Thursday, January 17, 2008

Catching Up

Since we last spoke, I've been a busy girl.

If you head over to Revolution SF, you'll find my review of Jonathan Barnes' The Somnambulist, my contribution to our yearly Best Of feature, What Is Best In Life, and a full confession of one of my dirty little book secrets.

Then you can visit and see my Odd Shelf article, wherein I am, once again, a naughty, naughty girl.

For my reading challenge I finished Ellen Datlow's original horror anthology Inferno, which has some terrific horror mood pieces in it, as well as some of my favorite authors (Jeffrey Ford, K.W. Jeter, Lucius Shepard, Glen Hirschberg, and others).

I also finished The Snake Charmer by Jamie James, whch is due out this June. It tells the story of a brilliant, arrogant herpetologist who was bitten by a many-banded krait while on a collecting trip in Burma. Despite 26 hours of mouth to mouth resucitation by his team and heroic efforts from many others, he died, and the story of how it all went down was fascinating.

My current book is One Big Damn Puzzler by John Harding. I'm about halfway through, and it's been enjoyable so far. The title comes from the efforts of the one islander on this particular South Pacific island who can read to translate Hamlet into pidgin so he can share it with the rest of the island: "Is be, or no is be? That one big damn puzzler!"

After that, I've got Victor Gischler's upcoming Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse and a manuscript for the new Dennis Lehane.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Progress Report--Week 1

It's been a week since I announced my participation in a reading challenge over on Goodreads.Com, so I thought I'd post a quick update.

Book #01 was Jeff and Ann VanderMeer's anthology The New Weird. An anthology like this really serves to make one thing clear: writers hate labels. Everyone else, though, (readers,booksellers,publishers) kind of likes them, or at least finds them useful. The New Weird is such a new phenomenon that everyone is still really wrestling with what it is, or even if it exists at all, outside of marketing departments desperate for a hook to hang a writer on. The VanderMeers have chosen to present the actual message board transcripts as writers and readers and critcs struggle to define (or debunk) the New Weird, and the pull between Art and necessity in the debate is fascinating. The VanderMeers include stories from pre-cursors of and influences on this nascent movement, as well as examples of some of its current practitioners. Any book that reprints Clive Barker's magnificent "In the Hills, the Cities" is high on my list, and the stories that follow do their influences proud.

Book #02 was the upcoming P. Craig Russell graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. I loved Gaiman's story when I first read it. It managed to be heartwarming, funny, and ultra-creepy all at the same time. I would never have believed that an artist's rendition of the button-eyed Other Mother could be more unsettling than the picture in my imagination, but I was oh so wrong. Russell has done a mighty-fine job adapting Gaiman's prose into an illustrated format.

Book #03 was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier by Alan Moore. Every time I pick up one of Moore's League books, I'm blown away. He somehow manages to make me feel smart for all of the references I catch and stupid for all the ones I know I've missed simultaneously. This mad notion of knitting together all of the fabled literary worlds and characters into one (mostly) coherent history shouldn't work, but it does. This newest bit of League history has a whisper-thin plot, but that's really just an excuse to further flesh out this amazing world and to have terrific fun experimenting with different forms and styles. Some of these experiments work better than others: I find both the Beat novels and Lovecraft's work almost unreadable; combining the two (however cleverly) didn't help; on the other hand, if Jeeves and Bertie appeared in all of Lovecraft's stories, I'd read them a lot more frequently.

Up on deck I have Ellen Datlow's original horror anthology Inferno and an ARC called The Snake Charmer.

Happy reading, and let me know how your own challenges are going.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Reading Challenge

One of my friends over on has invited me to join a reading challenge for 2008. The stated goal is 50 books, but I'm going to see how far I can get.

Book number one will be Jeff and Ann VanderMeer's anthology The New Weird. I've followed some of the debates about what is and is not New Weird, and I'm still kind of confused, but a quick glance at the table of contents tells me I'm bound to like it. Barker's "In the Hills, the Cities" is one of my favorite stories, and the other contributors are all either writers I'm familiar with and enjoy, or writers I've meant to get around to reading and just haven't yet, so I'm excited to get started.

I'll keep you updated as I go along with which books I'm reading and what I thought of them. But don't wait for me; join me! C'mon, you can do it. It's only 50 books, and you have a whole year!