the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘fantasy

Ann and Jeff Vandermeer have edited a handful of these “big books”.  My first one was The Weird Compendium. A glorious example of scope-creep, The Weird Compendium clocks in at around 1100 pages.  I remember that I got it, as a hardback, out of the library, and the book was too thick to fit through the book return shute. Once it came out in paperback, I bought it, and it was still too heavy to lug around the house.

 

Now, the Vandermeers are back with The Big Book of Classic Fantasy (available July 2nd from Vintage books), which they have somehow kept to only 850-ish pages.  Is this book the end all be all of Classic Fantasy? Oh goodness no. This book barely scratches the surface, and the editors know that.  Skimming through the table of contents, I see tons of names I’ve never heard off, I see names of authors I read in “world literature” classes in school,  skimming over this table of contents makes me feel like i’m in an international grocery store, and I want to try a taste of everything.

Something I love about these Big Books, is that there is no need to read the stories in any kind of order. I mean you could if you wanted to, but you can also jump around to whatever looks interesting.  I also don’t feel the need to finish the book in any specific period of time. The table of contents might be like walking through the world’s best international grocery store . . . but it also feels like reading through the entries of an encyclopedia.  You don’t read the encyclopedia cover to cover, do you? Well, I don’t. I’ve had a copy of The Weird Compendium for I don’t know how many years, and I still feel in no hurry to finish it. These are books you have with you your whole life, that you dip your toes into whenever you want. I guess in a good way, they sort of all like encyclopedias.

 

The Vandermeers purposely looked far and wide for this collection –  grabbing the edge of the envelope of fantasy, looking for more translated fiction than ever before.  The table of contents is like looking up at the stars on a summer night – you see hundreds of stars, you know there are millions more out there just waiting for you to find.  I think a lot of readers will read these stories and say to themselves “this is fantasy???”, and well yes, it is. Fantasy is far more, and wider than you thought!

 

I’m not going to review this collection as a whole, as I don’t have the patience to read and think about 100+ stories, and I believe it would be pointless to try to distill 850 pages of 200 years of fantasy into 2000 words.  Instead, I’ll dip my toes in, and let you know about a handful of stories from random locations in the table of contents, time period, theme, and location. Were they fun? Were they fantastical? And you know, I do have the Weird Compendium and The Big Book of Science Fiction,  so who knows, maybe this is the start of a long series of blog posts about short stories!

 

Let’s start at the very end. The very last story in The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is “Leaf by Niggle”, by J.R.R. Tolkein, written in 1945.  This story starts out very Hobbit-y – with a man who enjoys his quiet time, but also always helps his neighbors with anything they need. Niggle paints in his spare time, and the time, effort, and resources he puts into his paintings are not valued by his community.  He has a painting he has been working on for years, and to make the painting look bigger, he puts his other paintings around it, completely changing the environment of the image in the original painting. This is fun for him. What is the value of art? What is the value of the time you spend on your hobbies?  And what if the art you create isn’t very good but brings you unending joy? This gently written story was an absolute joy to read! I’m pretty sure I cried at the end. There is this weird, wonderful, fantastical thing that happens to Niggle, and I’m sure there are many ways to interpret what exactly is going on.

 

And because I’ve mentioned Tolkien, I’m bound by the laws of the internet (and my goofy sense of humor) to post this:


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Welcome to  Five for Friday! The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

 

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

 

 

Secret Life by Jeff Vandermeer (2004) –  I love Vandermeer’s stuff.  It’s weird as hell, doesn’t offer answers, it’s just totally there, being all apologetically weird!  I’m a shitty fan, because I say how much I love his stuff, and I buy his stuff . .   and then it takes me YEARS to read it.  like, maybe i’m hoarding it?  long way of saying I’ve not yet read this short story collection of his.  tbh, i blame the publisher a little. the print in this sucker i like font size negative two. One evening, I started reading a short story near the beginning of the book, and I SWEAR every ten lines or so the print got smaller. I chalked it up to that totally being something that would happen in a Vandermeer.

 

Last Night at the Blue Alice by Mehitobel Wilson (2015)  –  ok, so you go back in time, and successfully change the past. What happens to the future you return to?  That is one of the premises of this pleasant little novella.  It’s her job to change the past, to allow angry ghosts to finally rest in peace.  There’s more going on of course,  I should really reread this!

 

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2001) – this book needs no introduction!  I LOVE THIS BOOK! i don’t know how many times I’ve reread this, it gets better every time.  I’ve not see the TV show, it’s on a channel that I don’t have.

