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February's Fastidious Foraging For Fabulous Fiction

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GOLLUM

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Please let us know what you are reading in February...:)

I'm still wading through George Eliot's precocious English novel Middlemarch.
 

HareBrain

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After literally years of vaguely meaning to buy it, I at last saw a copy of Space Captain Smith in Waterstone's and snaffled it. I should really finish two books I'm already reading first, but I don't know if I shall.
 

kythe

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I'm still working on H.G. Wells "Island of Dr. Moreau", which I started a few days ago. It's a bit more... gruesome... than I had expected, kind of a sadistic version of Jurassic Park. I still like Wells though - he had very innovative ideas for his time. I'm going to read "War of the Worlds" next.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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The Life and Times of Grigorii Rasputin (1982) by Alex de Jonge.

I'm about one quarter of the way through this book, and so far it's mostly "times" and not very much "life." This is probably inevitable, since so much about Rasputin is shrouded in myth. It's certainly a fascinating portrait of pre-Revolutionary Russia.
 

JunkMonkey

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Just Finished: A Bid For Fortune by Guy Boothby - rollicking Victorian adventure story full of improbable coincidences, manly men, a demure heroine, and, very curiously, a villain who gets what he wants at the end. The villain, Dr Nikola, is a kind of proto Fu Manchu type and went on to tussle with manly men and demure heroines in another four books. I don't think I'll be rushing out to read them.

Just Started: Harpo Speaks - an autobiographical book by the great Harpo Marx. (I made a New Year's promise to myself I would read more non fiction - which I then entirely ignored for the whole of January.)


Talking of January. A little bit of unfinished business from last month's (now closed) list:
Thanks Dask. I only ask as Bandersnatch are Known Space aliens.
The frumious Bandersnatch first appear in Lewis Carol's Through the Looking-Glass and The Hunting of the Snark. Neither work describes the beasty in any detail. Apparently Roger Zelazny used the name in the Chronicles of Amber books too.
 

Montero

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Just finished the Magistrates of Hell by Barbara Hambly - 4th in the James Asher series. Took off most of yesterday to read it in one go.

Each book in the series is a beautiful, well researched period piece, atmospheric, interesting characters and she does eerie very, very well.

The initial premise of the series was a vampire contacting James Asher, a lecturer in Philology at Oxford and former secret agent. He was contacted because something was killing the vampires of London and they couldn't work out who or what. (That is resolved in the first book, each book is a new story.)
Late Victorian period. It has overtones of adventure stories of the period.
First book - Victorian Oxford and London plus country estate, Second book - Istanbul, Third book - Imperial Russia, this book China, mostly in Beijing.

I love this series for many reasons including the way the vampires are given character. There are lots of little throwaways that pin them to the period they were made - archaic handwriting, use of language, attitude to religion and the like.

It is neither a romantic series, nor a gore splashed series, though there is love and death running through the stories.

If you like historical novels then you might want to give these a try even if you don't normally read vampire books.

(Getting a bit carried away here - but I do think they are not well enough known for books of this quality.)
 

Connavar

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Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

This is my first book by GGK and im only reading this one thanks to Grunkins mentioned in reading thread a month or so ago. I feel like saying thanks and giving high five to Grunkins because i didnt know this book even existed before he mentioned in this forum.

