Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin

(pb; 2000: Book Three of A Song of Fire and Ice)


From the back cover:

"Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the war rages, as alliances are made and broken.  Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.  His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, victim of a sorceress who holds him in her thrall.  Young Robb still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun.  Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenarys, mistress of the only three dragons left in the world.  And as opposing forces maneuver for the final showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost limits of civilization, accompanied by a horde of mythical Others - a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable.  As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords."


Review:

All the elements, plot-twisty action and characters that made A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings great reads structure and set the tone of this second sequel.  This grim, bloody, whimsical and sometimes surprising (but always character-consistent) series continues to wow; it has made me excited to be a reader, in a way that I haven't been in a long time.

Worth owning, this - as are the first two novels.

Followed by A Feast For Crows.


#

Most of the events in Storm are the basis for the third season of the first HBO/cable series, A Game of Thrones.  The series' first episode originally aired on April 17, 2011.  HBO recently aired its Season 3 finale, with a fourth Season set to air next year. 

Given the many characters in this series, I'm not going to list the characters, nor the actors who play them.  (I have a busy schedule.  Maybe later, when I have a little more time, I'll list those who have worked on the series.)



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

**Richard Cody's microstory Unidentified Flying Object was published in issue 7 of Vine Leaves Journal

Richard Cody, whose mini-tales – Alice and Lisa - appeared on Microstory A Week, has published another microstory, Unidentified Flying Object, in issue #7 of Vine Leaves Journal.  (You can read this charming tale on page 8.) 

Check this microstory out!

**Peter Baltensperger's The Call of the Loon was published on Siren

Peter Baltensperger, whose Nocturnal Tableaux* graced the Microstory A Week site in October 2012, has had another microstory published: The Call of the Loon, on Siren.

Loon, an atmospheric, occasionally hallucinatory work, details the carnal joining of a man and woman (a recurring theme in Baltensperger's oeuvre).  For this reason, this is an 'eighteen years and older' piece.


Check this story out!


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*Nocturnal Tableaux also appears in Baltensperger's story/vignette anthology Inside from the Outside.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Then They Came For Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity and Survival, by Maziar Bahari with Aimee Molloy

(hb; 2011: political nonfiction)


From the inside flap:

"When Maziar Bahari left London in June 2009 to cover Iran's presidential election, he assured his pregnant fiancée, Paola, that he'd be back in just a few days, a week at most.  Little did he know, as he kissed her good-bye, that he would spend the next three months in Iran's most notorious prison, enduring brutal interrogation sessions at the hands he knew only by his smell: Rosewater.

"For the Bahari family, wars, coups and revolutions are not distant concepts but intimate realities they have suffered for generations: Maziar's father was imprisoned by the shah in the 1950s, and his sister by the Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s.  Alone in his cell at Evin Prison, fearing the worst, Maziar draws strength from his memories of the courage his father and sister in the face of torture, and hears the voices speaking to him across the years.  He dreams of being with Paola in London, and imagines all that she and his rambunctious, resilient eighty-four year-old mother must be doing  to campaign for his release.  During the worst of his encounters with Rosewater, he silently repeats the names of his loved ones, calling on their love and strength to protect him and praying he will be released in time for the birth of his first child."


Review:

Then They Came For Me is a worthwhile, interesting and emotionally involving nonfiction read highlighted with Iranian political history and strange/dark humor.  Check this book out.

#

Jon Stewart is directing the renamed film version, Rosewater.  The film, which Stewart also scripted, is scheduled for 2014 stateside/theatrical release. 

Gael Garcia Bernal plays Maziar Bahari.  Haluk Balginer plays Baba Akbar.  (I'll update this as soon as more information becomes available.)

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Association, by Bentley Little

(pb; 2001)


From the back cover:

"Congratulations, Barry and Maureen:  You've been approved by the Association and are encouraged to move into our exclusive gated community as soon as possible.  Please be aware that we reserve the right to approve your décor, your landscaping, your friends and your job.  All relationships with neighbors should be avoided.  Any interference from the outside will not be tolerated.  Any attempt to leave will be stopped.  Any infraction of the rules could result in severe fines, physical punishment or death.  Please send all other inquiries to the house on the hill.  Preferably before dark.  P.S. You're being watched.  Sincerely, The Association."


Review:

The first quarter of The Association is good, well-written, character solid, with smart, semi-satirical touches of humor thrown into the mix.  Somewhere between that first quarter and midway through, it becomes ridiculous - pet murders, and mutilated homeless people pop up, and everyone pretends like that's normal.  Then, home invasions, audio and visual surveillance inside and outside the homes, "mysterious" disappearances and murders of residents and visitors, as well as overt threats of physical violence. . . and the residents of this gated community do don't anything until it's way too late.  In short: this overly long novel suffers from a case of Plot Convenient Stupid People Move Into New Homes and Are Afraid to Leave, Despite Obvious/Repeated Threats to Their Lives.

Given the timing and location of the novel (2001, Utah), it feels like Little is making a quirky Grand Statement about the United States.  While that ambition is admirable, especially with its aforementioned humor,The Association should have been written as a character-smart, plot-trimmed novella, not a full-length novel.

Good writer (I've read other works by Little), crappy novel. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin

(pb; 1999: Book Two of A Song of Fire and Ice)


From the back cover:

"A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky.  And from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns.  Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war.  It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night.    Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy, a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress, and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside.  Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel. . . and the coldest hearts.  For when kings clash, the whole land trembles."


