Accepting Authority


The final two pieces of the “Area X Trilogy”: I’d have to recommend reading the series at least once, but I’m not happy with the level of resolution.

Authority (Southern Reach, #2)Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t like the main character’s nickname. It’s as bad as Hiero Protagonist. “Control” is cutesy. It’s a shorthand way of imputing that the mc is the normal one, the one that doesn’t get the drugs or the treatment or whatever, and misleading in that regard.
A good part of this book seems based on department infighting and the other half goes a little Rogue Moon if Algis Budrys had written the Manchurian Candidate into the story.
It’s odd, and there’s enough conflict on various levels to be effective, and yes, weird stuff happens and characters undergo mindbending changes…but it’s a bit numbing to me because I didn’t really like any of the characters. They all seem to operate at a remove, and the narrative works at arm’s-length too.
And there’s little exposition in a narrative that seems to call for it. I’m gonna go with Aliens did it.

View all my reviews

Acceptance (Southern Reach, #3)Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a lot of trouble getting through this book, the second time. I found it unsatisfying, ultimately. The reason why Area X exists is never explained. What Area X actually is remains mysterious. Some of the character arcs are completed, and there are hints of resolution, but they’re only hints.
The tone continues to be the same scientist-as-hero that gives this series its Golden Age echoes. Events unfold, to a point, but one gets the idea that the author is holding back a lot of information, and also setting up for more stories in this milieu.
It’s effective enough, but I was left wanting.

View all my reviews

annihilation nation


I couldn’t sleep. Strange things happen when I’m sleepless, which happens entirely too often. I am very bad at sleeping and have periods where I might sleep two hours at a time for weeks, or stay up three or four days.
It’s been that way since I was very young. I missed about two weeks of third grade because I wasn’t sleeping well enough to move around safely on my own.
Reading has always been my fallback. If I can’t sleep, I read, first. I like a little noise when I read, but just a little, and it has to be familiar, comfortable. Old sitcoms or crime shows will do. I need the rhythms. Talking-head shows work too.
annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerI’ve been re-reading the Area X trilogy, these last few days. I have the kindle versions, so I can turn out all of the lights except the tv and greedily drink the words. Jeff VanderMeer is one of those practitioners of the “weird” that comes from sf, like I do, and I very much enjoy, in fact prefer, that approach. Jeffrey Thomas, too, has those echoes, the clanking rhythms of cyberpunk informing his harrowing parables. VanderMeer is the co-editor of the Big Book of SF, about which more will be said, in another post. His stuff has more New Wave in it…the world of the Southern Reach being a fine example. Annihilation, the first book of the trilogy, is not the first of the author’s books that I’ve read, but so far, it’s the best. I put it on my ballot for the Hugo nomination. We all know what happened there, and I’m not going to get into it…anyway, I thought it the best work of the year.
I loathe using comps to make my points, but I’m going to have to either resort to that or do out-and-out spoilers, which I hate worse. So comparisons it is….Michael Bishop’s anthropological pieces, especially Death and Designation Among the Asadi, his 197- award-winner, have this same sort of straight-up Scientist-As-Hero, performing-a-survey trope going, and deploy a similar air of strangeness, of menace, just offscreen, or in so strange a form that it goes unrecognized. I amĀ  minded, also, of Kate Wilhelm’s The Clewiston Test, and Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, which had similar main characters.
Of course the mc is also exploring the interior landscape at the same time. It goes with the territory. Even though the biologist is working with others, at least initially, she’s always alone, remote.
It turns out that some of this anti-teamwork is the result of hidden persuaders, in a nicely-Dischian. way. Good. Very subtle. The second read reveals the process of hints and allegations that lead to that conclusion, but on the first encounter, it’s almost subliminal.
It takes a practiced hand to do that. Reader manipulation on that level isn’t done often.
Outstanding book. Really good. The main character is interesting enough to listen to, the story has psychological depth, strange detail, interior travelogue, and an inevitable if slightly maddening conclusion. Five stars.
Another tomorrow.

Madness


I got a little bit exercised today by this article, about the “8 Tribes of Sci Fi.”
Rubbish, absolute rubbish. An ill-considered word salad.

To start with, it considers “sci-fi” which I consider to be the z-movie mentality that pervades tv and pop movies. And it calls the wrong things “sci-fi”. The article might fare better if it were said to be talking about “fantasy”, the umbrella term for science fiction and other related imaginative fields, or about “speculative fiction”, a higher-brow way of saying the same thing.

Read the thing for yourself. Feel free to regale me with your version. Or not. Continue reading

Method


Though I conduct my fictional affairs with a good bit of handwavium and a helping of deus ex machina, because that’s the nature of the beast, still, I’ve railed against such use in the past. And I was probably right, then.

Context.

Heh. Yeah, right, you say, and rightly so.

