminence of a visit from God ‘imself to Hell — and a plot to assassinate him — along with the unwilling transfiguration of many of the demons into a new kind of demon heavily reliant on tentacles, and you’ve got a lovely, weird little tale that defies most rational conventions and pulls you along like the proverbial rollercoaster until you’re breathless and very satisfied at the end. (and certainly very much looking forward to Thomas’ official sequel to Letters… , Voices From Hades, coming later this year).

The two authors complement each other almost perfectly, though the tales they spin are very different. It’s a breakneck, provocative read that will leave you mulling over the whole long after the book’s been put happily onto the shelf. Find it, buy it, love it and prepared to be weirded out, in a good way.

 

er... 

 

Sob. I should really give up attempting to write EVER AGAIN. How can I compete…?

Spider Pie

January 20, 2008

Spider Pie, by Alyssa Sturgill

Spider Pie, by Alyssa Sturgill.

Bizarro or irreal genre — one of Carlton Mellick III’s bastard lovechildren, perhaps. Spider Pie is a collection of short, short stories (none of them more than five pages long) themed about the violent, grotesque absurdities of life as imagineered by the author. Some of them don’t make a lick of sense, deliberately so; those that do are slightly the better for it, even if the genre doesn’t necessarily require sense, but only the ability to shock or make the reader sit back for a second and then reread.

Favourites? ‘Beware of Kitten’ and the autopsy story about the ice-cream man but they’re all good in their own twisted, intestine-spilling ways. Don’t read Sturgill if you’re expecting neat packages or slice-of-life vignettes: she doesn’t work that way. Read her for not knowing how, or why, one entirely disparate sentence can possibly segue into another, and how it can still (mostly) all hang together. This is stream-of-consciousness poetry hooked on hallucinogens and hammered into prose: some of it will make you laugh, dry-heave or yelp out a hearty “WTF?!?”, but none of it should leave you unmoved.

And that’s a good thing, isn’t it?