Reading Wrap-Up: August 2016

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Grendel by John Gardner (My Rating: 4/5) Grendel is the story of Beowulf but from the perspective of the monster, and it’s done very well. Grendel is sympathetic, but he’s never censored. Meaning he is a monster that kills people and sometimes eats them, but you still feel bad for this guy who has no friends, no purpose, and views the world as being very pointless. I’ll say there were a lot of philosophical nuggets in the text that I know were going over my head, so if you’re more into that than I am, you might get even more out of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it for those readers who are more interested in monsters than in buff heroes.

The Fireman by Joe Hill (My Rating: 2/5) I did a whole separate review for this, and it’s left me with nothing else to say. Trust the review was very negative and I’m disappointed. Fair warning. I hope his next project leaves a better impression on me.

The Secret Books of Paradys I and II by Tanith Lee (My Rating: 4/5) Lee was at her best when she was writing fantasy fused with horror, and this was pretty satisfying. This volume was two books collected in one, and the first was a series of three novellas all set in the city of Paradys. The three stories were all strong, but the middle story was so incredibly engaging it left the other two feeling a little pale in comparison. The second half of the book was more satisfying overall as it consisted of one, whole plot told in interconnecting short stories. So, yes, I don’t even know how to classify this book, because the storytelling is experimental, and mostly it’s short form but you should read the whole thing straight through and not cherry-pick.

Paradys is like a paranormal, alternate history version of a French city. Anyone who goes there will find both their most perfect desires laid out before them and the most intricately woven nightmares. Most of the time things don’t work out so great for people who get involved in the bizarre happenings in Paradys. There are vampires, angels, demons, ghosts, ancient curses, but none of it is derivative. Each bears Lee’s particular stamp. If you’re looking for something gothic, spooky, and different, I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (My Rating: 4/5) I must’ve stayed in that sort of mood, because here we have a classic vampire tale that is the definition of gothic. A young woman makes a strange, new friend. Then she starts falling ill. A tale as old as time really, and that’s maybe where the story does lack something. For its time, it must’ve been truly shocking when you find out Carmilla is a vampire. In 2016, we know it immediately. There’s also a small scene of random racism and an ending that felt a tad rushed. Otherwise it’s a classic worth looking into. Especially with the strong nudging between these two girls that their infatuation is far more than friendship.

Chocky by John Wyndham (My Rating: 4/5) It had been far too long since I’d read one of Wyndham’s novels. This one was a little more on the friendly side than previous works I’d read. I think you could make a decent family film out of this one. That’s not to say there wasn’t conflict and it wasn’t interesting. But most of the troubles the family faced were the result of an “overly emotional” mother with some added drama at the end. In fact, I felt like I was reading an E.T. predecessor with the plot of this book. Just like with The Midwich Cuckooos, I’m not a huge fan of Wyndham hijacking the story to mutter “women” and roll his eyes, but otherwise it was a short book that entertained.

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