The Colour Out of Space (1927) by H.P. Lovecraft

“West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentler slopes there are farms, ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding eternally over old New England secrets in the lee of great ledges; but these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumbling and the shingled sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs.”

-H.P. Lovecraft, The Colour Out of Space

These are the opening lines to H.P. Lovecraft’s 1927 short story The Colour Out of Space. It is said to be the author’s personal favourite out of all his stories.

Set in 1870, the story begins with the reporting of a meteorite that “fell out of the sky and bedded itself in the ground beside the well at the Nahum Gardner place.” Miskatonic University sends three professors to investigate the fallen rock. When they arrive at Gardner’s place, he insists that the rock has shrunk overnight, a claim which the learned men laugh off as impossible.

They take a small fragment back to the university to investigate. This piece of the meteorite produces some strange effects in the laboratory where we learn “it displayed shining bands unlike any known colours of the normal spectrum”. These “bizarre optical properties” provoke much excitement among the “men of science” as they speculate about possible new elements and discoveries.

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Distrust That Particular Flavor (2012) by William Gibson

Opening lines:

“When I started to try to learn to write fiction, I knew that I had no idea how to write fiction. This was actually a plus, that I knew I didn’t know, but at the time it was scary.”

-“American Thumb Piano” by William Gibson

Synopsis

Distrust That Particular Flavor is a collection of non-fiction writing by the speculative fiction author William Gibson. It consists of twenty-six pieces written over a period of more than twenty years. The anthology includes a range of formats, including essays, magazine pieces, album reviews, and forewords from other published works.”


My Thoughts

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll probably know that I’m a big fan of William Gibson’s fiction. I love his 1984 debut novel Neuromancer, and have got something different from it each time I’ve read it, (three times so far:-) Here are links to my two posts on the book: Neuromancer, posted in 2015; and Neuromancer, A Third Reading, posted in 2017. Not so much “proper” reviews, they are a mix of my thoughts plus quotes from other authors and from the novel itself.

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Sakura Peak, Slice of Life #2

As I mentioned in my previous post, Slice of Life #1, I love this time of year in Japan. There is a local park called Minatoyama Koen which is popular for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties. I like to cycle down there during spring break and enjoy the sakura with a flask of tea. You can buy taiyaki, a fish-shaped toasted waffle with sweet red bean filling. It might sound weird but it goes really well with a cup of tea.

I went to the park yesterday and the sakura was at its peak. Some of the trees’ blossoms were already beginning to fall. It’s a beautiful sight as the light-pink blossoms drift down in the breeze. If one falls in your cup, it is considered lucky. Here are some photos of the cherry blossom in Minatoyama Park.

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Slice of Life #1

I took part in a 3-day English Camp from March 25th to 27th. It was held in a mountain village in Tottori Prefecture. We stayed in a hotel that had been converted from an old elementary school.


I love this time of year. The sakura are blossoming and the days are getting warmer. I’ve lived in Japan since 2003 and I still really look forward to the cherry blossom season. It’s a truly beautiful time of the year. People enjoy hanami parties in the local parks, sitting under the cherry trees having drinks or eating obento. Did you know that the sakura “front” gets reported on the daily news as it makes its way across the country?

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The Stand (1984) by Stephen King

“For a long time I had wanted to write a fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings, only with an American setting.”

-Stephen King

I finally read Stephen King’s The Stand during the last two months of 2020. What a year to read his story of a deadly new strain of the flu that wipes out most of the population of the planet. “Are you crazy?” I hear you ask. Probably. The timing wasn’t planned, it’s just the way it worked out. The length of this book kept me away from it for so long, 1152 pages in the Complete and Uncut Edition. Now that I’ve read it, I can understand all the high praise it gets. The Stand is King’s masterpiece.

To simplify it, The Stand tells the story of a battle between Good and Evil after a devastating pandemic. I can’t say for sure that it is King’s “best” book because I haven’t read them all. It’s subjective, anyway, but it has become my favourite King novel. I could end the review here–“please do!” I hear you shout–but that would be lazy of me. Let me tell you some of the reasons why this book blew me away.

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“No Way Back” (2006) by Chi Hui

Listen to this review

English Translation by John Chu (2020)

(Read in Clarkesworld Magazine #171, December 2020. Link to the story.)


“When I’m online, Aksha keeps me company. Anyone who says cats can’t go online is an idiot. Twenty years ago, people said humanity couldn’t go to Mars. Ten years ago, people solemnly swore that there was no way to connect a human mind to the network. Five years ago, people said that cats and dogs couldn’t speak.”

