Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Wide Game

by Michael West


this is The Wide Game: on Senior Ditch Day, seniors at the local Harmony, Indiana high school race each other through a cornfield to a quarry. the rules are simple: put some money in; if you or your group spot anyone during the game then you must trade personal items and then team up; first individual or group to the quarry wins all of the money. simple! it becomes not so simple when an accident forces eight students to slowly travel back together through the cornfield carrying the accident victim. night falls and it becomes apparent to the little group that there are things lurking in the cornfield on this special evening, shapes in the corn and figures in the fog, things that whisper in your mind, things that want to play with you, things that stalk and hunt and kill. or force you to kill.


10563088there is a lot that I found to be surprisingly and personally enjoyable in this one. the senior class in question is class of 1988. so was I! they listen to songs like Oh Yeah by Yello. so did I! our protagonist wants to direct thrillers when he grows up. so did I! the neighboring South Bend, Indiana is considered a Big City, heh. I lived in South Bend!
the book has some problems. there is at times a cringe-inducing and rather amateurish clumsiness to the writing. supporting characters who are flattened into caricature. a character who is eliminated by a murder of crows (nice one) just disappears from the story. where's that body?

but none of that matters during the book's lengthy central portion, it's pièce de résistance: the increasingly ominous then terrifying nighttime journey through the cornfield by our band of protagonists. all the problems with the prose fall away during the middle of the book; the story had its hooks into me and wouldn't let go until the end. West creates a wonderfully spooky and menacing atmosphere, indulges in some over-the-top gore, and even plays a couple narrative tricks on the reader to ratchet up the suspense and horror. it all worked perfectly during these chapters. I was absorbed and frightened. if you like to be scared, I highly recommend the central part of The Wide Game. it's awesome and would make a great horror flick.

some spoilers in the next paragraph but I will try to keep it ambiguous

I have to make mention of a repulsively fundamentalist twist in the book. it made me so furious that I nearly deleted the book from my e-reader. teens who commit suicide suffer in hell forever? emphasis on suffer, emphasis on forever? teens who have been terrorized, abused and mentally tortured, made genuinely unstable? they are condemned to suffer in hell forever, really? I don't hate a lot of things (outside of, say, genocide or child molestation or rape), I try to keep an open mind about context and personal perspective. but I think I can honestly say that I don't just loathe that particular point of view's cruelty, I loathe any person who genuinely thinks that way. I think it is an evil perspective. I hope this is not the author's actual viewpoint but the religious framing within the novel makes me suspect otherwise. when I come across such a loathsome, unempathetic, cruel way of looking at life and the afterlife, when I have the misfortune of meeting someone who actually thinks this way... I only want to do one thing.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

That Which Should Not Be

by Brett J. Talley

Brett J. Talley offers up a buffet of Lovecraft-inspired tales in a novel full of stories that are contained in one overarching narrative. the structure often reminded me of old omnibus films from Amicus Productions like Torture Garden and of course that great classic Dead of Night from Ealing Studios. I appreciated the reminder.

the main tale concerns a student of Miskatonic University sent to find an ancient tome in a remote village. the story itself is quite involving and leads to a fun climax set in R'lyeh (a place we should all visit at some point for its architectural attractions alone). but that is really only a part of the novel: while at the village, the student is almost immediately regaled with three supernatural adventures; soon after, he is told another story, and even later he reads an ill-fated ship captain's journal.

for me, familiarity does not breed contempt, so I have no issue with familiar scenarios. I had different feelings about each of the stories. the retread of Algernon Blackwoods' awesome The Wendigo felt unnecessary and did nothing to improve the original; still, even though I thought it was the weakest, it was definitely enjoyable. my favorites were the story set in an insane asylum and especially the captain's journal - the former was quite intriguing and atmospheric, the latter used a nicely unsettling narrator (and I felt it could have gone on even longer than it did, which is always a good sign for me). one of the things I particularly liked was the slight interconnectedness of those stories - I could have used more of that. overall the novel felt like a love letter to the classic writers of Weird Fiction and also a somewhat cocky introduction to the author's skill at writing in that classic vein. I have no problem with cockiness and appreciate it when an author is confident of his abilities.

this was the second novel in a row I've read that linked the Cthulhu mythos to Christian mythology. wait, should I have said "mythology" when talking about Christianity? please, trolls, stay away. anyway, I think that link is really fascinating and I'm surprised it never occurred to me before. I particularly enjoyed the connection to Gog and Magog. those two are always trouble.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hull Zero Three

by Greg Bear


Mystery in Space!

Poor Teacher. He wakes up cold and naked and without a memory, his only companion a mean little girl, on board a gigantic spaceship called “Ship”… whatever should he do? Why, he should move forward of course, forward, ever forward! Otherwise gigantic monsters out of some monster’s imagination will collect and/or devour him. He needs to figure out who he is, what his purpose may be, and what the heck is happening with Ship, or he’ll die. And so begins his brief and rather frenetic adventure. Or rather, his “adventure” – because this is less of an adventure and more like a nightmare that he cannot escape.

Greg Bear is one of the most respected ‘hard science’ writers of science fiction currently working. He’s probably some sort of genius scientist in his spare time, like Alastair Reynolds. But I didn’t really get a sense of hard science being central to the story. Nor, unlike other reviewers, did I feel this was an exploration of a Big Dumb Object. All the pleasures of both things are there, certainly. Fascinating science that makes my head spin and a BDO that is awesome in scope and also functions as a terrible haunted house in space, full of deadly traps and creatures just waiting to kill off poor Teacher. Again and again. Sorry, that last sentence was spoilerish – but in an ambiguous way that makes you want to read this book, right?

Despite the hard science and the BDO, I think the author is mainly interested in exploring things like Identity and Memory. The novel and its protagonist continually contemplate what makes us who we are – whether it is how we act in the here & now or whether it is about what we have done in our lives, our context, our relationship to ourselves, and how those things impact how we move forward. Ever forward! Teacher is a tabula rasa, which can prove frustrating at times and amusing at other times – particularly when he realizes he has just said or thought a word that is new to him. But I think that Teacher, whether frustrating or amusing, is mainly a blank slate so that the reader can contemplate what is needed to fill in those blanks.

