Monday, February 28, 2011

Reading in February

Abercrombie's latest is blood soaked, grit under your nails fun – the kind of fun that's had watching two big groups of men smash into each other for three days and watching their honor, morale, and bodies fall to pieces, all described in starkly modern and sarcastic prose. The book's structure was interesting, and it will certainly be enjoyed by fans of Abercrombie's prior work, though I don't think that he's yet managed to reclaim the revelatory power of The First Law.

 Reading an established author's debut is often an interesting experience, as well as a somewhat worrisome one. Are you going to get to see an unfettered and fresh version of the brilliance you've grown to expect or will it be a sodden, meandering mess? In the case of Consider Phlebas, it's a bit of both. Review coming.
The Face that Must Die is a deeply unpleasant novel, a nightmarish trudge through a deranged and hateful mind, a novel filled with innocents who seem unable or unwilling to save themselves and predators that are twisted, loathsome, and, above all, human. It is, in other words, damn fine horror. Review coming.
 As I said after finishing the first Sandman collection (Preludes & Nocturnes), I simply don't understand how the early issues can be immature compared to the later ones. The Doll's House more than the first collection shows signs of relative immaturity, and there were some weaker moments, but if the rest of the series truly does put the beginning volumes to shame it will have to be quite mind blowing indeed. Review coming when I finish the series.

I've had a fairly mixed experience with Hamilton. He's written scenes and arcs that I've loved, and scenes and arcs that I've hated, and so far I've yet to read a book he's written without at least one of each. This, his debut, is a rather different beast. It's far more focused than his later works, though fans of the author's imagination will probably not be disappointed by it here, even if his creations are a tad reigned in. Still, I'm so far unconvinced that the Greg Mandel novels are capable of the same highs as the Night's Dawn trilogy. I suppose Hamilton's still got two books to prove me wrong. Review coming when I finish the trilogy.

 Noctuary is a quieter, subtler work than Songs of a Dead Dreamer was, though it's not quite as refined as Teatro Grottesco. Perhaps the most interesting part of the collection was the final part of three, a collection of a good deal of Ligotti's flash fiction. Besides those miniature tales, Conversations in a Dead Language proved to be my favorite of the collection, a devastatingly sad tale that's fairly unique in Ligotti's catalog. Review coming.

 I think it's pretty well established by now that I read Ligotti's work twice, and Noctuary was no exception. On second read, slower building tales like The Medusa and The Tsalal came into their own.
City of Ruin reads like a supercharged version of Nights of Villjamur, expanding on the strengths of that first novel and patching up many of its weaknesses – though that is not to say that it fixes all of the debut's problems. Review coming.
 This is the kind of book where you finish and then have to mull over what you've read for hours, reveling in the spell woven on you. Palmer's writing is excellent, and his story's deliciously bittersweet. Though it had some pacing problems, The Dream of Perpetual Motion is an excellent read. Highly recommended, just don't expect anything even approaching typical.
 To make sure that, after my rather scathing review of Frankenstein, I hadn't simply lost all affinity for classic horror, I went back and reread a dozen or so of Poe's finer tales and  found them just as fine the second time around (though, to be fair, it's closer to the fourth or fifth for a few). While I can't say that I'm as devout a follower of Poe as I am of Lovecraft, his mastery is undeniable.  The Masque of the Red Death, in particular, is pitch perfect, a bare handful of pages that couldn't be improved by a collaboration of the genre's top artists given a decade to improve as much as a single image.

 I was excited going into Frankenstein. No, really, I wasn't setting out to spear the classics. I was expecting a stunning read, a book that showed the origins of one of my favorite genres, a book that scared me, a book that made me think. Instead, I ended up bitterly disappointed. Review here.

Catherynne M. Valente's prose is versatile and opulent, and her writing is a tide of images that bears hapless readers to distant, often beautiful and often traumatizing, shores. Ventriloquism is a spellbinding collection, and, since much of its contents can be found online, there's no reason at all to not go immerse yourself in some of Valente's short fiction. Review coming.

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