23 September 2010

The Mammoth Book of The Best of Best New Horror - Stephen Jones (Editor)

  • Author: Stephen Jones (Editor)
  • Title: The Mammoth Book of The Best of Best New Horror - Two Decades of Dark Fiction
  • Publisher: Robinson 2010
  • ISBN: 978 1849013048
The Mammoth Blah Blah Blah is the 20th anniversary collection for Stephen Jones long running series Best New Horror, which I have been a fan of for quite a while now. This volume collected on story from each edition from 1989 until 2009, with a low quality black and white image of the cover of each edition, along with a short note on the problems, successes and contents of each edition by Jones.

One of the things that I love about Jones series is that he doesn't choose stories based on who sold the most, or who is most popular. Rather, he selects based on people doing new things in the genre, or people who are taking the old tropes and twisting them inside out. He's also managed to unearth a whole sackful of brand new authors who are now major names in the horror field, and has provided a regular venue for old superstars of genre like Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell and Brian Lumley.

  • Fuck. I was editing this post a few minutes ago, and Internet Crapsplorer crashed (I'm at the library). I lost about half an hours work. Asshole fucking program. Let me try again, however. What the fuck happened to autosave? It's supposed to go off every 3 minutes or something.
Jones continues that habit of quality over popularity in this edition, choosing lesser known stories over the more successful stories from previous volumes. It makes for a great read that will at times give you the creeps, but more often just impress the pants off you and make you seek out work by people that you may not have considered reading before. Well, you know, if you don't read horror. But then you probably wouldn't read this anyway, in that case, so whatever. I know what I mean.

After the Jump Link, per my usual habit, is a list of the stories in this volume, along with my thoughts (slight though they may be) on each of them. I try not to give away too much, but I might not be able to help myself. You have been warned. Take care, and a friend.....

No! No!! Don't open the link!!  DON'T OPEN THE LINK!!!!!

F. Paul Wilson - The Tomb (A Repairman Jack Novel)

  • Author: F. Paul Wilson
  • Title: The Tomb
  • Publisher: Tor 1998 (First Published 1994)
  • ISBN: 0 812 580370
Repairman Jack is cooler than you. He's a hard assed professional ass kicker who lives off the grid, and uses his lightning fast mind and vast collection of weaponry to exact vengeance on the deserving, on behalf of those who desire vengeance (and can afford the service). This novel opens with Jack tracking down and breaking both wrists of a guy who robbed an old lady of her necklace, for which he is well paid by the old ladies grandson, a mysterious, one armed Indian man.

And that is pretty much Jacks deal. People pay him to 'fix' things for them, and although he is not troubled by severely hurting or even killing the bad guys, he is fairly choosy about who he works for. He would not, for instance, take on a job beating up a cop on behalf of a drug dealer. He might give a hotshot to a drug dealer on behalf of a grieving mother, however. He charges for this service, although it is suggested that he doesn't always charge (or hardly charges) his clients when they are poor.

And so we are dumped face first into the tumultuous world of Repairman Jack, where his friendships, love life, family and occupation constantly clash with each other in the name of justice and getting by. And just to make things a little more interesting, Jack has a habit of attracting the weird....as in monsters, magic, demons and goddesses. That kind of thing. Even though he doesn't believe in it. Because we all know that just because you don't believe in something, doesn't mean it doesn't believe in you....

Wilson has crafted a brilliant character in Jack. He's mysterious without being a weirdo about it, he's brave enough to get the job done even though his fear is evident, and he is quick witted and kind hearted in a way that makes the reader wish they had a friend like Repairman Jack. He's a great guy, who is genuinely trying to make the world a better place, although he might not admit it in such a straightforward manner.

Wilson's novels straddle the line between outright horror and urban fantasy, but with plenty of reference to detective novels, and often a touch of old fashioned romance novel, although this is not Jacks strong point. Rather, Jack is an exceptional man with an admirable (although highly illegal) mission in life, but his social and romantic efforts are strained to say the least.

I loved this book, and I am really looking forward to finding more stories in this series.  Apparently it is also known as "The Adversary Cycle"  although I haven't seen this written on any of the books so far. Anyway, it's a great read. Fairly quick, certainly not complex, just straight out urban adventure, with a nice twist of the weird to make it interesting. Good fun!

17 September 2010

Mike Resnick - A Hunger in the Soul

  • Author: Mike Resnick
  • Title: A Hunger In The Soul
  • Publisher: Tor 1998
  • ISBN: 978 0312854386
A Hunger In The Soul is an adventure tale about an exploration team seeking a missing scientist on an unexplored planet full of hostile aliens and strange creatures. I desperately want to find something else to say about this book that isn't negative. But I can't.

The writing is perfectly fine. (Oh, I found another one!) There is absolutely nothing technically wrong with this book, and if I had not already seen the movie a dozen times as a kid, or read the book already, it quite possibly would have been quite fun. Allow me to explain.

This book is essentially the movie King Solomons Mines (1950)* crossed with the story of Doctor Livingstone, with rifles relaced with lasers, native bearers replaced with alien porters, the newspaper that employs the journalist replaced with tri-v. The tale of an asshole who employs a slightly jaded but otherwise outstanding expedition leader. They clash constantly, but the good guy always backs down. The asshole treats the porters badly, and uses racist epithets to abuse them. The superiour technology of the Empire saves the day when the restless natives attack the party. Despite the dangers and tribulations, they finally reach their goal (at this stage the natives have either been killed, murdered or have run away before this crazy white fucker gets them killed, or murders them) but the outcome is entirely unexpected.

