Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #347 - Recent Book Reviews part one
Hi Mom, Here's a catch all for book reviews. Nothing too extensive. Short bits and meant mainly to clear my Good Reads "Currently Reading" queue.
BUT there are six books, and that's an awful lot for one blog post, so I am splitting the post into three installments. This is part one, hence the title. I will post the others soon. I have been working on this duo of posts for quite some time, investing time in the reading of all these books (four of which were audio books) and then slowly cobbling together these, albeit brief, reviews.
I have delayed this post several times and split it twice (first, I thought just two parts).
First up is a book I have owned for many years and paged through many times but never devoted myself to reading. Then, recently, I noticed that THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION by JG Ballard was available as an unabridged audio book.
THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION
First, I was interested in this book because Joy Division named a song after it for their last full length album, Closer.
The book consists of a series of linked stories or condensed novels by Ballard, many of which were published in magazines, such as "The Assassination Weapon" in New Worlds in 1966, or as small chap books, such as "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan" published by Unicorn Bookshop in 1968.
There is no clear beginning or end to the book, and it follows few to no narrative standards. In other words. just what I learned to like best during my undergraduate years. I know this book would have been a major influence had I read it originally back in the early 1980s when I was doing my own avant-garde things.
The Atrocity Exhibition engages in post-modern fictional experimentation merging surgical descriptions, architecture, sexual desire and alienation, and psychological studies with obsession of celbrities of the time period (late 1960s). Settings shift. There's a teaching hospital filled with psychiatrists and the protagonist changes as his name varies from chapter to story as Talbert, Traven, Travis, Talbot.
The RE search edition is beautiful with gorgeous (and anatomical textbook like) illustrations. For instance, before the appendix section there is a cross-section of guts showing an appendix. The book comes with author annotations that were also read during the audio edition narrated by William Gaminara.
Obviously, and reviews bear this claim out, the book is Ballard's literary masterpiece. The book is disturbing on many levels and breaks taboos (though it was surely much more shocking in 1970). Perverse in its descriptions of the the disintegration of society, the prose crackles with ferocious wit. Ballard condemns and ajudicates the irrational, all-pervading violence of the modern world. "He writes with a spare, exact prose that almost makes his subject matter inviting, drawing us along irresistibly. His is the dark poetry of reason, rationalising the truly irrational. Beautiful words evoking hideous imagery. Sex and violence have never been so intrinsically linked. He wishes to arouse our dormant sensibilities, to shock us, perhaps test our tolerance threshold. The Atrocity Exhibition is cleverly controlled tour de force of inventive writing. Every page filled with death, depravity, delusion, genocide, or some other unspeakable vice. We are disgusted at our own enjoyment" (Dark Trippers, Amazon review).
I will read again and re-read.
THE IRON HUNT
by Marjorie M. Liu
Marjorie M Liu hit my radar with the release of her new comic book from Image, collaborating with Sana Takeda, called Monstress. It has quickly become one of my favorite comic books and prompted me to investigate Marjorie Liu, whose bio indicated that she was a novelist. I discovered she has been dating Junot Diaz since 2011, an author I discovered after the publication and winning of the best novel Pulitzer Prize for The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
I found that Monstress was not Marjorie Liu's first comics work, and in fact, I had read some of her previous work and just not noticed. It also has not escaped my notice, Mom, that you and her share the same first name.
So, I acquired her first Hunter Kiss novel The Iron Hunt.
AMAZON - US
Apparently, there was a short story in an anthology that serves as a prologue to The Iron Hunt. I have downloaded it and will read it after I finish The Ballad of Black Tom, which is what I am currently reading reading (as opposed to reading listening).
I knew I was going to like the book when it started with the line: "When I was eight, my mother lost me to zombies in a one-card draw."
I am very big on first lines of stories, and this first line is an excellent first line.
Liu is a skilled writer, whose lean though colorful prose is a delight to read. The writing is strange, poetic, and darkly beautiful. As I read over reviews on various sites, some people love the writing and some hate it. Some cannot seem to accept the prose style, which often works in fragments and phrases. Likewise, I saw comments in which people thought the book was too long, and others who thought the book was too short.
