Cooking is close kin to alchemy -- bartending, even more so. Any bartender worth her margarita salt deals in special effects: eldritch colors and mysterious smoke. Unlikely but delicious ingredients. All that fascinating glassware -- and of course, the always-popular unexpected side effects. Orla Melling has been expertly womaning our Bar here, with all the panache and skill of an accomplished alchemist. She's got a way of matching the drink with the drinker that guarantees satisfaction. ( In fact, it approaches karma when the drinker annoys her enough. First time I ever saw a cluricaun leave feet first.) And here she mixes up a grand punch of potables and visuals to introduce this edition's intoxicating reviews.
Jaze, the pub was packed the other night and no wonder. It was a blue moon. The misty mirror on the wall kept flashing the words 'Drink Me' in quicksilver. I was going like the clappers and had to sprout a few extra arms to keep up with the crowd. Not sure if I was a Hindu goddess or an emblem for the Isle of Woman. (She had an arm like a leg and a fist that could sink a battle ship!) Wore my hair short and spiky to keep it out of the way and donned a Mrs Peel jump-suit, black and slinky and spangled with stars. After a while I noticed that my skin colour kept changing to match whatever drink I was serving, so I began to encourage mint juleps, kambuchas, and frothing root beer. The latter beverage is sasparilla not sassafras (carcinogenic) and I have kegs of my very own brew spiked with spikenard, allspice, birch bark, coriander, juniper, dandelion and burdock root, pipsissewa, and prickly ash, plus a few secret ingredients. Guaranteed to fizz the hair in your nostrils. I’ve also got on tap my other speciality: Melling’s Mushroom Medley. It's a goldy brown drink with the consistency of mead. Tastes like an iced pu-erh tea zinged with lemon zest. Very earthy. Not for the faint-hearted. Puts hair on your chest and anywhere else you might want it. A red-and-white-speckled amanita muscaria rests on the rim of the glass like a cocktail umbrella.
Seems my barmaiding name is Orm. Has a friendly ring to it, but also a kind of tough Doc Martin sound that warns I don’t tolerate messers, i.e. bad fairies, headless horsemen, or people who talk about mortgages. Had to toss out a few before the night was done. There was a drunken cluricaun who kept shouting for a shot of 'Shite on the Grass.' (Dash of Bailey’s over crème de menthe, apparently.) And then there was the gruagach doing a cheap porn flick trick with a tea spoon and a pinch of tobacco. When you tend bar you see it all. Next time you’re in I’ll show you the 'calling all rabbits' gag with a box of matches.
I’m not running a tapas bar, but I do serve a few sweeties such as Narnian toffee fruit, sugared rose petals, dates stuffed with almonds, and those death-by-marzipan dainties known variously as Mozart’s Balls or Venus’s Nipples. And while I’ve no objection to being paid in hard coinage, preferably gold and minted by Alexander, you know the ones, with Athena’s head on one side and a full-bodied Nike with wings on the other, I’m just as happy to accept a song or story, a few bars of a tune, a few steps of dance. You can even pull a funny face. It’s doubles if you make me laugh. Triples if you flirt. (Open to all. It’s not like I’m going home with anybody.)
Well, would you look at that. A few curiosity-seekers side-stepping their way over from the main bar. Will Shetterly’s peering askance into the hot cider I’ve handed him, wondering if that’s a creature in it. (Crab apple stippled with whole cloves.) And, Ellen, me oul flower, what’s that you’re having yourself?
An important announcement before we get to our reviews this edition. . . .
Peter S. Beagle has been denied his due monies from the owners of The Last Unicorn movie for quite some time now which means that he's never made even a farthing from the movie version of his most beloved book.
Now there's a new DVD release of The Last Unicorn. (No, the first DVD release didn't result in Peter being paid!) Conlan Press is generously offering the movie in a special arrangement with Peter that will send more than half of the purchase price to support Beagle and his projects.
Do not buy this edition of the DVD from anyone else, or Peter won't see a farthing, says Conlan Press; only buying it from them will send money directly to the author of the original novel and screenplay. Go here for all the details on The Last Unicorn 25th Anniversary Widescreen DVD, which is available in both personally autographed and non-autographed versions.
