the Little Red Reviewer

Oh hi!  I haven’t forgotten about this blog, i swear! I fact, at least 3 times a week I say to myself “I really oughta write something for my  blog”, and then before I know a week has flown by. I keep saying “I’m going to get up early on Sunday and blog!” and then instead, I sleep. Life is funny like that. 

 

I’ve read a LOT, and I got a lot going on right now*,  so you get mini reviews!

 

And what a selection do I have for you! Epic fantasy, scifi short stories, and contemporary thrillers!

 

Have you seen this fricken gorgeous cover art on Rebecca Roanhorse’s novel Black Sun? Are you kinda bored with Euro-based epic fantasy, but want your politics, your intrigue, your religion, and your insurrection? This is the book for you!  Also! Excellent characters, fantastic world, paced perfectly, damn enjoyable read. I zipped through this book. I was a little worried at first, because the first chapter is brutal and kinda gross, but the rest of the book isn’t like. And? Is this epic fantasy with a female gaze? Yes, yes it is. And it was nice. Also Mesoamerican epic fantasy may be my new groove. Forget grog and stew, I’m more about chocolate and corn and squash!

Something I really liked about Black Sun was that people are constantly asking other people “yeah,  but what next?”.  I feel like a lot of epic fantasies suffer from this weirdness of a time vacuum, that the characters only exist for this specific story, and no one has a “what’s next” in their life, the characters aren’t even thinking about the rest of their lives, they should have taken that note from Samwise!  Anyway, I appreciated that characters in Black Sun are always thinking about the future, and pestering other people “yeah, but what are gonna do, after that?”.  It makes them all seem more like real people.

 

The issue I had with Black Sun isn’t a Roanhorse problem, this is a me problem. I 100% suck at keeping track of lots of characters. Black Sun doesn’t have tons and tons of point of view characters, but just enough that it was too much for me. Anyways, my OTP is Xiarapio. I was itching for their chapters because that plasma hot sexual tension between the two of them! And I feel bad for them, because they’ve got, well, other things going on, definitely not a good time to get into a relationship, but damn, those sparks!! 

A very good friend gifted me with a copy of Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough, and like the jackass friend I am, I put it on my bookshelf and forgot about it.  Then someone mentioned it on twitter, and I was in the mood for a contemporary thriller, and BOY DID THAT BOOK DELIVER! I’m not even going to compare it to other thrillers for fear of giving stuff away.  Let’s see, what can I tell you?  Divorced Louise meets a nice guy, David, at a bar one evening. Next week she finds out he’s her new boss! (that sounds so cliché, I know, but stay with me, ok?)  They both know it’s wrong because he’s married, but he’s miserable in his marriage, and she misses the feeling of being wanted. Then she befriends David’s wife, Adele, who is sweet and lonely.  The story flip flops between Louise’s and Adele’s point of views, and how they are both trying to keep David from finding out they are friends. Louise is flustered by the entire thing, Adele is just a smidge manipulative, and David treats Louise like a queen but is super controlling with his wife Adele.  

 

What these two women are going through, and how Louise questions everything she does, and how Adele seems to over plan things, and what isn’t said, I couldn’t put this book down! I loved Louise’s inner monologue, she’s vibrant and complicated and loves her son and is frustrated her first marriage didn’t work out and she just wants to be loved. She’s torn between “my son is the only man I need in my life!” and wanting an adult relationship where she’s appreciated and loved. I loved that this book had Louise’s emotions and complexities front and center. 

 

The twist had me falling off my chair. 

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Much thanks to Annorlunda Books for providing an ARC of Lagoonfire by Francesca Forrest, out March 3, 2021.  You can read my interview with Francesca Forrest here

 

On the surface, Lagoonfire is a mystery starring an investigator whose best friends are retired gods. 

 

And underneath that first mystery was a garden that unfurled into verdant blossoms, as an entire world unfolded in front of me.  One of the many things I loved about Lagoonfire is how it felt like opening my eyes.  You know how you feel when you walk into a bookstore, or a library, or a museum you’ve never been in before and your face just lights up? Yeah, Lagoonfire feels like that.

