Ankle Of Doom!

March 5, 2010

Well, normally this infrequently-updated blog is about books, but today I wanted to show the entire world (i.e. less than one person who reads this) exactly what happens when you attempt to enact the ultimate cliché — in other words, stick your foot down a rabbit hole and destroy all the ligaments.

Three weeks of sick leave ensued. And, whilst ordinarily three weeks off work would be a Time Of Joy And Rejoicing, three weeks sitting down with your foot elevated, unable to sleep because the slightest move twinged a mangled sinew and being completely confined to a chair is not actually huge amounts of fun.

Sigh.

Currently, it’s still somewhat fat and swollen but the bruising has dissipated, except on the other side of the ankle where it pierced all the way through the joint. Walking is randomly difficult: there’s a particular foot angle that hurts considerably but I don’t know what it is and thus can’t avoid doing it.

Double sigh.

On the plus side, got a lot of reading done and will hopefully motivate soon to get some of it up here on the blog. 🙂

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The City of Dreaming Books, by Walter Moers

The City of Dreaming Books, by Walter Moers

 

An impulse buy that took me completely by surprise, Walter Moers’ The City of Dreaming Books has kind of crashed into the top levels of my favourite books ever and left me blinking, dazed and astonished, in its wake.

Moers is a German author predominantly of childrens’ books whose works are only relatively recently being translated. His main trope is a fantasy world called Zamonia which is populated by a near-infinite variety of weird and wonderful lifeforms and is a world of endless, well, weirdness.

Quoting from Amazon.com via Publisher’s Weekly here, the plot in a very strained nutshell:

German author and cartoonist Moers returns to the mythical lost continent of Zamonia in his uproarious third fantasy adventure to be translated into English (after 2006’s Rumo), a delightfully imaginative mélange of Shel Silverstein zaniness and oddball anthropomorphism à la Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Optimus Yarnspinner, a young saurian novelist, embarks on a quest to track down the anonymous author of the most magnificent piece of writing in the whole of Zamonian literature. Traveling to Bookholm, the legendary City of Dreaming Books, the naïve Yarnspinner falls victim to Pfistomel Smyke, a maggotlike literary scholar who poisons Yarnspinner and abandons him in the treacherous catacombs miles below the city’s surface. Stranded in an underworld steeped in terror-inducing myth and home to more than a few bizarre inhabitants, Yarnspinner undertakes a long and perilous journey back to the world above. Enchanting illustrations by the author compliment a wonderfully whimsical story that will appeal to readers of all ages. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

This is really only scratching the surface. What this book is, is a love letter to literature and books in general, and anyone who loves books, reading, dusty old tomes, libraries and bookshops (hmmm: me) will be transported upon delving in. Amidst these pages you will find cities and buildings composed entirely of books, Booklings that spend their lives memorising the works of authors and speaking only via their words, living books, poisonous and killer books, monstrously armoured BookHunters, Rube Goldbergian steampunk book machines… it goes on and on and on, with every page a mad new idea. Profusely illustrated, too, which is very useful given some of the wildly bizarre denizens Moers has thought up to people his incredible world.

Although it’s technically childrens’ literature, anyone can read it. There are some elements that are quite violent, à la the Brothers Grimm, and it’s a doorstopper of a book (which was marvellous, because I didn’t want to leave the world). Conceptually and linguistically (aside: the translation seems brilliant), there are some elements that small children wouldn’t follow either — which just means more for the rest of us. Do not ignore Bookholm because you might think it’s just for kids: it is so, so not.

Loved it so much I gave away my first paperback copy to another booklover and tracked down a hardback for myself. This is the sort of book that deserves to be a dusty, much-loved old book on an ancient wooden shelf — in the nicest possible way.

Can’t recommend this one enough, and the moment I laid my ink-smudged fingers on it and cracked the first chapter, I immediately began BookHunting the rest of Moers’ translated ouevre — which arrived yesterday. 😀  (Can’t wait… and you shouldn’t either)

Not dead! Really! Just really, really busy. Actual content will appear again soon. Have read many books. Very good ones, too, like the Temeraire series, Dan Simmon’s Drood and Stephen Hunt’s ‘Jackals’ ongoing (Court of the Air, The Kingdom Beneath The Waves and the not-read-yet The Rise of the Iron Moon). And lots more. Yes.

Just busy. I feel guilty now.

To assuage this guilt-ridden feeling, I destroy your brain present you with pictures from the world’s greatest film, which is all about the attack of a giant space mutant chicken:

 

 

I’m in childrens’ books territory at the moment, and loving it.

