Greetings from the Omnigraphic Blogopticon. On view are vile sticky things dragged from the attic, snarky commentary on the world at large, and all-encompassing ennui. All that and a weird rubbery smell. A horrible time will be had by all.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sev's Booklist

Here's most of what I remember I've read since my last pointless reading list, in no particular reading order. I seemingly have no life. The theme of this list appears to be taking over the world or blasting it into teeny bits.

Fitzpatrick's War, Theodore Judson. Twenty-sixth century post-apocalyptic sorta thing. Ultra conservative military lunatic decides to take over the world because he's obsessed with Alexander the Great. Written as his second in command's (and assassin's) memoirs, with stuffy little corrections put in footnotes by outraged scholars studying the case 100 years later. Entertaining and would probably read it again.

The Somnambulist, Johnathan Barnes. I almost didn't order this after reading the buyer reviews on which were apparently written by illiterate fucking morons. Conjurer Edward Moon tries to solve a couple of brutal murders and winds up trying to stop a bizarre plot involving a cult's attempt to take over the world with the reanimated corpse of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Really. And the mentally defective Amazon customers didn't like this one bit. They also seemed to have some serious problems with reading the big words. I, for one, thought the last half of the book was a fine example of British absurdist comedy. One of my favorites this year and if Mr. Barnes doesn't write another one I shall find the man and do something horribly comedic to him. Or comically horrible. And curse all those who stopped reading after 100 pages.

The Martian War, Gabriel Mesta. The War of the Worlds but told as a true story that H G Wells then fictionalised. Wells accidentally winds up on the moon and then goes to Mars to get the enslaved Moon Men to rise up and defeat the Martians. OK, but could have been better. I liked the bits with Dr. Moreau and a captured Martian the best. Not quite "meh" but not "feh" either.

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. Hadn't read it in years and had forgotten most of the plot. Why hasn't anyone filmed a version closer to the book, or was that the DeNiro movie I watched part of maybe 15 years ago? Hard to belive Mary Shelley was only 19 when she wrote this.

The Mammoth Book of New Jules Verne Adventures. I'm most of the way through this one. Some stories I like, a few I couldn't stand. Guys taking over the world, or going to the moon, or burrowing under the earth. You know the drill. Standard Verne stuff but without those interminable lists he tended to write.

The Island of Dr. Moreau, H G Wells. Something else I hadn't read in years. I forgot that this was where DEVO got "Are we not men?"

The Time Machine, H G Wells. I think I read this when I was 12 and inexplicably hadn't read it since. I did spend a good deal of time shreiking at the Time Traveller to stop showing off with those pissant little matches and make himself either some flaming torches or a honkin' big bonfire to keep away the Morlocks. Who the hell goes into a dark tunnel without a flaming torch? Does he think he can see in the dark? Dolt.

Mortal Engines, Phillip Reeve. First in a series that I haven't yet gotten the rest of about a post-apocalyptic society with giant roving traction cities who eat smaller, slower cities. Survival of the fittest, ya know. Entertaining, but finished in an afternoon. One of those Young Adults books but it seems to be written for slightly stupid Young Adults. Perhaps I've been reading too much Phillip Pullman who assumes Young Adults to have an IQ of maybe about 130.

The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club, Kim Newman. Mycroft Homes was a founding member of the Diogenes Club which was some sort of ultra-secret British intelligence service involving saving the world from supernatural stuff. These are stories involving what members of the club have gotten themselves into for the past 100 years or so. Bits of Lovecraftian Insmouth fish-people, fairies, superheroes gone bad, etc. Newman's stories all seem to have a complex interconnection. I've only read a few random ones here and there and had no idea there were years worth of these characters all tangled up with each other. I'd previously heard of the Anno Dracula stories but vampires bore me so I'd never considered reading them until now. I think I'm now forced to buy them, dammit.

The Alienist, Caleb Carr. I don't know why I'd never gotten hold of this one before now. An "alienist" is an old word for psychologist. A group of detectives in 1896 do a bit of early profiling to find a serial killer in New York. Not the best book on the planet but not the worst either, though I would have loved it in the 90s when it first came out. I think I'm officially tired of serial killers.

Against the Day, Thomas Pynchon. This book has about 1085 pages and I enjoyed all of them except for the cowboy vengance plot that got a bit tiresome by the end. Pretty much four or so books interconnected to each other--a boy's adventure novel involving kids on an airship, a cowboy anarchist revenge novel, a science-nerd sort of thing involving mathematicians and a strange cult, I think there's a war novel in there somewhere with some refugees fleeing WW I, something with a family of magicians, and gawd knows what else. There's a dog who reads French, intelligent ball lightning, a colony of women who fly using mechanical wings, mad scientists, the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, time travel, Nikolai Tesla, and hundreds of other things. Next time I read it I'll have to use a guidebook so I don't miss anything.

Laura Ingall's Wilder, A Writer's Life, Pamela Smith Hill. I read the Little House books to death when I was a kid and it's nice to see what the hell she was really doing instead of her fictionalized accounts. I keep waiting for someone to publish her first autobiography that wound up being re-written as the Little House series, but this book pretty much drags out all the stuff from it and compares the facts to her novels. No mad scientists or spaceships, disappointingly enough.

Swordspoint, Ellen Kushner. I'll admit I really wasn't in the mood for this book. All the sympathetic characters are all gorgeous bisexuals while the bad guys are unappealing lumps. I bought it because I was tired of Victorians taking over the world and wanted something new, but this wasn't it at all. I got quite tired of all the witty swordplay and pretty people and castles and royalty. Supposedly it's a really good novel, but I wasn't having any of it. I've also got The Fall of the Kings, a sequel I'm not too chuffed about reading right now.

Unnatural History, Jonathan Green. The first in the Pax Britannia series. Queen Victoria has been on the throne for 160 years (hooked up to some diabolical machine or other) and the dinosaurs in the London Zoo are released by anarchists. Comedy ensues. Not completely meant to be comedy, but when the fancy-pants hero goes swimming in the sewers and winds up in bed for a week with some vile intestinal thing ya gotta laugh. Quick read, good adventure. The second book in the series involves the same time period, has other characters and seems to take place in Spain with giant robots but the third is back to London, so I'll buy that one when it comes out in a couple of months.

Lord Kelvin's Machine, James Blaylock. I found this in the closet in a box of battered paperbacks and decided to re-read it. I've since been drooling over the expensive re-issue of all the Langdon St. Ives books and stories and I'm intending on buying a used hardback copy when I get paid again. Another maniac trying to cleave the very earth in twain for no real reason other than he's damn evil, and that's what you do if you're evil. You either take over the world or you destroy it, simple as that. Includes a time machine at no cost to you!

Ruby in the Smoke and Shadow in the North, Phillip Pullman. I've read Pullman's His Dark Materials series about five times and for some reason never bothered to read anything else of his and he's written piles of books. These are the first two of his Sally Lockhart Victorian thrillers. I find it amusing that one of these once belonged to the Holy Rosary School Library and it's crammed full of stuff like premarital sex, illigitimate children, and quite a few murders among other things.

Infernal Devices, K W Jeter. I had this when it came out in the 80s, lent it to someone and never got it back. My Amazon Marketplace replacement copy is autographed by Jeter so nyaaaaah to whoever never gave me back my crappy taped-up old copy 15 years ago. Mechanical men, lunatic trying to split the earth apart, fish-people, and the prudish George Dower, the son of an inventor who built the infernal device the lunatac attempts to split the earth apart with. George spends most of his time being appalled, beaten up, or horrified by most of the crap that seems to happen around him or to him.

The Choking Doberman and The Mexican Pet, Jan Brunvand. I was cold and bored yesterday and polished both of these off in an afternoon. I've read and reread these things a hundred times over the past 20 years and they never get old. These are classics on folklore and urban legends, with great chapters on spiders burrowing into people's faces while on vacation, the jealous wife who superglues her cheating husband's naughty bits to his stomach, deep-fried rats found in KFC buckets, the top secret car that runs on water, etc. I've got several other of these books but I never found The Vanishing Hitchhiker. No mad scientists or blasting the world in two, disappointingly enough.

I've since ordered the book We Are Devo! and the DVD of Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog, which admittedly isn't a book but I ordered it all the same. What's the connection to this retarded list? Did you happen to notice the phrase "Are we not men?" in The Island of Dr. Moreau and the fact that Dr. Horrible is a mad scientist? So there.

I'm off to cleave the very Earth in twain, but I'm not all that excited about it.



Scott said...

I think I've read all of one whole book in the past few months and oddly enough it was about the father of Caleb Carr, the guy who wrote The Alienist (which I haven't read).

In the 40's Carr's father, Lucien, stabbed a guy to death and a couple of his buddies (William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac) wrote a short novel about it called And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks, which went unpublished until late last year.

So, you see, it's all connected. Or something like that.

Basically, I got nothing.

Severina said...

Then Caleb Carr should be a way better writer about this stuff than he really is.

I want to hear about the boiled hippos.

Scott said...

The hippos were boiled in a zoo fire or something. Allegedly, it was something Burroughs and/or Kerouac heard on the radio.

Severina said...

They could've made & sold hippo sandwiches, the proceeds going towards buying new hippos.

And a wonderful time was had by all.

Scott said...

I bet hippo tastes nasty.

Severina said...

The water in the tanks could have been soup!

I'm a freakin' genius.

Scott said...

You're always turning lemons into lemonade. Or rather turning tragically boiled hippos into hippo soup.

Severina said...

Hmmm. Hippo-ade?