The well crafted Chinese fantasy setting, the calm beautiful prose, the instantly compelling and believable characters make me enjoy this book so much and i dont even read Epic fantasy of this kind. Im 400 pages of 500 in the book and Kay looks like he is worth all the praise so far. His prose is much better than usually in the subgenre. Its not like the fast paced rambling, muscle prose of Abercrombie and co.....
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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Courtesy of archive.com, I made my way through Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) by Lewis Carroll. This is really one long novel split into two parts. Obviously Carroll thought of it as his magnum opus, although it has since faded into obscurity in the gigantic shadow of the Alice books. It is also one of the strangest things I have ever read. There are two entirely different levels of reality in the book -- the "real" world, in what is essentially a sentimental Victorian novel of manners, and the fairy world, full of Carrollian nonsense, wordplay, and mad logic -- and the two levels of the novel intersect in unpredictable ways. Some of the book seems intended for young children (much more so than the Alice books, which are best appreciated by those old enough to get the most out of Carroll's parodies and jokes), and some of it seems intended for adults, with many literary quotes (some in untranslated Latin) and serious (if somewhat playful) discussions on philosophical topics such as art, politics, religion, and death. It's an extraordinary work, sometimes cloyingly sweet (you'll want to smack Bruno, who speaks in extremely irritating baby talk), sometimes astonishingly "modern" and sophisticated in its literary techniques and themes. (There are two scenes which reflect one another in a remarkable way. One, in the fairy world, depicts Sylvie -- obviously Carroll's portrait of the perfect idealized girl-child -- weeping bitterly over a dead hare. The other shows a woman in the "real" world weeping in the same manner over her husband's grave.) A deeply flawed, fascinating book.
 

Bick

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Talking of January. A little bit of unfinished business from last month's (now closed) list: The frumious Bandersnatch first appear in Lewis Carol's Through the Looking-Glass and The Hunting of the Snark. Neither work describes the beasty in any detail. Apparently Roger Zelazny used the name in the Chronicles of Amber books too.
Thanks for that. My ignorance!

I'm back to reading Stephen King's Doctor Sleep, which I'm pretty much enjoying, though not so much as Ben Bova's Jupiter which I diverted to last week and have now finished. The Bova was excellent. The King is a decent story and its building well, but it could do with being sharpened up. Edited into a shorter, harder hitting book. It manages to be both quite pacey on occasion, and yet flabby at the same time. I find myself willing King to get on with it quicker and provide less back story. We know the characters, and who's good and who's unimaginably evil and now let's cut to the chase. The shining was a better book, but even that (I read it again a month or two ago) flagged here and there and the structure is far from perfect. To compare with Bova - his book Jupiter is actually better paced and more exciting in the final 100 pages than any King I've read. Either he has a better editor or he's just naturally better at concluding novels in an exciting way. I suspect the latter.
 

JunkMonkey

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Totally Off Topic Post:

I made my way through Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) by Lewis Carroll.
Does "made my way through" indicate that this is maybe hard work? I've been aware of Sylvie and Bruno since I was a kid, thanks to a snippet being included in a great, single volume collection of stories and poems for children that belonged to my dad called 'The Favourite Wonder Book'. It was, according to the inscription inside, given to him for Christmas 1942 . He would have been eight years old. The book contains stories by A A Milne, E Nesbit, Karel Capek, Oscar Wilde, Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, R L Stevenson, Leo Tolstoy and many many others including the wonderful, strangely erotic Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti. It's a book that help turn him onto a lifetime of reading. Me too. It's too fragile now to pass onto my kids but they seem to be doing fine without it. The extract from from Sylvie and Bruno was always my least favourite of all the stories. Seemed very soppy but I have always had in my head that one day I would go and try the whole thing. Given that I recently read both The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley - and hated it, and Peter Pan and Wendy by James Barrie - and hated it. Would I like Sylvie and Bruno?


"We must not look at goblin men,
we must not buy their fruits;
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?"
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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It's a very mixed bag. Sometimes strangely post-modern (the novel begins in the middle of a sentence), sometimes childish, sometimes maudlin, sometimes surprisingly thoughtful, often just plain weird in a Carrollian way. I think I can recall the Encyclopaedia Britannica calling it something like "one of the most interesting failures in English literature." Let the reader beware. I'd suggest taking a look at it on archive.org and see if you can get past the total confusion you will feel when you start reading it, and if you can tolerate Bruno's annoying way of speaking.


Warning: Make sure you do NOT look at the "edited" version, which contains only the fairy tale stuff.


Make sure also that you are aware that the book called Sylvie and Bruno is NOT complete on its own, but ends in the middle of things, and that you MUST read Sylvie and Bruno Concluded as well.


You might want to use these links:


https://archive.org/details/brunosylvie00carrrich

https://archive.org/details/conclsylviebruno00carrrich
 

JunkMonkey

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It's a very mixed bag. Sometimes strangely post-modern (the novel begins in the middle of a sentence), sometimes childish, sometimes maudlin, sometimes surprisingly thoughtful, often just plain weird....
I'm sold. Thanks for the links!
 

