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Night Delight

Recently it has been a pleasure to retire to bed at about half nine in the evening for some quality reading time.  Stopping to make a hot chocolate which always gets the reading off right, then leaving it to cool off next to my funky touch lamp before picking up whichever book is currently occupying my imagination.

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Stars and the to be reviewed pile.

The beauty of the lamp accompanying the chosen literature is the intimate setting it creates, beyond the book everything is either obscured by the dark or its impact on the peripheral vision lessened so that the small zone of light contains the reader’s only focus on the many adventures to be undertaken.

The accompanying silence as the night wears on – if you are lucky enough to live away from main roads and such – adds a lot of atmosphere, as it did when I picked up Stephen King’s Desperation, and The Stand where 99% of the word’s population has died (not that this appalling tally seems to be noticed as this is all set in America) and the survivors are left to their almost totally silent world.

The night though is versatile, after extensive reading research throughout the years particularly vivid memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey and its three sequels, The Rama series, and Solaris which being Sci-Fi come to mind.  It feels right to read the genre at night as it does horror, like the stories of M.R. James, and Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, which is the only horror book that I have been genuinely creeped out by. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 15/01/2017 in Book Memories, Fiction

 

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Satantango – László Krasznahorkai

YouKnowWhenYou'veBeen...In the darkening embers of a Communist utopia, life in a desolate Hungarian town has come to a virtual standstill. Flies buzz, spiders weave, water drips and animals root desultorily in the barnyard of a collective farm. But when the charismatic Irimias – long-thought dead – returns to the commune, the villagers fall under his spell. The Devil has arrived in their midst.

Irimias will divide and rule: his arrival heralds the beginning of a period of violence and greed for the villagers as he sets about swindling them out of a fortune that might allow them to escape the emptiness and futility of their existence. He soon attains a messianic aura as he plays on the fears of the townsfolk and a series of increasingly brutal events unfold.

After reading this I found out there was a seven hour film of the book which is lauded with critical acclaim but after reading this story, I may have to leave it a few months as it is one of those rare pieces that feels like an experience and not just another good read.

Satantango is a strange, yet thoroughly intriguing book set in a closed world, cut off from civilisation only by the limitations of its characters. For those who like dense prose and stream of consciousness writing – each chapter is one long paragraph – you can’t go far wrong than with this.  It’s a challenge but in the best possible way. as the reader is treated to political and religious allegory, veiled from the communist censors at the time by its subtlety.

Despite being less than 300 pages, I felt like I was putting the work into this one, that’s not to say it was a chore because it wasn’t but what it is, is very slowly paced read layered with meaning.  The translator George Szirtes must have had his work cut out not only capturing the essence of the book but also keeping up with all the looping sentence structure that takes a while to get used to.

Set primarily in a slowly decaying farm, this ruin of the communist dream is a dreary, all but forgotten place of perpetual misery where time has stopped and everything is rotting and anything that is meaningful has been lost under the rubble, this is reflected in the characters themselves.  Even in scenes outside of this small collective, there is a narrow and confined feel to the text, the pressing down of an invisible weight. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 12/01/2017 in Fiction

 

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Stowaway to Mars – John Wyndham

extraweightFor British pilot Dale Curtance the Keuntz Prize – to be awarded to the first person to take a spaceship to another planet and back – is the ultimate challenge. Not only has he to build a ship to survive the journey, assemble a top-notch crew and choose a destination, he’s also got to beat the Russians and Americans.

Soon the GLORIA MUNDI blasts off from Salisbury Plain, bound for Mars. There’s only one problem – a stowaway called Joan. Not only does her presence wreck calculations and threaten the mission, but her tale suggests that Mars may be a more dangerous destination than they ever expected.

Written in the 30s, this is an early effort by John Wyndham and it shows.  This is not a bad thing though as the book is a fun read and despite its flaws there is plenty here to enjoy.

The story feels like a solid B-movie effort, of which I like to term ‘B-Literature’ and not the Wyndham that I am used to.  This a more speculative effort rather than the ‘logical fantasy’ he later wrote, with much success.  In this case, Britain is Great again at the forefront of exploration and a major contender in the space race and in particular to reach Mars first.

The story flows well, action is mixed up with speculation on the mysteries of the universe and the boredom of floating about in space, as well as the anticipations surrounding arrival to Mars and take off are captured well. The satire of the Press, especially the British is remarkably spot on now as it no doubt was back in the day; as is the Cold War feel he almost presciently managed to summon up a decade before the term was even used.

