Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wimbledon Green

Wimbledon Green by Seth
(Drawn and Qauterly)

Cartoonist Seth at the beginning of the book reveals itself: the book was written for fun, “the drawing is poor, the lettering shoddy, the page compositions and storytelling perfunctory”, and indeed the novel as a novel was not intended, and was only as set of sketchbooks. The author is cunning. In fact, the poor drawing and the shoddy lettering guess stylized 40-50s comics, and the abruptness plot resembles a good documentary movie - about the fact that madness is always possible, but to catch the madness and understand it is not so simple.

Wimbledon Green, as it is written on the cover, is the greatest comic book collector in the world. Reader will trace the way during which Green had become a collector, and at first watching for those Green years being funny young fat Green, then a daily routine of his life already in the status of the great collector. It's a mystery according to the laws of half a century ago pulp comics, in which one key element is disclosed on the first page: Green disappeared somewhere along with his huge collection, and no one knows what happened to him. Despite the seemingly partial loss of detective intrigue, you do follow the adventures of Fat Green, while still can enjoy reading.

Throughout the book, Green will be chasing the rare comic books, accompanied by his assistants, women in sunglasses and an enigmatic Hindu, and parallel to this not the last people in comics fandom will tell you what they have heard about the great collector, under any circumstances have met with him, and suppose he still lost. Such sketch inserts (one person - one page) perfectly play the role of fragments from the documentary, which could shoot about the disappearance of Green.
Special mention deserves one of the rare comic included in the collection of Wimbledon. "Fine and Dandy" is the story of two funny hoboes, thick and thin, whose sole mission in the life was to be free. And to be free for them means to be homeless. If you read the whole book with a smile on his face, then this sketch really make you laughing out loud.

It is not necessary, however, to think that the whole book is a story about the chase, written for fun and laughter (and laughter and fun are really there). "Wimbledon Green" is also about that everything changes (and need to change), everything goes, but something subtle is always with you. This subtle thing, perhaps, makes any person a little crazy. It is important to switch to the coin at the right time.

Black Static #15

Black Static #15
(TTA Press)

British magazine Black Static continues to print high quality stories, adding to the fiction section a solid non-fiction one. Book reviews by Peter Tennant have breadth and versatility, and the Tony Lee section about latest movie releases on DVD and Blu-ray wins over both the quality and quantity. A little frustrating thing is that a sufficient number of low-budget films mentioned in the review is only available for British film fans.

The main part of the magazine is fiction. 5 stories of different levels authors, from the already those who have a few published books, and those who have never before been published. The beginning of this issue is James Cooper with the brutal novelette «Eight Small Men» from his forthcoming book. The two brothers who had grown up (one of them is the narrator) are going after so many years to visit the house of his stepfather to remember that they have experienced many years ago. This "memory of the past" method does not add anything to the story but helps to set pauses in the right places in the strained narrative. Cooper is able to catch up with horror, accurate in psychology, he has a good style. Brutal-viscous prose is the meat, which makes the story tasty and juicy. However, the «Eight Small Men» is more naturalistic mainstream story than horror. The ending, only in which horror element does occur, is somewhat far-fetched, and eight small men - it is still deus ex machine. However, such turn does not disappoint. Everything defines the atmosphere and the tone. (Review of the coming out soon in Atomic Fez book by James Cooper «The Beautiful Red», which includes the «Eight Small Men», will be soon.)

«Maximum Darkness» by the newcomer Alan Scott Laney is not a bad sketch about the power of books over people and obsession. The author has the ability to construct the plot, write proper atmosphere, but the heroes of the story, the brother and the sister, are stilted to details, and the writer fails to draw on the story on the heroes, already not too original. This is a weak story by the author which later seems to be able to write better.

«Babylon's Burning» by Daniel Kaysen is a great example of humor and horror in one bottle (just horror and humor, not humorous horror). The elder brother who works in an office with doubtful activities related to witchcraft calls young one to the party. He was stubborn at first, but then, after learning about the opportunity to have sex with girls working in the company, agrees. With one of them, Evelyn, they look circus show with cutting off hands, but it is more terrible: hand cut off for real.
Kaysen mixes black humor, ancient curses, the elements of noir in the proportions that make the story is a good entertainment.

The ending of the issue is «Death By Water» by Sarah Singleton. Succeeding in creating an atmosphere of despair, the author seems to have forgotten to diversify the plot, making it a mere formality. Ian, who lost a year ago his wife, is looking for a medium that could give him a chance to have last talk with his wife. Ian should pass three mediums, each of them carefully and lovingly written out, eclipsing the narrator. However, except for throwing and suffering of the hero, we do not see more in the story. Ian would still be able to talk to his wife, but in the title there is the word “water” for a purpose - at the end of the story too much of it, so that the effect of neatly written out the characters and a dark embankment unfortunately washed away.

