After you take a look at Camille Alexa's library 'ere at the Green Man building, we have an all book reviews edition for you. We've looks at fiction set in a clockwork universe; British food habits in the Victorian Age; a really beautiful book that's also a good read; a classic tale of good and evil, light and dark; another novel which has all the elements of classic European fairytale; an exhibition catalog that examines the art of John Jude Palencar; biographies of two music legends; and much more including notes on reviews still to come 'ere at Green Man.
To whet your appetites, I should mention we have three special editions now being worked on that you'll see between now and early Fall -- an edition on Catherynne Valente and her writings including a review of the sequel to The Orphans Tales -- In The Night Garden, an edition devoted solely to Fairport Convention in honour of the 40th Anniversary of that English band, and an edition looking at Year's Best Fantasy and Horror on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of that august publication! Oh, and we have two fantastically talented women for Summer and Winter Queens this year!
It's not difficult to find the exterior alley-entrance
to Camille's Green Man library; not so difficult, if
you know just where to brush aside the thick glossy
leaves of evergreen ivy which threaten to swallow the
existence of the old painted planks of the rounded
wooden door. The shiny, beetle-like carapace of the
black buzzer for after-hours deliveries of
linen-wrapped tomes sits nestled in brick beside the
iron handle of the exit, used for late-night, fumbling
departures of Green Man staff, leaving bleary-eyed and
sleepy from hours of post-midnight reading and casual
Camille, in a perhaps over-enthusiastic bout of
literary egalitarianism, declared her library free of
the shackles of genre-classification. 'No library of
mine is going to be splintered into so-called
'genres',' she said. 'Genre categorization is -- well,
I was going to call it a tool of the patriarchy, but
let's call it marketing and distribution, instead.'
So we agreed; let's. Punk-rock habits die hard,
admits Camille, and rigid genre smacks too hard of
arbitrary authority for her not to question its value.
Camille shelves her books by author. 'We're not
trying to hawk product here,' she says, placing one
hand on her kilted hip and narrowing her eyes into the
dust-moted, sunlit room. 'All right, we could section
off fiction from non-fiction from cookbooks. And
comics might need their own shelves for archiving and
storage purposes . . . But no fiction subgenres! My main
criterion for the works here is good, right?'
Now that we've got that settled . . . ambience. 'I like a
little genuine reading going on in my library, so
people have got to want to hang out for awhile or
forever,' she explains, plumping a worn velveteen
cushion. The room is generously supplied with big,
comfy chairs, with no harsh overhead lighting
(Camille: 'I'm perversely averse to ceiling
fixtures') and coffee tables solid enough to prop the
feet on. And Camille was most insistent upon the
draft beer taps and espresso machine in the corner.
We're always careful with the books, never fear; we
mind our pints and our demitasse. 'Quality of life,
people,' says Camille with almost unseemly
satisfaction, settling back with Anansi
and a pint of stout and propping her over-sized boots
on the hardy table before her; 'Quality of life. . . .'
And of course, the books. Strangely, Camille is
vastly less concerned about the actual books. 'I'm
egalitarian,' she says. 'I'm genre-dextrous.
I'm always willing to give something new a try.' So
Camille's library is eternally open to submissions.
She admits she's glad to be merely the designer here,
and not the librarian or the acquisitions committee.
However, when pressed, she says this: 'I humbly
submit to the Green Man Private Library Acquisitions
Committee for consideration the complete works of the
following authors (in no particular order); Neil
Gaiman, Barry Hughart, Emma Bull, Orson Scott Card,
Richard Brautigan, C.S. Lewis, Georgette Heyer, Doris
Piserchia, David Sedaris, Ursula K. LeGuin, Margaret
Atwood, Edgar Allan Poe, Peter S. Beagle, Steve
Erickson, Shirley Jackson, Kurt Vonnegut, Jane Austen,
Patrick O'Brien, Raymond Carver, Marion Zimmer
Bradley, George R.R. Martin, Jaime & Gilbert Hernandez
(Complete Love & Rockets and Palomar collections),
Richard Adams, Carl Hiaasen, Larry McMurtry, Connie
Willis, Roger deV. Renwick, Scott O'Dell, Edward Gorey
and Erica Jong.'