 

Hmmm . . .  now that I really think about it, Lagoonfire isn’t a mystery. 

 

It’s about how the stories we tell shape us and our world and our beliefs. It’s about how the people we love will lie to us, to protect us. It’s about how love makes us selfish.  It’s about how easily the present can erase the past, if we let it. And we always let it.  It’s about how if we tell ourselves a story enough times, it becomes our truth, and a fact, and how facts are not always the truth, just the version of history we were convinced of, so we live as if the story was real, because that’s easier/safer than the alternative.  I really love stories like this, and I love how Forrest tells this story.

 

The sequel to Forrest’s 2018 novella The Inconvenient God, Lagoonfire works perfectly well as a stand alone. That said, The Inconvenient God (read my review) is an absolute treat, and absolutely worth reading, and worth reading first, because Lagoonfire has so many big reveals.

Lagoonfire was so good, it took me a few hours to come back to myself after I’d finished reading it. It took me a few hours to remember how to form words into sentences.  (Books literally floor me, ok?)

 

Decommissioner Thirty-Seven prefers that people call her by her formal title, not her real name. Her friends know her name of course, but she cringes when they use it.  If she has to, she’ll allow people to call her by her childhood nickname, Sweeting. 

 

She’s worked at The Polity’s Ministry of Divinities most of her adult life, and I should be very clear about what her profession entails. As a decommissioner, her job is is literally decommission, or “retire”, deities.  They become mortal, to then live out a regular mortal lifespan, and then die.  Gods no longer worshipped become truly forgotten. In the name of unity and progress,  the Polity has the ability to give mere mortals power over any god who roams the earth, as prayers to a multitude of local harvest gods and goddesses now become shiny modern devotions to the Abstraction of the Harvest.  The Polity views this as bringing harmony and equality to all. And should you forget that harmony and prioritizing the common good are virtues, the Polity’s job is to ensure that you remember.

 

The story opens with a freak flood at a new shoreline construction project. Decommissioner Thirty-Seven is asked to check in on her friend Laloran-Morna and make sure he wasn’t responsible.  He’s not just a retired guy that she’s friends with, Laloran-Morna was an ocean god that she decommissioned, she botched the job, and they became friends afterwards (long story).  And how could he be responsible?  Laloran-Morna lives in a 4th floor apartment, requires nearly 24 hour home care, and is practically on his death bed.  There’s no possible way he can make it to the seashore, so he asks Sweeting to go to the shore to pray in his place, to his lost lover.

 

Why does Sweeting seem okay working for The Polity? They seem authoritarian and kinda horrible!

 

Why do these retired gods seem okay with being mortal, and no longer having worshippers?

 

Why doesn’t Sweeting want anyone to know her real name?

 

If you’ve ever read a Francesca Forrest, you’ll know that what the story is “about” isn’t what the story is about. 

 

What if you were the god of a particular place, and that place no longer existed?

 

Calling Lagoonfire a mystery is like calling Buckinham Palace a building. Like, yes, it is a building, but it’s so much more than a building! 

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I love absurdity.  A flying angry bear,  talking animals, weird creatures, intelligent fungi, guns that shoot bears (the bullets are bears. Live bears come out of the gun when you pull the trigger!). Absurdity, I say bring it!

 

I’d been hearing about Vandermeer’s A Peculiar Peril for a while now, and I knew nearly nothing about it. I knew that it had something to do with Thackery T Lambshead, I knew it had Vandermeer’s brand of weirdness, and reading the back cover copy made me laugh out loud, so we were off to a good start!  If you mashed up Mieville’s Perdido Street Station with a Neil Gaiman,  you might end up with something on the same plane as A Peculiar Peril.  

