“…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and mid-nights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…”
A very fine collection of Ray Bradbury’s earliest short stories. Many of these stories first appeared in the author’s little-known 1947 short-story collection, Dark Carnival. Bradbury is said to have reworked the stories for this collection published by Ballantine Books eight years later. He also added four new stories. It is now considered to be a classic showcase of American Gothic rather than out and out horror. Every single story is worth reading. Just allow yourself to get lost in Bradbury’s wonderful prose and memorable characters.
The stand-outs for me are The Jar, Uncle Einar, Homecoming, The Lake, The Scythe, and The Emissary. But readers will find much to enjoy in all of the stories. The October Country is meant to be read in autumn; it also makes perfect Halloween reading.
The second book in Fleming’s James Bond series was published almost 70 years ago. It is important to remember this fact when you read it. It uses language that was fairly common in literature during the period the book was written and published. Some readers may find this language offensive. I had a quick look on Goodreads to see what kind of hellstorm there was in the “reviews” and it was pretty much what I expected. It reminded me of Twitter. But there were some sensible reviews that managed to focus on the story and characters. That’s what my review will do.
Live and Let Die takes 007 to Harlem, New York, Florida and Jamaica. Bond is on the trail of the infamous “Mr Big”, a criminal with links to American organized crime, SMERSH–part of the Soviet secret service–and Voodoo. Bond suspects that Mr Big is involved in a gold coin smuggling operation rumoured to be taking place off the coast of Jamaica. He heads to the States and meets up with CIA agent Felix Leiter, last seen in Casino Royale.
‘This war is the Change War, a war of time travelers–in fact, our private name for being in this war is being on the Big Time.’
Artwork by Hoot von Zitzewitz
Fritz Leiber’s Hugo Best Novel winner The Big Time is sixty years old. Have you heard of it? I’ve had this on my TBR list for a couple of years and was inspired to read it by the Little Red Reviewer. She holds a Vintage Science Fiction Month reading event every January, and this was my choice for it.
One of the questions she has asked Vintage SF Month participants is: “Why did you choose to read a vintage title?” It’s an important question. I was looking through my reviews from last year and was shocked to find that I had only read two SF titles written before 1980: The Dispossessed and The Ginger Star. Apart from simply wanting to read more vintage titles this year, I want to see how well these stories stand up today. Vintage SF can offer readers a window into the past but it’s fair to say that they often age poorly. When we read them with modern eyes, we need to be aware of the time period they were conceived in.
‘I’ll make a sound that’s so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and hearths will seem warmer, and being inside will seem better to all who hear it in the distant towns.’
Ray Bradbury’s The Fog Horn was first published in 1951 in The Saturday Evening Post. I came across it in his 1953 short story collection The Golden Apples of the Sun, which is a HUGE recommendation if you haven’t yet read it. This is the first of my Hallowe’en Reads 2018.
The Fog Horn is a tale of two men who work at a secluded lighthouse and what they witness there on a cold November night. It contains themes of loneliness, isolation, companionship, the power of nature, as well as how little we know about the vast depths of the ocean. Continue reading →
From January to December 2016, I took part in a Philip K. Dick read-along hosted by Nikki of Bookpunks. The challenge was to read The Exegesis of P.K.D. accompanied by one of his novels each month. You can find the first of those posts here.
I won’t lie, The Exegesis was challenging to get through, but the 12 novels kept me going. They were so much fun, as well as being bonkers in a uniquely Dickian way. Well, reading those books has turned me into a PKD fan.
In 2017, I didn’t read anything by him. After a while, I started to miss his quirky worlds and mind-blowing ideas. I even missed his everyman characters and their – at times – unintentionally hilarious dialogue. (Or maybe it was intentional, only PKD knows).
So, this year I am going to read and review some of his 150-ish short stories, starting with this 1953 tale “Impostor”.
“My name is Stark. Eric John Stark, Earthman, out of Mercury.”
From 1949 to 1951, Leigh Brackett wrote three short stories set on Mars: “Queen of the Martian Catacombs”, “Enchantress of Venus” and “Black Amazon of Mars”. They each featured her Mercury-born hero, Eric John Stark, and were published in the pulp magazine Planet Stories. Pulp adventure or space fantasy, “Black Amazon of Mars” is an entertaining adventure story that both tips its hat to, and outshines, the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard.
At the beginning of the story, Stark is travelling across the cold “Norlands” of Mars with Camar, his Martian friend. They are being pursued and Camar has been mortally wounded. He has stolen something of great value, a “talisman”, which Stark promises to return to his friend’s city of birth, “Kushat”. Camar is pleased but fears for Stark’s safety if he continues on alone. Continue reading →
“I don’t like to be around twins, they make me think I’m seeing double.”
Time for the Stars is one of the twelve ‘Heinlein Juveniles’ series of books the author wrote between 1947 and 1958. Wikipedia states that “their intended readership was teenage boys”. They would probably fall under the YA category today. After a bit of research on the web, it would seem that these YA books by Heinlein are still rated and respected by a number of readers. But it should be remembered that these were written over sixty years ago and will obviously show some signs of their age.Continue reading →
“Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor.”
“The bugs are not like us. The Pseudo-Arachnids aren’t even like spiders. They are arthropods who happen to look like a madman’s conception of a giant intelligent spider, but their organization, psychological and economic, is more like that of ants or termites; they are communal entities, the ultimate dictatorship of the hive.”
-Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers
I’ve picked two random quotes from this book to open with. I think most people reading this review will already be aware of this novel and what it’s about; also the controversy that still surrounds it. It is only my third Heinlein book after Stranger in a Strange Land and The Door into Summer. I’m not very familiar with his work, but I know he is considered to be one of the Big SF writers of the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction. This book won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960.Continue reading →
“I’m not so sure he’s mad, Father. Just a little devious in his sanity.”
Published in 1959, ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’ won the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction novel. It has since been described as “the first major post-holocaust SF novel.” It is the only novel its author Walter M. Miller, Jr released in his lifetime. The sequel, ‘Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman’, was completed by the author Terry Bisson and published posthumously in 1997.
I’d never heard of it until a fellow blogger recommended it to me via the wonderful Worlds Without End website. It is a novel made up of 3 novellas which Miller originally released individually. Each novella focuses on a different period in the future after there has been a planet-wide nuclear holocaust. The story is told from the point of view of an order of monks whose task is to preserve any surviving texts or “memorabilia” from before the war. Continue reading →
Probably my third time to read it and I’ve upped my rating from 4 to 5 stars. It’s a masterpiece by itself, and also the first part of a greater masterpiece! The world-building is unbelievably good and Tolkien was a genius. Enough said!
I also recommend the audiobook version of this book. The version I have is narrated by Rob Inglis. I’ve heard that a new recording by Andy Serkis has recently come out, so I am curious to listen to that one now. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are stories that really suit being narrated. I enjoy both reading the books and listening to them.