The novel is fun but it is also surprisingly cerebral. It has action and wonder and mystery and it has some endearing characters and it has plenty of fearsome beasts, all of that fun stuff. But this is more of a novel of contemplation than one of adventure. The protagonist is ever moving forward, trying to survive… but I spent most of my time musing on all the moving parts that make up a human, that create the human condition itself. I think that that is exactly what Bear intended when writing Hull Zero Three.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Tel Aviv Dossier

by Lavie Tidhar & Nir Yaniv

6797849What does it mean to be an Israeli, what does it mean to be a Jew? What does the 'Jewish God' look like, what are His goals? Is Tel Aviv a godless city? What does 'godless' even mean? What should a city do in a time of gods and of monsters? What should a documentarian, an historian, a government agent, a rabbinical student, a fireman do in a time of gods and monsters? Is a holy monster still a holy thing - or is it merely a monster? Does the idea of transcendence differ between belief systems? What happens when we transcend? Do we go to other worlds, other dimensions? And hey, does being devoured by a gigantic invisible monster while still somehow retaining your consciousness count as transcendence? All of these questions and more are available for your personal contemplation right between the pages of The Tel Aviv Dossier.

So the above may make it sound like the book is a bit heavy. It is not! Although the story is about the end of a city, people driven mad and people massacred (including an unpleasantly graphic depiction of a child being slaughtered, ugh), and although it has a lot of very interesting and even profound things to consider about religion and belief and transcendence... the book is rather a light, fun, and briskly paced joyride. A short, punchy rollercoaster that is equal parts brutal monster novel, post-apocalyptic what if? scenario, bizarre postmodern pastiche, stylized farce, and sneakily ironic tale of worlds beyond worlds.

Here's a synopsis: godlike aliens invade Tel Aviv, devour people, cause a gigantic mountain that is a gateway between dimensions to burst up from the middle of the city, and create an unholy avatar in the person of a psychotic fireman; one year later, the surviving residents are practically insane and divided into warring factions. two outsiders who really know how to handle business fling themselves into the midst of this madness.

And that synopsis may sound like The Tel Aviv Dossier is pure genre novel. It is not! The feeling of the whole endeavor reminded me quite a lot of various Monty Python films, of my favorite film Brazil, and of the cerebral wackiness of writers like John Barth and Robert Coover. The authors are playing with genre forms that they don't seem to quite believe in. The farcical artificiality transforms all of the potential heaviness into something quite light; likewise, all of the genre trappings become a costume that is worn with sarcastic distance. This is one of the oddest novels I've read in a while. It was also completely enjoyable. I highly recommend it to people who can handle this sort of strange, strongly-laced cup of tea.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Pyx

by John Buell

The Pyx - John BuellThe Pyx is the story of Elizabeth Lucy, a high-end call girl who dies on the first page. The novel has many flavors: pulp noir, mystery and crime story, character study, tragedy, with some Satanism tossed in to make things even more spicy. The tale is told in alternating perspectives: 'The Present' features soul-deadened detective Henderson searching for clues and 'The Past' features soul-deadened Elizabeth, slowly moving towards her terminal destination but trying to do one last good thing. Her ending is one that she fears but somehow craves as well.
The language has the brutal beauty of the best of pulp crime fiction. Hard-boiled and poetic in equal amounts, full of terse dialogue, barely understood longings, bleakly sardonic commentary on the smallness of lives, bottomless despair and monstrous cruelty conveyed in brief and ambiguous turns of phrase, paragraphs that describe the living breathing bustling world that suddenly end with an off-hand sentence describing bloodstains on a sidewalk. It is a beautiful novel and Elizabeth Lucy is one of the more memorable examples of the hardened prostitute with a heart of gold that I've read. The book is the same: deeply cynical and angrily pessimistic but allowing many characters - Elizabeth, Henderson, a sensitively rendered gay friend, a mourning father, an alcoholic priest, and several others - to show their souls in ways that are genuinely moving. The Pyx is a surprisingly soulful book, and I loved it for that.
It has a very an off-putting final chapter that reveals the mystery of the pyx and the motivations of the primary villain. It appears to be written by another person entirely - "Daniel Mannix" - but I don't know if that is true or not. The style is certainly different than anything that came before, so I'm inclined to believe it. The ending reminded me a lot of the ending of the film Psycho: that smarmy psychologist, attempting to render all of the strangeness and ambiguity that have come before his scene into something that is logical, even prosaic, an uncomfortable but still easily digestible set of formulaic motivations. And as with Psycho, the memory of all the strange ambiguity that came before renders The Pyx's final chapter as nothing more than a footnote. Or perhaps even just a wink to the reader, much as Hitchcock was winking to Psycho's audience. Sure, things can be explained, things that are horrible or beautiful or full of pathos or just unnervingly and threateningly weird. But can you ever truly explain away such things? And why would you want to? They defy explanation.

Worther or Mrs. Latimer would want the body, but alive, alive to peddle it, to feed it heroin, to dress it up, to make it entertain lechers who had nothing but money and erotic energy, to make it stop belonging to a human being, to make it wind up here with a long jump, or a long push.

She felt, not cut off, but far away from what was happening, the people existed just like a radio you've forgotten was on, and her walking was motion that she wanted to stop soon.

She said very quietly, "Coffee, please," and sat down at a table. A while ago, perhaps years, she would have noticed his action and smiled, enjoying the effect she had. She might even be pleased a little. But now, she couldn't be pleased or flattered by her beauty; it wasn't part of her consciousness; it was just a fact, a thing that was part of her life, something others thought she was lucky enough to have, something others wanted. She had no mental picture of herself as an outwardly visible person; she had only an inner vision of...

"Here's your coffee, miss."

Monday, November 4, 2013


by Douglas Clegg

Iris Villiers loves her brother Harvey, perhaps too well. unfortunately for them, they now live at Belarion Hall, in Cornwall - an estate much whispered about, old sinister tales, people transformed, the dead called back... can such things be true? the pair shall soon find out. but first, some time in a play. their roles: Isis and Osiris...


Clegg paints a story just right. the tale is highly atmospheric and the prose is often quite lovely. I found myself lost in dreamy contemplation of a haunted Cornish coast, sheltered youths wandering throughout a Gothic mansion, dark and windy nights, playing blindsman's bluff to conjure the dead, overgrown gardens and subterranean burial chambers. this is the sort of story where I hold its brevity against it - I wanted to live in this world so much longer than I did. although I did not care for the ending and the description of heaven was equal parts enchanting and eye-rolling, this is still a supernatural tale that I would recommend to all fans of the more classic style of horror.

the illustrations are wonderful. kudos to the artist Glenn Chadbourne!