The book has an wryly funny, if tragic beginning.  Young Jonathan Lambshead is officially now an orphan. His mother disappeared in the Alps and is presumed dead, and his grandfather Dr. Lambshead has passed away. The novel opens with Jonathan arriving at his grandfather’s mansion and no one is there to greet him.  Through letters and a phone call (delivered through a phone that isn’t plugged in), Jonathan learns that if he can only organize and catalog his grandfather’s collectables, he will inherit all!  Well, It’s a good thing Jonathan invited his best friends Rack and Danny to help him. (Rack and Danny are brother and sister, “Danny” is short for Danielle, “Rack” is short for something much longer)

 

If you thought this was to be another adventure through Dr Thackery T Lambshead’s Cabinet of Curiosities. . . you’d be wrong. But that’s ok!   By way of a strange map, an even stranger marmot, and yet stranger doors that go elsewhere, Jonathan, Rack, and Danny find themselves in an alternate Earth called Aurora, where Napoleon is a literal talking head,  Aleister Crowley hasn’t realized he’s not in control, monsters abound, animals talk, shadows do as they please, and thanks to one particular bridge, you’ll be scared of puffins for the rest of your life. 

 

All Jonathan wants is to understand what the hell is going on.  Why does he need to find the Golden Sphere? What is he supposed to do when he finds it? Why do people seem to talk in code whenever he’s around? Is Danny hiding something from him? What the heck is the Chateau Peppermint Blonkers (I LOVE that absurd name, don’t you?), and who can he trust? 

 

This book truly is absurdity piled on top of absurdity, and mostly in a good way. Let’s start with Aleister Crowley, because this poor guy is just so apeshit cray cray.  Vandermeer’s Crowley rules Aurora with an iron fist, a creeptastic familiar named Wretch, and increasingly nonsensical pronouncements involving household trash and rabid animals. Or well, Crowley thinks he runs the show, but as the story progresses we learn more about how Wretch is, well, keeping Crowley under control. One of Crowley’s advisors is Napoleon’s head. Just his head. And when Napoleon gets to chatty, Crowley puts him up on a tall pedestal where no one can see or hear him. There’s also a mechanical elephant with an escape hatch under its tail, involving a conversation that screams to be read out loud in your best Monty Python voice. 

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much thanks to Erewhon Books for providing an ARC!

 

 

The opening pages of On Fragile Waves includes a short visual poem.  

 

At first, I was worried, was the whole book going to be poetry of this style? Because while I respect poetry, I’m not so good at “getting it”.

 

Ah, but this particular visual poem!  As it tap-danced across the page, I “got it”! And in a way, I hoped the entire book would be like this.  

 

The entire book is, and isn’t, like those opening pages.   That opening poem gives sound and texture and context to a small family,  two parents who first have a daughter, and then a son, and then the relief that the war is finally over.  

 

The rest of the book is them realizing they were wrong, and that the only way to escape war is to escape Afghanistan.

 

You know how poetry can by design feel a bit detached, in a good way?  Because words or meter or space is in someway constrained, the poet only puts in what is most important.  Emotion gets put in over exposition, experience gets put in over worldbuilding. Gut punches get put in over grammar.  On Fragile Waves isn’t weighed down by the ornaments of expected story telling grammar, the open and close-quotes around dialog, the verbs that give rise to how the person spoke those words. Yes, they are ornaments that are designed to, among other things, add characterization and impact to dialog, and yes, without them the dialog can float like dreamy clouds.   The only punctuation in On Fragile Waves is the bare minimum necessary to get the story across.  

 

When I’ve come across stories with the bare minimum of punctuation, the bare minimum of worldbuilding, first of all I tend to really like it, and second I tend to wonder what were these characters going through that all they had was the bare minimum? Were they exhausted? Hungry? Terrified of being noticed?   Obviously, writing prose in this manner is nothing more than a deliberate choice the author makes, knowing they’ll just need to do other things to make sure it’s clear who is speaking, and to help the reader get to know the characters better. In a way, writing like this is like writing a huge prose poem – because of preset constraints, you have to remove things that aren’t necessary. 

 

I think readers will either love Yu’s style, or be very turned off by it. 

 

I loved it on the first page, and I was weeping by the end. I found Yu’s writing style, and the story that she told to be very, very effective.   There’s hardly any worldbuilding or visual descriptions in this book, yet I could see everything, I could hear the storms, I could see the fear on people’s faces.  There’s hardly any overt characterization, yet I knew Nour’s yearning to play with other kids, I heard everything their father wasn’t saying.  

