Surely you're not surprised that many of us 'ere are lovers of the Grateful Dead and their music? You shouldn't be, given that they were the ultimate American roots band for a very long time and that they arguably still are the most influential of all the folk-tinged rock and roll bands born of the Sixties, period.
Just consider the artists on the Deadicated album of Dead covers for a sample of who was influenced by the Dead in some manner -- Los Lobos, Bruce Hornsby and The Range, Harshed Mellows (a blending of artists from the Georgia Satellites and Tom Petty's back-up band), Elvis Costello, Suzanne Vega, Dwight Yoakam, David Lindley, Lyle Lovett, Cowboy Junkies, Midnight Oil, Burning Spear, Indigo Girls, Dr. John, Warren Zevon, and Jane's Addiction!
So do yourself a favour -- join us on this unseasonably warm afternoon on the greensward out back of this building, grab a beer from the coolers, and groove out to the Dead for a few hours. The music never stops as long as there are folks to enjoy it!
We have two very special editions coming up between now and the end of this year. First up is our annual Oak King edition. Now I know some of you will find it very odd that we're doing the Oak King in the Fall, since the commonly held tradition has the Holly King reigning from Summer Solstice to Winter Solstice. So let's just say that our Oak King is from a far older, more pagan time. This time around it's Christopher Golden, a master of both horror and dark fantasy. Likewise our Winter Queen, Elizabeth Hand, is recognized by many these days as one of the finest fantasy writers around!
So what's up this edition? Good question. I have no idea what's going on as I've been in the Pub having more of the truly awesome Smashing Pumpkins Stout that's been on tap for a few months now while writing an appreciation of The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, the third album by The Incredible String Band. So I'll need to check the editorial tote board. . . . Follow me to the private drinking room of the editorial staff and we'll take a peek at it. . . .
Damn, that's impressive! It's all book reviews this edition as the music editorial staff got invited to the WOMAD on The Border festival being held in Fare-You-Well Park as guests of the Queen of Air and Darkness. And no one turns Her Invitation down!
So what do we have? Well, here a few highlights. We have a look at Filthy Rich is the second Vertigo Crime graphic novel to get reviewed by us (and a cracking good review it is!); Alex Irvine's foray into the DC Universe gets high marks from our reviewer; Philosophy in The Twilight Zone manages to represent both the positive and negative aspects of such academic interdisciplinary work; a shared-world project, Metatropoils, has its ups and downs; Fairie-ality Style isn't quite as good as the previous volume, Fairie-ality -- The Fashion Collection; and a graphic novel series best known for the tits on its heroines is made into a better than expected novel!
But first from the archives of Le hérisson de sommeil (The Sleeping Hedgehog), our staff newsletter and oft times gossip rag, comes the rather amazing story of the Endless Jam, the Rock 'n' Roll version of the far more familiar Neverending Session. I wonder if they'll re-appear when the veils between the worlds go thin on All Hallows Eve. . . .
Have you heard the Endless Jam? No, not the Neverending Session; we're almost certain those guys are alive -- they eat and drink and fall asleep under the tables in the Pub, and I'm pretty sure one of the pipers knocked up that little blonde sous-chef last winter. The Endless Jam is different. Very different.
You know that old joke, about how they must have a hell of a band in Heaven? Well, I don't know about Heaven, but we sure have one in the Great Hall. Started showing up in the '50s. they say. Right after the Big Bopper kicked the jam jar, 'Chantilly Lace' started booming through the Great Hall, like thunder through chocolate pudding. 'Peggy Sue', and 'La Bamba' were right behind it, so it was pretty obvious who was haunting the Great Hall. Before long, folks started to glimpse them, too -- JP Richardson, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens -- especially Holly, with those grave eyes behind the heavy glasses that somehow made him look cool instead of geeky.
They showed up in droves in the '60s. Stars, session men, back up singers, all the pretty girls (and boys) who ever went for take-away with a band. Hard times, man, but the world's loss was our gain. On the subject of strange Doors, you can often find Morrison in there, lazily working on a poem -- he tends to write them in green flames on the air, but then no one really believes that guy was human, anyway. Cobain likes to look over his shoulder and take notes. Hendrix sways and burns like a mad candle flame; he's been sitting in on some really funky duets, too, since Warren Zevon showed up.
Yes, of course The King is here! Can't guarantee he's dead -- people see him so many other places -- but he sure shows up in the Great Hall. In good shape, too. Lately he's been favouring hymns and spirituals, jamming with Janice Joplin and Mama Cass -- what a sound! Elvis is dark honey and Janice is burning whiskey, and Cass is the sweet cream that turns it all into confection. Keep your chicken soup; this is brose for the ears, I tell you.
