This is an updated review of one of the first books I posted about on this blog: Inverted World by Christopher Priest. That was back in the days when my blog was called “Who’s Dreaming Who” and everything was still in black and white! (Here’s a link to that review, it’s a very short and simple early review, by the way.)
Christopher Priest is a writer you need to read, it’s as simple as that. I can recommend this book, also his 2002 novel The Separation, and the magical The Prestige (1995), made famous by Christopher Nolan’s 2006 movie.
*If you watch to the end of the video, there is a “ghost” clip of something spooky that happened while I was recording this! Enjoy:-)
Summary of My Updated Review
Helward Mann lives in a city that is “winched along tracks through a devastated land”. Upon reaching the age of 650 miles, he becomes an adult and begins working for the “Track Guild”. Their job is to tear up the track south of the city, and re-lay it in the north. Only guildsmen can leave the city and see what lies outside, and they are sworn to secrecy. Most citizens don’t even know the city is moving.
Konnichiwa minna-san! I wanted to post a link to my latest review on YouTube. This is an update to a blog review I did in July 2019. (Here’s a link to the original review.) The video is just 8 minutes long. I recorded this on my phone and added an audio voiceover later. The microphone on my phone is not great for loudness. If you have any suggestions for improvements or would like to see a video review of something else, please let me know in the comments. Arigatou!
Groo vs. Conan is a funny, entertaining story and a great crossover. Two seemingly indestructible warriors–one without a clue–go head-to-head. Who will emerge victorious? I really liked the Rashomon-style in which this epic battle was reported by various characters in the narrative–who is telling the “true” story? It was also nice to see Sergio Aragones and co-writer Mark Evanier appearing as themselves in the story, acting as a framing narrative as well as a comedy duo. Some of their scenes had me laughing out loud.
“We need to throw a sicker gig than this. Somewhere even better. Somewhere we can really show people what the Home Sick Pilots are all about.”
“We should throw a gig in the house that kills people.”
‘In the summer of 1994, a haunted house walks across California. Inside is Ami, lead singer of a high school punk band–who’s been missing for weeks. How did she get there? What do these ghosts want? And does this mean the band has to break up?
Expect three-chord songs and big bloody action as Power Rangers meets The Shining (yes really), and as writer DAN WATTERS (Lucifer, COFFIN BOUND) and artist CASPAR WIJNGAARD (LIMBO, Star Wars, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt) delve into the horrors of misspent youth. COLLECTS HOME SICK PILOTS #1-5′
I became interested in Dan Watters‘ work after reading his run on the 2019 Lucifer comic book, (Goodreads review here). This led me to the weird, surreal road trip that is the series Coffin Bound, and now here with Home Sick Pilots, Volume 1: Teenage Haunts.
“It just struck me that it’s the saddest of the psychic powers. Does anyone really need bent cutlery? There’s something about the small scale of it. They’re not changing the world. They’re just bending spoons.”
-Daryl Gregory, from an interview about Spoonbenders
‘A generations-spanning family of psychics – both blessed and burdened by their abilities – must use their powers to save themselves from the CIA, the local mafia, and a skeptic hell-bent on discrediting them in this hilarious, tender, magical novel about the invisible forces that bind us.’
Spoonbenders is such an enjoyable story. It was just what I needed to kill my recent reading slump. It impressed me so much that I picked up two more books by the author Daryl Gregory: his 2011 collection of short stories “Unpossible and Other Stories,” and his latest novella “The Album of Doctor Moreau.” I’m taking my time reading the collection to savor the stories. I finished reading the “Moreau” novella and will be reviewing it soon. A completely different kind of story, it was also so much fun to read.
I’ve been a fan of Aliya Whiteley since I was recommended her 2014 novella “The Beauty“. That was a strange, surprising, and stunning story about a future England in which the women have all died. Poetic, creepy, intelligent, it blew my mind on first reading it. Here’s a link to my short review. So when I heard the author had a new book out, I put my other reading on hold and dived into Skyward Inn.
A star-gate has opened the way to the peaceful planet of Qita. Meeting little resistance, humans have built a small colony on the planet and are making use of its resources. Back on Earth in what used to be Devon, England, Jem runs the Skyward Inn with her Qitan companion Isley. This small pub in the “Western Protectorate” is popular with the local farmers who enjoy drinking its prized Qitan “brew”. Their idyllic quiet is upset when an unexpected visitor from Isley’s past turns up at the Inn.
“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
“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.”
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.
“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.
‘Very recent hiredness was its own liminal state, Verity reminded herself, on the crowded Montgomery BART platform, waiting for a train to Sixteenth and Mission.’
These are the opening lines to Agency, Gibson’s twelfth novel. I had to look up the word “liminal” which means “between or belonging to two different places, states, etc.” It is an important word for this novel, as Gibson weaves his narrative back and forth between the “present” of this story and its future. The present is an alternate 2017 in which Hillary Clinton won the election, and the future is some time in the 22nd century.
In William Gibson’s first novel since 2014’s The Peripheral, a gifted “app-whisperer” is hired by a mysterious San Francisco start-up and finds herself in contact with a unique and surprisingly combat-savvy AI.
I’m in two minds about this book. I initially rated it 3 stars, but I’m tempted to drop my rating down to 2 stars now. (Please note: 3 stars for me is what I consider “average”, 2 stars is “disappointing.”) The longer I think about the story, the more disappointed I feel. It has some cool ideas, but unfortunately they don’t really go anywhere. The plot is pretty basic and the characters mostly forgettable. Thinking back on it, I’m struggling to remember the characters’ names outside of the main character Verity and the A.I. Eunice.
‘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.