The premise is interesting. The little girl lost to zombies by her mother is Maxine Kiss, a hunter like her mother and her line of mothers dating back in time. In Liu's world created for this novel series, there is a boundary (the veil) that separates our world from a demon army that would invade and wreak havoc if the barrier were to fail. And it is failing. Maxine's family is the last of the wardens to protect our world from these powerful demons, the worst of the worst, who were imprisoned thousands of years before.
Maxine is aided by her own demon army. During the day, these demons form tattoos on her skin that given her an invulnerable armor. At night, the demon tattoos peel away and act as bodyguards. "The boys" as she calls them adhere to whomever is the Hunter Kiss, which is now her, but someday will be her own daughter.
One of Liu's strengths is a sense of family, giving readers portraits of Maxine's mother and grandmother and a sense of lineage that is often missing from fantastic tales of this kind.
The Iron Hunt provides back story for how Maxine came to be the Hunter, but the main story is about a private investigator who turns up dead with her name on a piece of paper found with his body. This turn of events is disturbing as Maxine has taken great pains to hide her identity and her location, living in a homeless shelter with a former priest, who is also her lover, and using an alias to protect her true name. Maxine's investigation to unravel this mystery puts her into conflict with the Zombie Queen, Blood Mama. In this world, zombies are intelligent demon predators who possess human bodies and wear them as "skins."
The mysteries pile up. There's a homeless boy who observed the murder of the PI. Among the PI's things Maxine finds a picture of her grandmother and a smiling man. And worse yet, with the veil failing, something sinister and deadly has slipped through. Worse yet, there's something about Maxine, something dangerous, something that may make her unsuitable for her role as the Hunter. She learns that Blood Mama and the zombies tried to convince her mother to kill her and try for a more suitable daughter to fight the demon armies and not Maxine who is marked by a darkness inside of her.
One of Liu's strengths as a storyteller is that she does not dump the history in a massive expository lesson. She doles out the background bit by bit as needed, which may confuse some readers who do not put much effort into their reading, but for those who invest deeply and cross-reference, it's a rewarding immersion.
Also, the characters are very compelling. "We meet her lover, Grant, who also possesses an important power of his own. There is the Meddling Man, Sarai, Blood Mama, Tracker, and the mysterious demon Oturu. And, of course, there are the Boys themselves–Zee, Aaz, Raw, Dek, and Mal. Of all the characters, we get to know Maxine the most intimately. As new players emerge and clues are shown to Maxine about her past and her family history, her thoughts depict the sharp edge of her loneliness. Her reactions to other characters–the benevolent old man who might be her grandfather, her memories of her mother and grandmother, her compassion and inability to go it solo as other Hunters have done before her–only emphasize this loneliness, and give Maxine color and depth as a character" (BOOK SMUGGLERS REVIEW).
I also appreciate that Marjorie Liu has a strong online presence. She is active on Twitter. She has shared her story (she has a law degree and worked as a lawyer for a time before deciding to work as a writer). And there's pictures of her available. I think an author's face, look, demeanor, clothes share a great deal of information about who he/she is as a person, which is ever more and more interesting to us the more we read his/her work.
In addition to Monstress, which I have shared much of the news about with links below, Marjorie Liu has just taken the helm of a new Han Solo mini series for Marvel Comics, which should be an excellent addition to Marvel's already excellent and re-vitalized Star Wars line of comics, all of which, now, are considered canon (IE, "official").
I will soon be moving on the Liu's second novel in the Hunter Kiss series.
COOL LINKY THINGS
MARJORIE LIU Official Site
Marjorie Liu Wikipedia
@marjoriemliu on Twitter
Guernica article on Monstress
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER on Monstress
HIT FIX ON MONSTRESS
PASTE ON MONSTRESS
Good review of The Iron Hunt
Another review of The Iron Hunt
Reflect and connect.
Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.
Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.
- Days ago = 349 days ago
- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1606.18 - 10:10
NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.