Philip Reeve’s Larklight — and its sequels Starcross and Mothstorm — are a chaotic and wonderful mishmash of genre that collectively add up to wonderful entertainment. Part steampunk, part boys-own-adventure, part science-fiction/fantasy and part-WTF, this is the story of 12-year-old Art Mumby and his very strange family, who live in the floating Victoriana-goth household of Larklight which, thanks to its aether engines and some unusual, ancient enhancements, floats serenely through the asteroid belt (where Art’s father, a distinguished Victorian gentleman, is endlessly cataloguing asteroid ‘fish’ for his mindnumbingly dull treatises for the Royal Xenological Institute).

It’s all set in a retro-future solar system wherein, as per the best tenets of steampunk, the British Empire never decayed but flourished and conquered the stars by means of brass engines, clockwork, steam power and Good Old British Pluck (Huzzah!). In this brilliantly realised world, aliens and humans alike wear top hats and conform to strict British etiquette, Queen Victoria never died, monstrous bowler-hatted carnivorous intelligent spiders inhabit the rings of Saturn, you can talk to the sentient storm of Jupiter, wooden sailing ships sail the (thinly breathable) heavens on winged engines whilst the asteroids are linked by railway lines and dastardly plots hatch and abound everywhere.

Almost every page is richly illustrated by Reeve’s collaborator David Wyatt in a rich, luscious Victorian style, rendering such gems as the Pudding Worm, battleship-sized interstellar moths (obvious enemies of the gnome-like Threls, whose civilization is currently engaged in the Brobdingnagian task of knitting a tea cosy to cover their entire world), translucent and highly carnivorous sun dogs and rampaging glass buildings to perfection, greatly enhancing the astonishing mental feats that the author constantly bombards us with. There’s a new and splendid idea on every page (yep, the Britishisms are catching [huzzah!]) and the adventure is both endless and often hilarious.

I love these to death, and am both saddened by the fact that it is obviously a trilogy (with a little scope for continuation) and heartened by its perfection as such. Buy the hardcovers if you can: they’re beautiful little books with glorious endpapers in the Victorian style, full of advertisements for patent zero gravity moustache waxes, brass exoskeleta (for those intrepid explorers) and suchlike.  But whichever version you get, I guarantee you’ll fall in love… or you’ve got brass cogs for a heart and a Moob for a brain. 🙂

 

Wince

January 2, 2009

No, not about the wedding. Wedding was fine, yep, don’t remember much about the actual ceremony but am crystal clear about all the rest of it. It’s good to be married, methinks. Ring still feels a bit weird on my finger (heavy) but no doubt it so did upon Sauron’s until he got used to it.

Haven’t been in much because of the oh for Christ’s sake I keep making excuses about this — I’m here when I’m here I think is the best way to determine how and when I update this bloody thing. Brain’s falling out of my skull through several of my age-related deossifying fossa now I’ve crumbled out of my thirties.

The ‘wince’ of the header was simply me going over in my head recently elements of books that made me — strong-stomached, reared-on-horror-and-lovin’it, can-take-anything-I-can me — wince. For no particular reason except I’d outlined a scene for something a while ago that made me cringe a little… and I wrote it. Came from a dream that shot me awake, sweating and shuddering despite the joys of air-conditioning in an Australian summer (and that definitely is a joy).

Anyway, for no good reason, Things Wot Made Me Wince In Books (The Not Exhaustive List O’Fun) :

