Sunday Status Update: October 30, 2016

In honor of (almost) Halloween, Dracula joins us this week. For full experience, please proceed to read his words out loud in obnoxiously awful Transylvanian accent.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Dracula: Another year come and gone. Long have I walked the night upon this world, but never before have I felt I may have lived too long. Where now is the respect for the proud name of Dracula? Where now the terror due the lord of the undead? Just last night, I came upon a young woman asleep on her garden bench. I fell upon her to feed, and she woke to see me. She… laughed at me. I was perplexed. I thought perhaps she was mentally unusual. I asked her what was the matter with her. She told me that I was “an old-school vampire.” I believe she was rather drunk. But then she took out a little box she called her phone, and she showed me images of attractive young men, and strange drawings of a fellow in a red coat. It seems that these were images of what mortals imagine to be Dracula. I tried to tell her that these are pretenders, and I, I, am truly Dracula. But she would not believe me. She said that whatever else Dracula was, she was pretty sure he’d be taller than five foot seven.

Enraged, I drank her blood, of course. But she had put me completely off my appetite, and I didn’t enjoy it at all. Also, she tasted like Red Bull and Jagermeister. That is disgusting. Who would do that?

Kat: Since you heard from me last, I’ve caught up with Andrzej Sapkowski‘s WITCHER series by reading Baptism of Fire and The Tower of Swallows. I believe the final book, Lady of the Lake, will be translated into English and produced in audio format next spring. At least I hope so. I want to know how the story ends. I also read three novellas. The first was Kevin Hearne‘s The Purloined Poodle, an IRON DRUID CHRONICLES fantasy mystery. I love how Hearne blended the genres. Next was The Four Thousand, The Eight Hundred, Greg Egan‘s science fiction take on The Trolley Problem. Last was Kristine Kathryn Rusch‘s The Possession of Paavo Deshin which is set in her RETRIEVAL ARTIST universe. Finally, my husband and I listened to a biography by Yale lawyer J.D. Vance called Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. It’s been in the news lately as we talk so much about America’s “white working class” versus the “establishment elites.” It’s a fascinating look at the culture of the Appalachian and Rust Belt areas of America and offers some insights into our current political situation. I recommend it.

Marion: The only genre thing I finished this week was The Apothecary’s Curse, by Barbara Barnett. It didn’t satisfy me, but there were some genuinely original ideas in it that I appreciated. I hope this author will take those ideas and explore them further. I started Wizard; the Life and Times of Nikola Tesla by Marc Siefer. Siefer’s kind of a weird dude himself if Wikipedia can be trusted; in addition to novels, he is big on the paranormal, and a handwriting-expert. Okay, then.

Sandy: Moi? I have just finished a classic horror novel from Susan Hill entitled The Woman In Black, in which the author does a remarkable job at pastiching the style of the Victorian ghost story. And next up for me is another book in which the author has supposedly done a mind-boggling job at pastiching, in this case the Gothic style of literature from well over 100 years back. The book is Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories by Ray Russell, an author who mightily impressed me last year with his novel The Case Against Satan. This collection includes the famous story “Sardonicus,” which Stephen King has famously called “perhaps the finest example of the modern Gothic ever written.” I greatly look forward to getting into this one…

StuartThis week I finished Alastair Reynolds‘ Absolution Gap, the final book in his REVELATION SPACE trilogy. I’ve found the series so far to have clunky prose, unappealing characters, excessive page-count, and poor pacing – the last book being the most frustrating. I knew Reynolds has a large following, but I can’t seem to connect with his books. Still, I plan to give Chasm City, The Prefect, and House of Suns a try before giving up completely. For a change of pace, I’ve started Jonathan Carroll‘s Land of Laughs, selected by David Pringle for his Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels. I continue to chip away at Lawrence Sutin’s Divine Invasions,  a biography of  Philip K Dick, along with Lucius Shepard‘s excellent 1987 short-story collection The Jaguar Hunter.

Tim: This week, I read The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. It’s a very good novel, if admittedly not my usual wheelhouse. I was also inspired by Kat’s readthrough of the WITCHER books to pick up The Last Wish myself. I’d read at least part of it before, but I enjoyed it more this time. I like Geralt of Rivia as a character, and I must say that the Geralt of the novels and stories is a very different figure from the Geralt of the (perhaps better known in North America) video game series. I played The Witcher 3 earlier this year, and that Geralt is much more hard-bitten and classically “badass.” Then again, Geralt is earlier in his career during the stories of The Last Wish, so perhaps things change as time goes on.

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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. Tim, the Witcher doesn’t change much throughout the books (so far and I’ve read all but the last one). In fact, the story is really more about Ciri than the Witcher. I read this recently about how Sapkowski feels about the games:

    • Interesting! I’d heard, I think, that he wasn’t particularly pleased with all the notoriety the games were getting, but I hadn’t seen a direct quote before.

    • I just read the link. Thanks for posting it, Kat. Very interesting. It makes sense that a writer would want decent art on his book, particularly if the art the publisher insists on using suggests at a glance that “this book is a derivative book version of a movie/game.” (though some books based on video games and movies are good. There’s a pulp fiction collection based on some game that I liked–though I have no idea about the video games or the Witcher video games either).

      I’ve been re-reading The Punisher by Garth Ennis. It was one of the first long series I ever read, well before Sandman. Probably right along with 100 Bullets. I find Ennis’s Punisher fascinating. And I find it really odd that I like so much. I think I’ve read about thirty or so issues in 48 hours. I can’t explain my fascination. I can give you good reasons for every other character. Perhaps it’s that he’s driven for the same reasons as Batman but his code includes killing. (The Punisher’s family was killed in front of him. But for the Punisher it was his wife and two young kids. Yikes).

      I have this one comic that mixes DC’s Batman with Marvel’s Punisher. I love it b/c the Punisher comes to Gotham and stumbles across the Joker. What does Punisher do with mass murderers? As long as I’m in town, might as well clean up Gotham. But Batman has to step in and SAVE the JOKER from the Punisher!

      It gives interesting insight into Batman’s code. It is not just not killing. It’s not just saving lives. It’s not just saving lives and putting yourself in peril to do so. It also involves risking your life to save the life of a mass murderer. THAT is interesting, I think. All Bats had to do was sit back and let Punisher do the work for him, and he wouldn’t have to violate his code to not kill. But I guess Batman’s a little crazier than we thought. . .

    • Well I had never heard of the game before the books and will never play them either. I doubt that would make him feel better but there it is.

  2. I spent a nice chunk of this week reading The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard. At halfway through, I’m plenty impressed with the language, but still unsure about the plot. Once the month is over and I have the maximum number of billable hours in, and once the election is over and I have therefore have my concentration back, I’ll be writing reviews like mad, including of the de Bodard, I promise.

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