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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Talisman (The Talisman, #1)The Talisman by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly wondrous. My memories of my first read of The Talisman definitely do NOT do the original justice. The re-read also comes on the heels of a vast re-read of all the other SK reads with their connections to DT and the fact that everything follows the beam.

Of course, I may have judged this book entirely on its merit compared to all the other SK books I had read up to that point by 1989 when I read this last.

The obvious: this is a straight adventure novel that takes place half the time in 1980s America, following a 12-year-old's fraught adventure across the dark continent from coast to coast, and half the time in a magical mid-world version that was just as dark as our side. All of this makes this book a bonafide Epic Fantasy to me. Only, it's called the Territories, here.

Dark forces, heavy magic, the erosion of reality and goodness, the whole quest structure, much bigger in fact than Jack Sawyer trying to save his mother, is just as classic a fantasy as you might imagine, but it's not derivative.

Indeed, between the YA core, the better treatment of Holes, the true nastiness of the human spirit, and the feel of On the Road mixed with dark doppelgangers, twinners, everywhere, I have to say I like this BETTER than most modern YA by a long stretch.

But here's the best part: It was written with Peter Straub and SK and published in 1984, exactly two years after SK's first Dark Tower came out. Back in the day, I would have only been able to make a tentative stab at the connections. The Blasted Lands are the Wasted Lands, both quite an accurate representation of middle America, the Territories resemble Midworld, and the references to MANY Territories are also a giveaway.

But here's the really fun part: from the rest of the DT series, we get all the references to the train, wizard and glass, a different representation of The Rose, chittering spiders on the Tower itself, and so many other aspects that make THIS novel, the Talisman, almost a straight prototype for the full epic of The Dark Tower.

I do NOT recommend reading this book before the full epic of DT, mind you. I love the easter-egg hunt and the analysis too much.

BUT, if you're a big fan of SK's new book, Fairy Tale, this is a great follow-up and continuation and a slow build-up for everything else. Or as any fan of SK knows, everything follows the beam. It doesn't really matter where you start. It all builds and gets you to the same nexus in the end. ;)

My appreciation for this novel is, however, vastly improved. I'm kinda geeking out over it now. Other than the DT, itself, it is the closest we get to the full saga, and I wonder if that was kinda how it had to be. The publishing industry didn't really want to give DT a chance at the time.


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Monday, September 26, 2022

The Drowned WorldThe Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

J.G. Ballard is a one-of-a-kind author. Silvian prose, introverted, placid, but utterly post-apocalyptic and devastating.

In this book, we see some massive effects of global warming, but much worse than we imagine, today. Relocations went to the poles. Everywhere else is turning into a primordial jungle with mutations making the rest feel like we've gone back in time.

And, indeed, the psychological effects are rather extreme. Those who study or even raid the ruins of London, or parts thereabouts, find it hard to hold on to their subconscious and conscious self-control. Neptune and the great unconscious is a wonderful Charon-esq field trip to the underworld and barbarity returns.

The novel feels nothing like modern post-apoc fiction. It's lyrical and psychological even when we get some of the most interesting setting descriptions in prose. Think Conrad's Heart of Darkness and a prequel to the New Weird's Annihilation, but before it became utterly strange.

Well, this came awfully close to defining the modern's New Weird. Definitely worth reading.


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Full Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #3)Full Share by Nathan Lowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very light, enjoyable romp rising through the ranks, making things more efficient, and slow-smoldering the romance angle on a ship too bound by regulations.

Living aboard the Lois does have a few snags, however, and seniority and the owners can really put a wrench in the works.

Fortunately, there's practically no one on board who doesn't love this kid.


Wish fulfillment? Competence porn?

Hell yes, and that's just fine.

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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Half Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #2)Half Share by Nathan Lowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No doubt about it. I'm addicted to this series. The first book got me hooked with the whole rookie learning to be what it takes on the trader ship, getting certs and making friends, and above all, making lots of credits. The second book had just a taste of that but dove right in for the interpersonal stuff.

Granted, it wasn't so much competence porn as the first... or was it? No, the competence porn was of a different type. :) Self-confidence and airing out the sexual tension kind of thing.

Very enjoyable.

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Quarter Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #1)Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, this is entirely what I hoped it would be. Not just a newbie shipmate on a commercial spaceship, but one that is entirely dedicated to fitting in with the crew, making money with side hustles, and straight trade. Making money.

I loved how easy it was to read. Necessity rolled over into competence porn which rolled over into a bit of thriving. It's pretty damn wonderful. :)

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FirestarterFirestarter by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every day is a good day to read SK and I'll just say that I'm not reading or re-reading this for any kind of movie or TV adaptation. I'm reading it because I wanted to re-experience the dark terror of shadow government agencies playing with X-men in a deeply-characterized '70s drug haze. And the drugs aren't even the fun ones. Thorazine? Pah, this is early King. The paranoia is a better drug.

Of course, I did want to read this pretty much the moment I read The Institute, enjoy the same kind of feel all over again, but from a different time, a different, more innocent age. Yes, the '70s were an innocent age. It's strange, but true.

Back to Firestarter! Charlie and Andy were fantastic. Charlie was obviously huge in the whole "get duped, get revenge" way, but I was struck by how much I liked Andy. He really understood the assignment: Do whatever is necessary.

As a father, I get that. Even as a 14-year-old when I read this book the first time, I got that. And both times, the buildup and resolution were delicious. :)

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Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Space Merchants (The Space Merchants, #1)The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a fascinating old SF, and no mistake.

I had this weird idea that it would be something like a space opera-lite, but I was very pleased to get something quite different. Pubbed in 1952, it has the feel of the Golden Age of SF, sure, but there are better descriptions. It's s Mad Men in bigger SF form. There's an underground revolt of the populace and propaganda is everywhere and it's definitely a rags-to-riches kind of tale, as is implied by the title, but there's very little business.

It's a pure adventure with a noir sensibility, fast-paced and brutal, complete with femme fatale.

At its core, however, it feels like it would do very well in today's SF market... after all, a labor uprising is kinda hot right now. :)




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