And she asks that the rest of us please throw in any
magical, mystical weirdness that transcends the
boundaries of the ordinary. 'I'm sure I've forgotten,
or never been exposed to, so very many wonderful
things,' says Camille. 'Enlighten me.'
Camille Alexa leads off with a look at a David Brin novel which definitely hit her wrong when she started reading it, but she says 'I don't want to end this on a sour note; Sky Horizon got only better and better as the story progressed. The momentum in the second half of this short work was solid, and in the end, Brin achieved what he meant to, I think; he made me want more. I would definitely read the next book. I look forward to it, in fact. The narrative seemed to be hitting its stride in the final quarter of the novel, effectively setting up a much wider story arc. This was intended as the first installment of a longer series, and it does a fantastic job of wrapping up one storyline while opening a whole new realm of possible action and adventure'
Having reviewed Wolfskin and Foxmask last edition, Camille now looks at the newest work by this talented writer. She says not surprisingly that 'Juliet Marillier's Wildwood Dancing has all the elements of classic European fairytale -- adventure, tests of courage and faith, choices made and promises broken -- all against the backdrop of a deep, mysterious wood, an ancient castle, and a magic portal to a faerie world populated with myriad creatures of myth and legend.' Read her review here.
Book cover illustrations are important -- Just ask Camille: 'We've all been told not to judge a book by its cover. Good advice, I'm sure, and lasting. It's a sentiment which never quite goes away, one of those which hangs around, resides in the back recesses of our minds, to be trotted out to admonish others, or ourselves, in silence or in fact. I'm going to go against the grain here. I'm going to tell you I picked out Firebelly, by J. C. Michaels, from my tiny, ancient, beautifully nooked and crannied red granite local library, knowing nothing of the contents, because of the beautiful cover.' So how was the reading experience? Delightful she says!
Music's been pouring Camille's way this week, so expect her upcoming reviews to be heavily tilted in the aural direction, rather than the literary. For now, she's content--more than content--to be hunkered down with Tobias S. Buckell's upcoming Tor release, Ragamuffin, set in the same universe as his incredibly well-received debut novel, Crystal Rain. Her thoughts on this exciting new addition to her permanent book collection will be heading this way soon.
Kathleen Bartholomew found a good novel that promises years of superb reading to come: 'The Name of The Wind is a first novel. It's one of those 'first' novels that blindsides the reader with such power and skill that one wonders how the author has managed to stay unpublished until now. The answer, of course, is that the author has been gathering experience and honing his skills; he has been writing for years, and only now has let his work loose to a grateful world. That's certainly the case with Patrick Rothfuss. His Web site implies he has been at work on this tale for at least 14 years, beginning in college. Along that road he managed to spend 9 years as an undergraduate, studying philosophy, medieval history, Eastern theater, anthropology, and sociology but majoring mostly in Undeclared. He finally consented to graduate with a degree in English. In 2002 he won first place in that year's Writers of the Future contest, with a razor-sharp shard of this story, entitled 'The Road To Levinshir.' Now the first volume of a true epic is revealed, and it's wonderful.'
Kathleen is presently coming to grips with series. She will be reviewing Books 2 and 3 of Naomi Novick's Telemaire series, Throne of Jade and Black Powder War. She's also working on Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovaks series, Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies And Tanith Lee's YA Piratica and Piratica II are beckoning from a lee shore ...
The second volume in 'nother series was also pleasing: 'Ms. Rob Thurman's (yes, Ms.) initial novel Nightlife was a splendidly original and twisted view of the world through the eyes of Caliban Leandros, the offspring of a human witch and an Auphe lord. Once the top of the supernatural food chain, the Auph had lost control with the unchecked spread of humanity. They wanted it back, and had come up with a plan to wipe out most of humanity and eat the rest. The Auphe were not only nasty but evil -- a distinction Cal makes very clearly. He doesn't mind nasty, in its place. He himself was deliberately bred to provide a hybrid bridge to the human world for the Auphe. With his elder half-brother Nikos -- whose devotion, fidelity, weapons skills and Zen calm make one wonder if their mother slept with angels as well -- Caliban not only resisted his dread sire's plans, he managed to render the Auphe extinct. Happy ending all around, and the brothers Leandros were left free and easy in the Big Apple. Nightlife was a white-knuckle ride through a wonderfully warped New York, and Moonshine is even better.'
