What I done read in October

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Pulp and classics, gotta love it.

Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link (free download from Jelly Ink Press, partially re-reads)
So, I’m a little super fond of Kelly Link’s work. It’s wild and fey in an old way, where the bright and sparkling creatures of the imagination bite and draw blood.

The title story is like dreaming lucidly—but I really loved Catskin for it’s Grimm-ness (OMiG pun), so I’m gonna have to say that’s the favourite.

FBI Story, the Gordons (bought for the cover and inscription, holy God)
This is full-bore, unrelentingly fantastic FBI propaganda with enough implied doin’ it and open violence to smooth the pill. The Bureau is a fine machine, hospital corners and perfect posture, here to bring the criminals—those who’ve made the choice against society—to justice.

The King of the Castle, Victoria Holt
Will Dallas show the Comte that she is just as competent an art restorer as her father? Will she survive the nasty tricks of Comte’s strange, wilful daughter? Will Dallas be scared off the job by ghosts, danger and the hanging mystery of the Comte’s dead wife? Will she and the Comte eventually totally fall into passion with each other, a fire sparked by their striking opinions?


The Works of Edgar Allen Poe (Gutenberg, partially re-reads)
Vol. 1
Here we have some weird tales, some silly fancy and some mystery. Gold Bug is bizarre, but boils down to mystery. The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Mystery of Marie Rogêt are straight-up mystery, with some of the (sometimes annoyingly) overly-introspective thinking that seems to characterise Poe’s work (I mean, the intro to Rue Morgue, with its theories about the mind, &c. could be totally skipped). With The Balloon Hoax and MS. Found in a Bottle we begin to see the delightfully sarcastic skewering of genre that I found to be underlying theme in much of his writing.

Vol 2.
Ah, here are the “classics” of Poe—The Purloined Letter, The Cask of Amontillado, The Masque of the Red Death. But in between are more of those skipping tales of fancy, like The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherezade, wherein she is a smart-ass and it ends badly. And tucked in at the end are two pieces that I was wildly excited about, primarily Landor’s Cottage (which The Domain of Arnheim is but a set-up for):

One thing became more and more evident the longer I gazed: an artist, and one with a most scrupulous eye for form, had superintended all these arrangements. The greatest care had been taken to preserve a due medium between the neat and graceful on the one hand, and the picturesque, in the true sense of the Italian term, on the other. There were few straight, and no long uninterrupted lines. The same effect of curvature or of color appeared twice, usually, but not oftener, at any one point of view. Everywhere was variety in uniformity. It was a piece of “composition,” in which the most fastidiously critical taste could scarcely have suggested an emendation.

Eee! Gothic Revival gardening—a vibrant rebuttal to the staid classic style’s geometry and control of form—with influences in theatre dressing and nature at its wildest, here described so heart-rendingly and with perfect form. Why the crap do we only pay attention to the probable incest of Usher?

Vol 3.
And here we have the travelogues. The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym is a mindfuck, let’s leave it at that. King Pest is pretty sick, though. I very much want to illustrate it.

Vol 4.
Here we have some criticism, some fancy, and a great look at how the Turk Chess automaton worked. I found the last bit to be totally relevant, as I’m currently loving the crap out of Jane Irwin’s dramatised comic of the Turk’s life and history.

Vol 5.
Goofy tales, moral tales and more fancy. Oh Poe, you silly sad man.

Hyperion, Dan Simmons (re-read)
Damn, but I need to get a hold of the rest of the series. Like with The Moonstone, we have a story who’s central core is secondary to the tales of multiple narrators. It’s a ensemble act! Only here we’ve death and daring and science and magic and Time. And lots of blood.

Rouge Ship, A.E. Van Vogt (re-read)
After the pain in my ass that was The Battle of Forever, I thought “Hey, you have that other random book by Vogt, let’s see if it was just sub-par like you remember it, or if reading that other piece of his junk helped you pinpoint all of Vogt’s self-indulgent fancies.” Can you guess the outcome? It did not make me as violently hateful as The Battle of Forever, but man, I finished this only out of spite.

Again, Vogt has good ideas and sometimes a nice theme, but he handles them with all the delicacy and finesse of a turtle gluing bone china back together.

The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne (Gutenberg, re-read)
So, like everybody, I had to read this in high school. I remember being not that impressed. But on a re-read, totally diggin’ it. And it did not end half as sad and horrible and vengeful as I thought. I had it in my head that what’s-his-creepo, the doctor, like, stalked Pearl and shit when she was a teen and tried to do her or something. Interestingly, folks I work with also remembered (different) negative endings as well—but not the real ending, which isn’t sunshine and rainbows, but is kind of a complete and serene one.

The Penetrator: 24 – Cryogenic Nightmare, Lionel Derrick (another one bought for the cover)
Y’know, everything on the fantastic cover (by the rockin’ George Wilson) happens in the book. You cannot complain about that, because it involves a shark exploding. And I have read a good bit of pulp, so I have a high tolerance, but Derrick actually can write. He maybe drops name-brands sometimes and it is weird, but the death scenes are killer, he describes ladies with a fantastic, appraising eye, Mark Hardin (the Penetrator himself) has a pretty solid code of conduct and the toys—I am an unrelenting fan of ‘splosions, and they are delivered in well-paced mayhem here. No complaints and passages worth reading aloud for their legitimate worth (as opposed to accidental funny).

The Executioner: 26 – Acapulco Rampage, Don Pendelton
Bought in a spree of mid-seventies vengeance pulp, it’s not a strong or well rounded as, say—The Penetrator, and Mack Bolan is far less cautious about the sins of those he kills. But his enemy is the Mafia, there’s plenty of action and a couple nice twists in this particular episode.

House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne (Gutenberg)
Though Gothic in style, the comparative lightness of this book’s themes (as opposed to The Scarlet Letter) allows the full wryness of Hawthorne to blossom. God, especially in the descriptions of Hepzibah. Don’t get me wrong, there is full creepiness at some points, but it’s light hearted in a way, as terrible things happen to the Pyncheons because they’re Pyncheons, though they feel that that particular attribute—being Pyncheons—should be protecting them from such degradation and horror.

The City of Roses – Prolegomenon to Anvil, Kip Manley (partially re-reads)
And at some point in all the above I re-read all the previous books to get my mindset set right to read Anvil for the first time. And as my love for this series is well-known and rambling I’m not going to say much more than “Holy dang”.