Lennon's taken over an alcove by the fireplace, where sometimes he declaims hilarious nonsense and sometimes he plays guitar to break the gates of Hell. When those lazy eyes open wide it's like a lightning strike; he stands like a martial angel with a guitar instead of a flaming sword, holding back Death. The last few years, a dark shadow occasionally wanders into stand at his left, supplying the melody -- George may be free of the Wheel of Life, but he still comes back to make music. Keith Moon's drumming for them right now; sitting in for the duration, one assumes.
We're knee deep in ghosts around here, but very few of them play classic rock and roll. Except the Jam, of course -- and they just keep getting better all the time. The real rockers just don't lie down and sleep, you know? Neither does anyone else in the Great Hall -- it's the place to go when you need that beat in your bones, that sound that takes over your blood and reshapes your lungs into a dragon's -- gasping in the breath of gods and breathing out living fire.
Come Midsummer's they'll leave the Hall and take over the Courtyard - and then, from dusk to dusk, the air will burn and shiver with the wildest free concert of all time. Be there or be square. As we used to say
There's a party going on.
Richard Dansky tries Girl Genius -- Omnibus Edition, Volume 1 by Phil and Kaja Foglio, a graphic novel about a bumbling, sleepwalking girl who is nevertheless a force to be reckoned with. Dansky says -- 'Girl Genius is one of the single most enjoyable reading experiences to be had. In these days of unrelentingly grim comics and post-modern ironic hipsterosity, it's a genuine pleasure to wander into a world that is simultaneously accessible and deep, full of monsters yet good-hearted, and most of all, all about storytelling.' Think he liked it, then? Need we say that it gets a well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award?
Donna Bird starts us off with Fairie-ality Style -- a Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature by David Ellwand, a sequel of sorts to his book Fairie-ality -- The Fashion Collection. When it comes to Style, however, Bird says, 'I found it charming, but I can't say that it met the expectations engendered by the earlier book.' Intrigued? Read on!
Next for her is an omnibus review of Charles Finch's A Beautiful Blue Death, The September Society, and The Fleet Street Murders, a set of mysteries all taking place in Victorian England. 'While they are hardly insignificant, I would say the mysteries are the least important aspect of these novels,' says Bird. 'In their portrayal of daily life among the politically liberal urban upper classes during the middle Victorian period they rival Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels.'
Next up for her is Dead Man's Share by Yasmina Khadra, another mystery starring Algerian detective Superintendent Llob, although Donna Bird was unimpressed -- 'The combination of Llob's misanthropy with the obvious physical and psychological shortcomings of his co-workers and associates makes it nearly impossible to identify any sympathetic characters in this novel.'
Next up is Craig Clarke, who digs into Son of Retro Pulp Tales, an anthology edited by Joe R. and Keith Lansdale. Was it pulpy enough for Clarke's tastes? 'Though it doesn't have the fully fledged atmosphere of its celebrated parent [Retro Pulp Tales], Son of Retro Pulp Tales is actually more representative of the broad range of genres published during pulp's heyday. It also offers a similar success rate, with at least one true gem and only one true dud. Those seeking to recapture the past with fiction of the present need look no further.'
Richard Dansky starts off with a review of Filthy Rich, written by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos. However, this new take on the noir genre is just more of the same, says Dansky -- 'Considering the way in which the Vertigo imprint helped revolutionize American comics, one would hope that the lead title for Vertigo Crime would offer some of that same freshness. Instead, it's just solid work. Victor Santos' strong artwork helps -- the tone of period film is evoked perfectly, with square-jawed men and seductively rounded women -- but the ultimate effect is a strong take on a timeworn formula, rather than something new.'
Next, Danksy takes on Ronald Kelly's Hell Hollow, a novel about a town terrorized by the ghost of a murdered snake oil salesman that nevertheless feels like a con -- 'When the resurrected monster starts cutting a bloody swath through town, the reaction is minimal. As for the conclusion, it's again too easy, leaving behind the question of 'why,' as the villain's own explanation is woefully unsatisfactory.' Best to avoid this book, then.
After that comes Metatropolis, edited by John Scalzi, which is, according to Dansky, 'the latest attempt at a shared-universe anthology, and it's one of the most ambitious to date. Rather than being based off a particular setting, it's predicated on the notion of the future of the city itself. The concept drives the evolution of the continuity between stories, rather than the world bible dictating what concepts make sense at play here. It's an interesting approach and a daunting one. The bar is set high, and the five authors fling themselves at it with varying degrees of success.'
Finally he looks at Gen 13 -- Netherwar, by Christopher Golden and Jeff Mariotte, about super-powered teenagers, angst, and horror-themed casinos, still provides some plum entertainment for Dansky. 'Golden and Mariotte handle this the right way, which is to say they don't take it seriously. Rather than trying to impart some existential angst to what's really a tongue-in-cheek concept, they have fun with it.'
