Sunday Status Update: November 3, 2013

This week, big thank you to Marion for digging through the archives and uncovering this journal entry from “Jane” Wells, the second wife of that one fellow who wrote that thing about time travel or something.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Jane Wells: FROM THE JOURNAL OF AMY CATHERINE “JANE” WELLS: My husband George, known as “H.G.” took me in his time machine. We found ourselves about a century hence, in a quaint location called a “shopping mall.” I found a cart selling jellied bean-shaped candies in various colors and there we met two pleasant young women, Daphne and Velma, who, it emerged, were also time travelers, although inadvertently, having been swept through some kind of iris or portal. Velma in particular was a learned young woman and we engaged in a lively conversation. Daphne mentioned the peculiar cold mist that swept in about us, but by the time George and I noticed it, we were surrounded by five vampires. The leader, a dark-haired male, wore a gaudy gold medallion about its neck. Velma seized my arm and whispered, “That medallion! It’s the seal of the Royal Family of Romania!” She and I locked gazes, two minds with but a single thought. “George!” I shouted. “They are Romanian vampires!” We bustled to the candy cart and hurled the colored candies at the attacking undead. Romanian vampires, as you know, are compelled to put things in order and many a victim has escaped by flinging down a string tied with knots or a handful of grape pips. Hissing their frustration, the five vampires, as one, stooped down and began sorting the candies by color, and we made our escape. We returned Velma and Daphne to 1976, where they were met by two young men and a large, exuberant dog.

AlixAlix: This week I finished E.C. Blake’s first fantasy novel, Masks, so that review will be coming up. I’d planned to read Delia’s Shadow (Jamie Lee Moyer) next, but I just realized that Nicola Griffith’s new book, Hild, is coming out on November 12th. If I can get my greedy fingers on a review copy of that, all other reading projects will be postponed. In other weekly news, my kitten discovered the feline skills of flinging her food out of her bowl, stepping on my Shift key until she turns on StickyKeys, and asking out and then immediately back in.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Brad: This week I read Otomo‘s six-volume, phenomenal manga series AKIRA, a work considered as influential as William Gibson‘s Neuromancer in introducing the central themes and aesthetics of the cyberpunk genre. It’s especially important because it’s from Japan, which is considered a primary futuristic cultural influence in Gibson’s novels and many other Western cyberpunk fiction and films. And it’s just plain fun, all 2,500+ pages of it! I’ve also started the first of the twelve-volume PHOENIX, Osamu Tezuka‘s major life work.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Kat: Usually my family refuses to listen to my audiobooks in the car, but I got clever this week. We had a 4 hour trip, so I carefully chose Jim Dale’s narration of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Everyone was agreeable to this suggestion! It’s been years since I read this classic but I’d been thinking of it last week while we were talking about hallucinogens in my perception class. Most of the rest of my reading was equally enjoyable this week. I read the first two books in Juliet Blackwell’s WITCHCRAFT MYSTERY series, Secondhand Spirits and A Cast-Off Coven. These were fun and I look forward to continuing this series. On Halloween I read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book which I enjoyed, but not quite as much as some of my FanLit colleagues did. Hugh Howey’s novella The Plagiarist was very good. My least favorite read this week (but still not bad) was book 4 in Andre Norton’s TIME TRADERS series, Key Out of Time.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Marion: For my update, the best book I’ve read in a while is Empires of Light, Jill Jonnes’s historical work on Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse and bringing electricity to New York. Jonnes synthesizes a ton of research into a compelling read, aided by her fluid prose. And finally, I started Hugh Howey’s Wool.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Terry: Because it was Halloween week, I read a scary book:  The Night Boat by Robert R. McCammon. I’ll have a review for Horrible Monday, but those who like their Nazi peanut butter mixed up with their horror chocolate would definitely like this one. (I’m not dating myself with that reference to an old commercial for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, am I? Probably. Oh, well.) I also finished The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, and I’m trying to decide if it’s one of the best books of 2013 or just very good. And I’ve made further progress on Darkness First by James Hayman, which is getting better as it moves along, a nice police procedural.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Tim: This Halloween week I read William Peter Blatty‘s The Exorcist, which was quite a good, frightening read, although I envy those who come to it without having watched the movie first: the film was very faithful, it turns out, which stole some of the suspense from my experience. I also read James Hogg‘s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which was… odd. Not a bad book really, but definitely a weird one. Finally, I read Michael Moorcock‘s Corum: The Prince in the Scarlet Robe. I didn’t relish Corum the same way I relish Elric, but all the same it was a pretty fun experience. Moorcock certainly has a  unique voice.

