Regardless of the season, pastimes are ever so important here -- snogging of course, but mah jong and shatran and playing music and gossiping and reading and storytelling and even a bit of sometimes bloody sword play fill the time. And then there's knitting. Our Librarian is apparently responsible for its current popularity though he disputes that claim. So read our story this edition to why knitting's the thing here at Green Man!
Reviewers here made themselves scarce this past month except for hanging around the kitchen cadging treats, listening to music in the Pub, and sprawled like cats reading bloody near everywhere. But they were working on reviews -- mostly book reviews which is what we look at this edition.
As I write these notes in early May, I see folks reading Christopher Golden's The Lost Ones which is the third in his Veil trilogy, The Encyclopedia of Superstition, graphic novels ranging from Buffy Onmibus Volume 1 and Ghost Stories to Flight Explorer, Grendel -- Devil by the Deed! and even Mouse Guard -- Fall 1152, and even some anthologies -- Best American Fantasy and The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year #1... Not to mention more other books which I care to list here when a properly pulled Guinness is calling my name!
And after I refresh myself with an imperial pint or two and another chapter of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, I'm assisting with the final touches on the preperations for honouring our new Summer Queen next edition. Though not a writer, she's done much to advance the cause of truly great dark fantasy and horror literature. So read Her Summer Queen Speech and visit our celebration on June 15th. Do note there will be no reviews in that edition!
Oh, there are two book related items after our reviews that you should read -- one a Roger Zelazny mystery that's never been published (!), one on Kipling done rather wrong.
Knit one, purl two. Knit one, purl two.
Oh, it's you. Yes, of course, come on in. It's good to see you again.
What am I knitting? A sock. I haven't tried knitting socks for nearly 40 years, so it's quite an adventure. Setting the heels is the bit that makes stronger women than I blench, but our Librarian, Iain Nicholas Mackenzie, is teaching me.
And why wouldn't a man know how to knit? There was a time in Europe when most professional knitters and needleworkers were men, they tell me. Many the soldier learned to knit in hospital, too, in one or another of the long wars that have plagued humanity, especially since medical care got good enough for there to be hospitals for soldiers to mend in. Besides, it's an Argyle sock, and Iain Nicholas is Scots, after all! (Though he assures me he's from Skye, and I already knew how to do the Argyle bits…but that's another story, and we won't let on to him.)
To my mind, there's something fitting about a librarian who knits, anyway. One of the few things I learned from my grandmother was how to read and knit at the same time. 'There were long years when the children were small when the only chance I got to read was when I was knitting,' she told me. 'It's all in the way you prop the book up.' Many's the hour I've spent doing both since then, I can tell you.
Mackenzie isn't the only inhabitant of the Green Man Library who knits, of course. Several of the Several Annies had been after me to join them on Wednesday nights for their regular 'Chix with Stix' gatherings. I finally managed to get away last week, and it was a real eye-opener, I assure you.
I don't dare name any names, but one staffer had a huge bag stuffed with eyelash yarn. You've seen it, even if you didn't know the name - wonderfully plush stuff. She was knitting up a storm in the corner (and yes, it was raining at the time, come to think of it), making a scarf. She told me she has an arrangement with the foreman of the gnomes who work with Gus in the garden to supply them with a new hat and scarf each every year, and there are so many of them that she's at it all year round to be able to present the new batch in the fall, just before the first frost.
A couple of other members of the staff were arguing over Aran patterns. They had several books out on the hearthrug. I'd always heard myself that each family in the Western Isles had its own patterns, to make identifying the corpses easier, you know, but I don't know if it's true or not. My own people have been on this side of the Water too long for that knowledge to have been passed down. Anyway, they were trying to decide what would make a suitable sweater for Jamie the Cavalier King Charles spaniel who lives on the island in the stream out back. He's getting a little rheumatic, and another winter like last year's might be the death of him. None of us want to see Jamie go -- for pure mercy's sake, and because Jamie as a ghost would surely be even more fearsome than Jamie in life. I have my doubts about how he'd like a sweater with an Irish pattern, myself. He's pure Scots is our Jamie.