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 photo IsisMaidenStone1_zps284073e5.jpg

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ravenna Gets

by Tony Burgess

tribe wipes out tribe in Rwanda, Nigeria, elsewhere. entire villages are mysteriously decimated in Peru, Algeria, elsewhere. neighbors slaughter neighbors in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere. in Canada, the residents of the small town of Ravenna decide to massacre the residents of the equally small town of Collingwood. the first victims that we see: a mother caring for her sick child.

why? can there ever really be a reason for such things? a reason that makes sense, a reasonable reason, an explanation for atrocity? it is hard to imagine that reason.

"Andre has a red flag, Chiang Ching's is blue
They all have hills to fly them on except for Lin Tai Yu
Dressing up in costumes, playing silly games
Hiding out in tree-tops shouting out rude names
Whistling tunes we hide in the dunes by the seaside
Whistling tunes we're kissing baboons in the jungle
It's a knockout
If looks could kill they probably will
In games without frontiers - wars without tears
If looks could kill they probably will
In games without frontiers"

17050283 I've read that this book is supposed to be a commentary on war. I believe it. or rather, I believe Burgess believes it. at some point in the story, the war analogy becomes clear - although not obvious. but when my mind was trying to figure out the Why of it all, that was the first thing that struck me. a metaphor for the randomness, the senselessness of life and death in war. okay.

but I'm not buying it. I think the novella is more about Burgess' feelings about the senselessness of certain kinds of lives, the lives of people he scorns, condescends to, holds in contempt.

the author is a very talented writer, there is no doubt of that. he creates these miniature portraits of different individuals, full of a certain kind of nuance, with prose that is by turns sharp and dreamy. and then he slaughters those individuals. every character amounts to a cameo appearance. there are two chapters in particular that stood out for me - both detailing the warped perceptions of the killers from Ravenna - that illustrate how Burgess has talent to burn. mesmerizing prose in those two parts. overall the writing is excellent, from beginning to end.

but here's the thing: don't pretend to be writing some statement on the senseless violence of war when your characters are people you hold at arm's length, small town people that you clearly view as pathetic, people who live lives that you consider worthless. because then you are not making a point about war. you are making a point about you, about how you view the world and the people in it. whether you realize it or not.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

by H.P. Lovecraft

Dear Mr. Lovecraft,

1293273813257I, Joseph Curwen, necromancer supreme, have rather a bone to pick (forgive my little joke) with you. I have noticed many problems with your narrative The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. First of all: that title. Surely you realize that I am the protagonist of the tale - not the fey amateur Charles Dexter Ward? I do not think it is too much to ask that the title of your document correctly identify its leading personage. Second: I have noticed a strong bias against scholars of the so-called "dark" arts in your work - a bias that clearly and unfairly slants your narrative in favor of such laughable nonentities as that impressionable youth, his hysterical parents, his meddling doctor, etc, as well as towards questionable groups such as the unimaginative bourgeoisie and the overly imaginative lower classes, and various small-minded institutions including the Church and the Mental Ward. Your insufferable bias against such studies - indeed, to all those who would bravely dig up graves, retrieve bodies, revive those bodies, and proceed to imprison, interrogate, and torture those revived bodies until certain ancient bits of knowledge are at last shared - is not just regrettable and close-minded, but genuinely insulting on a personal and professional level. For shame, sir, for shame! Your prejudices do you no credit. Third: I find your general attitude towards a humble wizard such as myself, as well as towards my peers, we who only wish to remain immortal, even if it means possessing and discarding otherwise useless youths (like Charles Dexter Ward for example), so that we may come to learn ancient knowledge and thus reshape the world and all of mankind, for the better good no doubt, well... I just have to say that your entire attitude towards my lifestyle choice is appallingly narrow-minded and shockingly judgmental. Very unbecoming behavior for a writer of 'horror' fiction!

581151289624I will admit that there are many good things within your story. You have been accused of indulging in intensely theatrical purple prose; personally, I find your style of writing to be highly atmospheric, thrilling, and surprisingly enjoyable overall. The narrative itself is involving and even rather intricate. You have also been accused of tellnotshow-itis. I did see some of that in your lengthy flashback to my own story (the tragic tale of an unjustly accused and persecuted investigator of the supernatural - a former pillar of the community! oh how the small-minded love to tear down their betters!)... but that was merely a story within a story, told secondhand, and so I forgave it. Conversely, the last third of the novella - where the insufferable Dr. Willett finds my secret underground cavern and its attendant labs, cells, sacrificial altar, and deep well-cages for the unruly undead - that is written in an exciting and tense you are there style that I much appreciated. I was quite pleased with your descriptive powers and I cheered frequently at every gasp of horror uttered by the unimaginative and mulish Dr. Willett. And last but certainly not least, regarding the public accusations that detail your racism: as a necromancer who does not discriminate based on race when choosing my various living, dead and undead victims, I was specifically on the look-out for any race-based judgments. I am happy to note that I saw no example of that sort of foolishness. Well, save for the black cat unfortunately named "Nig". That made me quite uncomfortable.

But back to my grievances! Most repugnant of all: the ending. You seek to reduce me, sir, to conquer me as I have conquered death! I laugh in the face of that. Ha! Ha! Ha! From tiny particles of dust I shall rise again. And when I do, know that even your currently deceased state shall offer you no refuge.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A House of Pomegranates

by Oscar Wilde

Once upon a time there was a little collection of fairy tales called The House of Pomegranates by Oscar Wilde. I opened this book up and found a whole different book than the one I had expected! Is that a good or a bad thing? Well, I suppose both.

My familiarity with Mr. Wilde is pretty much based on his decadent excoriation of decadence and beauty-for-beauty’s-sake The Picture of Dorian Gray and his brilliant and perfect and of course sublimely witty The Importance of Being Earnest. I figured I would be getting more of the same, or at least a little of one and a lot of the other or some such combination. Nope.

spoilers ahead...