Illustrator Brian Selznick has a book that Donna Bird takes a looks at: 'The book's author, Brian Selznick, is primarily an illustrator, and apparently a very popular and well-regarded one. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is his first foray into the story-telling side of book production. He's done a very nice job of deploying his multiple talents and passions in this authorial debut. I would compare this work favourably to that of Chris Van Allsburg, although the format is a bit different. Hugo Cabret is first and foremost an illustrated novel. While the dust jacket blurb gushes that it also features elements of a graphic novel and a film, that's a bit of a stretch. I have consulted with my graphic novel reading spouse and confirmed that it lacks the page-by-page combination of dialogue and illustrations that distinguish that genre. And yes, some of the illustrations in Hugo Cabret tell parts of the story as though they were frames in a film and the book contains still photos from films. But it's still a book that you hold in your hands, nothing more, nothing less.'
Currently on Donna's ready-to-be-reviewed shelf are a companion to the Arabian Nights that really deserves your attention before you buy or borrow a copy of the Arabian Nights itself; a book about the lives of women in the Ottoman Empire that is actually about domestic life in the Ottoman Empire (since there does not appear to be a whole lot of information about women's lives); a book about the experiences of people living in London during the worst night of the Blitz, December 29, 1940; a book that looks at some of the peculiarities of men's fashion in England during the late Victorian and Edwardian eras; a collection of brief stories about Juha, a humorous character from traditional Arabic cultures; and a novel that features the French inventor-photographer Louis Daguerre as its main character. Then there are the books still waiting to be read. . . .
Christina Askounis' The Dream of the Stone is, says Faith J. Cormier, 'a classic tale of good and evil, light and dark.' Read her review to why this book was so pleasing a read for her!
Ellen Kluges' Portable Childhoods is, according to Faith, 'a collection of haunting short stories (one in poem form) that defy categorization. They are loosely connected in several ways, forming more of a web than a neat series of slots. Most are more or less about children, mainly misunderstood girl-children, and most also have a deep vein of science or magic or both.'
I'll certainly say Jay Lake's Mainspring has a unique conceptual framework as Faith notes here: 'Imagine a universe where the existence of God cannot possibly be questioned, a universe running on clockwork that is obvious for all to see, a universe where the Earth revolves around the sun on an enormous bronze orbital track at the equator, set atop a miles-high Wall. Of course, humans being humans, some question the existence of God and prefer to think that the Earth was set in place by the Clockmakers. (I'm not at all sure the difference between a Clockmaker capable of creating that kind of a universe and God, but that may just be me.)' Despite some minor grumbles about info dumping by the author, Faith liked this novel.
Faith J. Cormier has two books on her 'to review now' pile: Ellen Klages' The Green Glass Sea and The English Cult of Literature by William R. McKelvey. The former is a startlingly new perspective on the Manhattan Project, the latter a scholarly investigation into the changes in English society in the late 18th and early to mid 19th centuries from the point of view of religion and reading.
Arnie Fenner and Cathy Fenner edited an 'exhibition catalog' called Origins: The Art of John Jude Palencar which Cat Eldridge liked quite a bit: 'You may not know who John Jude Palencar is, but rest assured that you've seen his artwork many, many times! Now Underwood Publishing has given him the 'exhibition catalog' he deserves! John Jude Palencar is a fantasy/science fiction artist who has done over a hundred book covers, including Eragon by Christopher Paolini, and most of the Tor-released de Lints. Indeed the cover art for Origins: The Art of John Jude Palencar is his art for the trade paper edition of de Lint's Someplace to be Flying, a lovely piece of work featuring his favorite mode, which I think is a vast improvement over the rather bland cover for the hardcover Tor edition. (My favorite cover art for this novel is the UK edition which you can see here.) Palencar's work on the entire series of recent Tor trade papers for de Lint's work has been most exemplary, with his cover for Trader being a simply amazing illustration!'
