the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘religion

King David Spiders from MarsKing David and the Spiders From Mars, edited by Tim Lieder

published March 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the editor (thanks Tim!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.
.

.

.

I don’t know about you, but I love mythology. I especially love it when authors take liberties with unexplored details. What was the backstory of that minor character? That other person must have had a good reason to do something strange/wonderful/awful/unexpected, right?  When I think “mythology”, I often think Greek, Roman, or Norse mythos.  But there is a mythology that’s even closer to me. One that I grew up with. One that’s rarely referred to as mythology, but that’s what it is. The Bible: history, literature, mythology, and faith, all rolled into one,  mythology in the most revered definition of the word: stories of the days that created a culture.  It’s books like King David and the Spiders From Mars that make me want to open up my big fat Myths and Legends of Ancient Israel book, or go to the library and find some dusty tome that will tell me the ending of the story they only told the beginning of in Sunday school.

King David and the Spiders From Mars is the second anthology in editor Tim Lieder’s series of Biblical Horror stories. I enjoyed the hell out of the first one, She Nailed A Stake Through His Head, (read my review) and I’ve been looking forward to more of the same ever since.  Same as with Nailed a Stake, you don’t need any kind of Biblical or Judeo-Christian education to enjoy these short stories. In fact, you’d be better served by being familiar with Chthulhu mythos.

Starting at the literal beginning, the first story is nicely tragic, but not end-of-the-world destructive. And then everything slowly ramps up, with the last two stories having the potential to really fuck you up.

here are my thoughts on a few of my favorites:

Moving Nameless, by Sonya Taaffe – How many wives did Adam have? According to myth, God made a woman right in front of Adam, built her from organs and bone and muscle and sinew, and Adam was so disgusted (you might be too, seeing a person built from the inside out!) that he never again looked up her.  And she’s been wandering the Earth ever since, looking for an Adam who might be able to love her.  Her name isn’t Eva, but that’s what her current boyfriend, Adam Loukides, calls her.  He’s a book collector, has a fondness for out of print books, can’t wait to show her around his apartment, he never questions the fact that she doesn’t talk about her family.  It doesn’t matter that this latest Adam doesn’t believe in God, or doesn’t believe her story, that doesn’t make her story any less true or the curse any less painful. He will come to be disgusted by her, no matter if he believes in her story or not. Shunned forever, for something that was outside of her control, it makes me wish the nameless woman got another opportunity to interact with the original Adam.

Read the rest of this entry »

clarkesworld4I’m working my way through Clarkesworld Year Four, a volume of all the original fiction they published in their fourth year. (part one, part two) And Yes, all of these volumes are available as print editions, click here and scroll to the bottom.

When I first decided to talk about every story in this volume, I was a little intimidated. But now that I’ve read more than half of them, I’m suddenly wishing the volume had twice as much fiction in it.  Want fatter Clarkesworld books? Help the support the e-zine by subscribing,  becoming a “citizen of Clarkesworld”, or by spreading the word by reading the fiction they publish, listening to their podcasts, comments on stories, and talking about them.  We may live in the age of the internet, but everything still lives and dies by word of mouth.

Today I’ve got reviews of three stories in the volume. All of these reviews forced me to play “the pronoun game”, because all of these stories feature genderless characters. One person takes a human male form, so I refer to him as “him”, but the others I wasn’t quite sure. Any advice about how to refer to genderless characters is appreciated.  Also, each title links to the full story on the Clarkesworld website.

clarkesworld Aug 2010

The Messenger by J.M. Sidorova – Wow is this one a doozy, and I mean that in the most complimentary way! Our narrator doesn’t name himself (itself?), and doesn’t identify what he (it?) is.  Eventually given the name Gabriel, and often taking the form of a human man, I’m going to use the male pronouns, and refer to the narrator as Gabriel.  Early in the story, Gabriel is contacted by a higher intelligence, who names him, seduces him, and inscribes Gabriel with His purpose: to find a vessel so He can bring his message to the people of the Earth.

Read the rest of this entry »

This closes out my series on reviewing the Hugo Nominated Novellas. For those of you just joining us, here are the other nominees, with links to my reviews:

On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
The Last Stand of the California Browncoats    by Mira Grant

SAM_3323

On  an alternate earth on the brink of technological change, the holy books have always told people that six thousand years ago The Increate touched the Earth in eight places, and in those places mankind flourished. But photography, larger telescopes, electricity, and the telegraph, have made their appearance. In a society very uncomfortable with chance, a society where history and religion are pretty much the same thing, I imagine this would be more than a little traumatic.

