Tuesday, November 22, 2011


An extract from review HERE

Egnaro – M. John Harrison

“…but is it possible that the real pattern of life is not in the least apparent, but rather lurks beneath the surface of things, half hidden and only apparent in certain rare lights, and then only to the prepared eye?”

Egnaro or Aleph (or gestalt)? This story would surely be an all-time classic story in whichever book of genre it is couched. From “Corrie” to “Crossroads”, from this book’s Peake to Merritt, herein mentioned, as is (now) the all-consuming Cowper Powys – and the “dead miners” from the Shea story - we have here the Mancunian Man – a pervasive rubbing-along philosophy of flock-wallpapered Chinese restaurants and rust-edged SF books and frontier-cultures in behind-the-counter books in bookshops that fight with and alongside the Accountant Narrator’s version of ’quantitative easing’. But Egnaro, the elongated ‘gnole’ giving a clue as to its nature (wasn’t one of this colour earlier in the Sandkings-edifice?). A world that Leman set up earlier in this book as the Whovian nostalgia-tableau or un-sat-navved, non-GPS-ed country. But it is the Bradbury ‘crowd’ that turns up when the future finally reaches its accident with the past, its interface with nostalgia as a Proustian Egnaro. A “transparent membrane” that is not the Hell Screen but the wrapping from this book’s Francis Stevens story. But the durable soul always remains the durable soul (and I count myself as one of those), even if it’s just ‘fast food’ or forgotten fiction as mine is. A desperately sad, yet uplifting, masterpiece. “He’s spent his life exploiting their fantasies to subsidize his own.” (22/11/11 – another 3 hours later)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Martin, Leman & Campbell

Extracts from Review HERE

Sandkings – George R. R. Martin

“They seem to limit their growth to fit available space. If I moved these to a larger tank, they’d start growing again.”

And, I’m sure, that is exactly what happened to the book that contains all these stories, including this one! At first, it is what I would personally call an old-fashioned SF story, yet within this ‘tank’ of a tome, it takes on scary proportions with many implications. Its initial connection with the fog/mist trope of the Basso and its “feed him a litter of unwanted kittens“ echoing the cruelty to pets in Aickman and Tiptree; this particular ‘zoo’ or gestalt-experiment turns out to be a war-game insectoid hive-mind that grows completely and utterly out of proportion (like my own gestalt-experiment with real-time reviewing this book?) - with didactic but creatively manipulative self-aware self-God ‘religious philosophy’ and God’s own induced iconoclasm implications (wasn’t another George Martin the ‘God’ behind the Beatles as a more benign form of the same phenomenon?) leading to a Du Maurier / Hitchcock birdlike-siege preventing the protagonist’s escape. “A cruel idiot god” al la Azathoth. And another ‘spiderous symbiosis’, at one point, as a guest brings a spider to test out the integrity of the protagonist’s Sandking edifice of castles, maws, mobiles, colours - and, eventually, a hungry house, again, literally! A major read for me. “…she had not mentioned the prank to anyone.” (21/11/11 – three hours later)

Window – Bob Leman

“Magic words. Don’t look disgusted yet. It makes sense, in a way. We were funded to look into telekinesis -” (Cf. the Bixby story, an important comparison, I feel.)

Words/Windows/Willows. ‘Window’ follows the same imaginative/emotional rhythm or template as ‘Sandkings’ – at first an engaging tableau-zoo experiment (here arising more by accident than design, a Whovian pasture of nostalgic time travel) – gradually taking up a pace of darkness – and, here, eventually arriving at the transfiguration (cf Monty Python’s ‘Anyone for Tennis?’ sketch). The concept of the ice cubes, via a contraption described in similar detail as Kafka’s Harrow, being used from the present to penetrate the new idyllic time zone of yearned-for pastness so that they would melt and not taint it – is a concept with which to conjure! And the , though, produces within it a book cover-disguised as a Bible with “thin, tough paper” – another reference to the book you hold. Over there, they already knew the story, “mouthing the words”. The ultimate symbiosis of author and reader. But which the ‘spider’? (21/11/11 – another 2 hours later)

The Brood – Ramsey Campbell

“It was autumn. Night had begun to cramp the days.”

This re-reading of mine – after too many years to countenance, I guess – deserves one of my formal ‘Wows!’ of literary criticism I mentioned earlier. It came up completely fresh like an old friend I had forgotten but knew always at the back of my mind I had unconsciously missed. Fresh, yes, an old friend, yes, but startlingly simile-texturedly steeped in a truly tangible gloom and foreboding of words and meaning, yet aesthetically constructive, if gloom and debris and dereliction can be constructive. Now enhanced even further in the preceding context of Maybury’s cat encounter in ‘The Hospice’, Tiptree’s animal experiments, Basso’s ‘sweep-shot’ doctor (and cat!), Martin’s Sandking-’pets’ tortured so that they could torture the face of their ‘God’, plus this book’s general discrete loose-skull ‘pets’ – and, so, now, to Campbell’s Liverpudlian Vet and his own ‘sweep-shot’ Neighbourhood-Watch of his darkly disshevelled environs and the processions of customers and their ‘pets’. He is the antidote to appease this book’s previous sufferings – and he even jokes about a toothless woman who may be a vampire – and there is a guest appearance, I guess, unintentionally or intentionally, by Fritz Leiber’s roof shape, too … and a ‘hungry house’, I infer, towards which our protagonist Vet’s pitifully well-meaning mission is sucked gumlessly (and from which sort of place he can tellingly see his own kitchen window glowing across the way) — all conveying a miraculous nocturne – miraculous, that the reader can come out the other end intact. But you won’t know whether you can unless you try. “Night thickened like soot on the buildings“, and this book has already taught us what soot can incubate… Perhaps not “…spiderwebs, gleaming like gold wire.” (21/11/11 – another 2 hours later)