#DealMeIn2019, Week 2 ~ “A Dog’s Story”

“A Dog’s Story” by Gardner Dozois

Card Picked: 3♥
From: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July-August 2017

He was old, and his hip hurt him these days, and he had long ago quit bothering to bark at cars, but his still-restless spirit wouldn’t let him go to sleep without tasting the night…

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a tale titled “A Dog’s Story” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. There are some fantastical elements to it, but also a dollop of horror.

During the course of his night wanderings, Blackie finds the body of a murdered young woman in an alley. She reminds him of his special human Emily, who has been gone for several years. It’s implied that Emily has died; Blackie’s current human has been listless since Emily has been gone, but as a dog, Blackie only know that there is no more Emily. He decides that some justice should be done for this woman. His nose isn’t good enough to track the killer, nor would he be able to attack the man once he’s found, but Blackie is old enough to know other animals, like Talking Pete, a geriatric cat who knows many languages and can talk to the city’s rats. Through favors and deals, justice will be served.

This is a slip of a story, only just over 1500 words. (I love that F&SF includes word counts.) I can imagine that other writers would do more with the other animals, but indeed, this is a dog’s story and Blackie gets all the screen time.

Advertisements

Review ~ A Song for Quiet

A Song for Quiet (Persons Non Grata, #2)

A Song for Quiet by Cassandra Khaw

Deacon James is a rambling bluesman straight from Georgia, a black man with troubles that he can’t escape, and music that won’t let him go. On a train to Arkham, he meets trouble — visions of nightmares, gaping mouths and grasping tendrils, and a madman who calls himself John Persons. According to the stranger, Deacon is carrying a seed in his head, a thing that will destroy the world if he lets it hatch.

The mad ravings chase Deacon to his next gig. His saxophone doesn’t call up his audience from their seats, it calls up monstrosities from across dimensions. As Deacon flees, chased by horrors and cultists, he stumbles upon a runaway girl, who is trying to escape her father, and the destiny he has waiting for her. Like Deacon, she carries something deep inside her, something twisted and dangerous. Together, they seek to leave Arkham, only to find the Thousand Young lurking in the woods.

The song in Deacon’s head is growing stronger, and soon he won’t be able to ignore it any more.

Why did I choose this book?

Undeniably, H. P. Lovecraft was very influential to the genres of horror and fantasy. He was also racist, xenophobic, and antisemitic. I like the concept of all the people Lovecraft took exception to jumping into his sandbox and adding wings to his castles. I really enjoyed Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom and had heard that Malaysian writer Cassandra Khaw’s A Song for Quiet is another worthy addition to this genre niche.

Ladies of Horror Fiction challenged readers to make their first read of 2019 a female horror author—it was the perfect “excuse” to read A Song for Quiet.

So, what did I think?

Khaw imbues her writing with rhythm which is very appropriate when the main character is a jazz musician. I also enjoyed the little Lovecraft subversions: things like a white cowboy character being described as simian and Arkham being a progressive enough place to allow a black female business owner.

Khaw also does a good job giving shape and physicality to what can often be vague cosmic horror. It’s easy to duck the unimaginable, but Deacon’s visions and the Thousand Young are good and gory. I also like that there is some small measure of hope in this story. I plan on reading more horror this year, but I am a little worried. I think that I have less patience for hopelessness these days.

I enjoyed A Song for Quiet so much that I’m going to have to read Hammers on Bone, the first book on the loose series, in the near future. The first features John Persons, a minor character here, who isn’t quite a person. I am intrigued.

Other Info

Genre: horror
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Release date: August 29, 2017
My copy: OverDrive Read via Tempe Library

#DealMeIn2018, Week 51 ~ “Uncle Abraham’s Romance”

“Uncle Abraham’s Romance” by Edith Nesbit

Card Picked: 2♣️ – WILD card
Found at: Grim Tales @ ProjectGutenberg

“There’s nothing to tell,” he said. “I think it was fancy, mostly, and folly; but it’s the realest thing in my long life, my dear.”

Since this was a WILD card, I figured I’d continue with my reading of Edith Nesbit’s Grim Tales.