Liath ó Laighin, our distinguished Archivist, was perched on a stool, her slender fingers flashing in the firelight. Though actually, it was more the beads strung on her yarn that were flashing. When I asked her what she was making, she told me it was a beaded amulet bag. The silk yarn was so fine that she was using needles not much bigger around than ill-fed toothpicks, and the beads were gloriously rainbow-coloured crystals.
It was a while before I noticed the oddest sight of all. Two brownies sat cross-legged on the floor across from each other. They were industriously balling yarn, but the skeins they were working from were suspended in mid-air. Curiosity got the better of me, dangerous though that sometimes is in the Building, and I went to find out what was going on. After a few fits of the giggles, they finally explained that Hamish, our invisible hedgehog, was asleep between them, and that the skeins were draped over his spine. He doesn't seem to mind, so long as they promise him a saucer of sweet cream when they're done.
So while I doubt I'll get there every Wednesday night, I certainly intend to be back with the other knitters as often as I can. You're welcome, too, anytime, you know.
Leading off this issue, Camille Alexa reviews... a cookie? It seems she does, among other things. Namely, a cookie which arrived with a recent Dark Horse re-release of Roald Dahl's WWII-era Disney book, The Gremlins. She says, 'You didn't know I was going to review a cookie? Neither did I. My Gremlins kit came with three things -- a beautifully produced full-color reprint of what I assume is the Disney original (with new intro and flyleaf); this Absolutely Adorable three-piece action set; and a cookie, carefully wrapped with a ribbon, with 'Walt Disney's The Gremlins' stamped across the icing and what I assume is a Gremlin bite out of the corner.' Complete with photos!
Donna Bird got to read not one (as she had thought she would) but two books in a new series by David Downing from Soho Press. She states that 'Zoo Station and Silesian Station are definitely in the espionage thriller genre,' but that 'There are also some uproariously funny (albeit quite terrifying) scenes.' See why she makes the claim, 'I never expected to laugh while reading an espionage novel, but that's one of the nice surprises about these!'
It's refreshing to come across a confession all too familiar to some of us; 'Two years of high school Advanced Placement English soured me on a lot of 'important' authors.' That AP English bit hit close to home? Read Ms. Bird's review of Theodore Dreiser's The Genius to find out if this work, first published in 1915 but withdrawn 'after the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice found it to be obscene' should make your summer reading list.
Deborah J. Brannon says, 'It is remarkable to me that M.C.A. Hogarth is not more widely spoken of than she is, for she is writing some of the most imaginative social (and alien) science fiction currently out there. If I were forced to use one word to describe her as an artist and a writer, it would be -- ascending. If I were to use one word to describe her latest offering, The Aphorisms of Kherishdar, it would be -- illuminating.' Ascending and illuminating? Read the full review for more detail.
Deborah Brannon also got to review a slew of Ray Bradbury stories in Subterranean Press's reprinting of the 1953 anthology, The Golden Apples of the Sun. Here is an honest look at some earlier works of 'a writer who has always done what creators did best -- eschewed borders, ransacked the nooks of the brain, the crannies of the soul, and gave form to what came.'
Coinciding with its day of release from Norilana Books, Deborah also reviews for us this week Vera Nazarian's The Duke in His Castle. Find out why Ms. Brannon describes this piece as 'philosophy couched in a fairy tale couched in a murder mystery tinged with children's games.' Also, we at Green Man Review would like to extend our congratulations to Vera for her recent Nebula nomination for her short story "The Story of Love" (featured in her collection, Salt of the Air).
Craig Clarke reviews the new U.S. release of John Meaney's Bone Song. Let him tell you why 'Bone Song should be popular with fans of nearly every genre from gothic and horror to science fiction and fantasy to crime and mystery.'
For this issue, Faith J. Cormier went a round with Philip K. Dick's Nick and the Glimmung. Though written in 1966, and published in 1988 in the U.K., Subterranean Press release gives this work a new opportunity to 'send a younger audience to the dictionary on occasion,' though as Faith points out, 'that never did anyone any harm.'