We here at GMR have a love of Jim Butcher, having positively reviewed several of his books. Now the SciFi Channel has taken Harry Dresden and put him into his very own tv show, and there's been some worry here in the offices that mere cable television couldn't possibly do this character justice. Mike Jones took a look at the first epidsode and, well, found it didn't suck. 'For all intents and purposes, this is The Dresden Files translated to television. 'Birds of a Feather' is a good start, and I'll continue to watch the series as long as it can maintain this level (or greater) of dedication and entertainment.' Read his review for further details!
John Clute's Appleseed caused Robert M. Tilendis to be (rather unexpectedly in my opinion as one who likes his well-crafted reviews) humble: 'To set oneself up as someone who can actually describe John Clute's Appleseed is tantamount to hubris. At best I can only claim to intimate the richness and fascination of a book that -- well, look at it this way: What if James Joyce had written Alice in Wonderland, with, perhaps, Philip José Farmer as the editor? Taking, mind you, the entire history of science fiction, complete with footnotes, as a subtext and adding touches of the history of Western civilization and fitting it into a nice little adventure/thriller.' Read Robert's review to see what happens when a superb work of literature get reviewed by a writer at the top of his game!
Pan's Labyrinth is Guillermo Del Toro's newest foray into the realm of fantasy, and has already garnered much critical praise, as well as six Academy Award nominations. And it's stirred up interest in quite a number of our staff, many of which headed out to see it for themselves. Robert sat down and penned a review for us, and it's an Excellence in Writing Award winner. Want a sample? But of course: 'Pan's Labyrinth (which, by the way, del Toro insists is a mistranslation; the faun is not intended to be Pan) is, indubitably, filled with poetry that is somehow both rich and bleak, concrete and ethereal.' The interwoven storylines, surrounding a little girl in Franco's Spain, looks to pull del Toro from the ranks 'genre filmmaker' (Hellboy and Blade II). Robert's review breaks down the film for those who want to know more before they head out to the theater. And for those of you who haven't heard of this film yet? Read his review and find out what all of the buzz is about.
Gary Whitehouse uncovers the soundtrack from a star-studded series of tribute concerts to the legendary Leonard Cohen. There is an impressive cast list on Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man Motion Picture Soundtrack that includes Teddy Thompson, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright and the McGarrigle sisters, to name but a few, it just has to be worthy of a listen. Gary would certainly seem to agree; 'I like it. A lot. In every instance, the musicians play it fairly straight with the songs, although they definitely put their own stamp on them.'
Not one but four mysteries written by Russian Boris Akunin (The Winter Queen, Murder on the Leviathan, The Turkish Gambit, and The Death of Achilles) get looked at by Donna Bird in this review: ' I must have initially seen copies of The Turkish Gambit on the new book table at Borders a couple of years ago. A historical mystery translated from Russian? Of course I was interested. Although we requested a review copy from the publisher, it never arrived. Eventually we acquired it-and the other three books in the series that are currently available in English-through other means. (All translated by Andrew Bromfield.) When you write for the Green Man, you always have options for acquiring goodies. . . .' Read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review for a look at an uneven but still fascinating series!
You can trust Craig Clarke to know what really good horror is: 'Joe R. Lansdale has the enviable ability to write in any genre he chooses and produce a novel that only he could have written. This has gained him a rabid following among those who seek his particular brand of darkly humorous front-porch storytelling. For years, he was known only in horror circles (he has won six Bram Stoker Awards at this writing), but the new century has seen his name rise in the crime genre. This rise is due somewhat to his Hap Collins-Leonard Pine series of dark adventures, but primarily because of his standalone crime novels, including 2000's Edgar Allan Poe Award-winning The Bottoms and the more recent titles A Fine Dark Line and Sunset and Sawdust. Lost Echoes is his latest, and it showcases an author who is not afraid to delve deep within himself in the name of producing powerful fiction.'