  • Hooray for Matthew Stokoe’s Cows and his very fresh approach to ‘animal relations’ involving razored cookie cutters, pinioned cows in a slaughterhouse run and a whole heap of frustrated abattoir workers;
  • Peculiarly enough, while I can read American Psycho any day of the week and enjoy it, there’s a line in the far, far tamer Rules of Attraction that gets me every time: “I almost slit my dick open on her coil.”
  • Honourable mention for the surgeon-rapist nightmare things in Brian Lumley’s House Of Doors II: Maze of Worlds. Their utterly bizarre chanting and rather insalubrious dream-inspired antics got a double-take and a reread out of me.
  • And speaking of Lumley, his very detailed descriptions of an alien talent called evagination in Necroscope: The Touch were a barrel of fun too… and let’s not forget the poor bastard forced to run about with his foot turned around backwards.
  • Can’t forget Edward Lee with just about all of The Dritiphilist, which is so limited edition most will probably never see it, and quite frankly all, be thankful for that. I won’t explain the particular philia: that’s half the fun.
  • And whilst I’m in siction territory, Wrath James White’s Succulent Prey, complete with very detailed recipes for cooking and eating certain choice parts of the human anatomy, dug the knife in a couple of times.
  • There’s a scene in Tim Waggoner’s Skull Cathedral wherein a man with assholes for eyes gets caught short having dinner in an expensive restaurant… Yep, eurgh.
  • A couple of moments in J F Gonzalez’s Survivor are a little hard to take, especially the upshot of the bargain a captured woman makes in order to get out of being the star of a snuff film.
  • The sheer brutality of Jack Ketchum’s unexpurgated Off Season has to be read experienced to be believed, with the slow, hideous death and cannibalisation of one of the girls an astonishingly visceral (no pun intended) jolt: monstrously powerful writing that stays with you for ages.
  • A strange half-laughing / half-what-where-you-thinking? wince for the method with which the Tooth Fairy in Robert Devereaux’s Santa Steps Out actually creates and delivers the gold coins she exchanges for cute kiddie molars…
  • Literal cold shivers on my skin in Derek Raymond’s final ‘Factory’ novel, Dead Man Upright, when the unnamed Detective Sergeant of the series finds and watches the killer’s first video.
  • And perhaps another shudder or two for just about all of David Peace’s Nineteen Seventy-Four, where the discovery of a mutilated swan leads to another discovery of a dead child — with angel wings.
  • Another honourable mention goes rather despicably to me and something that lurks on my hard drive, never to be seen by another human’s eyes (probably) about a deranged woman who finds herself locked in a maternity ward…

 

I think I could go on and on with this. Surprisingly therapeutic fun. But since everyone’s throwing up in a corner by now, may be a good time to leave it. What about you, Friends Who Are Reading (or probably soon to be ex-reading now that they’ve read this blog entry) — anything in fiction freaked you out?

 

>:)

Don’t usually do this, but too funny not to link to: the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Results of 2008.

A couple of personal favourites:

“Toads of glory, slugs of joy,” sang Groin the dwarf as he trotted jovially down the path before a great dragon ate him because the author knew that this story was a train wreck after he typed the first few words.

The mongrel dog began to lick her cheek voraciously with his sopping wet tongue, so wide and flat and soft, a miniature pink fleshy cape soaked through and oozing with liquid salivary gratitude; after all, she had rescued him from the clutches of Bernard, the curmudgeonly one-eyed dogcatcher, whose own tongue — she remembered vividly the tongues of all her lovers — was coarse and lethargic, like a slug in a sandpaper trenchcoat.

Timothy Hanson, Commander of the 43rd Space Regiment in the 52nd Battalion on board the USAOPAC (United Space Alliance Of Planets Attack Carrier) and second in command to Admiral L. R. Morris of the USAOP Space Command, awoke early for breakfast.

She had the kind of body that made a man want to have sex with her.

 

 

Is it wrong of me to want to read all of these stories? 😛

Sloppy Seconds

July 18, 2008

Sloppy Seconds, by Wrath James White

 

Sloppy Seconds, by Wrath James White.

 

Er. Well. Yes.

A short book of short stories, very very limited edition thing. Apparently at the annual World Horror Convention they have an equally annual Gross-Out Contest, wherein which authors are liberated from the bounds of common decency, morality and taste in their efforts to outdo each other with the most vile, nauseating, splattery, repulsive, brutal and monstrous stories they can think of. All for some kind of nonspecific prize (probably a rotting fishhead tastefully mounted within the remains of an underaged streetwalker sprayed with fake gold) and the honour of being pronounced Most Gross Storyteller of 200X. Well. Yay. 😀

Anyway, Wrath James White has been runner-up a few times — never quite cracked it, but judging by the five stories in Sloppy Seconds he bloody should’ve done. Emphasis on the word ‘bloody’. And other bodily fluids. In abundance.

Whilst the stories are almost unimaginably sick and brutal, they’re also well written (a few typos notwithstanding) and, despite the brevity of the medium, very effective if you can get past the subject matter (or have no problems with the subject matter, like me 😉 ). It’s a weird place, this under-under-underground basement genre of extreme horror, but White is very much at home here and damnit if he hasn’t dragged me inside and made me feel at home…

I love this sort of thing. It makes the joys of American Psycho look cuddly. It’s parked next to the equally astonishingly repulsive Excitable Boys in the shelf: there were a few Gross-Out winners in that too if I recall correctly…

For the rest of you, probably be glad it’s a limited edition and you’ll never get hold of it.