the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘new weird

Infernal Devices, by K.W. Jeter

copyright 1987, republished in 2011 with a new introduction and afterword

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: it’s the April book club book for my local SF reading club. and who doesn’t like Steampunk?








Interested in Steampunk but not sure where to start?  Looking for some adventure?  I’ll save you the trouble of reading this entire review by simply saying that K. W Jeter’s Infernal Devices is one of the best executed novels I’ve read in a long time, and I easily expect it to be one of my top reads for the year.  I guarantee you will enjoy it.

In a handful of recently published “steampunks” that I’ve read, the steampunk elements are simply window dressing. The story is an adventure, a mystery, and in more cases than not a thinly veiled romance, with a handful of gears, airships, and steam engines thrown in so it can be called steampunk. I’m an elitist snob: pulling shit like that is a major turn off.  So, as an elitist snob, it thrills me to say that Infernal Devices is the genuine article.  No window dressing, no airships just for the sake of airships, no thinly veiled anything. Infernal Devices drips with authenticity, invokes a proper Victorian gentleman’s strong dislike of the unknown, reeks of dank dark drinking dens, and invites you to get lost in a watchmaker’s workshop brimming with beautifully constructed clockwork devices.

George Dower never knew his father well. Raised outside the city by an Aunt, he knows his father, the famous inventor, through reputation only. After a churchly disaster, George keeps his head down and merely attempts to keep his father’s workshop in business.  This proves difficult, as although George can fix a basic watch that needs nothing more than winding, the workshop collects more dust than commissions.

When a strange looking man delivers a complex clockwork device that needs fixing, and offers payment in advance with a strange gold coin, George takes the man’s money before realizing this commission is far beyond his understanding, and that the dark skinned man never gave his name. Read the rest of this entry »

Finch, by Jeff Vandermeer

Published in 2009

Where I got it: purchased new

why I read it:  have enjoyed previous Vandermeer books





John Finch hates his job.  Hates watching his beautiful city of Ambergris crumble, destroyed, looted, rebuilt into something it shouldn’t be.  He hates his “detective work”, informing on his friends and neighbors to his grey cap boss whose smile is all teeth, the Partials who follow him everywhere, recording everything he says and does with their fungally recording eyes. Hates what a fungal parasite is slowly but irrevocably doing to his best friend Wyte, the only man who knows all of Finch’s secrets. Hates how he always falls back to playing both sides, in hopes he can keep his friends and loved ones alive.

But most of all, Finch hates that there is no escape. Not from Ambergris, not from the grey caps, and not from who and what he is.

His latest cast, a double murder, defies description.  Found in a nondescript apartment: One dead adult human male, one very dead grey cap of undetermined sex or age (if such a thing can ever be determined), amputated at the waist.  Grey caps are pretty hard to kill, maybe he should take notes.  The memory bulbs of the dead are useless, offering only hallucinations and impossible places.  Through his network of spies and snitches, Finch learns who the dead man was. Someone impossible.  Someone who couldn’t have been there because he’s been dead for a hundred years.

Finch and Wyte investigate and learn the mystery is about much more than  just the dead man, it’s about what the dead man can do.  Wyte is dying, has exacted a promise from Finch to help him, when the time comes. Wyte can’t fight the thing inside him much longer, and they both know he won’t go quietly.

Read the rest of this entry »

Grey, by Jon Armstrong

published in 2007

where I got it:  bought

why I read it:  been hearing good things about it.

Heir to the Rivergroup company, Michael Rivers is in love with the beautiful Nora.  Every date and detail of their romance was organized, choreographed and directed by the PR departments of their companies,  down to Michael’s hairstyle and Nora’s earrings. That they fell in love with each other was never part of the corporate plan.  For the wealthy company families who run the world in this frantic future, everything is PR.   Every moment is planned, directed, blocked and recorded just to be dissected and discussed ad nauseum later. And there is no such thing as bad PR.

This is a future where style is everything.  The wealthy live it up with 24/7 parties, lethally thumping bass,  and cosplay their favorite bands, while bands and hanger-ons  battle for who can be stranger. Success means faster, louder, brighter, more over the top, and more more more of everything than your competition. Privacy is unheard of, and who would want it, when privacy would stop your every move from being broadcast and talked about all over the channels?    

When every moment is garish, loud, brash and bright, the rebels crave quiet and monochromatic. Michael and Nora are two such people.  They dress in muted tones,  and have even gone so far to have the cones in one eye illegally destroyed, making them each color blind in one eye.  Followers of the minimalist fashion and photography magazine Pure H, Michael and Nora send secret messages to each other by quoting partial lines from the magazine.

Grey is frantic, insane, completely over the top, hilarious, refreshing, and at times completely sick.  

Read the rest of this entry »

Because I have a digital camera and I know how to use it!  (Ok, I sort of know how to use it)

I’ve still got The Wolf Age by James Enge and Mountains of Majipoor by Robert Silverberg topping the TBR list,  but here are some new goodies on deck, double deck, and triple deck for the next little while:

There’s something in that photo that I’m super crazy excited about, can you guess what it is?  Hint: It’s from the friendly folks at PYR.

I hadn’t planned on buying Grey, but I recently read some good reviews of it, and it was on the dollar table at Bargain Books because the cover was a bit marked up.  Also from Bargain Books, the Ai Yazawa.  I’m undecided on Bargain Books – no service, but tons of random cheap stuff that’s usually in mint condition.   A consumer’s dream, or a nail in the coffin of my favorite independent bookseller?