On Fragile Waves is a masterwork of negative space,  of using only a few words to communicate everything.  When I find myself unable to express my feelings, I tend to complain that English is worthless, because words aren’t the language that works for what I want to communicate. I have so much in me, and using English means I have to crush all those things into boxy words that don’t mean what I’m trying to say, and so often, in the end, I end up saying nothing, and having people describe me as “quiet”.  In On Fragile Waves,  Yu showed me there is a way to say what I’m feeling, it is possible!  Huh.  sounds like I need to find all the authors that write with minimum punctuation, and read them. Looks like this writing style really, really speaks to me!

 

Most of the story is told by Firuzeh, who I think is around 8 years old at the beginning of the story, and maybe around 10 or 11 by the end. And what’s fascinating about telling most of the chapters from her point of view is that all the adults know what’s going on, and some of them speak quite plainly. And she has absolutely no idea what’s going on. Her younger brother, Nour understands even less.  Her lack of understanding is partly that her parents are trying to shield their children from the horrors of war, and partly because she’s only nine years old!

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holy crap, how are we already into February? how did that even happen?

anyways, February is looking hella fun for me.  and since there’s no possible way I can get through all of this in one month, likely I’ll still be reading and talking about these books in March . . . and maybe April too.

Here’s what my February looks like:

I’ve got some #VintageSciFi posts I still want to write

I read E. Lily Yu’s On Fragile Waves, and cried buckets. need to write a review. This book came out this week, so yeah, I really need to get that review written!

Am currently reading Jeff Vandermeer’s A Peculiar Peril (thanks public Library!), and Clelia Farris’s collection Creative Surgery.  I’m nearly finished with Creative Surgery, so hope to review that one soon. Peculiar Peril is a freakin’ doorstopper, so it’s gonna be a while. Peculiar Peril is gloriously absurd, it’s sort of like if Neil Gaiman wrote China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun? but crank the absurdity up to like 500, and then make it funny in certain spots and terrifying in other spots.

I also got Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse from the library, so need to start that soon, or renew it.

Francesca Forrest’s Lagoonfire (sequel to The Inconvenient God) comes out in early March and I want to read it RIGHT NOW because I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her. This is likely my next read once I finish Creative Surgery.

EPIC WIN, I scored an ARC of Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Jillian vs. Parasite Planet, which I also can’t wait to get to, because I love everything she writes.  This one doesn’t hit bookstore shelves until July so I guess I could wait a month or two to read it. My husband loves her work too, so there’s a good chance he’ll get to read this book before I do! Not fair! but, actually pretty fair.

I also got a nonfiction business/leadership book, Radical Candor from the library, it was recommended by a very close friend of mine.  Lots of good communication / management advice, plus it has swear words which makes me giggle. I love that the author is comfortable talking about her own failures.  Business books that are all “everything i do is perfect and gold, I have only ever have successes!” make me super suspicious, because no one is perfect, and the way we learn is by making mistakes.  The weirdest part about #adulting so far – suddenly finding myself excited about reading management / leadership books, and talking to my friends about them and my friends being excited to talk to me about their favorite titles. weird AF.

 

and lots of that reading will likely get derailed because:

I’m starting season four of Deep Space Nine

and

I’ve been working on this during the weekends.  (Link will take you to a twitter thread, you shouldn’t need a twitter account to view the thread)

Also? I’m feeling the itch for another book cull.  If you live in the US and you want a random package of 2-4 absolutely random books,  find a way to privately send me your mailing address (don’t put it in the comments where everyone can see!) and I’ll mail you a surprise bundle. This offer is good until I run out of lonely books on my bookshelves that need a loving home.

Edited to add:  Realizing many of you may have no idea how to privately contact me directly, here’s my email address:  redhead5318@gmail.com.   When I’m done with this giveaway, I’ll remove my address from this post.

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Today, we’re gonna go 400 years in the future, to go to the 1950s. And on reflection, we’ll go  back in time another 2200 years or so,  and then jump to the present, and then back to the 1950s.

 

Ready for some time travel whiplash that would make Connie Willis proud?  Let’s go!