Our narrator, age eighteen, sits at her uncle’s knee and waits for him to tell her about his one single romance. While he never married, he often sits and gazes at the miniature of a beautiful woman. Despite what he says, she knows there’s a story there.

Finally, he tells her of a lovely young woman that he used to speak to over the churchyard wall, who didn’t care about his lame leg. Of course, this being a Edith Nesbit story with a churchyard and a mysterious portrait, we can assume that the woman isn’t exactly what she seems (well, if you assumed she was just a lovely, understanding you woman in the first place).

Predictable, but in a satisfying way

#FrankenSlam! Review & WrapUp

Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus

Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

via Goodreads

It’s been two and a half years since I read Frankenstein. I decided to give it another read this year due to the 200th anniversary of its publication.

I started out reading an edition annotated for “Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds.” I figured it would be a nice twist—to read a novel I’d read twice before with the context of what scientists and engineers have to say about the book. Unfortunately, I misunderstood. The annotations aren’t by scientists for scientists; they are by a group of literature/philosophy/humanities people written at scientists. There was a preachy quality to the annotations that really annoyed me. Speaking as a bachelor of arts schmuck who hangs out with a lot of engineers, it’s off-the-mark to assume that people in the sciences are ignorant of ethics.

I have also come to have a problem with how Frankenstein is held up as the quintessential example of science gone wrong. There is very little science in Frankenstein. The image of Victor Frankenstein as a scientist is pretty laughable. There are very few instances where science is done alone in a vacuum. Technology is reliant on thousands of people working together. The lone mad scientist (or even the benevolent Tony Stark) might as well be a wizard casting a spell for all he or she has to do with science.

So, about midway through I switched to an edition illustrated by David Plunkert, which was much less vexing.

Illustration by David Plunkert
from Rockport Publisher’s Classics Reimagined series.

Last time I read, I was struck by how much of the book Frankenstein spends running away. This time around I found him nearly insufferable. Having read Paradise Lost just before this, I could see a parallel between the monster and Satan: both get the best lines and elicit more sympathy than the “main” character. Frankenstein is more like Adam in the late books of Paradise Lost. He has done wrong, but like a little kid he’s going to whine about it and try to dodge his responsibilities as much as possible.

#FrankenSlam! WrapUp

Jay @ Bibliophilopolis hosted the FrankenSlam! Challenge: Read Frankenstein and the three books that comprise the monster’s education. There were also other Frankenstein related activities.

Alas, I have fallen short.

I read Frankenstein and two out of three of the other books. I started Plutarch’s Lives, but I didn’t get very far.

Here are my reviews of the other two:
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goeth
Paradise Lost John Milton

I did talk quite a bit to Eric about the whole endeavor, much to his chagrin. I also rewatched the first season of Penny Dreadful which I’m counting as an adaptation. But, I’m just short of a full FrankenSlam!

Deal Me In, Week 47 ~ “John Charrington’s Wedding”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“John Charrington’s Wedding” by Edith Nesbit

Card picked: Q
Found at: Grim Tales @ ProjectGutenberg

May was sitting on a low flat gravestone, her face turned towards the full splendour of the western sun. Its expression ended, at once and for ever, any question of love for him; it was transfigured to a beauty I should not have believed possible, even to that beautiful little face.

Edith Nesbit’s Grim Tales collection has been on my TBR-eventually list for quite some time. Without even realizing it, I’ve now read the first two stories in order from Grim Tales! I read “The Ebony Frame” back during Gothic September and now I’ve read “John Charrington’s Wedding” for Deal Me In. Both were suggested by different sources.

Nesbit’s style is fairly straight-forward and both of these tales are on the domestic relationship side of horror. In “The Ebony Frame,” the protagonist becomes enamored with a woman in a painting. In “John Charrington’s Wedding,” John is so devoted to May that he promises to return from the dead if she wants him to. We all know how that’s going to turn out, don’t we?  I’m now wondering how the next grim talein the collection will play out: “Uncle Abraham’s Romance.”

Deal Me In, Week 44 ~ “Abraham’s Boys”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Abraham’s Boys” by Joe Hill

Card picked: 9
Found at: Fifty-Two Stories

“Do you believe in vampires, Max?”