Cat Eldridge got a double treat of Kage Baker's fiction this past fortnight: 'I had just finished reading Rude Mechanicals, the forthcoming Company novel on Subterranean Press, when the Fedex overnight delivery courier delivered Gods and Pawns to the Green Man mailroom. One of our editorial assistants stuffed it and a note into a pneumatic tube, both arriving with a soft thump in the corner of my office. I read the note, in which she said that this obviously meant for me as I was the fan of the series. How right she was, as I've read every word of the series, and own first editions of every work that makes up this fantastic series. (I was lucky -- I got the early hardcover novels when they were relatively affordable. Now a first of In the Garden of Iden in fine condition will likely set you back a hundred dollars.) I was planning on reading something else from the slush pile of ARCs we get in to see if anything tickled my fancy, but this was just too good to pass up. So I grabbed a cup of hot chocolate made from Ellen Kushner's superb recipe, put the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on my office door, and sat down for a few hours' reading. It was, as I suspected it would be, a rather wonderful time!'
As noted above, our Editor read Rude Mechanicals, the forthcoming Company novel: 'Rude Mechanicals is the second tale in this series to deal with Joseph and Lewis being loose in Hollywood during the era of silent pictures. (The first was 'Welcome to Olympus, Mr. Hearst', a delightful romp!) Rude Mechanicals is a comedy of errors caused by Zeus Inc. wanting to hide something so they can retrieve it it later. In this case, a rather valuable gem that Joseph buried in the hills beyond what is now the Hollywood Bowl. The same Hollywood Bowl which has now been deconstructed and moved to make way for an outdoor production of 'A Midsummer's Night Dream'. Now you're thinking what a clever story line this is -- a German Jewish producer putting on a live production of a Shakespeare play during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Costumes, sex, parties, drugs, madcap chases -- what fun!'
Fuyumi Ono's The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow is another outstanding work from Tokyopop which April Gutierrez got to review. Let's have her note why the series is popular: 'With its detailed fantasy setting (characters discuss the social, political and religious fabric of the various countries in some, but not excessive, detail), fascinating characters (such as the half-rat/half-man beastling Rakushun, who nurses Yoko back to health) and intricate plot, it's easy to see why Twelve Kingdoms is such a popular series worldwide.'
Two works on Japanese popular culture (William M. Tsutsui & Michiko Ito's In Godzilla's Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage and Roland Kelts' JapanAmerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S.) get the once-over by April, one of the most knowledgeable guides to Japanese popular culture you'll ever have the pleasure of knowing: 'As the caché of Japanese popular culture grows in the west, whether it's Takashi Markham's paintings; Hark Markham's novels; the familiar roar of Godzilla on the big screen; or the seemingly omnipresent Poke mon or Y-Gi-Oh toys, cards and tv shows, it should come as no surprise that the subject has come under academic scrutiny. Here we have two books with very different perspectives on the phenomenon, one scholarly, looking back in time, one more from a fan/insider's perspective, examining the Japan's more recent cultural impact, specifically on the U.S.' Read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review now!
April finishes off her reviews this edition with writer Sunao Yoshida and illustrator Thores Shibamoto's Trinity Blood Rage Against the Moons Volume 1: From the Empire: 'The world of Trinity Blood is a alternate Europe, a darker place than we know, where vampires and humans maintain an uneasy existence with one another. Vampires control, ironically, the New Human Empire, while the human seat of power lies with the Vatican. From the Empire is comprised of several vignettes following the exploits of various Vatican agents as they seek to keep the Empire's vampires various machinations and desires under control.' Sounds cool. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn't. Read her review to see what she thought of this bit of fiction!
Sometimes we do buckdancer's choice here at Green Man which is how Lory Hess ended up with three very different novels to review this edition in the form of Justina Robson's Natural History, Alan Dean Foster's The Candle of Distant Earth, and Vernor Vinge's Tatja Grimm's World: 'Tales of otherworldly beings have always been a source of fascination. That used to mean stories about gods, elves or fairies; now, with the emergence of science fiction, we read about beings from other planets. (Of course, some would argue that elves and fairies are actually beings from other planets, making the line between fantasy and science fiction rather permeable.) Three random volumes of science fiction that flew my way via the GMR offices all happen to concern extraterrestrial life, but treated in three very different ways.' Read her review to see if any of these tickled her fancy!