But boundaries, fuck ’em. I was wrong, plus it’s addictive…to be unleashed, to not worry about what hard-sf fans are gonna say, or what plot twist came straight out of tvtropes. To just tell the story as it occurs to you. Er, me. Because pov.

That’s a fun plaything, too. Perspective.

Just tell the damn story. I was good at that when I was young. I would just write until I was done. Wrote a 67,000 word novel in one day, on notebook paper, in pencil(s), longhand. It was awful. Only three people have even read part of it. They’re all on Facebook. *ducks* Continue reading

More power to me.


sgo-w640I’ve been fighting the system, the powers-that-be that govern the issuance of devices like the one to the left, for four years.

Yesterday, I was victorious, and the device was delivered to my home. It comes with one rechargeable battery, an adapter to charge via home electric current, and an adapter to charge via dashboard cigarette lighter.

In order to accomplish all of the tasks that make such a device necessary, I need at least one, and preferably two, additional battery(ies). The insurance company won’t spring for them. It would cost $258.00 apiece to rent them from the agency, or $450.00 to buy them from Amazon.
The latter seems preferable.batteries

So I’ve enacted a GoFundMe campaign to finance the acquisition of two batteries, so that I may go back to school, attend/vend through weird fiction conventions, hold book-signings, and travel more freely in general.

There are several levels of rewards, including such things as free ebooks, custom dedications, and even an opportunity to be written into a novel or short story. Words don’t suffice to express my gratitude to anyone who would contribute to the cause, but words are what I have.

The ultimate goal is to attend the Necronomicon, in 2017, and to take a vendor’s table at the convention, stocked (at least) with the six books that are already planned. This is but a step, albeit a giant one, on the way to that goal.

Thanks for reading, and many thanks for contributing.

Broken thumbnails


Gateways to Abomination: Collected Short FictionGateways to Abomination: Collected Short Fiction by Matthew M. Bartlett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gateways to Abomination consists of a number of vignettes and flash fictions tied together by a framing device, a fictional radio station way to the left on the dial, and by the rot that exists within a small town. It doesn’t have any plot, possesses little forward movement or narrative structure. It’s somewhere between a new-wave novel and a themed collection, and what it has, in spades, is an overwhelming sense of dread, an anything-can-happen atmosphere, which gives the events that take place within a certain non-sequitur quality. Things just happen. Strange things, disturbing things, things that go bump no matter what time of day or night it is.
Nothing is defined or explained, and this opacity lends itself well to the mysterious occurrences in Leeds. It’s unclear whether WXXT is the cause of or merely the reflection of the rot in the town’s heart, or whether it just chronicles the happenings, but the whole bundle is very effective at communicating a sense of foreboding, and the spot-on thumbnail sketches of the people, animals, and places within add an element of hyper-realism to the proceedings.
Definitely not your run-of-the-mill portal. Pass through this gateway and you’ll never be the same.

View all my reviews

Hooked Up


guttedGutted by Doug Murano

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was fortunate enough to be advanced a copy of this book prior to publication. And I mean fortunate. This book is destined to generate strong sales, firstly on the strength of the names involved (Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell), and then on the strength of the poem and stories included.
Stephanie M. Wytovich leads off with an effective piece of verse, which leads into what I think is the best story in the book: Brian Kirk’s “Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave.”
That story illustrates what lengths a person might go to to accomodate a loved one, in exquisite detail. The actual tableau is revolting, but the internal logic is inescapable. The tone is perfect.
“Splinters” is followed by Lisa Mannetti and then Neil Gaiman. Both stories are good — not pedestrian, but are overshadowed by the excellence of Kirk’s piece. Christopher Cooke’s “Dominion” levels up one from those and leads into a tetralogy of really effective horror tales by Mercedes M. Yardley, Paul Tremblay, Damien Angelica Walters, and Richard Thomas, before Clive Barker takes center stage with his “Coming To Grief”. I’m not going to say that this story is as good as “classic Barker” pieces like “In the Hills, the Cities”, but it is a Barker story, and has a certain resonance.
The second-best story, John F.D. Taff’s “Cards for His Spokes, Coins for His Fare”, which has distinct Kingian undertones, is set in the early 70s of my own childhood and morphs into a fairly classic ghost yarn. Cheers for the setting and characters.
Amanda Gowin contributes a decent piece, “Cellar’s Dog”, with a good portrait of po’ white trash, and Kevin Lucia adds “When We All Met at the Ofrenda”, which again hits me especially, as I live in the Southwest and am familiar with the lore that contributes to the setting and setup.
That’s followed by good pieces from Maria Alexander and Josh Malerman, before the capstone, Ramsey Campbell’s “The Place of Revelation”, which does not disappoint.
Strong, strong, strong. Pieces that find beauty in grotesquerie, love amid the ruins, that entice you with beauty and magic and then hang you on a meathook, still wanting more.
Gutted will have out your liver and lights in an instant, after you give your heart willingly.
An easy five stars.

View all my reviews