A might happen anywhere, every so often a heresy awakes, something about humanity being older than six thousand years, or having originated elsewhere, or aliens having built the pyramids. You know, all sorts of nonsense. Nonsense which will not be tolerated by either the religious or the secular leaders of the planet. In this, the two groups work together to squash damaging heresies.

Doctor Morgan Abutti, however, has been researching the same section of the sky for years. He’s not sure what he’s found, he just knows it shouldn’t be there. He presents his paper to the the Planetary Society, abruptly shocks his older and more experienced peers out of their chairs, and as one could expect from a scientific society that is ruled by religion, he is summarily thrown out and brought before a treason judge.

Read the rest of this entry »

Particle Horizon, by Selso Xisto

published in 2012

where I got it: received copy from the author

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

How deep into the foundations of the universe can we truly observe? What will we see when we get there? Famous researcher Dr. Baghdarasian has made learning those secrets his life’s work. The phrase “particle horizon” refers to how far we can see with a microscope.

As the story opens, we get some minimal background about the current state of humanity. With Earth as the center of our civilization, we’ve colonized planets and moons all over the place, even hollowed out a handful of asteroids and very small moons. Once outside the solar system, humanity is generally split into two psuedo Empires: the Union which follows a strictly atheistic culture and has no room for any type of religious faith; and the Alliance, a very religious culture with no room for any kind of doubt in their deity and priests. The two cultures are polar opposites with no space for anything inbetween, so of course there is a lot of tension between them, not to mention the pressures their citizens are under to conform.

The space navies of both cultures have converged on the hollowed out asteroid of Angelhaven, where a battalion of Alliance Lightbringer troops have attacked the main city. Angelhaven is also  the home of Dr. Baghdrasarian and his android daughter Una. Una was designed with what amounts to a quantum computer for a brain, and until now she’s never really paid attention to the numbers she’s been crunching.  Her father has discovered something amazing. Something that could change the course of humanity’s future, and both the Alliance priesthood and the  Union governments desperately want to get their hands on it, or on Una, who stores the secret deep in her mind.

Read the rest of this entry »

She Nailed A Stake through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror, edited by Tim Lieder

published in 2010

where I got it: Interlibrary loan

.

.

.

.

.

.

It being Passover/Easter week, what could be more appropriate reading than something biblical? I recently came across Tim Lieder’s blog, and he struck me as a swearing scholar (my favorite kind. of both). There was mention of an anthology that included old testament allegories and demons, and as I was already in a Haggadah frame of mind, so off to the library I went.

with a title like She Nailed a Stake Through his Head: Tales of Biblical Terror, it’s easy to think this is a one dimensional collection, that’s nothing but bible story retellings. You’d be wrong. While there were bible story retellings (which I admit, were my favorites) that don’t quite parallel what I’ve taught at Sunday school, but there were also vampires and Cthulhu monsters, and a Gilgamesh prequel and a parallel future where King David is a druggie rock star, and a few more vampires, and people, this is horrifically wonderful bizarro non-traditional stuff.

Mostly very short stories, this anthology was nice and easy to swallow, the whole thing is barely 150 pages long.  I read the entire thing in two sittings. And you don’t need a biblical education of any kind to enjoy these. There are no inside jokes for you to figure out, no parables to puzzle over. Just deliciously creepy and sometimes heavily sexualized fiction. That word “Terror” in the title? yeah, there for a reason. And if you have any kind of Judeo-Christian education, you’ll be even more creeped out, which for me, made it all the better.

Here are some of my thoughts on a few of the entries:

Whither thou Goest, by Gerri Leen – With the death of their husbands, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth head back to Naomi’s homeland. In this version, it isn’t that Ruth doesn’t want to follow, it’s that she’s bound to follow. Not bound by anything Naomi has done, but bound, beautifully and powerfully, by her own words “Wherever you will go, I will go”. This Ruth survivies and lives off Naomi’s lifeforce. Naomi is trapped forever, for Ruth will never let her escape. And when they reach Naomi’s hometown, Ruth sets her sights on a new patron, someone new from whom she can steal lifeforce and energy.

Swallowed! by Stephen M. Wilson – told in reverse order, at first it’s easy to be disgusted by the man’s actions. He follows the voice in his head and does the horrible things it commands. He kills a few people, violently, needlessly, and viciously. But then we get an inkling of who he might be. that he was on a ship, fleeing something, and was thrown overboard by Cthulhu worshipping sailors, and was swallowed into warm darkness, where he didn’t die. The absolute creepiest retelling of the Jonah story I have ever had the pleasure of reading, this Jonah is deformed and mangled, possessed by something hungrier and more murderous than even himself.