Oh, and I got seduced by this too:

I just can’t help myself when it comes to Robin Hobb.  You’re looking at the Soldier Son trilogy,  book 1 of which I’m about 150 pages into.   I probably won’t read these books one right after the other, but I hope to get to all of them, eventually.

So If I don’t get (too) distracted by anything else in the next week or so, you should expect to see reviews of at least a handful of the stuff mentioned or  pictured in this post.

I am slowly working my way up to Finch, really I am! If you’re new to Vandermeer, start with Shriek, An Afterword, then read City of Saints and Madmen, then you’ll be good and ready for Finch.

* * * * *

At least in the version I got a hold of, the oddness began right from the start. The two covers of the book were a story unto themselves, describing a visitor to Vandermeer’s port city of Ambergris. This visitor falls out of the ferry, and is clutching a copy of Vandermeer’s City of Saints and Madmen to his chest. Stranger yet, the inside cover speaks of Mr. Vandermeer’s untimely disappearance, and the strange notes he left in his wake. Turn a few pages, and under the “Also written by” list, many non existent tomes appear. This isn’t false advertising, it’s foreplay.

Vandermeer’s City of Saints and Madmen, a.k.a. The Book of Ambergris is exactly that: a collection of short stories in and about the port city of Ambergris (and yes, you find out how the city managed to get such a beautiful name that means something so disgusting. Look it up), her history, her religions, her politics, with minor cameos by Janice and Duncan Shriek, of Vandermeer’s Shriek: An Afterword.

Reading this book is like being in a haunted house, populated by the friendly ghosts of all the relatives you wish you could have met, but you can’t understand what they are saying. It’s like being in the Sistine chapel, and although it’s emtpy and abandonded, but you can still the chanting if you don’t try to listen to hard. No matter how much time I spend with this book, I don’t know if I’ll ever learn all the secrets of Ambergris.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’m slowly working my way up, chronologically, to Finch.

This was another one of those books that jumped off the bookshelf at me, screamed at me to read it, seduced me, allowed me to escape into it’s pages for an entire week, and then left me. I’m sure I’m not the only one to be seduced by Vandermeer’s Ambergris.

Shriek, An Afterword , is narrated by Janice Shriek, and is her attempt at a biography of her brother, Duncan Shriek. Janice feels it is her duty to truthfully chronicle her family, Duncan’s youth and education, his illicit affair with his student Mary Sabon, and the ups and downs of his and Janice’s careers, as their city is taken over from beneath. Duncan, on the other hand, feels it is his duty to edit and comment on Janice’s manuscript without her knowledge, so readers know what she got right, and what she guessed so wrongly on. His comments are priceless!

The metropolis of Ambergris is a cacophony of sights, smells, textures and sounds. Vandermeer very nearly buries his readers with sensory overload, but the weight is worth it. Vandermeer takes something as simple as a mushroom, and turns it into a sensual, dreamy creation. Read the rest of this entry »


I read China Mieville’s The City and The City in three days. A good thing in many ways – after day one I couldn’t put the book down, but every time I dozed on the sofa I would wake up Beszel, which started to freak me out.

How to describe Mieville’s fictitious Beszel? As far east in Europe as you can get, perhaps Azerbaijan or Georgia. Old churches mixed with cold war architecture, mohawked punks listening to pirated western music sitting next to babushka’d grannies on the bus. And then there is the other city, Ul Qoma. The Ul Qomans might not have as good a relationship with America as Beszel, but Ul Qoma has nicer cars, a modern subway system, urban renewal, better restaurants, brighter colors, and is generally more contemporary. Two sister cities with formal borders and mulititudes of paperwork for people who wish to travel to the other city. This wouldn’t be so odd, except the two cities are crosshatched – a unique invention of Mieville. Your house might be in Beszel, but your front sidewalk is in Ul Qoma, along with the northern half of your child’s elementary school. And those three blocks of Ul Qoma down the road? That one building on the corner has a Beszel mailing address. Residents learn from childhood to “unsee” and “unhear” things happening in the other city, even if it’s happening right in front of their eyes. Tourists and visiting students sit through weeks of orientation to learn how to unsee and unhear.

  Read the rest of this entry »

This review was originally published on Worm’s Sci Fi Haven

Not a sequel to Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, The Scar is part action, part mangled romance, part alien magical steampunk dream sequence. As usual, Mieville peppers the narrative with stunning imagery that is equally grotesque yet full of a natural and violent beauty.

I think you’ve got to be a fan of certain types of fiction and styles of prose to enjoy The Scar. There are very few (if any) likeable characters, and no good guys or bad guys, no certainties, no promises of a happy ending, or really any kind of ending. Mieville’s style of prose is the kind that works hand in hand with your imagination. If you’re not willing to partner with it and accept the bizarre as normal, you may not enjoy yourself.

A resident of the doomed city of New Crobuzon, Bellis knows the police will be at her door any day due to her relationship with Issac Dan der Grimnebulin (of Perdido Street Station infamy). She gets herself hired as a translator on a merchant ship, but the ship is soon attacked by pirates. Along with the rest of passengers and slaves on board, Bellis is taken to the floating pirate city of Armada, where she is set up with a job and a roof over her head, and the slaves are set free-ish. The rulers of Armada, known only as “The Lovers”, are inseperable, masochistic, and have a un-piratic plan that involves stealing a floating oil rig, calling up a mystical creature from the depths, and visiting the scar at the end of the world. In utter denial of what’s going on around her, Bellis get caught in a manipulative love triangle between an officer and a dissenter, both of which could get her imprisoned, or killed.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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.