Rudy was on his knees in front of an ottoman across the room. He had hunched over to collect a few papers which had settled there, then stayed to look at the battered doctor’s bag tucked underneath it. Rudy tugged at the rosary knotted around the handles.

When it came time to read Dracula during my senior year of high school, it was a reread for me. So, while still following along with the class, I decided to read Dracula and pay attention to how insane Dr. Van Helsing is. If there weren’t vampires, zealous Abraham Van Helsing could almost be a villain.

In “Abraham’s Boys,” Joe Hill plays a what if game. What if Mina marries Van Helsing after Johnathan dies? (No details on how *that* happened.) What if they have two sons? What if they move to America before Mina’s also unfortunate end? What if… maybe… there are no vampires even though the old man teaches his sons that there are?

Oh, that this story would have been picked last week, but hey, who says the Halloween spirit can’t continue on? The ending is pretty hair-raising and offers no answers. I haven’t read much Joe Hill; this is definitely my favorite of his works thus far.

Review ~ Nothing to Devour

This book was provided to me by Macmillan-Tor/Forge via NetGalley for review consideration.

Nothing to Devour cover

Nothing to Devour by Glen Hirshberg

Librarian Emilia is alone in a library that is soon to close its doors forever. Alone save for one last patron, his head completely swathed in bandages, his hands gloved, not one inch of skin exposed. Emilia feels sorry for him–like her, he is always alone.

Today, he sees, really sees, Emilia.
What he does to her then is unspeakable.

Thousands of miles away, another victim rises—a dead woman who still lives. Sophie is determined to protect the people she loves best in the world—but she is a monster.

To Jess, it doesn’t matter that Sophie was once as close to her as her own daughter. It doesn’t matter that Sophie’s baby died so that Jess’s grandson could live. It only matters that Sophie is a vampire.

Vampires can’t be trusted.
Even if they love you.

Aunt Sally loved all the monsters she’d created in the hundreds of years since she died and rose again. She loved her home in the bayou. When her existence was exposed to the human world, she didn’t hesitate to destroy her home, and her offspring, to save herself. Herself, and one special girl, Aunt Sally’s last chance to be a perfect mother.

These people are drawn together from across the United States, bound by love and hatred, by the desire for reunification and for revenge.

In their own ways, they are all monsters.
Some deserve to live.
Some do not. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Glen Hirshberg is currently my favorite horror author.

What Worked
One of the strong points of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire was its themes of family set among a group of monsters. That novel (and its sequels) only barely scratches the surface in comparison to Glen Hirshberg’s Motherless Children trilogy, which concludes with Nothing to Devour. As a Gen X writer, it’s not surprising that Hirshberg begins with a base of found family on which to build his monsters.

In the aftermath of Good Girls (book 2), Jess flees with  her grandson and the remaining survivors, including orphan Rebecca, to a remote island in the Pacific northwest. What she establishes isn’t quite family, but it’s all she, and they, have. Their relationships are a contrast to Emily’s strong family ties, though she is trying to grow-up and away from her parents. That’s before her “Invisible Man” intervenes.

Don’t misunderstand, this trilogy isn’t all family drama. Not in the least. Hirshberg doesn’t shy away from shock and gore. He just makes sure you care about the characters first.

What Didn’t Work
I really wish I would have reread Motherless Child and Good Girls leading up to Nothing to Devour. This *is* the final book in a trilogy. It doesn’t stand alone and its cast is large enough that I didn’t entirely remember who was who at the beginning of the book.

I also still maintain that Hirshberg does his best, most unsettling, work in shorter forms. While these novels are solidly horror, they lack the gnawing chills of stories like “Struwwelpeter” or “Mr. Dark’s Carnival” (from his collection The Two Sams).

Overall
I had pretty much put a stake into vampires as a good literary monster before Motherless Child. The entire Motherless Children trilogy is a great resurrection of the trope.

Publishing info, my copy: Epub, Tor, release date: Nov. 6, 2018
Acquired: NetGalley, 7/24/18
Genre: horror