Parallel Lives

Parallel Lives by Parker Gordon is a wibbly-wobbly astral time-travelling puzzle-solving caper. There were points where I thought the narrative got a little unclear, a couple times it seemed the narrative was treading the same bit again without reason to do so, and maybe a couple things didn’t feel like they got resolved in the end. Maybe it could have been done in half the number of page, but I don’t regret getting through them. Overall it was an engaging and interesting story of strange big society-level and believable small interpersonal-level battles engaged across time.

I made 53 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Parallel Lives

The Goat

The Goat: Building The Perfect Victim by Bill Kieffer was something I picked up because it appeared on the Hermetic Library ad spaces through Project Wonderful, and had a pretty compelling illustration with interestingly bizarre description. Turns out it really was quite interestingly bizarre. The erotica part wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it was a good story of strangeness in a world of magic, where the magic part is a part of the story but is more ambient than a character. The erotica is there, but it’s not really the main thing either. I suppose I’d say the story seems largely an exploration of dysphoria in a real but also allegorical way as it might present in a world full of magic. Still, the magic doesn’t show up right away, almost comes as a surprise at first, and builds throughout until the final twist. The world, the magic and the story all seemed well developed and believable (and I remember thinking … this is like Shadowrun, but in the rust belt). The final twist made me leap back to the cover to see if there was a clue I missed, and I’m not sure; maybe it’s there but maybe not. There’s probably some trigger warnings for abuse needed, but it is billed as twisted and subversive, and that it is, so there you go. Well, it’s a creative story in an interesting world, even if you’re not there for the homo-erotic S&M; and if you are, then, there’s something extra for you.

I made 5 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at The Goat

The Housekeeper and the Professor

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yōko Ogawa is a emotionally strong and heartfelt story of a woman hired for a time to be care for a former professor of mathematics who is suffering memory issues due to an accident. The woman, her young boy, and the former professor come to care for each other and have a meaningful brief, almost accidental, time together.

I find that I wanted there to be more mathematics integral to the story than there were, and to to be more core to the way the story develops, implying the philosophical thoughts and feelings. The professor might as well have been a professor of baseball, but, I suppose, to be fair, the professor’s mathematics was reflected in the story by his love of baseball, and that allowed the mathematics itself to be unintimidating and approachable. But I kinda wanted more from that that I got.

Overall, a nice story that provides, for a few moments, a wholesome but emotional journey and character study.

I made 25 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at The Housekeeper and the Professor

The Copper Cascade

The Copper Cascade: A Virulent ChapBook by Kneel Downe, foreword by Steve Taylor-Bryant, is the “first in a series of Virulent ChapBooks which introduces readers to the characters and concepts of Kneel’s universe”. Apparently there’s a giant and complex VirulentBlurb corpus from which this collects a coherent short selection of extracts, but it stands well enough on its own. The constructed story itself reads to me as as a kind of alternate X-Men tale, of superheroes and villains, mainly from the point of view of the Magneto-like character Dark Deliverance, and interviews by the detective Kurt Lobo. I’m not super interested in diving into the deep water of the entire corpus, but this was interesting and complete in itself. So it could serve as the first step down the rabbit hole, or be a quick satisfying read. For me, it’s going to be the latter.

I made 8 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at The Copper Cascade

I Am Legend

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is a post-apocalyptic, last human alive, vampire story that is delightful and adds a couple deep new twists to the genre that are still fresh even after the intervening years since the original 1954 publication date. Somehow I hadn’t ever read this before, and I’m glad I finally did. Moreover, reading the story makes the 2007 big screen adaption with Will Smith even that much worse than it seemed at the time; gods, they really screwed that up, and how!

I made 39 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at I Am Legend

Little Boy Lost

The Librarian: Little Boy Lost by Eric Hobbs is a neat framing pastiche which sets up a premise where the Astoria Public Library (in nearby-ish to me Astoria, Oregon!) is magically connected to famous public domain fantasy worlds from other books, like Neverland, Wonderland, Oz. I couldn’t help but be interested in a story with a magical library. Definitely targeted at a younger audience, but it was still interesting enough as, mentioned already, a pastiche and a bit formulaic in places. I’m not likely to read the next installment, but it was good for a lark, and I’m sure it would be more fun for someone more in the directly intended audience.

There was one interesting thought I had while reading this that I’m not entirely sure was intended, but one of the themes is how the characters in the famous stories are trapped by the writing to repeat the same thing over and over forever. “It was the curse of living a life controlled by words on a page” was something I highlighted. They are trapped by the words in their books. This seemed an interesting allegory for me about people who let themselves be trapped in their lives by books, whether for escape or as sacred volumes. The thought I got from this was that people curse themselves by such things, and don’t let themselves live their own creative lives. To be sure, there’s a creative cosplay and fanfic way to engage with personally meaningful books, but there’s also a way to become small and narrow and diminished. The former seems fun and fine for everyone. The latter seems a true curse to not only themselves but the rest of us as well.

I made 6 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Little Boy Lost

Pines

Pines by Blake Crouch is the first installment in the Wayward Pines series and inspiration for both the Wayward Pines television series and many additional Kindle Worlds Novellas. I read this in conjunction with the audiobook read by Paul Michael Garcia.

I enjoyed the first season of the television series. Were there additional seasons? I’m not sure what was happening in my life, but I stopped paying attention. But, the first season was good. I think, if what everyone else says about themselves is true, one of the few fans of M Night Shyamalan stories; I really dig how he subverts expectation through creative narrative. The Wayward Pines series seems extremely well aligned to that style and perfect for his stewardship in bringing the book to a live action series.

But, I wish I’d not seen the live action adaptation before reading this, as I really had a difficult time feeling like I wasn’t just repeating the same ground with which I’d become already familiar. The story and twists were just not repeatable experiences for me, and reading the same story didn’t reveal any new depth or any surprises. Perhaps that speaks well for the way the series was developed, but I’m afraid it may just be that the story was too thin and shallow, in spite of the wild premise, to provide joy when experienced more than once.

And, if truth be told, I’m not really a fan of how this was written. I think the audio narration by Paul Michael Garcia did a yeoman’s job adding emotional depth and emotional changes to the written word otherwise missing. Overall, the writing seemed unemotional and formal, almost like an episode of Dragnet. Not only was that awkward, but there were some writing choices that were just bizarre, and jarring; for example, at one point, a dangerous and deadly creature is described as leaping like a ballerina, and I can be pretty damned sure the image that appeared in my brain was not intended by the author, and was not in service to the story and destroyed my immersion in it at that moment. Sometimes words are used just to use them, without really being in service to the story.

However, the idea of the story is still compelling. If you’ve not worn out the novelty it would provide, by seeing the series, this could be worth reading. It’s a cool premise.

Also, I have a hard time being so tough on the writing as the back material in the book makes it clear how this was the culmination of 20 years of inspiration provided by the revolutionary phenomena of David Lynch’s original Twin Peaks. That’s a worthy progenitor that lends gravitas to the book that is missing in and of itself. Oddly, that’s a bit like how much more I liked M Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water after watching the bonus materials, revealing a warmth of heart I didn’t get from just the feature, but that provided a welcome halo effect after, making the whole better.

I made no highlights at all.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Pines