The third story “The Fisherman and His Soul” is fascinating. Starting off as a vaguely familiar tale of a lovelorn young fisherman who gives up his soul to be with the mermaid who has stolen his heart, it quickly moves in stranger directions. There is a witch who falls in love with him, who brings him to a moonlit satanic ritual to meet her diabolical master, who declares her love and then shows him how to cut his soul free. Then we learn about his cast-out soul’s journeys. Such journeys! The soul learns about Knowledge and Wealth and Lust. And, most surprisingly, the soul has terrible powers and with those powers does terrible things. A phrase uttered by the soul as he recounts his acts to the fisherman, “And I did a strange thing, but what I did matters not…”, is repeated three times and it is unnerving, chilling. Why does the soul do the terrible things it does? Apparently because when the fisherman cleaved his soul from his body, his soul got none of his heart. A heartless soul! Strange. His soul is soulless. For some reason I have always identified the soul as equaling the heart, part of a kind of trinity: Body, Mind, Soul (Heart). Wilde does not see it that way. The soul returns to the fisherman repeatedly, telling him of his adventures, always trying to reunite with him in the same body. And finally the soul does tempt the fisherman away from his undersea home, despite the peace and satisfaction that the fisherman has achieved with his mermaid love. The soul leads the fisherman astray; he compels him to do terrible and cruel and inexplicable things. There is an unhappy ending. And then there is a kind of happy ending, poetic and transcendent and, yes, strange.

6329642What does it all mean? Hard to say. Of the four stories, this one reminded me the most of Dorian Gray, in its emphasis on decadence and on the idea of breaking up the psyche into different parts. Elsewhere the spirit or soul is usually seen as a kind of agent of transcendence; yet here it is the fisherman who has achieved true transcendence - without his soul. Perhaps the soul is the form of the fisherman’s unconscious. The fisherman reaches his own transcendence by achieving his strongest desire, by falling in love: a love that is connected to his heart and one that is a palpably <i>physical</i> love. The mermaid is described in language that defines her as a beautiful and very material being: a body of ivory, a tail of silver and pearl, each separate hair a thread of gold. What is Wilde saying? That we can find our own riches in the physicality of love? That we don’t need those terrible adventures that force us to confront the true nature of Knowledge, Wealth, and Lust, that these are all Outside Forces that are in the end truly meaningless? That the fisherman's soul journeys towards a kind of living death and, later, in his attempt to use "good" and "evil" to influence the fisherman - that he is constructing a false binary of good vs. evil, an ultimately meaningless duality? That pure transcendence can be found in the romantic and sexual desires of eros, within the heart that acts as the fulcrum of the, er, "pleasure principle"? Love = the Id, and that's not so bad, not bad at all? Or at least love equals whatever the id was considered to be, prior to Freud? Sorry to bring up Freud, I know he’s unpopular & discredited & all that, but the fisherman's actions do seem to exist as the opposite of Freud's “reality principle” - in his disinterest in deferring gratification of his desires, in his rejection of the circumstantial and material reality that his village priest invokes to stop his quest to lose his own soul. Is the heart the true agent of transcendence, one that is linked to regeneration? The ending points me in that direction... flowers blooming on unconsecrated ground, over the body of the dead fisherman; a narrow-minded priest suddenly finding himself lost in his own passionate moment of transcendence and connection to the beauty around him.

2298136The first and fourth stories, “The Young King” and “The Star-Child” are quite charming in their own way. Certainly the prose is beautiful, jewel-like. One is the story of a young king who learns that to love the beauty of material goods is to support the enslavement and oppression of the people who create those goods; in the end he achieves a glorious and godly transcendence in a church. The other is the story of a child who is beautiful, vain, and cruel; that child is transformed into an ugly creature and is then tormented until he achieves his own glorious and godly transcendence. Charm and jewel-like prose, yes, but I actively disliked both of these stories. I don’t have a problem with religious themes in my fiction; I’m a God-lover myself, so bring it on. But my God! The messages in these two stories were so trite, so mawkish… frankly, I became rather nauseated at the ever-increasing relentlessness and obviousness of Wilde’s goals in telling these tales. All that charm became charmless. Even worse, the themes of these particular tales almost act as a renunciation of some of the ideas present in the far more complex and satisfying story of the fisherman.

11666298The second story “Birthday of the Infanta” is a troubling and very intriguing little tale. Lovely and grim in equal parts. A Spanish princess, a king mourning the death (murder?) of his wife, sinister courtiers who may have sinister designs on the royal child… disturbing things bubbling away under the surface. And then all of that is discarded as we learn the story of a dwarf brought to entertain the princess on her birthday. His purity, his love, his connection to nature are all detailed movingly. As is his lack of understanding in how he is viewed by those around him - as an ugly joke. In the end, after seeing his reflection in a mirrored wall and so learning his true place in the world of man, in the world of the princess… he dies of a broken heart in front of his own image. The meaning of the story seems timeless. Unlike my experience with the two stories above, I was not remotely annoyed - perhaps because the story is so bracing in its clear-eyed sadness at the cruelty of the world.

A striking, resonant, and somewhat heartless ending... after our little princess comes across the body of the good dwarf, she fails to understand that her toy has broken permanently and is annoyed when told that the death was due to a broken heart:
And the Infanta frowned, and her dainty rose-leaf lips curled in pretty disdain. “For the future let those who come to play with me have no hearts,” she cried, and she ran out into the garden.

I found a lot of my own vague ideas given concrete form in Heather Marcovitch's excellent essay: 'The Fisherman and His Soul' and the Unconscious

Goodreads Deletions

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All Flesh is Grass, and so are all websites consumed by greed. I mean srsly, did you check out that twitter post from that one goodreads author showing how much this website is invested in making this an author-centric website? and how little it cares about the folks who actually produce content for this website? Simak would not approve!
the first wave was The Golden Agers and that's David and his buddies. the second wave was The Silver Agers and that's probably Nancy & Kemper & Dan and them. the third wave is just Stephen, he deserves his own wave. now he's gone, thanks a lot mean Golden Agers for driving him away. the fourth wave is Katrina Lumsden and her review for 50 Shades of Grey. the fifth wave will be all those people still to come who will write 5 stars review for all of the authors who pay Goodreads to merchandise their books and to drive away all those nasty reviewers who are mean to them and make mean shelves all about them. cause it's all about them. the sixth wave will be the Goodreads Apocalypse!


The Void; or, what lurks at the heart of Goodreads' new policy of censorship.


Moomins Cookbook, by Tove Jansson

I heard somewhere that Tove Jansson had a lot of orgies with the Moomins. and a fat ass. well, not that she had an orgy that included an overweight donkey, but rather that baby got some back, you know?