Did Faith Cormier enjoy reading Andrew Lycett's The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes? Sounds like she did; 'First, he chose an interesting subject. Arthur Conan Doyle may have died in 1930, but his most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes, seems immortal. He was a complex man -- author, sportsman, military historian, physician, lover, spiritualist seeker -- who would have been fascinating even if he had not decided to write anything about Holmes at all.'
Ms. Cormier also read The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year #1, edited by Jonathan Strahan. She says, 'Anthologies. Especially the 'Best of' kind. They're killers. Wrapping somebody else's sensibilities and tastes around mine. Hoping the editor and I have something in common, somewhere along the line, at least enough that some of the choices will make sense.' She also makes a most succinct and honest proclamation regarding reviewing in general -- 'These statements, of course, come with the usual caveat that you will almost certainly enjoy some or all of the stories I hate, and hate some or all of the ones I enjoy. That's the perverse pleasure of anthologies (or just plain pervddersity).'
Sometimes, shorter or lighter pieces -- still fascinating things -- generate discussion around Green Man or are felt to deserve mention. Faith wraps up her reviews this issue with a look at a couple of these 'fascinating things', namely William Shunn's An Alternate History of the 21st Century and a nifty little 'zine edited by Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw called Flytrap 8. Check them out.
She also read and reviewed Best American Fantasy, compiled by editors Ann and Jeff Vandermeer for 2007. She says, 'Whether or not any or all of the stories in Best American Fantasy fit my conception of best, American and fantasy doesn't matter a whit, so long as they please the editors.' These particular stories obviously pleased these particular editors, but did they please our reviewer, and will they please you?
Richard Dansky read The Mirrored Heavens by David J. Williams -- 'At first glance, The Mirrored Heavens reads like archetypal cyberpunk. It's a dystopian future, there are hackers and street samurai (excuse me, razors and mechs) who alternately surf data 'zones' and use powered suits and cybernetic enhancements to run roughshod over countless mookish enemies.' So that's first glance. Does it hold up to a second?
Says Denise Dutton -- 'Short story collections are the no-brainers of the horror genre. Don't know what to read next? Unsure about exactly what style you're in the mood for? Grab a short story collection...' See what she has to say in particular about Kealan Patrick Burke's collection, The Number 121 To Pennsylvania & Others.
Hockey fan? Ghost story fan? She has a review for you! She says, 'Jeff Lemire, in Ghost Stories, crafts a legend that, true or not, adds to the mythic quality of that game while giving readers a story that lingers in the mind long after the last pages have been turned.'
Denise Dutton also takes a look at Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Volume 1. She claims of this volume -- 'even at over 300 pages, they fly by so fast that it was over way before I wanted it to be'. Read her review in its entirety to find out why she says 'it's just what the slayer ordered'!
Cat Eldridge thinks 'A true trilogy with a well-crafted tale worth reading is a rare joy these days, with excessive bloat being more the norm among fantasy releases where series running a half dozen or more novels of immense size are far too common.' Find out how he thinks Chistopher Golden's The Lost Ones fares in the face of such tradition!
When a review begins, 'Damn, that was good!', reading to discover the reason why is practically compulsory. Cat's review of B.P.R.D. Killing Ground (Volume 8) gives some insight into why he says 'The ongoing B.P.R.D. series has always been one of my favorite graphic novel series and the latest volume that was just sent to us by Dark Horse certainly did not disappoint me at all.'
He also reviews a new Dark Horse offering, Lobster Johnson -- Iron Prometheus. He tells us to 'Imagine a world where the evil Nazis of Indy Jones might have been and the Oriental villains of The Shadow might have well existed, a 1930s New York City, where a vigilante who is not afraid to kill evil doers rules the night -- a vigilante called Lobster Johnson, as he brands his trademark of a lobster on their incinerated bodies.' Ooooo!
April Guiterrez looks at yet another anthology, this one a comic graphic anthology aimed particularly at children. But, she says that 'While some of the stories are clearly geared for children, some of the stories... will likely appeal to readers of all ages.' Find out which stories in Flight Explorer -- Volume 1 you shouldn't miss; read her review!