 

As Jean at Howling Frog Books is fond of saying, “what is January without a Star Trek story”?   Last year I blogged my way through season 3 of Deep Space Nine. I DO HAVE plans to watch season 4 (and hopefully 5!) this year, but in celebration of Vintage SciFi Month, I skipped ahead of season 6.  Episode 13, to be exact.  One of the most loved episodes of Deep Space Nine, “Far Beyond the Stars”. 

The story set up:  Captain Sisko is having a rough go. A good friend was killed when his ship was attacked near the Cardassian border, and Sisko is so distracted he can barely enjoy his father’s visit.  He starts seeing and hearing some strange things, and then technobabble happens, and then Sisko is standing in front of a newsstand in the 1950s, and he’s buying a copy of Galaxy Magazine.

 

It’s the early 1950s, and he’s not Ben Sisko.  He’s Benny Russell, and he’s a science fiction writer at a magazine.   His fellow writers are Maklin (not-O’Brien), Kay Eaton (not-Kira), Julius (not-Bashir), Rossoff (not-Quark), the editor is Pabst (not-Odo), and later Darlene (not-Dax) shows up as the new secretary (and she gets the Best. Line. Ever).   

Russell is trying to make it as a science fiction writer, while his fiance Cassie (not-Kasidy) is trying to convince him to run a restaurant with her, because it’s more stable work than writing. 

 

 One of my favorite parts of this episode was playing “recognize the voice”.   Nog,  Quark, Odo, and Worf. . .  with no make up.  Armin Shimmerman is criminally under rated.

 

Watching the episode was like watching a stage play, and I mean that as a compliment.  All my favorite characters sounded the same and mostly interacted with each other the same, but they dressed different, their jobs were different, their hairstyles were different, their passions and motivations were different.  And everyone was using typewriters! And I recognized many of the models! But the world is very, very different. The magazine wants to publish photos of the writers. Kay Eaton and Benny Russell are told to sleep in that day.

 

The pool of writers is given sketches as story prompts, and Russell takes a drawing of a three-pronged space station.  As he leaves the office that night, he’s harassed and threatened by a couple of cops, whose photos belong in the dictionary next to “racial profiling”. 

 

The image of the space station inspires Russell to create a story around a fiction space station called Deep Space Nine, captained by Benjamin Sisko, a Black man.  When he brings his manuscript to the magazine, his peers love the story.  Kay loves the strong female characters, and Darlene exclaims “There’s a worm in her belly! That’s disgusting!”. 

The Writer’s Room. Recognize anyone?

 

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Robots have no Tails, by Henry Kuttner

 

What fun this collection was!  I never know what to expect with pulp fiction, will it be good? Will it be super dated? Will I get the references?  

 

Ok, sure, I’m sure there were some references I missed, as these were written in the 1940s. But? They were great!  And hilarious!  Kuttner’s Galloway Gallagher jumps off the page, even as he’s passing out on the sofa from having had too much to drink.  And you don’t want Gallagher to stop drinking, because it’s only when he’s shitfaced drunk does he invent the wildest things . . .  . 

 

Gallagher sounds like the kind of character an author would make up during a drinking game with friends, maybe at a scifi convention. Imagine a talented inventor, who makes amazing machines and robots out of what’s laying around his lab (the original McGuyver?), but the inventor can only invent things when he’s absolutely drunk.  Sober, he can barely change a lightbulb, and has no memory of what he created the night before. Gallagher often wakes up surrounded by wild inventions that he has no memory of being contracted to create. . . screwball comedy ensues! 

 

This volume of all the Gallagher stories has an introduction by Paul Wilson, and also an introduction by Kuttner’s wife C.L. Moore. Wilson talks about the environment in which these stories were written, and Moore talks about their life when Kuttner was writing the Gallagher stories, and how the drafts made her laugh so hard she was worried about disturbing their neighbors. 

 

“Time Locker” is the first story in the volume, and considered the “least Gallagher” of the bunch, but it was one of my favorites.  Gallagher has invented a weird locker-thing, that you can put something in the locker and it disappears, but then you can pull it out again. A perfect place for a crook on the run to hide the documents that will incriminate him!  With crooks and lawyers stopping in at all hours of the day at Gallagher’s lab, how is he supposed to be able to concentrate to figure what this darn locker-thing actually does, and why he created it? This story has an absolutely fantastic twist at the end! 