Giles Carwyn and Todd Fahnestock's latest work appealed to Michael Jones as he notes that 'a lot happens in Heir of Autumn is a densely-packed book that nears epic proportions as it weaves multiple threads and stories together. Luckily, it's not hard to keep track of the characters as they follow their interlocking storylines, even if the passage of time is occasionally hard to gauge. It's hard to talk about the events in the latter half of the book, if only because I don't want to spoil (any more than necessary) some of the earlier developments. This book is full of twists and turns, unlikely alliances and surprise betrayals. There's more than one sudden change in the status quo, and it all fuels a plot that builds towards a massive resolution. That's reviewer-speak for 'Lots happens, and there's at least one big battle. . . .'
He also looks at Laurell K. Hamilton's Strange Candy: 'When you think of Laurell K. Hamilton, you probably think first of her Anita Blake series of books, and of highly-sensualized vampires and werewolves. Or perhaps you think of her Meredith Gentry series of even more sexualized faeries and related creatures. Given how much space the two series take up on the shelves, it's little wonder. And, as my above words have likely suggested, it's easy to generalize her works these days. However, she's actually produced a fair number of short stories that range a wider gamut than one normally realizes. Here, in Strange Candy, her short fiction is gathered at last, with all-new introductions by Hamilton herself. Follow the development of her career in fourteen stories spanning nearly twenty years, with brief commentary elaborating on the whys and wheres of each story.' Read his review to if this candy appealed to his literary sweet tooth!
A novel by Eileen Wilks actually pleased Michael even though he wasn't expecting it to: 'I was drawn to Blood Lines by its vibrant, sexy cover, and an intriguing premise, for the most part. To be honest, these paranormal/urban fantasy romances have become dime a dozen for the most part, so I wasn't exactly holding high hopes for this one. I expected a good, fun read, with some action, some romance, and maybe a slightly different take on the 'supernaturals walk among us . . . and boy, are they sexy!' and that's pretty much what I got. To her credit, Wilks delivered thoroughly on the character interaction, the action and adventure, and the internal politics. I certainly had very little to complain about in those regards. Cynna and Lily are both wonderfully complex leading characters, and Rule and Cullen both fulfilled their roles with dutiful attention. The meat of the story (and there were several intertwining plotlines of consequence) really overshadowed both the existing romance between Lily and Rule, and the newly-formed one between Cynna and Cullen. The characters played well off one another, but the romantic interest was, while present, pleasantly underplayed, which helps to bridge that gap between paranormal romance and urban fantasy.'
Ahhh, Acme -- now there's a company worth knowing 'bout! Let's listen in as David Kidney describes Chris Ware's The Acme Novelty Library, #17: 'The concept of the Acme Novelty Library is described in very specific detail in tiny little print in the front of this Seventeenth issue. It tells the reader that it was 'established in 1989 as the brick and mortar fictional facade of the American cartoonist and undergraduate art startup F.C. Ware (1967- ). Phobic of and mortified by the opinions and duplicitous patronage of other human organisms for most of his conscious life, the absorption of this icy corporate strategem indeed proved canny, artistically isolating him from ever having to reveal his true motives to the general public (and, more importantly, to himself).' And it goes on. And on. But that's Chris Ware for you. He writes in this language because he thinks it's funny. And, in fact, it is. And that's on the publishing information page! The book hasn't even started yet!' Now go read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review for all the juicy details!
A novel from Natasha Mostert gets a perfect summation from Kestrell Rath: 'The Season of the Witch is a supernatural cyberthriller complete with a handsome hacker and not one but two deliciously wicked witches. Technology and magic become weapons in a war between the sexes in this quick-paced suspense novel which isn't afraid to get a bit geeky in the process.' Read her succinct and perfect review here.