Cat's reading Charles de Lint's Promises to Keep, the Newford prequel novel, and Richard K. Morgan's Thirteeen, a sf thriller/mystery, while finishing off his review of Christopher Golden's Borderkind, and looking at the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies he's doing a retro review of for our special YBFH edition.
A mere morsel is April Gutierrez what offers up for: 'The Tale of Genji is widely considered to be one of the first novels ever written, dating back to Japan's Heian period (11th century), when it was penned by a courtly noble woman, Murasaki Shikibu. Genji depicts the adventures, heroic and amorous, of the beautiful prince Hiraku Genji and the many women in his life. The original novel, in English translation, is over 1,000 pages long. This adaptation from Dark Horse, beautifully illustrated by artist and designer Yoshitaka Amano The Dream Hunters), is just 80 pages, a mere morsel to whet the appetite.'
For our next full issue, April will have a look at Palgrave's Cinema Anime and tackle two music-related books that couldn't be more different: the rather tongue-in cheek bio of the Gorillaz, 'Gorillaz: Rise of the Ogre' and Harlan Ellison's rock 'n roll classic (enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, no less), Spider Kiss.
David Kidney says that Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie's Aya is 'a beautiful book. Let's get that straight right from the start. It just feels good to hold. The ink and the paper smell wonderful. The texture of the extra thick hardcover adds a tactile quality to the reading experience. Then, you look at the images and story that fill the pages. And it just gets better. Marguerite Abouet tells the story of a teenaged girl living in Africa's Ivory Coast during the '70s. This is a story that anyone can relate to and yet it is enriched by the exotic setting. The elegant artwork by Clement Oubrerie is the icing on a marvelous cake.'
Alex Halberstadt's Lonely Avenue: the Unlikely Life and Times of Doc Pomus is a musical biography that David thinks is worthy of your reading time: ' as is ' just what it claims to do. It tells all about the unlikely life and times of Doc Pomus. Born Jerome Felder in 1925 he was struck with polio and spent his life on crutches, with braces on his legs, or in a wheelchair. The extra weight he carried didn't help either. But he succeeded anyway. Whether it was getting on-stage to sing the blues with a hot jazz band, or meeting a worshipful John Lennon at an industry fete, Doc just ploughed ahead. He was supremely confident. He was going to be the first heavyweight boxing champion on crutches. But he also had his moments of doubt. When the mode of the music changed and his songs couldn't get recorded (to say nothing of airplay) he figured it was all over. So he moved on, tried to make money somewhere else. But he always came back to what he loved: R&B.'
Another musical biography, John Kruth's To Live's To Fly: the Ballad of the Late, Great Townes Van Zandt, is also worth your time says David: 'Van Zandt's life is captured indelibly in Kruth's narrative. His depression, the insulin and electric-shock therapy, his alcoholism, it's all here, as is his creativity, and the regard with which his friends and compatriots held him (and continue to hold him). This is a compelling story, well told, and highly recommended. Townes Van Zandt is everything that his legend suggests. If you haven't heard him, you should. Whether you want to know more about him, or if you're already a fan, To Live's To Fly is a fine source of information, and a good read to boot!'
Jason Munn's Music to Check Out is a must have for reviewers according to David: 'This is a good one, and everybody who reads Green Man Review should run a get copy. Subtitled A Do-It-Yourself Music Guide it's Green Man Review for beginners. You want to learn how to write reviews? You want to keep track of upcoming albums, or favourite songs to add to you playist? Here's a nifty, pocket-sized, coil-bound book with lots of space for you to fill up with your own opinions.' Read the review here.
After completing his review of the Townes Van Zandt biography, David began reading Shout Sister Shout about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who has long been of interest to him. (Check her out here.) He's also working through a fascinating anthology called Re-Imagining Ireland which deals with the transformation of the Emerald Isle into the economic powerhouse it has become. He's also enjoying a couple graphic novels from Los Bros Hernandez which he'll tell you about in the near future.
