Sunday, November 7, 2010

Books Read Lately

It ought to be readily apparent that this was my October reading list.

Swords of Talera, by Charles Allen Gramlich
This evokes the adventure, action and wonder of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard but it is also its own animal. An absolute page turner, sinister events pummel earth man Ruenn Maclang at a breakneck pace. Chapters end and I had to keep reading because I had to know what happened next.
Taken from earth to a strange alien world, we discover the dangers of Talera alongside Ruenn. Blending science and sorcery the dangers of Talera could be overwhelming, but Ruenn knows when he needs to count on friends, or even turn enemies into friends to succeed. A likeable realistic character, Ruenn is not the toughest man on the planet, nor the best fighter, but he is determined and resourceful and exemplifies what is noble in the human spirit. Supporting characters are equally intriguing (or loathsome) the princess Rannon, reptile-man Jask and the clone Jedik were among my favorites. The beasts of Talera are frighteningly creative too.
The first novel in a trilogy, I am anxious to get back to Talera and join Ruenn on his quest. Gramlich is full of surprises and whenever I thought to anticipate Talera the rug was pulled out. For fans of the pulps this is a must.

Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving
Classic. Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle and the Spectre Bridegroom. I have always loved the Sleepy Hollow tale and this was a good time to reread it. The idea that there could be a few different answers is part of the appeal. Rip Van Winkle too had a eerier feeling about it than I recalled. Its not just a man falling asleep for twenty years, it has the early American mysticism, and the strange dutch explorers from centuries earlier slipping Rip a mickey in their enchanted brew. The Spectre Bridegroom wasn't as strong in appeal to me, while still an interesting story-it seemed a little too convenient-but then again I can't fault Irving considering how long ago he wrote these tales and how powerfully they have remained in American lore.

At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft
It had been eons it seemed since last I read this tale, and even though I knew it there were surprises around the dimly lit corridors. I also recently read an article of S.T. Joshi's about this being the tale to take the supernatural out of Lovecrafts mythos and account for everything in a scientific manner.
While I can see his reasoning I am not yet fully convinced that was the case. Some things are beyond even the maddening comprehension-the fear of the unknown as Lovecraft would say and I personally doubt he would ever take away all of the unknown in his tales and reason it away as entirely explainable through enough understanding of science. Madness knows not science but the supernatural.
I very much look forward to the movie of this by Guilermo Del Toro.

Complete Stories of Edgar Allen Poe, by Edgar Allen Poe
I must admit I did not read everything in Complete Stories and Poems, but I did read a lot. My kids enjoyed my reading of The Raven and El Dorado (always a favorite of mine since I was a kid) and it was good to check in on old favorites-Pit & Pendulum, Rue Morgue, Mask of Red Death, Cask of Amontillado, Tell-Tale Heart (could the narrator be a woman?), Gold Bug, House of Usher etc etc.
I still need to read The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym however.

Marvel 1602, by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert
Heresy some may say, but I was not yet a fan of Gaiman. I have avoided reading him for ages, because I dislike HYPE. I have still never watched Titanic and intensely dislike Avatar. Dan Brown has sold a billion books and yet has horrible style as do other astronomically successful authors-so-I have avoided Gaiman too.
Oh yeah, I have also disliked movies based off his works and or screenplays. Beowulf was a huge disappointment for me-Gaiman even complained of Angelina Jolie's casting as the temptress demon-say what? what? WHY? If that's WHO you write Grendel's mother as-why complain?
Back to the book.
SO I admit I was reluctant to read Gaiman but decided I would since this was a graphic with familiar characters I liked. Set in 1602, said familiar Marvel characters abound in the Elizabethan era and it is awesome. Nick Fury as the queens secret service head is great and Captain America's inclusion was brilliant. The tension and drama had me riveted. I found myself loving the intrigues and backstabbing surprises and things reached a high point by the end of book 6 (of 8) and then...
the finale was rushed and weak. I am still not a huge fan of Gaiman because he dropped the ball. A storyline that had so much potential, was so captivating and then blink--time continuum is fixed. Like it? Duh.
I am still willing to read Gaiman again but it better have a good ending and not be a quick ditch god-in-the-machine fix.


Charles Gramlich said...

One of the professor's here is teaching a course on POe in the spring and I'm going to try to sit in. Would love an excuse to reread some of his classics.

Thanks very much for the review of Swords. I much appreciate the kind words. Glad you enjoyed it.

Th. said...


1. I'm mostly interested in seeing del Toro's giant albino penguins.

2. I will now have to reread Tell-Tale Heart with that idea in mind.

3. If you want to give Gaiman a shake, I would be happy to point you in the right direction. (And there are plenty who will steer your wrongly; many of his best known work are his least worthy.) (Note: I didn't like 1602.)

David J. West said...

It was a great read Charles, I truly loved it.

Th-right on about the penguins.
The ambiguity of the Tell-Tale Heart lets the mind wander. And finally Please tell me the right Gaiman to read.

Paul R. McNamee said...

I enjoyed 'Swords of Talera', too. It was like reading ERB, but without the weaknesses of ERB (that drive me crazy.) I will enjoy it when I get back to that trilogy.

Poe was great. I would like to read more Irving myself.

One of these Octobers, I will read a horror piece every day of the month. And watch a classic horror movie each night. Some year.

Superhero changeups can be fun. I really enjoyed 'Red Son' - where Superman landed in the USSR instead of the USA.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

wow, where on earth do you find time to read so much???
Thanks for stopping by my blog party!! great to see you!

David J. West said...

Thanks Paul-I'll have to look for Red Son.

Wherever I can Tamara. I try not let a moment be wasted sitting with nothing to read.