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Y’all are posting SO MUCH wonderful Vintage SciFi posts, I can barely keep up! And I love you for it!

As always, my apologies if I missed your post in this link up.  Feel free to add you link to the comments, and/or tag #VintageSciFi on twitter.

 

 

It wouldn’t be Vintage Month with out a Star Trek book!  Jean at Howling Frog reviews The Entropy Effect by Vonda McIntyre, and she also takes a look at the 1954 Best From Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine and a really, really vintage science fiction story, The Blazing-World, writte in 1666 by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle

 

Galactic Journey is quite literally 100% Vintage by volume,  they are making their way to the future, one day at a time, 55 years behind the rest of us.   On Jan 16th, they received the March 1966 issue of Worlds of Tomorrow, and talked about the fiction within.

 

AnnaBookBel reviewed something that looks right up my alley – Monday Starts on Saturday by Arkady and Boris Strugatksy

 

J.G. Ballard is popular this year – Bookforager reviewed the cosy catastrophe novel The Crystal World, and Reißwolf reviewed his dystopian story The Voices of Time

 

AQ’s Reviews has a review up of Beyond This Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein,  and Philip K. Dick’s Now Wait for Last Year.

 

Kristen Brand talks about her favorite vintage comic book heroines, Mysta of the Moon

 

Over at SciFiMind, John is discussing The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells, a story that thinks it’s a past dream, out of the future.

 

Kaedrin enjoyed the “twisty espionage thriller” Worlds of the Imperium by Keith Laumer

 

Lydia Schoch found some gorgeous Vintage SciFi artwork to share

 

Infinite Speculation reviewed Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, one of those books that every time I read it, I enjoy it more!

 

Eclectic Theist found that Robert Silverberg’s The Stochatic Man is more than the sum of it’s parts.

 

Over at Black Gate Magazine, James Davis Nicoll has fantastic suggestions for Vintage Science Fiction about Patrolling Space

 

Distorting the Medium reviewed Nightmare Journey by Dean R. Kootz. Friendly dog? check. Smart-ass kid? check!

 

Lynn’s Book Blog has a cover art gallery of one of my favorite vintage titles, The Moon is A Harsh Mistress by Heinlein

 

Everyday Should be Tuesday enjoyed Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein, but still thinks Have Spacesuit: Will Travel is better.  He also reviewed Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

 

Joachim Boaz has an in depth review of Of All Possible Worlds by William Tenn, along with a ton of cover art

 

Calmgrove offers a beautiful and soothing review of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven

 

 

As always, I am sure I have missed posts.  you can tease me on twitter about it. . .but in the meantime, please leave you posts in the comments!

In 1932, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the first of what would be five Venus novels, starring Carson Napier.  Napier had thought he was navigating towards Mars, but one wrong calculation took him to Venus!  Called Amtor by the natives, the planet is covered in a thick cloud cover. Napier’s adventures on Venus include earning the love of Princess Duare, piracy, getting involved in politics, rescuing people, dealing with classism, daring escapes, and generally having as many adventures as can possibly be crammed into a sword and planet pulp novel.

There were only five Carson of Venus novels. . .   until now!

 

The Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe is relaunching the Carson of Venus series!  The pulping characters from yesteryear, written , well, today!   Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts will be available this spring.

I realize this isn’t strictly Vintage Science Fiction, since Betts’ book is being published now. But? I was SO CURIOUS to know how and why Betts wrote this! And how in the heck would a contemporary writer write in the style of pulp fiction from the 1930s and 1940’s?   So, like any good blogger, I asked him.  You can learn more about Matt Betts at his website, or by following him on twitter @Betts_Matt. Check out all the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe books and comics here.

Wanna know if you need to read the original Carson of Venus stories to enjoy this new one?  Wanna know about Betts’ adventures in writing canon in someone else’s world?  What about the stickier issues of modernizing pulp fiction?  Of course you want to know! read on!