We should watch for further works by James Cooper and Daniel Kaysen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Edison`s Frankenstein: Postscripts 20\21

Edison`s Frankenstein: Postscripts 20\21
(Edited by Peter Crowther & Nick Gevers)

Postscripts is no more a magazine, now it`s a bi-annual anthology but it will have the same goal is publish high quality science fiction and fantasy.
The double issue of the magazine (published in the late 2009) consists 26 stories from already established writers, as well as relatively newcomers. To write a review on an collection like this with making focus on each story is long, tiresome and unnecessary work, the more important is to point the most impressive ones out. Pieces of fiction by well-known writers somehow will get readers who will love that if even a reviewer didn`t find any memorable and striking places in those stories. Opening story «Edison`s Frankenstein» by Chris Roberson is, perhaps, the strongest piece in this issue (the subtitle of the issue has the same name). Alternative history in Roberson`s story is based on the seemingly small difference from our reality: instead of electricity people use prometheic energy. James Clark Ross, an explorer, returned from an expedition to the South Seas and brought a piece of some broken automaton created by an alien culture. Thus, electricity is pushed aside, and people everywhere are using prometheum. Roberson puts murder in the story but mystery and investigation moves into the background , by the way all is obvious enough (although the author hid something by the end ). The author doesn`t confined himself by just a description of America, industry of which is based on prometheum , although the way he draws the features of Chicago, its large exhibitions, that both areas, and shelter for all sorts of migrants from all over the world, is delighted, and sometimes even makes to forget about the plot, which, basically, develops slow.
Melancholic and nostalgic, Algerian Shaban, translator and bodyguard for his boss, who took Shaban in their teens to the States, is the point Roberson has succeeded in. Shaban remembers how he had lived there, over the ocean, and in his memoirs seems to slip the memory of how might have been looked the world where the electricity dominates, and prometheum were never found.
Edison and Frankenstein in the title are mentioned on purpose: they are two guns on the wall that possible to shoot at the end of the story.
Some more exhibitions appear in an elegant story of Alex Irwin «The Dream Curator».
His exhibition is a collection of strange dreams, and diffident man yearning for a girl from sleep is in charge of the exhibition. Irwin weaves verbal lace in the story not worse than the curator does their exhibition.
«Vampire Electric» by Tony Ballantyne operates two already pretty bored topics: vampires and rock music. A rock band, a pretty lady-vampire (V - so they are called there), the enslavement of people - Ballantyne mixes the cocktail with blood, which is still not too thirsty, however the writer is trying to refresh the vampire problem.
In her «Denny» Keet Reed is trying to show the situation with the murders of the parents by their children from all sides: the father`s, the mother`s and the son`s, Denny. Reed masterfully portrays a complex situation, when no one understands no one, but everyone thinks they do. The only thing that is not entirely clear with this story is its science fiction elements. It differs from a mainstream story with only some hints of not entirely explainable epidemic of the teenage aggression, otherwise it is a great psychological prose.
«Unreasonable Doubt» by Simon Strantzas is initially exciting story about once known candidate for mayor returning to his native town. He is nowhere to go, and he seeks shelter at his old friend Dr. Reilley. However, the middle of the story is not well-written, the characters are behaving abnormally, and the ending crosses everything: ghost story is too made by GOST {State Standard in Russia}.
“Snowman's Chance in Hell” from newcomer Robert T. Jeschonek is a funny story about how people began to sculpt snowmen. Stuck in the memory, but not required reading.
Lavie Tidhar, in his “The Love-Craft” wrote a short script about people abduction by aliens. Cruel, but little interest story.
Another significant story in the magazine is "Tests" by Robert Reed. A chamber story, which nearly consists of conversations only, played on the border between banality about contacts with UFOs and a sad story about how lonely one can be and how important is to believe in the possibility of meeting stranger to each other minds.
Reed is not very well in describing people, but he is master in creation of the situation. Paul Park gave an amazingly light, tricky story to this issue of the magazine.
In “The Persistence of Memory, Or, This Space For Sale” Park made the writer a hero of the story, to whom he gave his own name and add to that some embellishment by his nearly autobiographical details. Everything starts with an auction, where the narrator of the story, science fiction writer, exposes a couple of lots, have won them one can become the character of Park has not yet written story. Flawless humor, charming hero, an unexpected ending makes the story undoubtedly one of the best in the collection. And if it comes to literary games, then do not forget, you can expect anything.
Very short horror story "Time Changes" by David T. Wilbanks is pleasant, unhorror-y and funny, but it could have been in the issue or could not: the detachment would not notice the loss of a fighter.
The story about a trip to Eden length in 10 years, told by Lisa Tuttle in her "Ragged Claws", echoes the old story by Stephen King's, “The Jaunt”.
Really, the flight in King`s story lasted a moment, but if people do not fall asleep at the time of the jaunt, then it lasted for decades, and the traveller during that time even can turn gray (besides, it remains unknown what one sees during the flight). The narrator of the story is a man who tested these flights. During the trip the man lives in a certain box and has the unlimited possibilities within his own consciousness. At the bar, he meets young people: two young men and a girl, and tells them about all that he experienced during the flight. A strong story about the desires and the nature of man.
"Number One Fan" by Eric Schaller is another story that has similarities with the work of King, as if in explanation of his father King`s son, Joe Hill, wrote. Science fiction writer comes to the godforsaken convention, where there is no soul, and his only listener is just a fan number one. Exciting story, which may particularly appeal to those who goes to all kinds of convention.
The culmination of this issue has become yet another alternative history, based, like the story of Chris Roberson, on the change of energy sources, “The Phoebean Egg” by Stephen Baxter. Young man Cedric Stout comes to study in some semblance of Cadet College, the Imperial Academy of the UK in XIX century. Britain, thanks to technology Anti-ice, has a distinct advantage over the world and almost became the ruling power around the globe. Cedric and his friend Merrell and the girl Verity Fletcher suddenly grasp the essence of a conspiracy involving Phoebean egg and beginning a new war. England is though shown here as a global hegemon, yet not cause undue comparisons with the Nazi Germany. Young heroes are smart, passionate and resourceful. Baxter, in addition to well-developed details of the Anti-ice, and even touched on the gender topic: Verity Fletcher in the Academy plays the role of a servant, while only boys can learn and be a mainstay and hope of the nation. But Verity's not a simpleton, and shows itself in the knowledge and ability to fight and achieve the desired even greater than boys .
Definitely a strong collection of short prose, in which everyone will find something to one`s taste, and a few stories from there are worth to including in year`s best anthologies.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mindless Things

