Saturday, November 25, 2006

Jones, Stephen and Kim Newman, eds. Horror: Another 100 best books. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005.456pp.

This is a great book based on a great idea. Ask 100 people in the extended horror fiction family to write a short essay about their favourite book and then publish the results. If you can get authors like Robert Silverberg, Poppy Brite, Nancy Collins, ST Joshi, David Morrell and a whole bunch of others, you're in business. I liked this book a lot, as well as the first book in the series published a few years ago, Horror: 100 best books. It's a great thing to leave around the house and read a chapter or two here and there -- I've been reading the darn thing since June and just finished it today. I actually read all the chapters in sequence, something I've not done yet with the original book. There are also books in the series on science fiction and fantasy. I hope to give all three of those this same treatment one day; in fact, I think I'll be putting the sf one at my bedside today. One great thing about these books is that they also have additional reading lists at the end. This one has the TOC from Horror: 100 best books as well as a year by year listing of important books from 458 BCE (The Oresteia by Aeschylus) to 2005 (The mysteries by Lisa Tuttle).

The best thing about a book like this is that is introduces you to books and authors you've never heard of or didn't know much about and gets you excited about trying out there works. It also gives you a chance to judge your own comprehensiveness in genre reading, letting you know if there are serious gaps.

By way of a meme-y thing, I present the list of 100 here, with the ones I've read bolded and the ones I want to get around to reading in italics. Many of the later, of course, suggested by my reading of the essay in the book. Many thanks to the link here for saving me a lot of typing.
  1. Robert Silverberg on The Revenger's Tragedy by Cyril Tourneur
  2. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on Pikovaia Dama/The Queen of Spades by Aleksandr Puchkin
  3. Elizabeth Hand on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  4. Doug Bradley on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  5. Jay Lake on Rekopiz Znaleziony w Saragossie/The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan, Count Potocki
  6. K.W. Jeter on New Grub Street by George Gissing
  7. David J. Skal on The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  8. Les Edwards on The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  9. Tony Richards on The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  10. Rick Hautala on The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" by William Hope Hodgson
  11. Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier on Le fantome de l'Opera/The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  12. Tim Lucas on Fantomas by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allan
  13. Christopher Wicking on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft
  14. Barbara Roden and Christopher Roden on They Return at Evening by H.R. Wakefield
  15. Sydney J. Bounds on Creep, Shadow! By A. Merritt
  16. Chaz Brenchley on The Trail of Fu Manchu
  17. Stephen Volk on The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley
  18. Gahan Wilson on The Haunted Omnibus ed. Alexander Laing
  19. Robert Weinberg on The Edge of Running Water by William Sloane
  20. T.M. Wright on L'Etranger/The Stranger by Albert Camus
  21. David A. Sutton on Sleep No More: Twenty Masterpieces of Horror for the Connoisseur ed. August Derleth
  22. Storm Constantine on Lost Worlds by Clark Ashton Smith
  23. Stefan Dziemianowicz on Jumbee and Other Uncanny Tales by Henry S. Whitehead
  24. Gwyneth Jones on Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural ed. Herbert A. Wise and Phyllis Fraser
  25. Joel Lane on The Opener of the Way by Robert Bloch
  26. Christopher Fowler on Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
  27. Gary Gianni on Carnacki the Ghost-Finder by William Hope Hodgson
  28. Randy Broecker on Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson
  29. Tanith Lee on Tales of Horror and the Supernatural by Arthur Machen
  30. Lucius Shepard on Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell
  31. David Bischoff on House of Flesh by Bruno Fischer
  32. Anne Billson on Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier
  33. Nancy A. Collins on The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson
  34. Laurence Staig on The Third Ghost Book ed. Lady Cynthia Asquith
  35. Andy Duncan on The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
  36. John Gordon on The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  37. Norman Partridge on The Hunger and Other Stories by Charles Beaumont
  38. Robert Irwin on The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat
  39. Mark Morris on The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
  40. Howard Waldrop on A Scent of New-Mown Hay by John Blackburn
  41. Ed Gorman on A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson
  42. Muriel Gray on The Weirdstone of Brinsingamen by Alan Garner
  43. Terry Dowling on Tales of Terror ed. Charles Higham
  44. Peter Atkins on Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon
  45. Jack Womack on We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  46. Darrell Schweitzer on The Case Against Satan by Ray Russell
  47. Peter Crowther on Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  48. Ian MacLeod on The Collector by John Fowles
  49. Glen Hirshberg on Who Fears the Devil? By Manly Wade Wellman
  50. Simon Clark on A Wrinkle in the Skin by John Christopher
  51. Nancy Holder on Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
  52. Ellen Datlow on The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural Selected by
    the Editors of Playboy
  53. Terry Lamsley on Pages from Cold Point by Paul Bowles
  54. John Farris on Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
  55. Stephen Baxter on The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg
  56. Elizabeth Massie on Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon
  57. P.N. Elrod on The Night Stalker by Jeff Rice
  58. Michael Swanwick on Blood Sport by Robert F. Jones
  59. Nicholas Royle on Nightshade by Derek Marlowe
  60. Roz Kaveney on Peace by Gene Wolfe
  61. David Drake on The Year of the Sex Olympics: Three TV Plays by Nigel Kneale
  62. Marc Laidlaw on Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber
  63. Paul McAuley on The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan
  64. Jo Fletcher on Darkness Weaves With Many Shades by Karl Edward Wagner
  65. Sir Christopher Frayling on The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
  66. Thomas Ligotti on Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler
  67. D.F. Lewis on The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen by Elizabeth Bowen
  68. Christopher Golden on Dark Forces: New Stories of Suspense and Supernatural Horror ed. Kirby McCauley
  69. John Burke on Tales from the Nightside by Charles L. Grant
  70. Yvonne Navarro on They Thirst by Robert R. McCammon
  71. Poppy Z. Brite on The Face That Must Die by Ramsey Campbell
  72. David Stuart Davies on The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  73. Michael Marshall Smith on Pet Sematary by Stephen King
  74. Anthony Timpone on Clive Barker's Books of Blood Volumes One, Two, and Three by Clive Barker
  75. Nancy Kilpatrick on Perfume: The Story of a Murdered by Patrick Suskind
  76. Bill Sheehan on Finishing Touches by Thomas Tessier
  77. Kelly Link on Strange Toys by Patricia Geary
  78. Allen Koszowski on The Dark Descent ed. David G. Hartwell
  79. Graham Joyce on Misery by Stephen King
  80. Frank M. Robinson on The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
  81. Mark Chadbuurn on Prime Evil ed. Douglas E. Winter
  82. Jay Russell on By Bizarre Hands: Stories by Joe R. Landsdale by Joe R. Lansdale
  83. Peter H. Cannon on The Grotesque by Patrick McGrath
  84. David Morrell on Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
  85. Stephen R. Bissette on From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
  86. David McGillivray on American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  87. Brian Hodge on Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite
  88. China Mieville on The Course of the Heart by M. John Harrison
  89. Adam Simon on Flicker by Theodore Roszak
  90. Paul Di Filippo on X, Y by Michael Blumlein
  91. Caitlin R. Kiernan on Skin by Kathe Koja
  92. Tananarive Due on Throat Sprockets: A Novel of Erotic Obsession by Tim Lucas
  93. Simon R. Green on The Off Season: A Victorian Sequel by Jack Cady
  94. S.T. Joshi on The Nightmare Factory by Thomas Ligotti
  95. Roberta Lannes on A Sight for Sore Eyes by Ruth Rendell
  96. Michael Shea on Reprisal by Mitchell Smith
  97. John Pelan on A Haunting Beauty by Sir Charles Birkin
  98. Jeff VanderMeer on House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  99. Richard A. Lupoff on Feesters in the Lake & Other Stories by Bob Leman
  100. Tim Lebbon on More Tomorrow & Other Stories by Michael Marshall Smith
Hmmm. Only 21 read (23/100 in the first book), not that impressive for someone who likes to think they're a horror fan. On the other hand, I do tend to do best on sf lists with horror in the middle and fantasy worst, so it's not too surprising. The good news is that there's lots of good reading ahead for me to catch up!