Randy M.

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Just finished Phil Rickman's Curfew (a.k.a. Crybbe in the British edition).

Because of various real world delays and interruptions, it's taken me over a month to finish this novel. In spite of that, I didn't feel the need to set it aside. Rickman pretty much hooked me as his reader early on and reeled me in.

Crybbe is a border town between England and Wales (call it Arthur Machenland?), home of a 400-year-old tradition started in the wake of the atrocities committed by the High Sheriff known as Black Michael, the nightly ringing of the curfew at 10pm. Crybbe is also one of those spots where the psychic exerts a particularly strong pull especially around the Tump, an ancient burial mound, which appears to be the central point of intersection for a multitude of ley-lines. Into Crybbe comes a New Age entrepreneur who wants to make the town a New Age Lourdes. And once he starts interfering with the way things are done in Crybbe, something ancient seeks to make a return.

This is my first novel by Rickman, and I look forward to reading more. First published in 1993, Curfew is one of those novels that cropped up in the wake of Stephen King. As with King, there is a sizable cast and Rickman handles the cast adroitly, lending distinctive touches to each character.

Randy M.
 

HareBrain

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Just finished Phil Rickman's Curfew (a.k.a. Crybbe in the British edition).
Weird -- I'd never seen Rickman mentioned on these boards before i mentioned him in the January thread. Did you see that? It was relating to this very same book (which is now titled Curfew in the UK too, since its re-release, though it was called Crybbe originally). I thought it was very effective. Am now reading his slightly earlier Candlenight, but not quite so taken with it.
 

Grunkins

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Finished Dan Simmons's The Fall of Hyperion last night. What a brilliant book.

The two Hyperion books together form one of the greatest stories I've ever read. In the first book we were given the space opera story, the cyberpunk story, the military SF story, the SF horror story...etc. as individual, separate stories. I think in my post after having finished reading it, I called it Simmons's Ode to SF (or something to that effect). In this book, The Fall of Hyperion we are again given those various sub-genre stories, but this time they are united into one massive, conceptually staggering tale. There's really nothing else like it that I can point to.

Maybe the best way to sum it up: [Kwatz!]
 

steelyglint

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As I recently splashed out on 14 Neal Asher titles I think a fair chunk of February is likely to be devoted to those. Mind you, as I've already moved 7 of those to the 'read' stack and am half-way through the 8th, its probable that I will be seeking alternatives.

As the last time I read the two 'Hyperion' novels mentioned in the last post was as they were published, I think I might reacquaint myself with them. Thanks to Grunkins for that inspiration.

.
 

Randy M.

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Weird -- I'd never seen Rickman mentioned on these boards before i mentioned him in the January thread. Did you see that? It was relating to this very same book (which is now titled Curfew in the UK too, since its re-release, though it was called Crybbe originally). I thought it was very effective. Am now reading his slightly earlier Candlenight, but not quite so taken with it.
Hi, HareBrain.

I saw your message, even added that I had started the novel the day after you mentioned it, but I didn't say much more because I kept stalling out. Between the holidays and my work-life, it's taken me over a month to finish the book.

Anyway, I'd heard about Curfew for several years on an Internet discussion group devoted to ghostly, macabre fiction, and finally decided it was time to dive in. I'm glad I did; I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think I have Candlenight and December on the shelves somewhere, but it may be awhile before I find time to dig into another longish book.


Randy M.
 

BigBadBob141

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Have just finished "Full Dark, No Stars" by Stephen King.
It's a collection of 3 long & 1 short story, all well written & all very dark.
Not a dud in the set, if your a fan of King like me or if it's your 1st time this is well worth the read!
 

Bick

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I've been reading some Cordwainer Smith. I finished "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" last night. The writing style is unlike anything else, and the imagination on show is impressive. He doesn't explain much, just expects you to try and keep up. It's probably too 'flight of fantasy' to really be my cup of tea, but it's written so bloomin' well and with such originality that I think I'm a fan.
 
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