 

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (1968) – Not quite a novelization, this novel was written by Clarke with and while Stanley Kubrick was making the movie.   I remember watching this movie with my sister when I was a kid (we had it on VHS, I suppose?), and i was way too young to understand the plot, but I remember loving the outer space stuff, and the Hal stuff, and my sister and I learned the Daisy song.  I could quote Hal’s lines, but I had NO IDEA what he was doing or why. And ladies and gentleman, that is how I got into science fiction when I was 8 year old.

 

Podkayne of Mars by Robert Heinlein (1963) – So, funny story. This book has two really different endings, and I didn’t know there were two different endings.  I have a fond feeling for this book, and i was talking to someone about it, and I couldn’t understand why she was so angry about this book. When she angrily said “at the end! such and such happens!!!”, and I remember thinking to myself “did I read an entirely different book?  i don’t remember that at all???”.    I won’t tell you what the endings are, you can easily look up the book on Wikipedia and find out the two endings.

Garden of Eldritch Delights, by Lucy A. Snyder

published in 2018

where I got it: purchased new

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This book has been on my radar for a while.  It’s small press, so while I could have ordered a copy online anytime, I was hoping to find a printed copy in the wild.

 

It’s always nice when life hands you a two-fer.  I snagged a copy of Garden of Eldritch Delights at the dealer room at StokerCon in mid May, and then a few weeks later one of the stories in the collection, “Blossoms Blackened Like Dead Stars” was featured in Tor.com’s Lovecraft Reread series.  The stars must have been aligned! It was almost as if a strange force was arranging things so that I could read this book, and engage with the forbidden knowledge found within it’s pages . . .

 

Not sure what Lovecraftian fiction is?  Actually, you probably do. Ever played Arkham Horror? Ever read a Charles Stross Laundry novel? Did you read Ian Tregillis’s Milkweed Triptych or Elizabeth Bear’s Shoggoths in Bloom?   Authors love playing in Lovecraft land because you never run out of opportunities to provoke alien intelligences that are influencing humanity, elder creatures who view humans the way we view ants, forbidden knowledge,  people who aren’t quite human, unnerving horrors from below, and lots of other fun creepy and over the top stuff.  You’ve probably read something “lovecraftian” without even realizing it.

 

Here’s the thing tho –  H.P. Lovecraft was not a very good writer. Yeah, I said it. I’ve read his original and it’s . . .  ok? Kinda meh? I can appreciate his writing only because of where other writers went with it.

 

And where Lucy Snyder goes with it. . .  damn! Her delightfully dark collection Garden of Eldritch Delights takes Lovecrafts ideas of elder gods, humans enslaved by alien intelligences, mind control, and even evolution and the apocalypse, and more, and gives them a decidedly modern twist. If you enjoy modern takes on Lovecraftian fiction,  this is the short story collection for you! These stories are excellently written, enjoyable to read, and were just the right length for my short attention span. An unexpected surprise for me was how many of these stories revolve around sibling relationships.

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The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, by H.G. Parry

Available July 2019

where I got it: received ARC (Thanks Hachette!!)

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Since the beginning of ever there has been this thing that readers and writers of literature don’t read or write genre fiction, and readers and writers  of genre fiction don’t read or write literature. That’s all bullshit by the way, but there are always authors who are offended that people call them “science fiction writers”, and readers of literature who look down on us speculative fiction readers.

 

Yet, it begs the question – how to get lit readers and genre fiction readers to see how much they have in common? That we all love a story well told, that we all love characters who go  through hell and back, that we all love the feeling of falling headfirst into a book? The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry could be the book that brings us all together. This book stitches together a scholar’s love for classic British literature with the scifi/fantasy joyful gleefulness of fictional characters who literally come alive out of books and then someone’s got to help them figure out how to live in the real world, or shove them screaming back into their dry paper pages.

 

If you’re a scifi/fantasy fan, and you enjoy Jim C. Hines’ Libriomancer books, or if you secretly loved those ST:TNG episodes where the holodeck went haywire and some poor Ensign found themselves face to face with Moriarty, you’ll enjoy this book.

 

If you have no idea what libriomancy or a holodeck is, but you love Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and anything involving Sherlock Holmes, and/or if you intimately know the beauty and the power of literature,  you’ll enjoy this book.

 

For nearly 30 years, Rob has helped keep a dangerous family secret.  The secret is that his little brother, Charley, can literally pull story book characters out of books.  When then were little boys, Charley pulled the Cat in the Hat right out of the book! Now that Charley is back in Rob’s life,  Rob’s got to once again get used to middle of the night phone calls of “help, it happened again. Can you come over?”. The family fears the worst if anyone where to find out about Charley’s secret power. Would he be thrown into some secret prison lab somewhere, never be to be seen again?