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Science Fiction Book Club list most significant SF novels between 1953-2006

Who'da thunk I'd be linking to Walt on this blog?

In any case, this is one of those listy-memey things, a list of 50 books that are a test of a sort on how comprehensive a reading history a person has in sf.

The rules are:
“Below is a Science Fiction Book Club list most significant SF novels between 1953-2006. The meme part of this works like so: Bold the ones you have read, strike through the ones you read and hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put a star next to the ones you love.”

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert*
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke*
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury*
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.*
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov?
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card*
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl*
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin*
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick*
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon*
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford*
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer*

I agree with Walt and am adding a "?" for ones I can't remember if I've read. I'm also giving myself credit for the Cordwainder Smith book and Deathbird Stories. I haven't read those particular books, but in both cases I've read so many of the author's short stories in other places that I think it counts.

If I count right, my score is 40, which is probably pretty good. I'm probably helped by the fact that I always try and mix in the occasional classic with my current reading. A couple of the above are ones I've read in the last couple of years. I'm also helped by the fact that there's a number of very core fantasy and horror titles included, which I've also tended to make sure I've read. Although, the Shannara I did read when I was very young and very impressionable and under the thrall of Tolkien; even then I recognized it as a ripoff.

I also agree with Feminist SF - The Blog that the list could be a bit more diverse.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dunning, John. The bookman's wake.New York: Pocket Star, 1996. 432pp.

