Month: June 2015

Immortality Inc – Robert Sheckley

Image used for review purposes only.

Image used for review purposes only. Source.

A man dies in the Fifties and is resurrected one and a half centuries later. He wakes to a world of suicide booths, of a Mars colonised by China, of entire plant ecologies that devour themselves for the entertainment of restaurant patrons, of mindswapping, of zombies and poltergeists and werewolves, and of frustratingly antiquated gender roles.

I didn’t like this book. I thought Robert Sheckley was meant to be funny, but this book was earnest. There was a tacked-on romance that felt completely gratuitous. The woman was an official at the company the resurrected the man, and the first person he saw in the future. She’s described as being formal, unemotive, stiff, and I have to say, what’s wrong with that? The man decides to romance her out of spite, and predictably she gives in.

Still, the suicide boothes and overall plot were likely to have inspired Futurama, and that was great show. Plus, my edition says that there’s a Mick Jagger film based on it. Everything I’ve read about the movie makes it sound awful, so of course I have to see it.

Break Through The Limit – Captain Space

Sometimes adults will admit that they enjoy YA fiction, and admit it in a sheepish, almost apologetic tone. They make me feel smug, because I read material that I could truly be embarrassed about – Dragonball Z fan fiction! I originally got into it because of all the stories I was familiar with, Dragonball Z has the most fan fiction. (And logically, the most good fan fiction). Also, I just like the characters better than the ones in Harry Potter.

If you haven’t encountered this franchise before, think of it as a combination of Monkey Magic and the worst excesses of Silver Age Superman. The main themes are redemption and escalation, since the most interesting characters are former villains and each baddie is more mindbogglingly powerful than the one before.

The premise of Break Through The Limit is that Goku’s antagonistic brother Raditz takes Piccolo’s place as an ally. (This would be like if General Zod joined the Justice League.) Captain Space takes the reader through an alternate Dragonball Z story, through familiar but different encounters with monsters like Frieza and Buu. The story shines the brightest when it veers completely off-canon, my favourite example being the bit where Gohan borrows a rocket for a journey of discovery. The last third is vaguely inspired by the infamous Dragonball GT, with influences from the Sandman and Marvel universe.

What really commands respect is how Captain Space interacts with audience. Each chapter ends with an italicised Q and A section, drawn from questions in the reviews. The author also wrote to a regular schedule, eventually making it to 843,017 words. While there are Dragonball Z fanfics I like better, I can’t help be impressed by the dedication and endurance it takes to achieve something like this.

I’d only recommend this to you if you already approved of Dragonball Z, but if you do read this, know that you can turn it into an ebook using this service.

The Thief of Always – Clive Barker

Image used for review purposes only. Source.

Image used for review purposes only. Source.

Barker’s novel begins when a grotesque stranger offers a bored ten-year-old boy a stay at Mr. Hood’s Holiday House. But the idyllic manor is not what it initially appears. (As readers, would we have it any other way?) To say more would ruin the suspense of the story, but even from the first page there is a sense of mortal tension.

There pictures are excellent. Whenever an author illustrates their own story, that story will be better for it. Helps with characterization, I guess.

Like Neil Gaiman’s CoralineThe Thief Of Always deals with themes of preadolescent ennui, wish fulfillment, venality and responsibility. If you liked Gaiman’s book, you’ll adore this one.

Above Water 2014

This is a creative compilation published by the creative wing of the Melbourne University Student Union. As far as I know, it was mainly distributed at the university, piled on racks in hallways alongside the student magazine and pamphlets. Considering how unlikely it is that you’ll be able to find a copy I’ll keep this review mercifully brief.

The poems and stories were very good, but the pictures were the real highlight. I have no idea where they find these artists, and why we don’t get such high quality art in other places, like galleries or advertising. My guess is that some of them go into tattooing. The pictures all look as though they’ve been done with fine pens, maybe charcoal. Good stuff, if you can find it.

At The Mountains of Madness – H. P. Lovecraft

After I read the final Harry Potter book, I made a vow never to reread a book again. Previously I’d been in a habit of going through series every year or so. I’ve heard of people who read Lord of the Rings on an annual basis, and I don’t think that such a routine is healthy. You need to find new authors, new tastes to care about.

So why did I reread At The Mountains of Madness? Since I was published in Horrified Press’s Fall of Cthulhu, I’ve considered writing other Lovecraft pastiches. But if I were to do so, I’d want to write something original while sticking to the rules of Lovecraft’s cosmology. I could subvert the setting’s pessimism by focusin on alien creatures that aren’t inherently antagonistic, and present them as sympathetic allies for mankind. The Old Ones from the Mountains of Madness are good candidates. So are their Shoggoth Slaves. The Great Race of Yith, showed up in The Shadow Out Of Time would also work. So I reread this story to brush up on my Old Ones Lore. Also, I was completing strenuous assessments for my university course, and I didn’t want to waste any brainpower on reading something new.

The story itself concerns an Antarctic expedition that goes slightly askew when scientists attempt to dissect hibernating aliens. Somewhat understandably, the aliens respond violently and the whole thing just goes to hell. Meanwhile, two other members of the expedition happen upon a psychedelic city. One of them, the narrator looks at some murals on the wall and from them he gets a detailed understanding of a prehistoric civilization’s history. Might stuff, there. The main motifs of the Old One’s civilizations are five pointed stares and periodic slave revolts. After some alien wars their civilization declines and some go into hibernation.

Read this story for the history part, that’s the highlight. There is also a description of a drill that foreshadows Wyllis Cooper’s great story The Thing On The Fourbleboard. The slave revolts hint at Lovecraft’s racism, but I like to think that the revelation about the Old Ones more or less being differently shaped men indicates that he was growing out of such bigotry. This is one of the really essential Lovecraft stories, alongside The Dunwhich Horror and Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath.