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Date read: 8.3.09
Read from: Personal collection
Reviewer: Emera

I picked this and #15 up at a used book sale, partly out of a fit of pique that I couldn’t find anything else to my taste – even though I didn’t know anything about the actual quality of the anthology series. Luckily, every story in this was well written and solidly above average, which is more than can be said for most of the anthologies I’ve read in my life.

To begin with the best, my absolute favorites, in no particular order:

  • Kelly Link’s feverish, extremely unnerving “Stone Animals” (come on, even the title is creepy). Young couple with poor communication and two small children, including a sleepwalking daughter, moves into a new house where all is not quite well – classic set-up for horror, and Link plays it gleefully. I imagined her whooping maniacally while writing the story, truth be told.
  • Lisa Tuttle’s “My Death,” the story of a recently widowed writer who travels in search of new inspiration, and becomes strangely entangled in the legacy of an early 20th-century painter and his muse. This builds slowly, but goes places that are increasingly strange and tap into very primitive, raw forces. The ending was completely unpredictable and bewildering in the best way possible. Masterfully executed, all in all.
  • Michael Marshall Smith’s supremely atmospheric and ever-so-delicately frightening “This Is Now.” Describing it would ruin it, so I won’t. This gave me the most chills-down-the-spine read, yet the fear is so deliciously subtle and evanescent.

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Date read: 10.10.08
Read from: Personal collection
Reviewer: Emera

The day after stumbling drunk into his father’s flat, Saul Garamond wakes to find that he is the chief suspect in his father’s killing – which occurred as he slept one room over. Sprung from jail by a raggedly pompous, sinuously sinister figure who calls himself King Rat and claims that Saul’s mother was herself a rat, Saul uncovers the truth of his father’s death, and of his strange heritage in the sewers of London.

So this was an “eh” sort of read. Very Miéville (twisty, dark, and Urban with a capitual u, and an umlaut for good measure), and  good for a first novel, but still obviously a first novel – it’s clear why he didn’t make it big until Perdido Street Station. I found the book intriguing, but not compelling: I was convinced of its mythology and milieu, but not terribly interested, and it simply didn’t have the heft and engrossing sense of reality that the Bas-Lag books do. Add in a general sketchiness as far as character development goes, and the result was that that I imagined Miéville sitting down one day and telling himself that he wanted to write a novel about the Pied Piper legend…. WITH DRUM ‘N’ BASS. And of course a good helping of Socialism. So: too many pet elements without enough connective tissue for them to hang together comfortably. I did like the ambiguity of the King Rat character, though, and found him a memorable figure.

For the record, those interested in other Pied Piper retellings might try looking up Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents and the first story, “Paid Piper,” in Tanith Lee’s collection Red as Blood. The former is very polished and amusing, and the latter is very weird. There’s also a not-so-great one with a silly twist ending in Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling’s Snow White, Blood Red (from their retold fairy tale anthology series), whose not-so-greatness is manifest in the fact that I can’t remember the author, although the title was something along the lines of “A Sound, As of Angels.” Hmm.

Go to:

China Miéville
Looking for Jake (2005) K
The City & The City (2009) K

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In an effort to stave off our ridiculous acquisitions rates, Kakaner and I have undertaken a pact not to buy any more new books until… well, for as long as we can possibly restrain ourselves, and hopefully we’ve actually read the greater part of the books we’ve bought but haven’t yet read. But prior to that, I, of course, bought a lot of books this summer. Ahem. Here are some of the ones that I’m most excited about.

A 1905 (?) edition of Lafcadio Hearn’s  A Japanese Miscellany (originally published 1901) – I’ve been wanting to find a copy of his Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things for ages, with little luck given his relative obscurity. So I was astonished to see three beautiful, first-edition-or-nearly hardcovers of his works on a shelf at Skyline Books in New York City. No Kwaidan, but this seemed the next best thing. 1905 is pencilled in on the endpapers, but I suspect from this nifty index of Hearn’s work that I have the 1906 edition, which would make it second edition.

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In May of 2008, Kakaner and I undertook an epic walking tour of Cambridge and Boston bookshops – our goal was to walk from Central to Harvard Square and stop at every bookstore along the way, all in one morning and afternoon.

Our first stop was the Cambridge Salvation Army bookstore, where, if I recall correctly, Kakaner bought one paperback – but for the life of me I can’t recall what. The books were musty and disorganized, but the prices are incredible.

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I’m currently a graduate student in microbiology; in college I studied biology, creative writing, and French. I love glass-fronted bookcases, textured bookcovers, and the smell of yellowed paperbacks or glossy full-color pages.

I grew up on fairy tales, mythology, and The Hobbit, so fantastical fiction will always be my first and true love. I’m a sucker for the weird and Gothic, massive short story collections, comics and manga, and anything involving vampires. One of my current ambitions is to read and collect the entire works of Tanith Lee.

I don’t often talk about poetry here, but I do love it. Some of my favorite poets are Seamus Heaney, Rainer Maria Rilke, Emily Dickinson, W. B. Yeats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wislawa Szymborska, Sarah Arvio, and Edward Thomas.

On reviews

Take older ones with a grain of salt, please.

Vital bibliostatistics

Growing up, my fantasy ‘canon’ was Meredith Ann Pierce, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Patricia McKillipspecifically and respectively, the Darkangel Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings (duh), and Winter Rose.

Other influential books are Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Gérard de Nerval’s Aurélia, and Tanith Lee’s works.

The books that I most frequently re-read, apart from the above, include Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Perilous Gard, Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds, Robin McKinley’s Sunshine, Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, just about all of Sarah Waters’ works

Etsy (art & knitting)

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