This is the second in John Dunning's Cliff Janeway series of detective novels. The first, Booked to die, was published in 1992 and this one came a couple of years later in 1995. Then there was a longish gap in the publishing until The bookman's promise in 2004. They've been a steady one per year since then. I read the first a number of years ago then put the series aside until the recent spate of new books led me to take a look at the second in the series.

It's a pretty mainstream detective series -- the loner ex-cop gets involved in a bunch of crimes while sort of trying to stay away from his old life and sort of still drawn to it. Not generally the kind of thing that interests me that much and normally I probably wouldn't bother with this series. Except for one thing: it's set in the rare book world. After Janeway left the police force he became a rare book dealer in Denver and all the books somehow involve a murder that's connected with that world. That's what attracts me to this series and, so far, it works. This novel involves a mysterious young women who has a connection to a highly collectable printer who died mysteriously in the late 1960s. She's involved in a breaking and entering and murder in Seattle and a shady ex-cop sends Janeway their to take her back to Denver. Murder and mayhem ensue and all the various familial mysteries are solved at the end. Like I said, pretty mainstream but for me the insights into the book world make it all worthwhile.

In fact, it should be interesting to read the next in the series, published in 2004, to get Janeway's take on what the internet has done to the rare book world and how the collectable markets in general have been affected.


Heppenheimer, T. A. Countdown: A history of space flight. New York: Wiley, 1997. 398pp.

The decision to read this book was certainly not rocket science, even if it is a book about rocket science. An engaging and fascinating read, you don't have to be a brain surgeon to understand it either, as it concerns itself as much with the human challenges in the history of space flight as with the purely engineering ones.

Since this book was published in 1997, it obviously doesn't cover any of the more recent missions from the last ten years or so, but I didn't really find that to be much of a problem, as what I was really looking for was information about the early years of rocketry, and this book covers those quite well, including the programs in Germany, Russia and the USA.

I really appreciated the focus on the early careers of Wernher von Braun in Germany and, in particular, Sergei Korolev of Russia, whose name was unfamiliar to me before. The hardships of the Russian engineers and other workers who were forced to work in incredibly bad conditions for Stalin were something was also a revelation. Von Braun's story was also fascinating, perhaps the only flaw in the book's coverage is that I would liked to have learned more about the program under Nazi Germany. Von Braun was very likely an unacknowledged war criminal, and this was underplayed.

The great strides of the Soviet program in the 1950s is also well covered, including the determination by the Americans to ultimately overtake the Soviet program, which they did by the 1960s. The stories of the machinations of the US Army, Air Force and Navy and their jockeying for position and influence was very well presented. The seemless integration of the military and industry is also quite apparent, leading the Eisenhower's famous comment about watching out for the military industrial complex. Well, it's all here, laid out in the history of the space program. The main developments in ICBMs, spy planes, spy sattelites, high altitude bombers are all covered.

In some ways, the most exciting part of the book is the chapters leading up to the dramitic Apollo moon landing, contrasting with the Soviet program's declining success at that time. The chapters following the moon landing could have been anti-climactic. However, I found the history of the various unmanned, exploratory missions very interesting; Heppenheimer is definately a proponent of unmanned exploration versus the political showmanship of dangerous and expensive manned missions. This part of the book, leading up to the Challenger disaster, was very critical of the American decision to put all it's eggs in the shuttle basket and showed how the Europeans were able to capitalize on that and how even the Soviet/Russian program was able to make many positive strides.

The book ends on a positive note, hoping for a renewed international space program based on international co-operation. We're not quite there yet, but this book certainly gives the background necessary to understand where we are and how we got here.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wellington, David. Monster island. New York: Thunder Mouth Press, 2006. 282pp.

Old school, gonzo, over-the-top, gross-out zombie horror! Such joy must come into every life every now and then!

David Wellington's new zombie trilogy begins with this novel, Zombie Island. Interestingly enough, all three novels have already been serialized (apparently in somewhat different form) in blog form by the author. The links are in Wellington's Wikipedia page I link to above and I also link to them at the end of this post. Since each of the 60+ chapters in the novel was originally a blog post, they tend to be short and sharp, each with a good cliffhanger ending. The novel has a very fast, breakneck pace leaving the reader almost breathless as we race through. This is a good thing.

The storyline is rather basic and contrived, of course. For some reason, a UN worker in Somalia named Dekalb is forced by a warlord to journey to New York to get AIDS drugs that he thinks are for sure in the UN building there, possibly the only such stash of AIDS drugs left in the world. The catch? The entire world is overrun by zombies, making the mission to NYC a bit problematic. Once in New York, our hero must face off with the zombie hoards controlled by a newly empowered zombie lord. His companions? A gang of gun-toting teenaged Somali school girls sworn to the warlord. Right, who needs a plot. And I mean that as a compliment.

In any case, we really don't know how the whole zombie plague came about, a question that is apparently answered in the prequel/sequel Zombie Nation. That one's been published in book form and needless to say, I'll be getting it pretty soon.

For fun, here's a listing of all Wellington's online serializations. Enjoy!