 

Much of the story is told from Rob’s point of view, and he’s the classic frustrated older sibling, as loyal to and protective of his little brother has he is annoyed by being constantly dragged into his brother’s problems. How long can Rob keep this a secret from his fiance? And who the hell is this Uriah Heep look-a-like who has shown up as an intern at Rob’s workplace??

 

The plot thickens right away, when Charley and Rob are told of a secret “street”. Through an alleyway, they find a secret door, behind which lies The Street. Storybook characters who have been given life (by Charley???  By someone else?) eventually find their way to the Street, where they can live safely. The White Witch of Narnia is here, as is the Implied Reader, along with Heathcliff, Matilda, five versions of Mr. Darcy, Miss Matty,   Dorian Gray, and Millie Radcliffe-Dix, among others. I’ll need a pulp mystery expert’s help here, but I believe Millie Radcliffe-Dix is an actual fictional character made up for this novel, she’s a 1950s Girl Detective – full of moxie and smarts, and never in any actual physical danger.

 

Rob is astounded and rather terrified to see all these fictional characters wandering around, and Charley is full of wonder and glee. The Street is the first place where Charley has felt safe.

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Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

The Nine by Tracy Townsend – I’ve not read this, but I keep hearing really good things about it.  Also, this photo doesn’t do it justice, that cover art is freakin’ gorgeous!

 

Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks – This came highly recommended.  I had a slow start, I eventually put it down. I should really give it another try.

 

Starless by Jacqueline Carey – she did a book signing event at a bookstore near me, so of course I got the book!  But I haven’t read it yet.

 

Inversions by Iain M. Banks – Great book!!  If you’ve read any Banks Culture books, you should read Inversions! and if you haven’t read any Culture books but want to try Banks without committing to a big series, read Inversions! it’s the not-a-Culture book that sort of is. This is one I want to reread sometime.

 

The Moon and the Other by John Kessel – I’ve not read this. I’m worried it’s just going to be on the bookshelf forever, looking pretty.

Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

This week, we have:

 

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) –  this is the first novel in one of my favorite fantasy trilogies (review here).   If you’re like me, and find yourself burned out on any number of fantasy tropes, Bennett is the writer for you.  I can’t say enough good things about this series!

 

The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne Valente (2010) – one of the most beautiful books I have ever had the good fortune to read (review here).  And when I reread it? it just got better.  I admit to being a little lukewarm on Valente’s newer stuff (maybe it is sensory overload for me? I dunno), but I can’t get enough of some of her older stuff.

 

The Sharing Knife: Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold (2009) – this has been on my bookshelf forever. Should I read it or give it away?  Should I just read more of her Vorkosigan books?

 

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson  (2000) – another one that’s been on my bookshelf forever.  Even though his rambling annoys me, I have a soft spot for Stephenson.  I’ve picked this book up any number of times,  but never actually read it.

 

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (1993)  –  I’ve read this a few times, but it’s probably been ten years since I last picked it up.  I want to reread it, but I’m afraid it will feel dated.  in the early 90s, what did KSR think the future would look like?

 

alright, what looks good to you?  If you’ve read any of these books, did you enjoy them?  if you haven’t read any of these, which look interesting to you?

Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

 

Woah, I have not read any of these!  Any recommendations on where to start? What looks good?

 

A Turn of Light by Julie Czerneda – I’ve read a bunch of her science fiction fiction, haven’t yet dipped my toes into her fantasy.  A friend knew I enjoyed her work, so gifted me with this book.  My super lame reason for not having picked this up yet is because it is one helluva door stopper.  and I have gotten super spoiled on novellas and short novels lately.

 

Kabu-Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor – this is short stories, I think?  And I loved the first two Binto books. . .

 

Lex Talionis by R.S.A. Garcia – Someone recommended this to me,  so I bought it, and haven’t read it yet.

 

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes – Same as the Garcia book – this was recommended, so I bought it, and haven’t read it yet.

 

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang – ok, so I HAVE read one story in here – The Story of Your Life,  that is the short story that the movie Arrival was based on.  I read the story in a rush, we were going to see the movie the next day. I don’t think anything in this collection is meant to be read in a rush.  Also, I love Arrival.

 

Have you read any of these books?  if yes, what do you recommend?

Not familiar with these books? What looks interesting to you?


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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.
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