An Uncommon Whore, by Belinda McBride

An Uncommon Whore; Or, The Story of Goodreads' Acquisition by Amazon
by Belinda McBride (Goodreads Author)


[spoiler tag] I am actually quite enthusiastic about reading this one! it looks enjoyable. but I really couldn't resist using the title for my own sordid little joke. [spoiler tag]    

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


by C.J. Cherryh

1598845well-respected and prolific science fiction author-cum-scifi-anthropologist C.J. Cherryh puts her considerable gifts to work in this introductory volume to her elephantine mega-series, as she begins a sensitive new tradition: fiction that is specifically geared to those unfortunate individuals who have no experience in reading, as well as to our fellows experiencing severe mental challenges. i for one appreciate the effort and am happy to report that the writing in this novel makes every attempt to be as repetitious, plodding, and as glacially-paced as possible, in order to allow the novice and/or challenged reader to fully grasp the ideas on display. to that end, each and every thought and concept and character bit is repeated extensively, often repeatedly within the same page, and upwards of a dozen times over the course of, say, two or three pages. surely this bold strategy will only serve to support those first-time readers in their endeavors, and can only help those challenged by low memory capacity and extremely short-term attention spans. the reader can literally forget or skip entire passages, and lo and behold, exactly the same commentary will reappear, again and again. bravo, Cherryh! this is certainly a step in a brave new direction. it is no wonder that this novel spawned so many sequels!

I have constructed a brief fantasia that illustrates this arresting technique:

Bren was extremely worried about the assassination attempt and was quite annoyed that his freedom of movement had been compromised. A worrisome Bren couldn't believe he had to suffer an escort everywhere! "I really am awfully worried that I can't phone home", said Bren, as he huffily realized that his ability to buy canned meat alone was no longer possible. "This really bothers me, I can't even leave my apartment without an escort!" notes Bren, as he paces his apartment in frustration. It was driving him crazy with annoyance and worry that not only had an assassin tried to kill him, now he couldn't travel alone anymore. He could not leave his apartment alone. After all, an assassin had just attempted to murder him. An actual assassin! Trying to murder him! It was all so worrisome. And as if the assassination attempt wasn't enough, now he couldn't even leave his apartment unaccompanied. "This is really very annoying and I feel awfully compromised, so much so that I am genuinely worried," reflected Bren.

okay, this novel gets some respect from me for two opening chapters (or "books", as Cherryh sees fit to call them) that are very well-written and genuinely riveting. and that have nothing to do with the tedious narrative that follows.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

by N.K. Jemisin

6437061a pleasingly old-fashioned fantasy - and by old-fashioned, i mean the opposite of the dense, complicated, multiple perspective, incredibly epic mega-fantasies that have had the most popularity over the past couple decades. this is something different. the language is straightforward, for the most part, and certainly beautiful at times. although the mystery is a complicated one, and deals with rather large issues such as the making and unmaking of an entire world, it still feels somehow 'miniature'. for the most part it takes place within one setting: the fabulous floating city of Sky. it also deals with gods who are enslaved to mortals. and yet there is an almost underpopulated feeling to it - we get to know only a handful of Sky's denizens and only a handful of gods are introduced. at times, it felt like i was reading an adult fairy tale or a lengthy fable. despite a couple sex scenes, a couple graphic bits of violence, even intimations of rape and molestation, the novel somehow felt... quaint. and this is not a complaint. the novel was refreshing.

i really liked the heroine: brave, sardonic, and no-nonsense. i also enjoyed the gods, especially child-god Sieh. loveable and strange little Sieh! a great character. many times when i've read about gods (similar to reading about aliens in scifi), i feel these are actually humans with unusual abilities - they talk and act and respond like humans. not so with Sieh, nor with the other gods. that is a true accomplishment.

the mythology was complex in a way, but as with the best myths, there was also a simplicity there. the mythology was genuinely mythic, a far cry from the dungeons & dragons style of mythology that i've seen in many other novels. not many stereotypically human motivations appear when the actions of the various gods are described.

overall it felt dreamy and arty and, somehow, minor note... and yet it is the first part of a trilogy describing the beginning and the ending and the renewal of all things.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


by H. Beam Piper


Oh The Golden Age of Science Fiction!

Oh - the first humans on Mars will be... archaeologists! working with the military but genuinely respecting each other! and the archaeologists' needs actually come first! oh! such a wonderful Golden Age!

Oh - a novella all about language and discovery! writing that is clean and straightforward! no battles no twist endings no nefarious villains no nonsense! not that I have anything against nonsense!

Oh! Gender Equality in the future! no Golden Age chauvinism! none of that nonsense!

Oh they really smoke a lot in the future!

Oh, in case you are wondering, I Liked It! I may not reread this one but it is lovely and perfect! a classic!

Oh! you can read it for free! thank you, awesome Project Gutenberg!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Thin Red Line

by James Jones

A true masterpiece and one of my favorite novels. Although it has all the realistic, gritty detailing that any novel recounting World War 2 Guadalcanal should have, it is so much more. The reader will indeed learn which gun is which and which rank is which. They will understand what needs to happen to take a hill. They will know what a crowded ship full of men will smell like. They will come to understand the practical intricacies of making war. But, as anyone who viewed the recent version of the film will know, the story is not one based on narrative but one based on a specific philosophy: we are all, as humans, forever destined to never truly understand one another, we are forever destined to never truly achieve the kind of empathetic meeting of heart & mind & soul that we may yearn for - a yearning we may not understand or even recognize. War is, if it is anything, an insane metaphor for that lack of understanding, that true lack of connection, and to be a part of that metaphor is to be, in a way, as insane.

This is a novel of many voices, each individualized and each specifically unique and amusingly detailed. And yet there is a similarity to the themes that emerge from the thoughts of each of the characters, whether they are trying to understand their brothers, their girls back home, their commanders, their enemy, their next target, or the war itself: the feeling of distance. It is a melancholy and confusing feeling. Each one blunders through his life in his own way, barely grasping what is happening around him, barely grasping what is happening inside himself as well. The novel is epic in its depiction of war, but it is intimate in its depiction of the levels of mystery within each of us and between us as well.

It is surprisingly funny at times. James Jones has a mordant voice and he knows the ridiculousness of men, how amusing our little concerns and irritations and idiosyncrasies can be when depicted at times gently but more often pointedly. He also knows that throwing dozens upon dozens of characters in the narrative will confuse and annoy the lazy reader – but how else to illustrate the confusion of wartime? The coming and going of bodies, of places, of times that all blur together. Jones himself was a WW2 veteran, and so the details are impressively laid out – but what is even more impressive is the poetic, sorrowful mourning that is suffused throughout the novel, one that builds and builds and builds. It is hard to imagine the number of his fellows he saw slain, and how it impacted him. But beyond that, to see the melancholy within the man, not just the soldier, not just the circumstance? He is the rare author I would love to have known, and yet the idea of his experience and his sadness is so intimidating, it makes me feel like less of a grown man when thinking of the person who could write all of this down. What have I done in my life in comparison?