Babylon’s Burning
, by Daniel Kayson – taking place right here, right now, nerdy Daniel gets dragged to a corporate company party by his brother. Daniel is disgusted by the kind of money this company throws around, their parties populated by high end call girls, their filthy government contracts that land them headlines about civilian deaths. And then he arrives at the party, and oh, the girls, the beautiful girls! A translator by training, Daniel witnesses something at the party that changes his life forever. He knows what those words mean, and he knows they will eventually point right at him. When you are the prophet, the translator, the high priest, there is no escape.

Psalm of the Second Body, by Catherynne Valente – Ya’ll know I love me some Valente. Although this anthology was published in 2010, this short story was originally published in 2005, it was Valente’s first. An almost prequel to the epic of Gilgamesh, it had me running to Wikipedia for a refresher course. I haven’t read Gilgamesh since high school. This is the story of Shamhat, the harlot who was instructed to seduce Enkidu, and took seven days to complete her mission. The story is from Shamhat’s point of view, and she is very good at what she does. I get the impression she’s offended to forever be known as the harlot, the prostitute, that the pains she took to help Enkidu become just slightly more human would never be acknowledged as important. I do love me some Valente, so it kills me that this story did nothing for me. The whole thing felt overwrought and overly ornamented just for the purpose of being overdone. Is she perhaps telling me that a harlot covered in the gaudiest golden jewelry will still always be seen by history as nothing but a woman who spreads her legs for money? The only story in the collection that I read twice, and the only one that didn’t do it for me.

Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed

published in Feburary 2011

where I got it: the Library*

.

.

.

.

 

.

.

.

.

I’ve been trying to write this review for two days now, and it just hasn’t been happening.

The only important part of this review is: Read this book now. really.  I adored it. Ask my husband, I’ve been talking of nothing else for the last few days.

There is nothing I can say that will do this book justice.

But you know I’ll try.

If Ellen Kushner showed me what effortless writing looked like, then Saladin Ahmed has shown me what truly fully developed characters read like.  These characters are so real and so true  that I didn’t feel like I was reading them so much as spending a few precious days with them.   I feel like I could tell you what Adoulla’s bookshelves look like (cluttered but organized?), like I could describe the look on Raseed’s face when he instantly regrets something he’s said, the sound of Zamia sleeping while in her lion shape. I want to have tea at Yehyeh’s,  I want to follow Adoulla through the city as his conflicted feelings force his actions.

Beyond the exquisite characterization, Throne of the Crescent Moon is so deliciously atypical of so much of the fantasy that’s currently available.  Yes, it’s a fantasy adventure in a secondary world, and yes there is some magic.  But show me another recently written fantasy novel where the hero is a middle aged fat man  whose magic stems from phrases and quotations out of a religious prayerbook.   Show me a recently written fantasy adventure where the endgame is all about ending up with the person you love, the person who waited for you.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Folded World by Catherynne Valente (Book two of A Dirge for Prester John)

Published by Night Shade Books, Nov 1, 2011

Where I got it: purchased new

Why I read it:  I loved the first book, The Habitation of the Blessed

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The truth has teeth and claws that bite and tear. We turn the truth into stories to hide the scars and soften the blows, and help us forget where the bodies are buried.

Except when the story is true.  Those are the ones that bleed the longest.

How is it that a retelling of an obscure myth can carry so much truth as to be unbearable? How is it that I can look to nearly any passage in The Folded World and say “ah yes, that’s exactly how the world really is”?

Picking up immediately where The Habitation of Blessed left off, at the beginning of The Folded World Brother Alaric is given the opportunity to pluck more books off the tree.  He randomly chooses three books, and he and the other monks begin copying; trying not to pay attention to what they are reading, endeavoring not to succumb to the power of memory, as Brother Hiob did.  They have to copy fast, these books are living things and have already begun to rot.

Put together in a similar style as Habitation of the Blessed (and you really must read these novels in order), we learn the stories in each of the three books as Alaric is copying them, but unlike Alaric, we are free to be seduced by them.  The three narratives twist and tumble around one another, leaving hints here and there of things that happened, or perhaps things that are to come. Valente’s prose is as always, so beautiful you want to cry, filled with metaphors that at first blush seem like they shouldn’t work, but with laughter on the lips you find they work perfectly.  I need to open the monster Thesaurus I just bought, so I can find the word that means “more incredible that I could have ever thought possible”, and use it to describe The Folded World. I wanted to read this entire book out loud, just to see if the words sounded as beautiful as they looked (for the record, even though I only read portions out loud, they did).

Read the rest of this entry »


2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,105 other followers

subscribe in a reader

Vintage SF

Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along

Bookstore Bookblogger Connection

You're a book blogger too? Or a Bookseller? Come get involved in a wonderful new project Bookstore Bookblogger Connection!

Local Friends

Categories

FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.