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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  1. Alix, welcome to the joys of kittens! I don’t think anything makes me smile as much as watching a kitten wreak its own sort of havoc, no matter how much that means I have to clean up afterwards.

    Brad, you’ve almost talked me into trying manga. Keep it up and you’ll soon have me buried in books featuring very large-eyes children.

    Kat, I’ll listen to anything Jim Dale might care to narrate. He’s amazing. You’re another one who has just about convinced me to try a new thing: audiobooks. I’ve listened to a few, but never really considered them a go-to form for reading. I might have to give them a more serious try. The only problem: I work from home, and never have the long drives that are the ideal environment for listening. Maybe I’ll have to work a jigsaw puzzle; yeah, that’d do it.

    Tim, I’m insanely jealous of your graduate studies.

    • Brad Hawley /

      Terry, I’ve got a ton of manga lined up to read this year, and most of it is aimed at adults, which is the smaller percentage of the total manga that’s been translated into English so far. Kids and teens just eat up manga in very high doses (which is what got my attention initially), so publishers give their readers what they want. However, more and more adults are reading manga in the U.S., so I think we’ll continue to see more mature-themed works come out.

      The problem is that even the great works of Tezuka like Phoenix and Black Jack go out of print in English translation. That’s like finding out that Crime and Punishment is hard to get all of a sudden because they stopped making copies (and unlike prose-only books, comics aren’t as easily, or maybe just not as often, digitally reproduced). Tezuka is a MAJOR author and these are his MAJOR works. As I understand it, these books would never go out of print in Japan.

      I find it annoying that comics are STILL primarily associated with children in the U.S. even though I understand the basic cultural, historical, and legal reasons. Then, since we associate comics with kids, we translate mainly manga aimed at kids, which creates the false impression that manga in Japan has had an identical history as comics in the U.S.! It is fascinating and frustrating at the same time!

      As any new convert to a religion, I’ve launch quickly into a little rant. Sorry! But I do hope at some point this year, I mention the one adult manga that strikes you as worth reading.

      As for U.S. comics in the broad category of SFF, I still think Fables, The Unwritten, and the newer Saga are some of the best non-superhero SFF titles to look into. And Promethea, Alan Moore’s completed five-volume work on imagination and aesthetics and the power of storytelling (both good and bad) remains one of my all-time favorites: if the masculine Prometheus gave us fire, the feminine Promethea gave us the fire of imagination. Oh, wow, don’t miss that one (and it’s illustrated by J. H. Williams III who is illustrating the Sandman Overture–see his artwork in Friday’s review of Sandman Overture #1).

      oops, I started up again.

  2. Due to working on a play this week, I read pretty much nothing but my own stuff and then the ever-increasing pile of deferred college essays. Oh I can’t wait to start actually reading again . . .

    Marion–I’ve been looking forward to that book on my shelf for a while now. Looks like I’ll have to move it up the list.

  3. Hélène /

    Brad, I’m glad you started writing about manga. I’m a new reader too and any tip-off is welcome. A few months ago, I didn’t know they had to be read right to left / end to beginning…

    Alix, guess why I called my kitty Geek? He’s a wonder with a keyboard ;-)

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