Review:

All the elements, plot-twisty action and characters that made A Game of Thrones a great read structure and set the tone of this first sequel.  This grim, bloody, whimsical and sometimes surprising (but always character-consistent) series continues to wow; it has made me excited to be a reader, in a way that I haven't been in a long time.


Worth owning, this - as is its source novel.

Followed by A Storm of Swords.

#

The events in Clash are the basis for the second season of the first HBO/cable series, A Game of Thrones.  The series's first episode originally aired on April 17, 2011.  HBO recently aired its Season 3 finale, with a fourth Season set to air next year. 

Given the many characters in this series, I'm not going to list the characters, nor the actors who play them.  (I have a busy schedule.  Maybe later, when I have a little more time, I'll list those who have worked on the series.)

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Holes For Faces, by Ramsey Campbell

(oversized pb; 2013: horror anthology)


From the back cover:

"Holes For Faces collects many of [Ramsey Campbell's] best tales from the first decade of this century.  An attempt to avoid a haunted house leads into worse danger.  The announcements at a railway station deal with stranger things than trains, and is that another railway station in the distance or a different kind of destination?  A childhood game becomes a source of terror, and so does a radio quiz show.  Even Christmas decorations may not be trusted, and beware of that Advent calendar!  A hotel provides amenities you mightn't welcome, and a visit to a tourist attraction attracts an uninvited follower.  A train journey may never end, unless it already has, and a visit to a hospital brings back more than memories.  A myth about a horror film has unwanted consequences.  There are angels you mightn't want to see too clearly, if that's what they are.  And you'll have to decide if it's better to stay in the dark or see what's waiting there. . . One theme runs through all the stories: youth and age."


Overall review:

This is an uneven anthology from an otherwise good author (I've read, enjoyed other works by him).  Here's why -

What I liked about it:  Campbell is good at creating Old School horror/shivery moods (think Oliver Onions and M.R. James), so most, if not all of the stories in this collection are dread-effective in tone.

I also admire how Campbell utilized recurring symbols and elements, like trains, childhood memories, familial discord, Hitchcockian intrigue, etc. to thematically link said pieces into the aforementioned mood consistency.


What I didn't like about it:  Many of the stories and characters were too long, too passive (action-wise) and too similar in structure and attitudes - almost to the point of being carbon copies of works that preceded them.  There wasn't enough variation in his framing of his tales or diversity among his characters to make each of these stories burst with distinctive vigor.  This makes Holes a sometimes interesting but often disappointing anthology.

This collection is worth checking out for a few bucks, or borrowing from the library.  If you're into the older style of horror which puts a heavy emphasis on mood, like Campbell, Onions or James, this may very well be worth picking up for more than a few dollars.


Standout stories:

1.)  "Holes For Faces": Childhood terrors, parental discord and a creepy Italian tour haunt a boy.  Excellent, dread-suffusive work.


2.)  "Getting It Wrong": An asocial, disgruntled  cineaste (Eric Edgeworth) finds himself participating in a dark, strange game show where providing wrong answers can prove agonizing. 


3.)  "The Decorations":  Sad, dark Xmas tale about a boy and his mentally unstable grandmother.


4.)  "With the Angels":  Creepy tale about two sisters - one of them a mother of three - visiting their dead grandmother's house.


5.)  "Chucky Comes to Liverpool":  An overprotective mother, obsessed with banning the Child's Play movies, brings about a real tragedy.  Interesting, different story.


6.)  "The Rounds":  Islamophobia, media distortion, conspiracy theories and Hitchcockian intrigue build as a wary, heroic man tries to stop what appears to be a terrorist attack.  Excellent, suspenseful.


7.)  "The Long Way":  An imaginative boy's fear of a spooky neighborhood plays out in a sad, sometimes terrifying manner.  Good story, marred by a forced 'end on a spooky note' finish.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

(pb; 1996: Book One of A Song of Fire and Ice)


From the back cover:

"In a land where summers can last for decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing.  The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective protective Wall.  At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to.  Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.  Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones."


Review:

I'm not fan of sword-and-sorcery fantasy novels, but this may be first book of this genre to fully immerse me in its vivid, often grim, sometimes kind and seductive world since I read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a teenager.  In fact, Game - for this middle-aged reader - may even trump Tolkien's work for its better editing and brutal realism. 

I'm sure this review will add little to what others have already said, given my late entrance into Martin's created world, but to be clear: I loved and/or loathed the fully realized characters and their twisted, interwoven and intense histories; the action was raw, intriguing and unsparing; and the epic scope of Martin's world, as well as the "plots and counterplots" of its widely varied denizens absorbed this noir-minded (that is to say jaded) reader into its wild storylines.

One of my all-time favorite books - worth owning, this.

Followed by A Clash of Kings.

#

The first HBO/cable episode of A Game of Thrones aired on April 17, 2011.  This series is still going - HBO recently aired its Season 3 finale, with a fourth season set to air next year. 

Given the many characters in this series, I'm not going to list the characters, nor the actors who play them.  (I have a busy schedule.  Maybe later, when I have a little more time, I'll list those who have worked on the series.)

<em>Phantom</em> by Jo Nesbø

(hb;  2011, 2012: ninth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett .) From the back cover...