Flytrap 6 is, as Kestrell notes, 'the latest issue of this little jewel of a 'zine published twice a year by Tropism Press.= As usual, this issue of Flytrap includes the quirky combination of personal newsletter and literary magazine that gives it so much of its personality. In addition, this particular issue offers four short poems and a nonfiction critique on the art of reading poetry aloud, which makes it highly recommended for those who enjoy science fiction and fantasy poetry.' Now go read her superb review for a look at a 'zine you should be reading every time an exquisite issue comes out from Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt.
Robert M. Tilendis gets the last word in this edition for this section with a look at a book you really should read: 'I'm not sure that Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End counts as cyberpunk, although it might seem like it at first glance. The 'cyber' part is there in full measure. Vinge envisions a world in the not-so-distance future in which clothes are the means of Internet access and most of 'reality' is virtual. The 'punk' part is somewhat lacking, however.This is, by and large, a supremely middle-class novel, without the dark-edge, seamy underbelly feeling one gets from a William Gibson. The action, or most of it, takes place in and around the University of California at San Diego, and involves a typical American family (assuming you consider a household composed of two high-level military operatives, their precocious eleven-year-old daughter, and a world-renowned poet as 'typical.'), plus some top-echelon spook masters and a virtual take-off on Bugs Bunny.'
We kick off the music with a review from our new contributor, Camille Alexa. Up for review is the latest release from Madeleine Peyroux, Half the Perfect World -- 'Extremely palatable, yes, and sweet, but with an edge,' so Camille tells us. Camille goes on, 'I listen to these new recordings and I'm transported to a smoky, dimly-lit room in some distant basement speakeasy on some foreign planet in some other decade.' This is probably also the first GMR review to make me blush, with Camille's talk of garter-belted thighs and silk-velvet dresses! See if it gets your pulse racing by taking a look at Camille's review.
Faith J. Cormier samples some 'New Age Celtic' sounds on Childe Rolande's latest album, Wild Skies. Lullabies, love songs and longing for home are some of the themes covered, and Faith assures us that 'If you like New Age Celtic, this is a great album and sweeps you away to another place, or perhaps several other places.' Now, before you get swept away anywhere, make sure you sweep past Faith's review first to read her full critique!
Faith leaves the new age behind for the old age with Floating Verses, a collection of English folk tunes by Mary Humphreys and Anahata. Faith seems to like this one, and tells us that 'Floating Verses is a gem of a CD -- traditional English folk tunes played and sung by people who actually know how to play and sing and who have the scholarly background to know what they're playing and singing. What a treat!' Faith's review provides further details of this treat!
Faith's third review for this issue is of Watermelon Sugar's Something to Savor, offering a mixture of styles and subject matter. 'I didn't like this album very much because I find Kingsley and Bendall's voices screechy. However, the songs are clever, and I really like the fact that they sing about love gone right.' You can read what else Watermelon Sugar sing about on this release, by heading straight for Faith's review.
David Kidney offers us a great Americana/rockabilly/bluegrass omni-review of no less than four recordings! Matt Angus' eponymous release, is a political affair, of which David remarks; 'His songs, musically and lyrically potent; his voice, strong and deep; and his production, clean with an edge that cuts through. Powerful stuff, and well worth a listen.' Moving on to Kathy Phillips' latest album, Carries You Away,David finds an album that is 'heavily weighted to the country side of Americana,' on which Phillips 'proves herself to be a thoughtful lyricist, as well as coming up with some decent musical hooks.' Progressive bluegrass is next with Cadillac Sky's Blind Man Walking that contains 'traditional bluegrass... high harmonies and fine pickin' and fiddlin',' and evidently a didgeridoo! This quartet is rounded off by the phenomenal Old Crow Medicine Show, and their David Rawlings-produced album, Big Iron World; 'There are echoes of bluegrass in the harmonies they drop in from time to time. There are bluesy harmonica lines, slide guitar, guitjo, upright bass, fiddle and acoustic guitar.' Of Rawlings production, David remarks that it 'is simple enough to let them just sound like they sound.' Read David's omni-review to get a further feel for this 'down-home music.'
