the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘weird

Jagganath-ebook-coverJagannath, by Karin Tidbeck

published in 2012

where I got it: the library

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This has been a tough review to write. I finished reading Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath last week, and instead of jotting down notes for a review, or trying to come up with some witty blurbable phrase, all I’ve done is pick the book up again and again, reread a few of the short stories, and whisper “Wow”, over and over again.

Just, wow.

I am floored, I am awed, my faith in anything, in everything, has been restored.

Make sure you read Jagannath.

Jagannath is a skinny unassuming little thing. It’s the wallflower of the new shelf at the library, no fancy cosmetics or political slants or controversial stories. It doesn’t scream “read me with alluring or sexy cover art.  And it doesn’t scream “read me” after you open it, either. Sometimes you don’t want a book to scream at you, because it’s better when the book caresses you instead,  rewards you for finding it, for choosing the wallflower.  With a quiet, confident voice, the stories in Jagannath whisper your name, drawing you in closer and nearer, because it has a secret to tell you, and only you.

Using simple language, Tidbeck takes you to other worlds, places that are beautiful and frightening and cold.  These aren’t horror stories, but they are tilted at just enough of an angle that it’s easy to lose your footing. Reading them felt like a one way mirror –  I was on the  mirror side, but someone else, someone in the story, was watching me from the other side.

You don’t even need to read the rest of this rambling review, just go get the book. You will be far more satisfied with reading Jagannath than with reading my review of its contents.

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SAM_2209

Two things I’m always tempted to do:  bite off more than I can chew, and read books by authors I know I like.

Taking a look at the monstrous 1000+ page Weird Compendium edited by The Vandermeer’s, it looks like I’m not the only one who enjoys biting off more than they can chew. In a podcast interview, I believe Ann Vandermeer described the exponential growth of the Weird project as “scope-creep”.   With weirdness going back to 1908, the Weird Compendium is exactly that: buckets and buckets of weird stuff from all over the world, some of it translated for the first time into English.

Two birds with one stone – more opportunities to post during Vintage month, and I’m going outside my comfort zone by reading folks I’ve never heard of. Are these stories science fiction? Sort of. They’re about things that couldn’t happen, that shouldn’t happen, things we don’t want to happen, things we can’t explain.  It might not be pure scifi, but it’s certainly speculative, and that’s enough for me.  I’ll read stories as I have time, and post my thoughts in  bundles of a few stories. Who knows, maybe we’ll all discover a new favorite old time author!

In the Penal Colony (1919), by Franz Kafka – I remember learning about Kafka in high school, but I couldn’t tell you anything definitive about him.  This horror story is about a foreigner given permission to visit an island penal colony, and tasked with observing the judicial practices of the colony. None of the characters are named, everyone is referred to by a descriptive of what they do – the Traveller, the Officer, the Soldier, and the Condemned Man. The Officer, an ally of the previous Commandant, is showing off his punishment machine to The Traveller. It’s quite the machine, and the Officer is very proud of it and takes care of it lovingly. While describing how and why it works to The Traveller, the Officer reminisces about the good old days, when entire families turned out to view the executions, and young children were allowed right up close to watch the facial expressions of the slowly dying.  This is a deeply horrific and disturbing story, but you simply can’t stop reading it.  Not knowing enough about Kafka I’m sure I missed out on a lot of social commentary.

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ARedSunAlsoRisesA Red Sun Also Rises, by Mark Hodder

published December 2012

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

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Aiden Fleischer is a conflicted man, more so than most men.  A young and sheltered priest who struggles with his faith, Aiden escapes an extortion scheme by signing up with the Missionary Society. Travelling with him, is his friend and housekeeper Clarissa Stark, whose engineering genius is matched only by her crippling disfigurement. Before long, Aiden and Clarissa find themselves on a remote island near the Solomon Islands, and Aiden begins his task of bringing the Lord’s word to the natives. Who aren’t the slightest bit interested. Also, they are cannibals.

During a ritual gone wrong (or maybe right?) Aiden and Clarissa are sent through a portal to an alien world, where strange insect-like beings welcome them with open arms. Apparently the islanders have been coming here for years to work as servants for the aliens. After Clarissa accidentally falls into a sacred pool, the aliens, known as Yatsill, are able to read her thoughts and memories of London. Soon, the Yatsill are all speaking with almost Cockney accents, and attempting to wear the fashions of 1880’s London, which look ridiculous on their four-legged bodies.

The Yatsill are mimics, able to create and recreate their city, their homes, their language and their fashions to copy memories read from an Earthling’s mind. But they are still just imitating, going through the motions with no understand of what they are doing (Not unlike how Aiden goes through the motions of being a  man of faith, actually). A funny example is the British sounding names many of Yatsill adopt, such as Crockery Clattersmash, Prosper Possibly, and Mordant Reverie. Poor Aiden, he has to keep a straight face the whole time!

The details put into the Yatsill and their planet of Ptallaya are nothing short of astounding.  Hodder lets his imagination run wild, offering up lighter-than-air behemoths who crawl across the landscape by grabbing trees with their hands, huge fruits that hum, and sky scraping tentacled creatures.  Ptallaya itself, is in a unique spot in the universe, which causes all sorts of strange things to happen on its surface. For no other reason, read this for the aliens and their unique planet. Because the Yatsill are just the beginning of what Ptallaya has on offer.

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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.