A book on cakes and ale? YMMMM! So say Jack Merry of this book: 'Needing something tasty to read between gigs on a recent winter tour that would take our contradance band, Danse Macabre, where booksellers were quite rare, I tossed Cakes and Ale -- The Golden Age of British Feasting into my travel kit as it looked like it would be an interesting read. I was right -- it's a delightful romp through a Britain where cakes and ale were considered nutritious and healthy. Really. Truly. Now admittedly most musicians I know consider a few pints of ale and a brimming Irish breakfast to be a healthy way to finish off a night of playing tunes so I'm not going to judge the good sense of the affluent and newly leisured Victorian and Edwardian middle classes by what they considered healthy as I find some of our present-day practices to be dubious at best. No, I'm simply going to look at Spours' detailed examination of how they feasted upon what they saw as their due.'
Jack's not quite sure what he's reviewing next but Top Cats: The Life and Times of The New York Public Library Lions is on his list of reviews he's doing as is Rebecca Ore's Time's Child, and S. J. Tucker's 'For The Girl in the Garden', songs and readings in celebration of Catherynne Valente's The Orphans Tales -- In The Night Garden.
A Charles Butler novel was much less than pleasing to Claire Owen: 'If temporal physics, human sacrifices and the like are not your cup of tea, then don't bother reading Death of a Ghost.' And than there's the matter of a not very heroic hero to boot. Read her Grinch Award winning review for all the depressing details on how a novel can go oh so terribly wrong.
Orson Scott Card and Lance Card's The Space Boy did please her quite a bit: 'I greatly enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down. It was short, sweet and to the point, just how a ninety-page book should be, which makes it sort of like eating a peanut butter cup. There is no excess chocolate to prevent you from attaining your goal: the smooth nutty centre.'
Long time Angela Carter fan Kestrell Rath is working on her review of a new collection of literary criticism on the writing style and literary influences of Angela Carter, Re-visiting Angela Carter: Texts, Contexts, Intertexts, edited by Rebecca Munford.
Robert M. Tilendis leads off his reviewing with an anthology that gave him fits: 'For a reviewer, anthologies present their own set of problems. This is generally of great irrelevance to the reader, but bear with me. You may have an author or you may have a concept. Authors are easy -- instant 'hook' on which to hang a review. A concept may or may not provide the hook: it may be too broad, or not broad enough, or it may be a little off to the side of where the collection actually sits. Steve Berman's So Fey: Queer Fairy Fictions is a case in point. Berman explains his approach in a brief introduction that moves from a play on the term 'fairy' as denoting gay men into the idea of the fairy (or 'faery') as Other and Faeryland as a place of freedom. (Pretty much -- the Gentry have their own rules.) From there to a group of stories that, in Berman's words, 'best show the vagaries not only of faery demeanor but also of queer life' is not such a great leap. So the question becomes not only how 'good' -- or at least entertaining -- the stories are, but how they reflect back on and illuminate 'gay life,' something as many-faceted and multivalent as the group it tries to describe.'
An interesting person does not always mean a fascinating biography as Robert notes 'ere: 'I periodically find myself sitting at my desk staring at a book that has received the highest accolades, is loaded down with effusively complimentary reviews, and is even sometimes the subject of major treatments in magazines or newspapers, and wondering what all the fuss is about. That is the case with Julie Phillips' James Tiptree, Jr. Alice Bradley Sheldon was known to the world of science fiction as 'James Tiptree, Jr.' (In this review, I'm going to call her 'Sheldon'.) From what I've read of her work (several stories and her last novel) she was an extraordinarily talented writer, fearless in her treatment of some fundamental issues. She also led an interesting life. The child of socially prominent parents, she grew up in Chicago's Hyde Park, embarked on expeditions to Africa with her parents at a very early age, was among the first women to serve in the Army in World War II and the first woman to join the CIA. She showed early evidence of being a talented painter as well as a gift for writing. In later life, she took her Ph.D. in psychology and ultimately became James Tiptree, Jr. She could, by anyone's standards, be the subject of a fascinating biography.' Read his Grinch Award winning look at a book which could've been much more than it is!
