the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘supernatural

The History of Soul 2065 by Barbara Krasnoff

available June 2019

where I got it: Received advanced review copy (Thanks!)

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I’m gonna give you the bookends first, and then sorta kinda fill in the middle, ok?

 

My first thought about this book was “what’s up with that title? It makes no sense!”

 

My last thought when I was finishing the book was “oh, now I get it! The title makes sense now!”, and then a few pages later “oh. Now I really get it. Oh my.”  An unplanned coincidence that I read that last story on the day before Passover.

 

Ok, now for all the tasty middle bits:

 

The History of Soul 2065 is a mosaic novel.  What’s a mosaic novel you ask? Mosaic novels are strange and wonderful volumes that  usually involve interconnected short stories or vignettes, they can have location and time-jumps, a character who is a child in one story may be a grandparent in another, someone who seems so important in one story may never show up again. Like most mosaic novels, many of the stores in The History of Soul 2065 appeared previously in other magazines and anthologies (such as Mythic Delirium magazine, Clockwork Phoenix, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Weird Tales, and Apex Magazine, among others), with a handful that were original to this novel. Some older stories have been slightly reworked to better fit into the chronology.

 

Reading The History of Soul 2065 is like looking through a photo album – and when you touch someone’s photo, you get pulled into what they were going through at the moment the photo was taken.  Maybe when that photo was taken they were happy, maybe they were sad, maybe they were missing someone, maybe they had just helped someone. Krasnoff gilds the stories with magical realism, superstitions, and a few things you’ve just got to take on faith, and while she presents the family’s story in sort of chronological order in a healthy mix of longer stories and flash fiction length pieces,  what she’s actually doing is telling a far more important story, and magically telling it backwards.

 

And yes, if you didn’t pick up in from the cover art, this is a very Jewish book. The two families involved in the stories are Jewish, there are constant cultural and religious references, historical references, faded numbers on arms. There are references to specific Jewish prayers, and these things are not explained in the text.  As a Jew, I knew what they meant, non-Jews may not get the references (and that’s OK! That’s what Google is for).  If you’ve never met someone who is Jewish, I can’t think of a better introduction to the Jewish culture than this book.

 

Many of my favorite stories were the ones that made my cry.  Is that weird? Here are a few of my favorites, only some of which made me cry:

 

I came across “Sabbath Wine” in a Clockwork Phoenix anthology, are stories this beautiful supposed to make you cry so much? I was overjoyed to see that story as one of the openers in this novel, that I read it, cried a ton, and then I was trying to explain the plot of the story to my husband and was just a cry-y, snotty mess.  It’s a story of two kids who become unlikely friends, and the friendship that their fathers forge. It’s a harsh reminder of how fractured Jewish communities can become, how cruel we can be to each other, and the unexpected oddness of finding you have something in common with a stranger.

 

“Hearts and Minds” didn’t make me cry, but it could have.  And we get introduced to Ben! I have such a soft spot for him, but what is he doing in this story, playing cards with all these old people? If you ever want to know what my favorite kind of story telling twist is, it’s the one at the end of this story.

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last-days-jack-sparksThe Last Days of Jack Sparks, by Jason Arnopp

published: September 2016

where I got it: received review copy (Thanks Orbit!!)

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The Last Days of Jack Sparks was the perfect brain candy book to be reading just before and just after the recent election. What I mean by “brain candy” is that this is the kind of book that gallops along at a breakneck pace and the reader is just along for the ride. You’re gonna have a lot of fun, you’re gonna laugh, you’re gonna cringe, you might have a few deep thoughts right there at the end, but generally speaking this is not a think-y book. It’s a hand-to-mouth candy book. And it was exactly what I needed in those middle weeks of November when my facebook and twitter feeds were a shitshow.

Journalist and author Jack Sparks will do just about anything for attention. And the only thing bigger than his ego is his need to disprove the paranormal once and for all.  After a FastFood Nation-esque experiential documentary book called “Jack Sparks on Drugs”, he spent a few weeks in rehab and then decided his next project would be Jack Sparks disproves the supernatural. Ghosts, poltergeists, exorcisms, hauntings, spirits, and more,  Jack will prove they are all a sham. For the first half of this book, every time Jack talked (which was a LOT), I heard Anthony Bourdain’s voice.

Most of The Last Days of Jack Sparks are Jack’s drafts and notes for his novel. Recorded in his snarky and often disrespectful voice, Jack makes light of exorcisms, hauntings,  mediums, and basically everything he encounters.  The rest of this novel are e-mails between Jack’s estranged brother Alistair,  Jack’s roommate Rebecca, and a few other people.  Because, you see, the stories of what happened that fateful November don’t match up. Someone has their story either somewhat wrong, or very horribly wrong.

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nos4a2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

published 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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Let’s get the crux of this novel out of the way right away:  Charles Manx is one creepy motherfucker.  Driving across the country in his Rolls Royce, he promises to take good little boys and girls to Christmasland where they will always be happy and every day is Christmas morning. Manx’s henchman Bing gets to take care of the mothers.

And then there’s Victoria McQueen. She is hella awesome. And unusually talented at finding lost things.  She can hop on her bike, travel across a rickety magical bridge, and find herself wherever she needs to be to find the lost item.  Her parents are half convinced she’s been stealing trinkets all this time and “magically” finding them as a way to get attention.  One day she hops on her bike angry, looking to find some trouble. She finds Charlie Manx instead.

