Revisiting Book Reviews

Over the past two years I’ve read and reviewed several books…

Burnt Offerings (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) by [Marasco, Robert, Jones, Stephen Graham]

 

Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco

This story is what I prefer in horror: a focus on the characters and, if even slight, an underlying philosophy of something. Burnt Offerings is not a blood-and-guts machine. The book slowly unfolds and the family gradually breaks down.

I believe that Stephen King’s The Shining was greatly influenced by Robert Marasco’s work. It shows. But while King’s story is more event driven and gives ongoing small tastes of sometimes unmemorable actions, this book must be savored. The tension and suspense build to an ending that lingers in the reader’s mind.

Sepulchre by [Herbert, James]

 

Sepulchre by James Herbert

Both a thriller and a horror story, this book is a fun read!

 

 

 

 

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by [Ligotti, Thomas]

 

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti

Ligotti’s work might be how a modern Lovecraft and Poe would write. This book is not for the timid: expect complex prose, dense story ideas, and dark, supernatural worlds lurking within the mind and other dimensions. Ligotti takes advantage of a written story’s strengths, progressing the reader further into the conflicts of a character’s thoughts.

 

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle Book 1) by [Rothfuss, Patrick]

 

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This is a journey of a man forced to leave “home” due to violent circumstances.

And on his travels and in his struggles to survive and succeed within a world of taboo science-like magic, gods that are living legends, and fae creatures that may hide in the open, Kvothe also struggles with something deeper within himself.

Rothfuss has created an interesting way to frame a story that hits the fantasy genre beats and draws in the reader with an empathetic character.

Dreamsongs: Volume I by [Martin, George R. R.]

 

Dreamsongs Volume 1 by George R.R. Martin

A good collection of shorts: sci-fi, fantasy, and some horror. Some stories are much better than others, but I enjoyed reading all of them. And it was nice to read the work in chronological order, observing how Martin’s work progressed and grew over time.

 

 

Bird Box: A Novel by [Malerman, Josh]

 

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

This story starts off fast and only continues to build tension and, finally, horror. The book is really two stories, a backstory remembered and current events. But everything comes together for the main character, Malorie, at the end for a satisfying conclusion.

 

 

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories by [King, Stephen]

 

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

King’s writing has always interested me. The author is imaginative, always combining interesting events with a large assortment of characters. (King refers to this as his ‘cup and handle.’) And he adds a philosophical undertone to many (if not all) of these stories.

Not every story resonated with me, but I had no problem enjoying the anthology all the way through. There are pros and cons that could be said for everything in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, like driving a classic car. For any reader considering this book, resist the temptation to deconstruct King’s work and just let him take you for a ride.

The Stars My Destination by [Bester, Alfred]

 

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Alfred Bester’s novel, The Stars My Destination, is multilayered. On the surface, it’s a sci-fi and myth. Gulliver–or Gully–Foyle (Perhaps named after Swift’s Gulliver?) is an unfortunate adventurer motivated by a burning revenge. What he believes will quench this fire is the destruction of a spaceship.

Stranded on another merchant spaceship Nomad in space and surviving on his animal and human cunning to survive within a large locker, Gully plots his revenge: Get off the wrecked ship, find Vorga (a ship that did not rescue him), and blow it up.

Gully’s burning desire for destruction and revenge is all-consuming. Gully is nothing more than a beast. And this beast-like quality is reflected in a poem that he repeats to himself while stranded on the destroyed spaceship Nomad:

Gully Foyle is my name

And Terra is my nation

Deep space is my dwelling place

And death’s my destination.

The deck is stacked against Gully, yet he succeeds reaching his goals, again and again. Fighting the dangers of open space, cults, entrenched corporation clans, and colluding governments, he succeeds through drive, cunning, innate skills, and an underlying intelligence that develops over the story. And as Gully’s intelligence begins to shine, as his understanding of himself and the world grows, Gully becomes more human.

It is Gully’s humanity and final wisdom that are his true destination. His desire to commit an act of revenge evolves from the simple act of blowing up a ship to the desire to murder the ship’s captain, to absolution, to introspection, and to a cosmic insight of where and who Gully is within the universe. When Gully finally returns “home” to the Nomad’s space locker, he recites this poem to himself:

Gully Foyle is my name

And Terra is my nation

Deep space is my dwelling place

The stars my destination

By today’s reading expectations, there are a few problems with the book. Bester wrote it in the 1950s, so a number of corporate players are no longer recognizable to younger readers. And the dialogue and slang is a bit dated.

But that should not prevent you from reading this wonderful book. It’s the reading destination that counts, and The Stars My Destination takes us there unlike many sci-fi stories that can’t–in a human way. For all of us, the stars are our destination.

The Polygamist by [Irvine, William]

 

The Polygamist by William Irvine

While initially reading this book, I first approached it like a painting. William Irvine, the author, showed me numerous word images of western and southeastern Asian towns and cities, exotic locations that I experienced through the main character, Omar al Ghamdi. And for the entire book, Omar continues to travel while always meeting new characters. But it’s these travels and Omar, himself, that soon conjured up a different simile as I turned more pages: This story is like a flower.

Omar is a confused and conflicted character. His sexual desires butt heads with his family’s upbringing. He seeks answers in Western culture, but dislikes the portions that go against some of his more traditional roots. Yet, he considers his religious heritage dull and unenlightened. Omar lacks an anchor that grounds his mind and his body to the world around him.

As the story plays out, Omar slowly begins to blossom. He chooses polygamy so as to bridge his more traditional roots with his sexual desires. Tao mysticism may provide a connection to the more modern ways of indulging in personal gratification. These schemes don’t work as he intended. And as each chapter finishes, Omar moves farther away from how he first sees himself and the world, moving toward a selfless individual, a small example of how one individual might make a difference in others’ lives .

For some readers, this type of story may not hold your interest. Story conflicts are mostly played out in the character’s mind. Negative events affect very little effect on the main character’s life. And, while many interesting scenarios are pieced together throughout, the book doesn’t quite seem to build to an ending when Omar fully flowers into an altruistic person. Yet, for those of you considering what lies between these paper covers (or the ebook,) you may discover a form of beauty waiting to be admired.

 

 

 

 

 

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