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Category Archives: you should read this
In packing for a trip, I discovered I’d somehow bypassed some of the earlier Doc Savages, so we backtrack now to book 13: Land of Always-Night. On the cover, Doc, wearing torn shirt and steampunk goggles, looks back and away from a grove of giant mushrooms, not noticing the several odd figures vaguely resembling the Monarch from The Venture Brothers menacing him with raised hands.
This one has to be my favorite beginning yet:
It is somewhat ridiculous to say that a human hand can resemble a butterfly. Yet this particular hand did attain that similarity. Probably it was the way it moved, hovered, moved again, with something about it that was remindful of a slow-motion picture being shown on a screen.
The color had something to do with the impression. The hand was white, unnatural; it might have been fashioned of mother of pearl. There was something serpentine, hideous, about the way it strayed and hovered, yet was never still. It made one think of a venomous white moth.
It made Beery Hosmer think of death. Only the expression on Beery Hosmer’s face told that, for he was not saying anything. But he was trying to. His lips shaped word syllables and the muscle strings in his scrawny throat jerked, but no sounds came out.
The horrible white hand loaded up toward Beery Hosmer’s face. The side street was gloomy, deserted except for Beery Hosmer and the man with the uncanny hand. The hand stood out in the Merck almost as if it were a thing of white paper with a light inside.
Our cover is mainly green, depicting Doc poling a log in what have to be anti-gravity boots because there is no way he would maintain his balance otherwise, towards an abandoned ship. As always, his shirt is artfully torn and … Continue reading
We return to a gentler, more innocent world again with Doc Savage number 16: The Spook Legion. In the intervening time since Quest of Qui, they’ve undergone adventures The Fantastic Island, Land of Always-Night, and Murder Melody. For people interested in undertaking their own reads, here’s an excellent post about which Doc Savage books to start with.
On the red-toned cover, Doc confronts a machine with what seems to be a cabalistic gesture of some sort. Maybe just jazz hands; the cover artist was fond of a particular kind of pose. Careful ok shows Doc is in the process of turning insibile; the bricks behind him are starting to show through.
Author Lester Dent tries to pull off some tricky stuff in this book and it sometimes trips him up, unfortunately. How much that actually affects the book is something I’ll leave to you to judge. It’s also a fairly convoluted book, presenting the information as though sliding things into place to give us the final picture. You have to respect Dent’s ability to plot and willingness to just go all the way with the weirdness at times.
Cassie, in the process of shedding a box of Doc Savage novels, found out I loved them and passed them along. I remember Doc and his men fondly; while at my grandparents for a Kansas summer when I was twelve or thirteen, I found my uncle’s old books, which included a pretty complete run of the Bantam reprints and reveled in them for years to come.
I’m going back and rereading while making notes; my hope is that I’ll start to notice some patterns as I move through the books and that I’ll be able to talk about pulp tropes, gender assumptions, reading fiction aimed at a gender other than your own, and writerly techniques in an entertaining and (maybe) useful way. I’ll go consecutively by issue date of the ones I have; I will go back and fill in earlier ones as I run across the books.
So let us begin.
Steampunk continues to manifest as a genre, although it seems to me it’s not as relentless in its novelty as it used to be. Perhaps once you have reached the point of being parodied in a Key and Peale episode, you cannot claim to be cutting edge anymore? Not to mention that I’ve found steampunk jewelry making kits at the local craft store and the local Value Village flyers featured “How to Make a Steampunk Costume” along with Pirate, Vampire, Zombie, Superhero, and Sexy Barista.
I love the texture of steampunk and have been enjoying seeing continued riffs on a theme that has a long way to go before it’s played out. Here’s six that I’ve enjoyed in the past couple of years. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but each of these bring in aspects of other genres in a way that showcases how much life such a mixture can produce.
Ever wondered what it would be like to wander through plague-ridden Seattle in the future? This book’s a good approximation.[/caption]In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that Caren’s a close friend. But beyond that The Birthday Problem is terrific SF, and a great example of interweaving narratives that is a) highly enjoyable to read and b) highly instructive to take a look at.
Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith, is subtle and beautiful and a terrific piece of speculative fiction. An anthropologist, Marghe Taishan, arrives on the planet GP, there to test a vaccine against the deadly virus that has killed all but a few … Continue reading
John Bellairs wrote a host of children’s books, including one of my favorites, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, and a single adult novel, The Face in the Frost. I wish the ratio had been in the opposite … Continue reading
Last year I provided a list of five gifts for the speculative fiction writer on your list. Here’s another installment of that. Sure, you can go for the old standbys: notebooks, pens, a gift certificate so they can buy books, … Continue reading
Last week, I pointed to one of the foremothers of science fiction, Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle, and her work The Blazing World. Herland comes several centuries later (in fact, it’ll be exactly a century old in 2015) but it’s just as important a landmark in this often murky territory.