It is interesting to compare the film with the novel. The theme of the distance between humans is there, as is the idea of many narrative voices recounting many different things but all ending in despair over our lack of ability to truly understand ourselves, the world, each other. But Malick widens the melancholy even further by including his usual theme of man’s distance from nature as well. It works beautifully. Two character differences stand out: Pvt Witt and Cpl Fife.

1713673In the film, Pvt Witt is played by James Caviezel as a beatific savior of men, spiritually connected to nature and prone to daring displays of bravery. In the novel, Witt is a spiteful hick, also prone to daring displays of bravery, but also an unrepentant racist towards all non-whites, and is filled to the brim with petty contempt towards all forms of authority. I like both portraits, but the novel’s Witt seems so much more human, so much more real. You don’t have to be a saint or even particularly likeable to be brave, to save lives, to accomplish daring deeds, to be loveable.  He is a hero, ignorant redneck and all, precisely because he is not particularly heroic in thought – only in deed. He comes through, again and again.

In the film, Cpl Fife is reduced to a couple cameos by Adrien Brody, standing distraught by a soldier’s corpse or looking terrified during a river crossing. In the novel, he is so much more: a dissection of the falseness of the concept of “cowardice” during war. He is full of fear, he calls himself a coward, each path he chooses is one that has self-protection at its core; and yet his depiction is entirely sympathetic and rational: what sane man isn’t a coward when it comes to the insanity of war? Who wants it, who wants to be in it? It is not something to run to, it is something to run from. Fife is the secret hero of The Thin Red Line, the rational man not understanding the irrational world around him, and rejecting any attempt to bend him to that irrational world’s rules. I can see how that character would not translate successfully to audiences yearning for heroes, and so Fife in his entirety barely makes it to the screen.

The book’s great success may not just be in its depiction of the distance between humans, but in the illustration of war as the ultimate insanity. As we all know, World War 2 was the Good War, the one in which we all should be proud, the one with truly golden heroes and truly evil villains, the one we all are glad was fought and would have fought in if we could. We had the right reasons after all; at least that is my own perspective. But a good war is still war, and war entails the deaths of the young, the destruction of lives and of love, of cities and of countryside, of innocence, of tradition, of everything. So why do we love it so?

Friday, September 20, 2013

One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com

by Richard L. Brandt


It seems like ages ago that Amazon and I met-cute while fox & dolphin hunting on a small private island reserve off of the coast of Southern California. Oh how the years move by so quickly! And yet, after all the early displays of yearning and passion, after all of the screaming bouts of sadomasochistic blood-sport and nonconsensual body modification that constitutes our "love"-making, I am proud to report that our love still stands strong, still runs deep! The sympathy and even the - dare i say such a maudlin word - "empathy" that Amazon has given me in support of my goal of utter global domination has been truly invaluable. And endearing!

Just last night, while enjoying a repaste of a light pear & walnut salad, fine wine, and a simple clarified butter & ginger sauce served over a minced infant crudo, I noticed my darling Amazon gazing fondly into my one good eye. Now Amazon knows that fond gazes always give me heartburn, so I inquired: what was amiss? Amazon smiled and stated lovingly that I looked like the sort of gentleman who would gladly destroy an independent bookseller if it meant 5 more dollars in my wallet. I replied "Surely you are not just now noticing this!" We laughed merrily and toasted each other. 'Tis a wondrous thing when forward-looking minds find themselves in meaningful agreement.

Later, we curled up to watch our favorite movie, the enchanting "You've Got Mail". Tom Hanks is so adorable when he is trying to run an independent bookseller into the ground!

Behold Now Behemoth: Dinosaurs All Over the Bible!

by Glenn L. Wilson




The Gay Husband Checklist for Women Who Wonder

by Bonnie Kaye


For those women who are wondering if there is a little sugar in their husband's pants, and who are unfortunately unable to purchase this remarkable tome...



1. Walks and Talks in a Stereotypically "Masculine" Manner.

2. Disinterest in Apparel, including Disinterest in Washing Jeans, Ability to Wear Same Clothes for Days at a Time, Leaving Boxers Here & There.

3. Strong Interest in Beer, including both Microbrews & Cheap-Ass Beers. Also including Home Brewing Techniques, Kegerators, St. Patrick's Day.
3a. Beer Belly.

4. Disinterest in Cooking, Cleaning, Laundry, Shopping, Feeling.
Conversely: the Ability to Mow Lawn, Throw Out Trash, Walk Dog, Work on Car, "Fix Things", Eat Food, Sleep, and Protect Mate.

5. Inability to Empathize, including Inability to provide Extended Bouts of Active Listening. Tendency towards Yelling when Angry, Retreating into Sullen Silence, Refusing to Admit Conflict Exists.

6. Current or Past Membership within a Fraternity. Including Past Participation in Beer Pong, Beer Bongs, Keg Stands, Body Shots, "Shirts-off Parties", and/or Rounds of High-Fiving (not including "Eiffel Towers", which are Completely Straight) during Fraternity or Fraternity-Type Frolics.

7. Any Amount of Time at Strip Clubs featuring Women. Attendance at Spring Break Parties and/or Bachelor Parties featuring Strippers and/or Girls Gone Wild. Automatic Bustline Head-Drift. An Interest in Lesbianism.

8. Friend Circle is made up of "Straight Men". Activities with "Straight" Male Peer Group can include Hunting Trips, Poker Night, Paintball, Tailgating, Pick Up Basketball, Las Vegas Trips, and Secretive "Guys' Night Out".

9. Refusing to Dress Up "Just for Fun" in Lady Garments. Refusing to Make Out with Other Blokes, except for That One Time. Refusing to Hold Hands with Another Man while Walking in the Park on a Lovely Spring Afternoon.

10. Denies Being Gay..... Methinks the Lady Doth Protest Too Much!

If your husband exhibits any of the above tendencies, I'm afraid I may have some troubling news for you...

Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality


by Richard "I Really Don't Hate Myself Anymore I Promise You God, Please Don't Send Me to Hell" Cohen

sorry Richard, but


How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men

by Adam Quan


mark monday, age 10: "Can I spend the night at Marc Morton's house?"