My Thoughts

Xuejiao is a “Master Hacker”. She lives in a small apartment with a cat called Aksha. The cat joins Xuejiao online as backup guarding her against “government surveillance programs.” Master Hackers dive into the Net, searching for “ancient abysses” to “excavate data from and turn them into cash.” The author likens it to “spelunking” and makes it clear there are dangers involved in the process:

“Some abysses absolutely must not be tested. Hiding there are vast existences beyond our comprehension. All the jackholes who go there are drawn into a vortex of data, forever gone. They leave behind stiff bodies, lying comatose in hospital ICUs.” 

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2020 Books Describing YOU!

I saw this fun Book Challenge Tag on Bookstooge’s blog and thought I would give it a try. The rules are simple: Answer the questions using books you read in 2020.


  1. Describe Yourself: The Private Life of Elder Things


2. How do you feel? Alienated

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BRZRKR #1 (2021) by Keanu Reeves, Matt Kindt, Ron Garney

The first issue of Keanu Reeves‘ debut in comic book writing was released today, Wednesday March 3rd, 2021. BRZRKR is co-written by Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT) with art by Ron Garney. The 12-issue limited series has so far raised over $1.8 million on Kickstarter, setting the record for the highest-funded comic book project in the platform’s history.

Synopsis from BOOM! Studios

The man known only as Berzerker is half-mortal and half-God, cursed and compelled to violence…even at the sacrifice of his sanity. But after wandering the world for centuries, Berzerker may have finally found a refuge – working for the U.S. government to fight the battles too violent and too dangerous for anyone else. In exchange, Berzerker will be granted the one thing he desires – the truth about his endless blood-soaked existence… and how to end it. NOTE: This is for Mature Readers.


My Thoughts

I’ve just finished reading this and man, is it violent! Main character John Wick Berzerker is sent on a mission to locate and capture the heavily-guarded president of an unspecified country. He is accompanied by a squad of soldiers. The action kicks off from the sixth page and doesn’t stop for 23 pages, (in a 48-page comic book). It’s one long action scene that hardly gives you time to take a breath until it’s over. After the mission, Berzerker is taken to an “undisclosed US Government facility” and undergoes the start of a lengthy healing process that had me thinking of the first Matrix movie.

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Negative Reviews

I was inspired to write this after reading a couple of intriguing posts about negative reviews by Re-enchantment Of The World and Weighing A Pig Doesn’t Fatten It. Clicking on the links will take you to each post. Please read the comments, too, as there are some great points brought up there.

(c) Alex Norris, Website: https://webcomicname.com/

Thinking over the past year of blogging book reviews, I’m pressed to remember a truly negative review I posted. I was disappointed with Stephen King’s IT because I thought it was overlong and suffered from King’s tendency to waffle. Also, it was surprisingly dull in parts and had me almost skipping pages. Despite these flaws, I still rated it 2 stars. Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation wasn’t a great read for me either, but I initially gave it 3 stars, mainly because I liked the weird atmosphere and some of the writing style. After thinking more about it, I’ve amended that rating to 2 stars. But if you follow the Goodreads rating system, “2 stars” means the book was “okay.” Is “okay” a negative review? Not really.

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Song of Kali (1985) by Dan Simmons

‘All of the reasoned editorials sounded hollow in light of the perverse randomness of the event. It was as if only a thin wall of electric lighting protected the great cities of the world from total barbarism.’

-Dan Simmons, Song of Kali

A random recommendation on Robert Mayer Burnett’s YouTube channel brought me to this book. I read Simmons’s Hyperion a while back and enjoyed it, but never tried anything else by him. The synopsis sounded intriguing, as did the setting of “Calcutta,” (now Kolkata). Song of Kali won the World Fantasy Award in 1986.

Art by Francois Baranger

Synopsis

Song of Kali follows an American magazine editor who journeys to the brutally bleak, poverty-stricken Indian city in search of a manuscript by a mysterious poet—but instead is drawn into an encounter with the cult of Kali, goddess of death.’


My Thoughts

Literary magazine editor Robert Luczak (Loo-zack) is sent to “Calcutta” to verify the rumours of new work by the legendary Indian poet M. Das. The poet “disappeared” eight years previously, and nothing has been heard from him since. It is presumed that he is dead. Luczak sets off on this journey with his Indian wife, Amrita, and their baby girl, Victoria.

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