There are enough signs of the writer the author would become scattered throughout the pages especially when the astronauts speculate on the big questions.  Space always brings out the pertinent existential questions of our place in the universe and what precisely life is and there are some fascinating conversations set up throughout. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 07/01/2017 in Sci Fi

 

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New Year’s Approach to a Singalong

Being the New Year, it is probably considered good form to talk about what will be aimed at blogwise for this year.  Whilst it appears a lot of bloggers I follow are not doing big reading challenges but rather smaller genre reads and looking to being more varied in their scope – which is already impressive – I will be staying the same as ever;  following whatever fancy takes me and mixing the books genres as much as I can, hopefully with more of a balance between well-known and obscurer titles.

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Found at Pixabay,com

The main focus will be on more posts this year, somehow ninety-seven is way down on what I was doing three or four years ago.  Having said that the more I read and write, the more there is to read and write, not to complain though having had my best year in terms of views. I know there is better to come from me and more regularly.

On a side note today is my eighth year with WordPress and my sixth with this blog, time flies and I miss some of the bloggers, who haven’t been around, especially the ones I started my WordPress adventure with. To those who remain and all the new ones yet to be discovered, I hope it is a good year for all.  Only one thing can take the mantle of my arch nemesis this year…

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Posted by on 05/01/2017 in Blogging, Music

 

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Clay Tongue – Nicholas Conley

claytonguenovFrom the author of the award-winning Pale Highway and the radio play Something in the Nothing comes a short fantasy of love, shyness, and the secrets of human communication.

Katie Mirowitz is a small little girl with an even smaller little voice. She possesses a deep love for her grandfather, who suffers from aphasia after a bad stroke cuts loose the part of his brain that processes verbal language. When Katie uncovers a miraculous secret inside the pages of her grandfather’s old journal, as well as an ancient key, she goes out into the woods in search of answers — hoping to uncover a mythical being that, if it exists, may just have the ability to grant wishes.

Author, blogger and all round good chap Nicholas Conley is at it again with another fine offering which, although short is an excellent read and well worth some of your currency.

The succinct nature of such works as this always leaves a challenge for the hard done to reviewer but nevertheless the workout is good after the Christmas binge.  The cover is a wonderful piece of art and gives nothing away, only what the imagination speculates on.  More of this type of book presentation would certainly be a more pleasing state of affairs for all readers and casual observers alike.

The first chapter is a genuinely moving entrance into the life of a young girl Katie, who is trying to understand her grandfathers sudden change after a stroke.  Her lack of comprehension is a challenge to read but perfectly realised by the author.  This is paralleled by her grandfather’s ingenuity and tenaciousness to overcome the communication problems that aphasia brings.

communication is a big part of this story, coupled with time and its cruel effects. It feels totally believable and I found myself hooked, reading through in one sitting.  There is much scope for self-reflection as well and a reminder to view life through the eyes of a child every so often.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 02/01/2017 in Fiction

 

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The Book of Speculation – Erika Swyler

speculativeOne June day, an old book arrives on Simon’s doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller who purchased it on speculation. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things, including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of “mermaids” in Simon’s family have drowned–always on July 24, which is only weeks away.

As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister. Could there be a curse on Simon’s family? What does it have to do with the book, and can he get to the heart of the mystery in time to save Enola?

Having started American Horror Story: Freak Show at the weekend, I was reminded that I needed to write a review for this book.  One which takes me back to a sunny day on Salem Common where I first delved into it, nothing beats reading in a place with a bit of atmosphere.

Browsing the shelves in Barnes and Noble earlier that week, my eye was caught by the cover featuring a lady handling books, which is the high mark of sexiness in my opinion.  Having browsed the blurb and noted the key features, family curse, carnival and old book, I thought I would speculatively pick it up for review, it was only after leaving the shop that I realised it was coincidentally called The Book of Speculation.

Whilst being a familiar theme, the time-worn, ornate book with obscure secrets to decipher never gets any less enticing or mysterious.  Having an old tome as the centre piece is always going to keep book lovers reading and I enjoyed this one, it built slowly and kept my attention with its fantastical and melancholy elements swirling agreeably into one another.

The book is structured with a dual timeline running in alternate chapters as we are first introduced to Simon, a librarian who’s soon becomes caught up in the history of a carnival, his researches into this travelling oddity unfold alongside his own personal life and the ultimate link between them, his sister.  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 21/12/2016 in Fiction

 

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Fine Night In

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…because if one doesn’t make you philosophise, the other will.

 
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Posted by on 14/12/2016 in Philosophy

 

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