‘So intent was Frank on solving the puzzle of Lemarchand’s box that he didn’t hear the great bell begin to ring. The device had been constructed by a master craftsman, and the riddle was this–that though he’d been told the box contained wonders, there simply seemed to be no way into it, no clue on any of its six black lacquered faces as to the whereabouts of the pressure points that would disengage one piece of this three-dimensional jigsaw from another.’
I watched the original Hellraiser movie (1987) back in the late 1980s. I thought it was such a unique idea for a horror movie and can still remember being freaked out by the Cenobites, especially the teeth-gnashing one. What are Cenobites? They are demonic beings that will “tear your soul apart” if you summon them. The hell priest who became known as “Pinhead” didn’t scare me, I just thought he was cool. What a fantastic character design!
Its voice, unlike that of its companion, was light and breathy—the voice of an excited girl. Every inch of its head had been tattooed with an intricate grid, and at every intersection of horizontal and vertical axes a jeweled pin driven through to the bone. Its tongue was similarly decorated. “Do you even know who we are?” it asked.”
After learning that writer/director Clive Barker based the film on his novella The Hellbound Heart, I saught it out. I didn’t know Barker was already a published writer when he made Hellraiser. I quickly went on to read his excellent Books of Blood stories and his 1987 dark fantasy novel Weaveworld. I recommend the Books of Blood but Weaveworld left me cold. There are some good ideas in the book, but I found it to be too meandering and it kind of lost me in its weaving narrative. As far as I remember, many of the stories in Books of Blood are very good examples of the genre; I must get around to re-reading them.
It’s that time of year again, the time for some Halloween Reads. Who can resist a dose or two of HORROR?
In the woods are six dead trees. The Killing Trees. That’s where they take them. Innocent travellers on the road in California. Seized and bound, stripped of their valuables and shackled to the Trees. To wait. In the woods. In the dark…
**Make sure you read the Restored & Uncut version**
There is a fascinating story behind this book. It was originally published in 1981 but the publishing company heavily and clumsily edited it. Author Richard Laymon agreed to the cuts because he was young, it was only his second novel, and he just wanted it to be released. However, when he read the edited version he was shocked to discover just how much had been cut and also rewritten by the editor. He believed his story had been ruined and now came across as fragmented and unsatisfying.
The good news is that Laymon’s original version of The Woods Are Dark was finally published in July 2008 after being reconstructed from the original manuscript by his daughter, Kelly. In a short introduction, she writes briefly about the process of piecing the original work back together. Sadly, Laymon was no longer alive to see his restored novel. He died of a heart attack in 2001.
Sandman #1 introduces us to self-styled “magus” Roderick Burgess and his attempt to summon and imprison DEATH in a magical ritual held in England in 1916.
If you have been reading this blog for a while you will probably know I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN comic. It ran for 75 issues plus one Special from 1989 to 1996. I still have the original comics. I brought them over to Japan with me. I have read the comics many times and will no doubt read them again in the future. I’m particularly fond of the first half of the series and count The Doll’s House and A Season in Hell among my favourite story arcs.
With the release of the Netflix Sandman Series, I wanted to go back to the source and reread the first issue. I recorded a kind of audio-comic of Sandman issue #1“Sleep of the Just.” The first half of the video below is my summary of the first issue showing some of the gorgeous art from the comic. The second half of the video is me reading parts of Neil Gaiman’s essay on how he got the idea for the comic. It was originally published in the back of Sandman issue #4. I wanted to share it with you and anyone else who might stumble upon this page in the future. This was a labour of love.
As always, thanks for reading!
-Wakizashi, *listening to an approaching thunderstorm. Man it’s been humid today. I feel like the air is about to explode.*
“For a long time I had wanted to write a fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings, only with an American setting.”
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 Standis 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.
‘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.
‘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.’
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.
‘Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.’
Did you watch the recent Netflix series about a brilliant female chess player: The Queen’s Gambit? I watched it and really enjoyed it. It is based on the book of the same name by the American author Walter Tevis. I’d never heard of Tevis before the series, but I did know the title of his most famous science fiction story: The Man Who Fell to Earth (1963). I’ve seen the film starring David Bowie but I haven’t read the book. After reading Tevis’s novel Mockingbird (1980), I now want to read all of his books including The Hustler (1959) and The Color of Money (1984)–made famous by the Paul Newman-starring movies.
Mockingbird is a powerful novel of a future world where humans are dying. Those that survive spend their days in a narcotic bliss or choose a quick suicide rather than slow extinction. Humanity’s salvation rests with an android who has no desire to live, and a man and a woman who must discover love, hope, and dreams of a world reborn.
*This is my review of the novelette published by Lucius Shepard in 1985. The Jaguar Hunter is also the title of Shepard’s 1987 collection of short stories, a book I’m very interested in after reading this novelette.
This is the story of Esteban, a retired hunter living with his wife in Honduras. His wife gets into debt with a local businessman and Esteban agrees to hunt and kill a black jaguar to settle the debt. After entering the jungle on the jaguar’s trail, he meets a beautiful woman who begins to question him about his intentions toward the jaguar.
This was my first experience reading Lucius Shepard (1943-2014), an American writer whose work was first published in the 1980s. The Jaguar Hunter was nominated for a Nebula Award in the Best Novelette category in 1986. I read it in “The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Third Annual Collection” (1986) edited by Gardner Dozois. At only 22 pages, the story can be read in one sitting.
‘They float,’ it growled, ‘they float, Georgie, and when you’re down here with me, you’ll float, too–’
I went through a Stephen King phase when I was sixteen years old. It only lasted a couple of years, starting with Misery (1987) and ending with the collection Four Past Midnight (1990). A year earlier and I might have started with It. I wonder what my sixteen-year-old self would’ve made of it. It’s very likely I would have enjoyed it a lot more than I did reading it in 2020. Does that mean that Stephen King is more suited to teenagers? Well, I don’t know about that but I would wager that we are a lot more forgiving when we are younger readers.
Before I go on, I want to point out that I have read Salem’s Lot, The Shining and Bag ofBones over the last four years. And I enjoyed each one of them. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy It.
I first got into Jean-Michel Jarre when I was in my early teens back in the mid 1980s. If my memory is reliable–ahem–I believe it was after watching “Rendez-vous Houston: A City in Concert” on BBC2 in 1986. This was a life-changing experience for me. I had never seen or heard anything like it. Watching a musician combine music and visuals to create a spectacular display on the skyscrapers of a modern city, in fact using that city as a stage, transported me to another place.
You can find the concert on YouTube now. Unfortunately the picture quality isn’t great but it’s better than nothing. I checked if there was a dvd release but it isn’t currently available. That’s a shame, as I would love to see a cleaned-up HD version.