Mom: "Always spending time with Marc Morton! What do you two do? Do you have a girlfriend yet? Your uncles had girlfriends when they were younger than you. The Philippines makes men! Where is your girlfriend?"

mark: "Can I spend the night at Marc Morton's?"

Mom: "Do you have a girlfriend yet?"

mark, age 15: "I do. Her name is Jamie. You've met her. She lives down the street."

Mom: "Is she white?"

mark: "Yes!"

Mom: "You can have her spend the night here if you want."

Mom: "Do you have a girlfriend yet?"

mark, age 20: "No! I don't know if I even like girls!"

Mom: "Well, I do. Her name is Deanna and she lives down the street."

mark: "Are you serious?"

Mom: "Yes I am. I don't care what anyone thinks. She's black and she's beautiful and we teach aerobics together and your father doesn't mind."

mark: "Well okay then."

Mom: "Do you have a girlfriend yet?"

mark, age 25: "No, you know I don't. I have a boyfriend. Tom. You've met him, many times!"

Mom: "He is a very nice man and a good friend to you. But he's not a gay. He was a marine, remember?"

mark: "Mom, come on, I live with him!"

Mom: "Do you have a girlfriend yet?"

mark, age 30: "Yes, I do. She's Turkish and her name is---"

Mom: "I don't believe you. What is a Turkish? Is she white?"

mark: "No, she's not"

Mom: "Well, it's your life. I met some very nice Filipinas at the gym. I think you would like them. They are very sweet and submissive."

mark: "What?"

Mom: "Do you have a girlfriend yet?"

mark, age 40: "No. Sigh."

Mom: "Do you have a boyfriend yet?

mark: "No. Sigh."

Mom: "What is wrong with you? I want more grandchildren! You need to date someone and give me more grandchildren!"

mark: "Sigh."

Mom: "You should date a white woman, a girl in college. Those women like older men. You should teach at a college. Find a beautiful girl. Or someone. What is wrong with you?"

A Throne of Bones

by Herr Vox Day

A Throne of Bones (Arts of Dark and Light, #1)A Throne of Bones (Arts of Dark and Light, #1)A Throne of Bones (Arts of Dark and Light, #1)A Throne of Bones (Arts of Dark and Light, #1)

read the racist screed that this scumbag spewed out in response to a recent Guest of Honor speech made by non-white author N.K. Jemisin at Continuum in Australia:

"Jemisin has it wrong; it is not that I, and others, do not view her as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious reason that she is not.

She is lying about the laws in Texas and Florida too. The laws are not there to let whites “just shoot people like me, without consequence, as long as they feel threatened by my presence”, those self defence laws have been put in place to let whites defend themselves by shooting people, like her, who are savages in attacking white people.

Jemisin’s disregard for the truth is no different than the average Chicago gangbanger’s disregard for the law…

Unlike the white males she excoriates, there is no evidence that a society of NK Jemisins is capable of building an advanced civilization, or even successfully maintaining one without significant external support. Considering that it took my English and German ancestors more than one thousand years to become fully civilised  after their first contact with an advanced civilisation, it is illogical to imagine, let alone insist, that Africans have somehow managed to do so in less than half the time with even less direct contact. These things take time.

Being an educated, but ignorant savage, with no more understanding of what it took to build a new literature by “a bunch of beardy old middle-class middle-American guys” than an illiterate Igbotu tribesman has of how to build a jet engine, Jemisin clearly does not understand that her dishonest call for “reconciliation” and even more diversity with SF/F is tantamount to a call for its decline into irrelevance…

Reconciliation is not possible between the realistic and the delusional."



Mitt Romney: The Man, His Values, and His Vision

by Lisa Ray Turner


once there was a little boy. he had a big dream: to rule the world! and so he enacted his strategy. first, as a youth: become a bully. mission accomplished! second, as a husband and father: become an animal abuser. mission accomplished! and finally, as a public figure: seek out the true powers of the world, this earth's secret rulers: the Business Community... and for them, become a


mission accomplished!

will the boy ever achieve his vision of world dominance? Magic 8-ball says Not A Chance... but stay tuned! the really bad ones don't stay down for long.



by Ann Coulter


How mark monday Got Himself Placed on the Honors Track in High School and So Became a Smashing Success in Life... through Fighting and Lying!

in 9th grade, on my last day of school before moving from Virginia to Orange County (mid-school year), some joker told me that he was happy i was moving. so I grabbed my lunch tray and proceeded to bash it over his head repeatedly. I hate people who are discourteous!

in the Vice-Principal's office, I was told "This is the Last Time. You are Suspended for a week!"
to which I responded: "ha, ha, this is my last day, I'm moving to California tomorrow, stupid!"
and to which I was told: "We will hold your records until you have served your suspension, no matter where you go." ...Uh Oh

so I moved to Los Alamitos, located in beautiful, peaceful, sunny-beyond-belief Orange County, California. I went in to register for my new life, second semester 9th grade. I got my id, filled out the forms, was told to return in a week, when school started up again after the break.

but that next week, they were perplexed - for some reason, my old school wasn't sending me my records! and yet my old school was also not communicating (God Bless Administrators Everywhere) and so my new school did not know what was going on. the trusting administrators at Los Alamitos High then just went ahead and asked me this key question:

Why Don't You Just Tell Us What Classes You Were In?

it was a make-it-or-break-it moment. in Virginia, I was purely Average. I was average at being average. but I was struck with inspiration and decided to lie and put myself in all of the Honors Classes. Advanced English, Advanced This and That. and they believed me! I couldn't believe my good fortune.

so merrily I went to Mrs. Bennett's Honors English class. upon walking in, I noticed they were doing some foofy role-play about The Illiad - which i had read like 3 years earlier. I thought to myself man they saw right through me! I'm back in Average Classes.

ha, I quickly realized I was wrong! the academic standards in California were so low in comparison to Virginia (and South Bend, Indiana, where I went to school before Virginia), that Honors English was actually not just equivalent to regular ole English in those other states... it was actually far less challenging. goodbye, Average Kid. hello, new Straight-A Student!


Los Alamitos was the site of much controversy in the late 80s, when a School of the Arts (located within Los Al at the time) student was not allowed to exhibit her explicitly lesbian painting - unless it was covered up and the tagline "Let me live for the day when two women can love each other in peace" was changed to "Let me live for the day when two people can love each other in peace". Happily, the ACLU got involved and swinish school principal Carol Hart had to relent. Uncovered lesbianism on display at Los Al!