David's second review is of Eve Goldberg's album, A Kinder Season. David tells us that the music Eve grew up with was by the likes of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Doc Watson, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and The Watersons, and that this recording 'follows along the folk music pathway in the well trodden steps of these giants.' Read on to see what else David has to say.
Peter Massey presents us with a new-comer to the British folk scene, Jim Causley and his debut release, Fruits of the Earth. Of Jim's debut effort, Peter finds that 'The songs are sung very clearly in a plain fashion, much favoured by some traditional singers, with simple accompaniment kept to the minimum by Jim on his accordion and diddycordion.' The subject material appears to be a diverse mix of wassailing, cider and even a prayer book rebellion! Let Peter tell you more in his review of this excellent debut.
Peter follows this up with a review of two Irish recordings, Brian Hughes' Whirlwind and Marcas O'Murchu's Turas Ceoil; 'Both albums have very similar material, played in much the same style. Brian Hughes demonstrates his dexterity on the tin whistle, while Marcas O'Murchu does the same on his flute.' On offer is an assortment of jigs, reels, hornpipes, and slow airs, and Peter remarks that 'Both are true masters of their chosen instruments and so both these albums are superb.' Join in the craic, by heading straight for Peter's review!
Peter's final review this issue, is of the album Beige, from the somewhat oddly named Arrogant Worms; 'The entire band are excellent musicians and singers and their zany humour grabbed my attention immediately.' Their songs deal with a diverse array of subjects including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, pressure washers, prescription drugs and... erm... balls! I think it's best if we let Peter explain! Go read his review!
Lars Nilsson brings a Scandinavian feel to this edition with his review of two recordings from Denmark. Lars' first review considers Bornholmsk Folkemusik (Folk Music from Bornholm) from Danish traditional group, Habbadám; 'Suddenly Danish folk music and folk-inspired music catches my ear and I must make another confession. I find myself wondering, why did I not search for this long ago?' Next up, Lars has a listen to Sussie Nielsen's latest release Pigens Morgen (The Maiden's Morning), a recording that Lars suggests is a 'more reflective side of Danish music.' Join Lars on his Danish expedition, by reading his review.
Gary Whitehouse has more muisc reviews for you starting with him in classical territory looking at Nikolaj Znaider's recording of Beethoven and Mendelssohn Violin Concertos, accompanied by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, under the guidance of conductor, Zubin Mehta. '...to pair these two works on one CD seems a pretty clear statement from the young Znaider that he's a force to be reckoned with. Fortunately for him, he pulls it off.' Gary concludes by saying that, 'Znaider, to my ear, demonstrates both technical virtuosity and a grasp of the subtler nuances of both pieces.' See what else Gary's ear has to say in his review of this fine recording.
Gary's attention was caught by Requiem For A Dying Planet, a combination of music from two Warner Herzog films The White Diamond and The Wild Blue Yonder. 'This recording brings together three very disparate elements into a synergistic whole. They are Ernst Reijseger's cello, the choral singing of the Sardinian group Tenore e Concordu de Orosei and the soaring vocals of Senegalese singer Mola Sylla.' Gary explains how these disparate elements combine in his review.
We can't accuse Gary of not having eclectic taste, as he turns his attentions to Slidin' Home, a bluegrass/folk collection from John Starling and Carolina Star, also featuring the inimitable Emmylou Harris. Gary reckons that you'll find this to be '...a gentle album all the way around, more bluegrass-based folk than bluegrass proper,' and of Harris' contribution he says, 'Listen to these seasoned professionals' voices as they lovingly caress these prayerful words, and you'll hear the heartbeat of American music.' How can that not whet your appetite? Let the rest of Gary's review explain in more detail.
Mike Wilson rounds of the music reviews with his review of the Indigo Girls' latest release, Despite Our Differences, produced by the legendary Mitchell Froom. 'The voices of Emily Saliers and Amy Ray meld together like yin and yang, with each of their voices somehow filing in the gaps left by the other.' Mike reckons that this may prove to be a 'career-defining release for this talented duo.' See if you can be convinced to agree with this, by reading Mike's review.