Ms. Gutierrez says of this recent addition to Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, 'If a full-length novel can be considered a tasty meal, then at 70 pages, Backup is a tantalizing hors d'oeuvre.' Tasty? Mmmmm...
She sets us straight in her review of a new graphic novel collection of David Petersen's award-winning Mouse Guard -- Fall 1152 -- '...just so there's no confusion, Mouse Guard isn't a nickname or colloquialism -- the protagonists really are mice, the small, furry rodent kind.' Comic fans, read on.
April says, 'The Escapist is an original comic creation springing from Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And though it's not at all necessary to have read that marvelous novel to enjoy The Escapists, readers should, because this graphic novel takes both its heart and inspiration from Chabon's work.' So there you have it -- three things to read: Chabon's excellent book, Brian Vaughan's The Escapists, and Ms. Gutierrez's review.
Clare Owen found some aspects of Deborah Grabien's Plainsong not quite to her taste, but overall seems to have found reading it an incredibly worthwhile endeavor. Find out why she says, 'Plainsong is an absolute must-read; both lightly funny and deeply profound, it kept me intrigued and immersed in its characters' world to the very last word.'
Says Robert Tilendis of Elizabeth Bear's Dust, 'At her best, Elizabeth Bear can deliver the kind of hard-edged poetry that one often searches for in vain in science-fiction.' He also says 'It may seem strange to talk about 'poetry' and 'science fiction' in the same sentence, but one need only read Dust to see exactly what I mean.'
Robert Tilendis asserts, 'Glen Cook's Annals of the Black Company ranks as one of the most significant (and most popular) fantasy series since Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.' But where does Cook's The Books of the South trio fit in with the saga? And why does Robert call these three 'the next and very welcome installment in the Annals of the Black Company'? Find out here.
Robert claims, 'Venus on the Half-Shell and Others brings us a collection of examples of just how out-there Farmer can get.' His review explains why he thinks 'Philip José Farmer can legitimately be described as a madman, in the best possible sense.'
Does Robert think 'Michael Swanwick is another of that 'younger generation' of writers who are routinely accused of obliterating genre boundaries, which can either be praise or damnation, depending on how firmly wedded you are to the contract with the reader'? Or does he think this and other hype is more about marketing strategies? His characteristically intense and comprehensive review of Swanwick's The Dragons of Babel will explain.
Grendel -- Devil by the Deed 'represents another breakthrough. It is, in general terms, the story of Grendel's first incarnation, the novelist Hunter Rose, as told from his journals by his granddaughter, Christine Spar. It gives, in summary form, the full if somewhat elliptical story of the rise of the mutant genius Grendel and his ongoing struggle with the wolf-shaman Argent, including their climactic battle.' Read Robert Tilendis' entire review of Matt Wagner's piece for more.
Elizabeth Vail gives us not one, but two reviews of Liz Williams novels this issue. The first is for Liz Williams' widely well-received Snake Agent. She opens -- 'Liz Williams' Snake Agent, like any good detective novel, all starts with a dame ...' But does it lay 'a solid framework for future novels in the series'? After you read her review to see what she thinks, head over to her review of the second book in this series, The Demon and the City. Find out if Ms. Vail thinks the momentum for this series is sustained...
Christopher White read Deborah Grabien's multi-genre Still Life With Devils. He says, 'Grabien is a writer with a style that is easy and pleasant to read; in short, she is a talented storyteller', and tells us what he ultimately thought of this 'potentially interesting genre mash-up, mystery meets supernatural.'
Chris gives praise any author would love to hear; 'Having now discovered Michael Gruber, I will be seeking out his earlier books and looking forward to whatever he might release in the future.' Read his twofer review of Gruber's The Book of Air & Shadows and The Forgery of Venus to discover what earns such merit.
A never before published novel by Roger Zelazny that's a crime thriller? Really. Truly. Let's have the publisher tell the story--
And sometimes a book just don't work 'tall for a reviewer as Robert Tilendis explains here in why he didn't review a particular collected works of Rudyard Kipling --
Our Librarian has given all of us Several Annies the
weekend off as the Norns are giving us knitting lessons.
Uploaded by LLS even at the turning of the tide 31st May, 2008