Los Al and its past teachers have been on my mind a bit.

one day in Mrs. Busenkell's Advanced Placement English Class for sophomores, we were given a typically bizarre assignment: pick a student, follow them around, study their actions, report back in an essay. Being the new Straight-A (well, not really) Go-Getter that I was, I chose to spy on 2 people. the first person, someone i liked. the scond person... an Ex-Friend. my report on him was scathing. lots of "he is a follower" and "he laughs at everyone's jokes like he wants a medal" and "superficial trend-lover" type comments. etc. Mrs Busenkell couldn't believe someone could write such a savage report on - get this - one of her son's best friends. so with typical Los Al professionalism, she shared my report with my Ex-Friend. what kind of teacher does that? apparently a Los Al kind of teacher, circa mid-80s. her decision to share one student's paper with another student exacerbated tensions between me and that Ex-Friend for years. he finally got around to telling me about it at a recent birthday, after I guess finally making peace with it some time ago. I had thought that paper was private and could never figure out why my old Ex-Friend never warmed up to me, even after we had resolved our differences. and so a potentially great friendship between two queer teens was nipped in the bud due to teacher shenanigans. believe me, my friend could have used some support - being a closeted gay teen was no picnic for him, while being queer has always been no problem for me. maybe I could have helped him not go down some rather questionable paths if that wedge hadn't been driven so deep.

hey Mrs. Busenkell, this one's for you!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Worm Ouroboros

by E.R. Eddison

The Worm Ouroboros! It goes around and around and around... and back around again!

2910This is the story of the Lords of Demonland, their arch-foes the Lords of Witchland, various others (Lords of Goblinland and Impland and Pixyland et al), and their endless conflicts and political maneuverings and deeds of derring-do and black-hearted villainy and mystical quests into the heights of dark mountains and women so awesomely beautiful that it means instant infatuation and fearsome magic that swoops down on both victim & conjurer alike and battles at castle gates and battles at sea and battles, battles, battles. Don't think of "Demons" and "Witches" as, well, demons and witches... those are just words used to describe the superhuman residents of the planet Mercury. The entire book is over the top, larger than life: delirious fantasy pitched to operatic heights, filled with ornate description, stylized dialogue, far-flung dream journeys and dreams of ever more glory. The Worm Ouroboros is an intricately designed relic and a work of strange, byzantine splendor.... This Mortal Coil as a grand and never-ending odyssey of Constant Adventure. I have read nothing like it.

3249086If I were to look at the plot alone, this would be an amusing but probably rather forgettable book. The narrative is an enjoyably breathless series of scenes full of cliffhangers and courtly intrigue. Fun. But also deeply problematic in a couple ways. The first problem: this book appears to glorify war in the most naive way imaginable: an endless boys' adventure where fighting is always the goal and peace is never the solution. The title and the "ending" in some ways subvert this analysis. I don't know how ironic or critical Eddison intended to be, but the basic idea of endless adventure being an self-perpetuating cycle... that does provide a certain depth as well as an ambiguous response to all of the naivete on display. More problematic is the near complete focus on the aristocrats of the world, enacting their grand battles using thousands upon thousands of common folk as their disposable chess pieces. One aristocrat dies - oh the tragedy! A thousand soldiers die in one minor sally - eh, that was a bad loss but whatever, the game must go on. There is something obviously very wrong about that kind of glorification of battle for battle's sake, no matter the cost. So for an action-packed narrative that is also naively offensive: 3 stars for the fun and 3 stars for the lack of humanity.

But what makes this novel uniquely enjoyable is the language. It truly lifts The Worm Ouroboros to a higher place. It was both a constant delight and a constant challenge. The language itself is highly artificial - archaic even; the descriptive passages are dense, complex, luscious; the heroes and the villains are characterized in the most Olympian terms possible; the Nietzschean morality on display is illustrated with an almost feverish passion;  there is a swooningly homoerotic vibe in how the men are depicted; the arch displays of humor and mockery are both sneakily subtle and quaintly broad; a quest by one brother searching for another becomes dreamily transcendent through the author's use of hallucinogenic prose. It is all so intense that it becomes hypnotic. Fully engorged testosterone carefully wrapped up in layer upon layer of dainty filigree and velvety shadow. High Fantasy that is as high as a kite. I smoked it all up; the language often put me to sleep but, just as often, it kept me wide awake with a kind of heady glee. It stimulated parts of my brain that hadn't been stimulated before.

Here is a typically odd, amusing, and rather beautiful passage:

1234891So speaking, the King was come with Gro into his great bath chamber, walled and floored with green serpentine, with dolphins carved in the same stone to belch water into the baths that were lined with white marble and sunken in the floor, both wide and deep, the hot bath on the left and cold bath, many times greater, on the right as they entered the chamber. The King dismissed his attendants, and made Gro sit on a bench piled with cushions above the hot bath, and drink more wine. And the King stripped off his jerkin of black cowhide and his hose and his shirt of white Beshtrian wool and went down into the steaming bath. Gro looked with wonder on the mighty limbs of Gorice the King, so lean and yet so strong to behold, as if he were built all of iron; and a great marvel it was how the King, when he had put off his raiment and royal apparel and went down stark naked into the bath, yet seemed to have put off not one whit of his kingliness and the majesty and dread which belonged to him.
So when he had plunged awhile in the swirling waters of the bath, and soaped himself from head to foot and plunged again, the King lay back luxuriously in the water and said to Gro, "Tell me of Corsus and his sons, and of Laxus and Gallandus, and of all my men west over seas, as thou shouldest tell of those whose life or death in our conceit importeth as much as that of a scarab fly. Speak and fear not, keeping nothing back nor glozing over nothing. Only that should make me dreadful to thee if thou shouldn't practise to deceive me."

A shout-out for Lord Gro: a sinister and devious Goblin Judas, a dainty dandy and a star-struck dreamer as prone to flights of romantic fancy as he is to fits of melancholy and despair, inconstant as Hamlet, destined to forever betray his masters, villain and hero, a gloriously unique creation. Go, Gro, Go!

And So: If thou shalt drink deep of the pleasures of language, if thou dost seek fearsome challenge brimming o'er with fantastickal wonder, dread enchantements and treacherous peril... then thou must hasten to consume this rare delight! A lovely treasure, burning boldly, ever-bright!