Clarkesworld Magazine #40
The Things by Peter Watts
All the King's Monsters by Megan Arkenberg

Non-fiction part of the issue doesn`t let say much: the article about video games is not my cup of tea (I have not been playing games since 16), and interview with Lucious Shepard looks like 40 other interviews with Lucious Shepard. In every interview he invariably tells how he`d started to write, how attended the Clarion Writing Workshop, how lived here and there, how he got idea to write one or another of his books. Indeed, Shepard have an inexplicable appeal, that`s why we read the interview parts of it seem to have been read somewhere.

Fiction part of the issue is more interesting. Every month Clarkesworld offers 2 fiction pieces by high rate writers referring to their rate not just due to old merits but confirming them by their new works. By the way high rates don`t mean all writers publish in the magazine are hardened veterans who drank with Heinlein and played golf with Tolkien. Clarkesworld publish as well new writers.
40th issue (first in 2010) offers short stories by Megan Arkenberg «All The King`s Monsters» and by Peter Watts «The Thing». Watts is not a newcomer indeed, and Arkenberg published a few stories in webzines.

Johnathan Strahan praised Watts` story and regretted that “The Thing” wasn`t included into the final version of his Eclipse Three anthology due to unresolved copyright issues. “The Thing” is good story but not as much as Strahan wrote. Narrative is told from the point of view of that monster from John Carpenter's 1982 film “The Thing”. Narrator in the story is the Darkness itself per se. Well-written, story holds on a reader in tension till the end making us watch for the perishing forwarders with wide opened eyes. But the problem with this Watts` story is the same as in dozens of likely stories where a writer tries to show thinking of mind alien to human beings such as ET or monsters from Carpenter`s film which origin is alien too: how don`t you try to show an alien mind this alien whatever will think like a man. As far as a writer itself is a man so characters of his works are the men as well though if they hide under the skin of such alien creature bearing inhuman, unearth mind. And Watts unfortunately wasn`t able to achieve that. The writer had set very high goal but failed and it doesn`t detract from his story`s merits.

Arkenberg`s story lays in a completely different plane though it affects as we can show from the title of the story to the monster subject too. Lyrical tale about the girl caught in confinement and lost her groom is at the same time retelling folk tale about Humpty Dumpty and aching story about that every man has his own monster and no escape from it. Arkenberg has good style, skills to carry out plot, but she lacks the tension and originality.

Two tales about monsters each one of them lacks something.

Fly away

So let`s start.
I am 20-something Russian. English is not my native language and I beforehand apologize to you for probable mistakes in my writing. I`ll do my best for not letting them go.
My day job is a journalist for local newspaper. And books is my hobby. I don`t divide books into genres and think there are only two genres – good or bad fiction. So in my reviews there will be all sort of books.
I plan post as well comics and graphic novels reviews two times a week.
I don`t give books any stars or marks: books are not pupils in the school.
I don`t like long posts and I don`t think I will write them. Blog post is not a dissertation.
I don`t think it will be fun but I think it`ll be useful.