Little Red Reviewer: Who is Carson of Venus, and how did you get involved with writing in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe?

Matt Betts: Carson Napier is a character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs for a series of novels that were first published in 1932. Burroughs originally wrote four novels and a novella with the character, and started another book but abandoned it with the outbreak of World War II, when he became a war correspondent.

Carson is an earth man that built a rocket to fly to Mars. Unfortunately, he miscalculated one vital factor, which throws him off course and eventually lands him on Venus, or Amtor as the inhabitants call it. Carson is a little different from other pulp heroes of the time in that he isn’t infallible, and is a little more thoughtful in his plans.

I got involved through the new Director of Publications, Christopher Paul Carey. I’d submitted some work to him when he was with another company, and he remembered my writing. When he was hired on at ERB, Inc., he contacted me and discussed his ideas to continue some of Burroughs’ stories. This was exciting enough, but the plan was to make these canonical additions to Burroughs’ series. The idea of being part of these worlds was really too interesting to pass up. We discussed how the series would start and decided Carson would be a wonderful launch for the new series he had planned.

LRR: What went through your head, as you started reading ERB’s original Carson of Venus books, and comparing his writing style to yours?

MB: It was daunting to be sure. I mean it’s one thing to say I’d love to write a Edgar Rice Burroughs book, but sitting down to actually do it is a whole other matter. There’s a lot of expectation riding on new work in an established series by a pulp legend.

Reading ERB’s work was a big part of preparing to write the book. I read the Carson books first, of course, to get a feel for the series and the characters, but I also read most of the John Carter of Mars books and a few others to really get Burroughs’ style. After that, I read the Venus books again (and again.) While they didn’t ask me to emulate Burroughs exactly in my book, I did have a few directives from ERB, Inc. that included sticking to Burroughs’ point of view for the series, keeping to their spirit, and his storytelling conventions.

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Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) Directed by Byron Haskin, written by Ib Melchior and John C. Higgings, starring Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, and Adam West, 110 minutes long.

 

I really wasn’t sure what to expect with Robinson Crusoe on Mars.  I knew this movie was from the 60s,  I knew it was a modernized/scifi version of Defoe’s 18th century novel Robinson Crusoe, and I knew this movie filmed and released before we actually knew what the surface of Mars was really like.  And that’s all I knew. 

 

 

I wasn’t expecting a good movie. 

 

And you know what? Compared to movies that came out in the last ten years, well, yes, Robinson Crusoe on Mars sucks.  BUT. like many classic works, you have to adapt your lens, to see it the way people at the time may have seen it.   Once I realized this movie wasn’t about about being stranded on a realistic Mars, but a movie about a man who was stranded somewhere inhospitable, and what he went through to survive, the movie and the story gets far more enjoyable. And the special effects were pretty darn good for the time! So check your 2020 expectations at the doors, folks.

 

Did you read Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in high school? I didn’t, and had to look it up on Wikipedia.  The big plot points of the original are fairly straightforward – experienced sailor gets shipwrecked and makes it to an island where he believes he is alone. How to survive if no one comes looking for him because no one knows he’s alive? Yeah, anyway, he finds that cannibals are using this island to kill their prisoners. One of their prisoners escapes, and he and Crusoe become allies. Not being able to understand the man’s language, Crusoe names him Friday and starts trying to convert the guy to Christianity. Friday is viewed as a loyal servant. They save more of the prisoners and kill the cannibals.  Eventually they are rescued.  

 

Knowing the plot of the original Robinson Crusoe makes plot moments in this movie make SO MUCH MORE SENSE, I’m just sayin’! 

 

What Robinson Crusoe on Mars does very, VERY well, is showing the desolation and loneliness that Kit Draper is facing on Mars.  With only the friendly monkey Mona for company, Kit has to stave off the fears that no one knows how to find him, and that he may never hear another human’s voice again, or see another human again, and there’s a very high chance that he will die alone and far from home.  The scenes of him just walking, and walking, and walking, on desolate plains that are completely devoid of life were quite effective.  The hobbies he invents, to cope with all the nothingness, were relatable in this current day and age of social distancing.

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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.