Resnick even went so far as to have his humans come from the Democracy. This is 100% pastiche, but severely lacking the satirical edge that makes this kind of thing bearable for me. I hate to say it, but this book was a waste of time. Which is disappointing, because I usually really enjoy Resnick.

*Note: King Solomon's Mines is based on the novel by whoever wrote the Allan Quartermaine stories, a movie full of noble Englishmen and 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Jigaboo's' - so full of blatant racism and mysogyny that I can barely stand to think about it now. It was on TV every summer when I was a kid, and is essentially true to the novel excepting the addition of a female character in order to allow the heroic rescue sequences that appeared every few minutes.

15 September 2010

Max Brooks - World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (and a bit on his other book too)

  • Author: Max Brooks
  • Title: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
  • Publisher: Can't remember
  • ISBN: Dunno
I grabbed a copy of WWZ last week, cause I'd been meaning to have a read of it for a while, and I had a few bucks. ZOMG, I should have gotten this book years ago.

The premise is essentially that the book is a collection of interviews with survivors of the recent zombie apocalypse that ravaged the earth. It's been 10 years now, and a journalist who had previously compiled a report for the UN on the facts and figures of the war had all of these personal stories left over, stories that the UN weren't really that interested in.

So, the guy compiles these interviews and recollections into a chronological history of the rise and fall of the zombies. The book reads like a pop history book, much in the vein of We Were Soldiers Once, And Young by Hal Moore and Joe Galloway, which is a memoir and oral history of The Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam 1965. It's a great way to tell history, because it is human and therefore authentic.

And that is the key to the success of Max Brooks' storytelling in this book. It is hugely authentic, with an emotional edge that almost tears you apart inside as you read it. Despite the subject matter, it is surprisingly not very gruesome. And it's decent attempt at global coverage makes this one of the few instances in which the authors Amero-centric outlook just about bearable.

I highly recommend this book, it is definitely one of the best that I have read this year.

And then it happened.......

On the basis of this book, I also had a look at The Zombie Survival Guide by the same author, which I would suggest you probably skip. Aside from the odd 'cute' rewrite of history (in which the Roanoake Colony mystery is explained by a zombie plague, for example,) it is essentially a wacko American survivalist manual with the words 'Commie Bastard' replaced with the word 'Zombie. It's not worth reading, even for a laugh.

I look forward to seeing what else Max Brooks can come up with. One out of two so far, but I think there might be great things to come from him, especially if he writes another oral history style piece, but I will be interested to read some straight fiction from him.

The end.

Lost in a Universe of Too Many Books and Not Enough Time.

I'm feeling a little lost at the moment. Almost as though I am torn between the desire to read and the obligation to read. Does that sound strange?

It's like this. I feel like I need to get through more reading, because there are so many books that I want to read, but haven't yet. At the same time, I feel like those books are a burden that is ruining my ability to enjoy reading.

I really don't know what to do about this, because it's basically a case of me needing to chill the fuck out.

Oh well, I might just go get some comics....

09 September 2010

Wizards, Inc. - Martin H. Greenberg and Loren L. Coleman (Editors)

  • Author: Martin H. Greenberg & Loren L. Coleman (Editors)
  • Title: Wizards, Inc.
  • Publisher: DAW 2007
  • ISBN: 978 0756404390
"What do you do for a living??" is, according to the blurb on the back cover, one of those questions that you will ask and be asked often during your lifetime. It's one of those things you ask to try to find some common ground, something to talk about, especially when you can't really find any obvious topic of conversation. Like, ya know, when you get introduced to some Gucci wearing, short haired, conservative looking Young Liberal types, the kind of people you'd rather punch than talk to.

Marty Greenberg and Loren Coleman have gathered together a bunch of original stories from a range of excellent genre authors who's stories take a look at life in the case where the answer to the question "What's your job, mate?" is "I'm a Wizard." Which is a pretty cool job, I reckon. Almost as cool as being a genre anthology editor...

The stories are for the most part pretty lightweight. It's a fun book to read, not too heavy, not too serious. I do quite like small paperbacks, since they are easy to hold up in one hand while you are laying down on the couch/bed reading while using as little energy as possible. My natural state, as it happens.

A look at the stories will magically appear, after the jump link!!

03 September 2010

The solution to my problem is...

There is no solution. I'm gonna hafta just live with it. Apparently. Might have to go back to the other.

WTF? ya see, I'm having trouble with the spell checking in OOo, the OpenOffice.org suite which is supposed to replace Microsoft Word, etc. The problem is, there is no auto correct, and if you correct one misspelling of a word, it doesn't automatically correct any other identical misspellings of the same word.

Which is fucked. It means that in a badly formated document, ie no punctuation, poor spelling, it takes fricken HOURS to do a few pages. Which is annoying. I really want the functionality of the MIcrosoft product, but I don't want to pay for it...

Damn.

01 September 2010

The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Science Fiction - Edited by Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh & Martin H. Greenberg

  • Author: Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh, Martin H. Greenberg (Editors)
  • Title: The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Science Fiction: Ten Classic Novellas
  • Publisher: Robinson 2007 (Reprint, Original 1989)
  • ISBN: 978 1845290962 (Paperback)
The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Science Fiction is a collection of ten novellas by some of the big names of 1940's and 1950's scifi, so it's a bit of a no brainer that this is a great read. Anyone interested in the history of scifi, and the development of it's thematic content should certainly grab a copy.

I do have a few complaints, however.  In order to read them, you're gonna have to click on the jump link.