A serious work finishes off his reviewing this edition: 'This is not a book for the general reader. It is, quite plainly, a scholarly work, and Pluskowski's approach is thoroughly academic. Consequently, readability is not a strong point, not so much because of Pluskowski's style, but because of the wealth of examples cited, particularly those from non-literary sources. It is one of the more regrettable facts of modern publishing that illustrations are frightfully expensive. The impact this has on a book such as Wolves in the Wilderness is obvious: while Pluskowski's research has been thorough and his narrative is amply supported, the listings of examples, particularly those from early Norse and Pictish stone carvings, English and Continental manuscript illuminations, and artifacts from all areas, don't help us at all because we can't see what they look like.'
We found this reviewer in his office behind a pile of CDs looking with some dismay at his ever-growing stack of books for review. Muttering something about 'too much great stuff, he came up with this forecast: 'I just finished Robert Charles Wilson's Julian, a short novel with a lot to think about -- what if North America were a theocracy? And suppose most people didn't mind very much. I think it could very easily become the beginning of a great novel (sigh -- another author to add to my list). I've got Octavia E. Butler's Lilith's Brood sitting here, and I think I'm about ready for it -- Butler was an amazing writer who tackled some hard issues in great science fiction stories, but her work is, to put it mildly, heavy. To lighten up a little, I think I'll want to dive into Connie Willis' D.A. or Carol Emshwiller's The Secret City -- I've gotten to the point where I can't really resist some good slipstream -- or maybe Steven Erikson's The Lees of Laughter's End (another brilliant young writer -- The Malazan Book of the Fallen is just amazing). Farther down the line there will be some folklore-related books (an anthology of 'Coyote Tales' from Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling and stories from the American Native traditions of the western Great Lakes), some mainstream stuff (Philip K. Dick, no less, and Thomas Pynchon), some old masters (Henry Kuttner and Robert Silverberg), and I'm waiting for The Gypsy by Megan Lindholm a nd Steven Brust to appear -- lots of goodies coming up. In the meantime, I've just realized we have an upcoming all music issue. I'm listening as fast as I can.'
Elizabeth Vail is currently writing her review of M.R. Morris' Tales from Lectoure, and will follow it up with an omnibus review of Amanda Hemingway's The Greenstone Grail, The Sword of Straw, and The Poisoned Crown. After that, Elizabeth is planning a contribution to Green Man's Year's Best Fantasy and Horror edition.
Gary Whitehouse says 'The fated, fatal voyage led by Sir John Franklin to discover the Northwest Passage has been the subject of dozens and dozens of reports and books, since shortly after the ships Terror and Erebus were lost in the late 1840s. American science fiction-horror-fantasy writer Dan Simmons has added his own take to this enigmatic tale of doomed heroic folly. Simmons is a natural to take on a story of this scope. Over the past couple of decades his books have included a four-part science fiction saga that in effect ran in reverse from the far distant future and tackled themes of spirituality, loyalty, tyranny and love (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion), and a science fiction treatment of Greek mythology and the Trojan War that involved hyper-evolved godlike humans from the far future (Ilium and Olympos). The Terror is an unsettling book, in more ways than one.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review to see why this is so!
Gary is eagerly anticipating the arrival by post of I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, the biography of the late Warren Zevon of whom he's been a fan for more than 20 years now. And he promises several interesting items for our upcoming all-music edition, including perhaps a review of a Eugene, Oregon, house concert by Brooklyn's Luminescent Orchestrii!
Why, you ask, are do many staffers have their noses stuck deep in various editions of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror? Yes, they are indeed busily scribbling notes as if they were planning to review them even though some are nigh unto twenty years old. So let's 'ave Ellen Datlow explain...
Somehow or other two decades have whipped by and YBFH: 2007 is the
twentieth volume of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. The first two
volumes were called The Year's Best Fantasy, despite the fact that half
the book has always been half horror. Terri Windling was my co-editor
through 2002 and since then Kelly Link and Gavin Grant have become my
partners in crime. Through all of this James Frenkel, our packager, pulls
together all the sections of what has grown to be a huge annual project into
one cohesive whole.
And every year I get burned out by March (when I'm writing this) and
never want to do another. But I do, because how better to influence the
field I love?
Indeed, as I noted above, we are doing an an edition looking at Year's Best Fantasy and Horror on the occasion of of the 20th Anniversary edition. Look for this edition in August!