At seventeen years old, Vic becomes the only child to ever escape Charlie Manx. She hopped on her bicycle in Massachusetts, and was found terrified and babbling days later in Colorado. Knowing  no one would ever believe her story about a magical bridge, she lied to the authorities and said she’d spent two days locked in the trunk of Manx’s car.

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installing-linux-on-a-dead-badger-by-lucy-a-snyder-largeInstalling Linux on a Dead Badger, by Lucy Snyder

published 2007

where I got it: purchased (and she signed it!  awesome!)

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How is anyone supposed to say “no” to a book with a title like that??   And I promise, you do not need to know anything about Linux, or be an IT geek or professional (same thing?) to enjoy this book.  All you need to enjoy this  book is a sense of humor.

Weighing in at barely a hundred pages, you can easily read this collection in an evening.  It might only take you an hour or two to read, but you’ll be reading snippets of it out loud to friends and family for at least a week afterwards. The opening chapter is exactly what the title refers to: how to install Linux on a dead badger, with details instructions of which shareware to download for which devices, how to draw the blood rune, what to do with the origami, and most importantly, what to do if something goes wrong (take shelter in the nearest church. You may require an exorcist). I can already see the side of your mouth curling up.   Did I mention the book is illustrated?

Following the technical writing opening is a collection of journalism style articles about the new state of the world. With titles like Dead Men Don’t Need Coffee Breaks, Unemployed Playing Dead to Find Work, and the gut bustingly hilarious Trolls Gone Wild, Snyder takes aim at corporate bureaucracies, human resources departments with good intentions, how to make a fortune with a video camera, jobs you’ll take when you’re really *really* desperate, and how businesses  keep up with the fast pace of changing technology.  There are a few short stories right at the end, but I liked the business magazine article-esque pieces much better.

Satire. This is how you do it.

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Three Days to Never, by Tim Powers

published in 2007

where I got it: gift from a friend (and she got it autographed! I have the best blogger buddies ever!)

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Tim Powers is usually described as a writer of literary thrillers, but I prefer to call what he writes gateways to speculative fiction. He starts with what really happened, and fills in the blanks, takes you a wild ride, and still manages to prove that truth is stranger than fiction.  Far more fascinating than alternate history, this is secret history.

Three Days to Never was written in 2006, but it takes place in 1987, and it was refreshing to experience a thriller set in a time where cellphones and the internet weren’t ubiquitous.   The story starts innocently enough when  Frank Marrity gets a weird phone call from his grandmother Lisa, she says she’s going to burn her backyard shed down. By the time he gets to her house, he learns that she passed away at a national park located hours away. Frank’s daughter Daphne makes jokes about there being gold buried under Grammar’s shed. More unexpected than finding gold buried under the shed, they find a bundle of letters between Lisa and her father, and a VHS tape of PeeWee’s Big Adventure. First things first, Frank needs to meet with his sister Moira and arrange their grandmother’s funeral.

Frank and his sister were raised by their grandmother Lisa, who everyone calls Grammar, after their father left the family and their mother died in a car crash. Frank has always hated his absent father and blamed him for causing his mother’s possible suicide.  He’s always wondered how Grammar could be so cavalier about her own son abandoning his family.

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Firebrand, by Gillian Philip

published February of 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Tor!)

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I wanted to write a formal review of Firebrand. I tried to. Really, I did. But nothing I typed was conveying anything I wanted to say. Thus,  this post is more emotional reaction than formal-ish review. Shit happens.

I’m having a tough time coming up with words to describe Firebrand. Words like wonderful and amazing and stunning just aren’t going to do it this time. What’s the word for the taste of a late summer heirloom tomato warmed by the sun? What’s the word for that feeling in your chest when listening to a beautiful piece of music, and the groundedness of the cello and tympani reverberates right through you and reminds you who you are? That word for wanting to trap perfect moments forever in amber, so you can watch the sunlight get caught in them?  Those. those are the words I need for Firebrand. The last book that made me feel this way was The Name of The Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss.  I felt like I was waking up.

Philip effortlessly reached into the recesses of my mind, found the story I most wanted to hear, and then she put it on paper. I was addicted in the first few pages, and the book only got better. Everything you think a fantasy about fae creatures is, everything you expect, throw all of that out the window, right now. Firebrand is something new.

Instead of prattling on and on about the plot, I’m going to tell you the most important thing, and the thing that bound me instantly to Firebrand: Seth MacGregor idolizes his older half-brother Conal.  The first time we meet Seth, he’s readying himself to murder his brother.

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Thanks to the wonderful folks at Orbit Books, I have an extra copy of Robert Jackson Bennett’s supernatural thriller (and mind blowing masterpiece)  AMERICAN ELSEWHERE.

I absolutely loved AMERICAN ELSEWHERE, you can read my review here, and you can read an excerpt from the book over here at Orbit.

Rules for the give away:

1. to enter, comment on this post.  when you sign in to comment, make sure you leave me your e-mail address, or a twitter, or some other way to get a hold of you.

2. give away is open to all residents of planet Earth. Orbit was kind enough to send me 2 copies of this book, the least I can do is pay for some shipping someone else can enjoy this amazing novel.

3. give away closes at midnight, eastern time, on Tuesday February 19th, and the winner will be announced and contacted shortly afterwards.

4. be warned.  this book will completely blow your mind.  I am not responsible if you get absolutely no sleep while you are reading this book, are late to work, or generally ignore your family while reading.

Bennet_AmericanElsewhere_TP


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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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