April Gutierrez is up next with her opinion on John Shirley's novels War Lord and Subterranean, both original novels based on the popular comic Hellblazer and its hero, John Constantine. As a fan of Hellblazer herself, what does Gutierrez think? 'On the whole, the two novels are not a bad way to kill some time. They're probably not the best introduction to Constantine for new fans, but with any luck, those folks will go back and grab the graphic novels, see how he's evolved over time. Long time fans may find themselves missing the art of the graphic novels. There's just something more powerful in seeing Constantine's rough look and demeanor than having it spelled out in words...
Michael Jones steps up to the plate with Gail Carriger's Soulless, a novel about a girl with no soul who can negate the powers of the undead. His Excellence in Writing Award-winning thoughts? 'Soulless is charming, whimsical, and splendid. Part comedy of manners, part Regency send-up, part urbane fantasy, part alternate history, part steampunk, it's a beautiful blending of disparate elements that's bound to appeal to a wide range of readers.'
Jones finds himself equally pleased with a novel by Harry Connolly -- 'Child of Fire is a hard-hitting addition to the urban fantasy field, full of mystery, violence, strange magic and stranger people, like if someone mixed together Jim Butcher and Stephen King and infused it with some Die Hard sensibilities. There's a lot to like about this book, and I'm quite eager to see where the series goes from here.'
Next, he takes on Devon Monk's Magic in the Blood, the sequel to Magic to the Bone, where our heroine, Ally Beckstrom, helps suss out hinky magic-users, but at terrible cost to herself. Says Jones, 'It's nice to see a story where magic has a serious and tangible cost, and where every use needs to be weighed against the consequences. Ally's own relationship to magic may be a bit worse than most, but it's a neat setup, and as we see here, there's more going on than meets the eye.'
While Jones did enjoy the subject of his last review, Rob Thurman's Trick of the Light, he does admit it comes with a few faults. 'While I absolutely loved the overall story, I did find Trixa's internal tone and narrative to be occasionally grating, even overwrought, which impacted my ability to throw myself into the thick of things. It fits the character, but it could have been toned down and still been quite effective.'
Next in line is Kestrell Rath with a review of Twists of the Tale -- Cat Horror Stories, edited by Ellen Datlow, which, to this blurber's disappointment, isn't actually an anthology of stories written by felines, although according to Rath is does pose some interesting questions about society. 'It is interesting to note that, while the first printing of the book was in 1996, the plight of stray and feral cats has only become more visible in the thirteen years since. Perhaps it is a just discomfort then that these short stories often equate the cat as not merely a mysterious or magical creature, but a representation of all of the powerless, especially women and children, who are treated as society's strays.'
After this Rath takes on Philosophy in The Twilight Zone, edited by Noel Carroll, a collection with an interesting idea but, according to Rath, a rather shoddy execution. 'Philosophy in The Twilight Zone manages to represent both the positive and negative aspects of such interdisciplinary works. Many of the scholarly articles successfully use specific episodes of 'The Twilight Zone' to illuminate and render relatively accessible complex philosophical concepts. However, most of the authors have academic backgrounds in philosophy rather than in media studies, and those elements of the authors' arguments which touch upon the history and theory of media -- are occasionally poorly presented or even inaccurate.'
Finally, Rath reviews The Making of Salem -- The Witch Trials in History, Fiction and Tourism, by Robin DeRosa. Unfortunately, Rath isn't wholly bewitched -- 'The result is a mixed bag, for while the first two chapters focusing on historical records are fascinatingly in-depth, the later chapters, which focus upon media and the development of modern tourism, barely skim the surface of academic discourse.'
Robert M. Tilendis adds his two cents with his Excellence in Writing Award-winning review of Philip Jose Farmer and Win Scott Eckert's The Evil in Pemberly House, where the 'descendantand friend of some of literature's greatest pulp heroes inherits a haunted house. 'This one is fun -- a good, tight story, enough psychology to keep it interesting, villains galore, characters with eccentricities that only the English can manage gracefully, a rich context, and lots of sex.'
Tilendis then tackles Batman – Inferno by Alex Irvine. 'I'm beginning to suspect that the best place for comic-book superheroes is comic books. While Irvine deserves credit for putting together a good story -- [there] seems to be a certain blatant quality that's taken as a requirement in depicting these characters and their adventures, which works fine in graphic treatments, where the drawing can carry part of the load and add a little finesse to portrayals. But in novels -- well, let's just say I would like to see this one as a graphic novel. I bet it would be fantastic. As it is, it's merely very good.'
Next up at bat is Elizabeth Vail, who wasn't impressed with Stan Nicholls' Orcs -- Bad Blood. 'Middle-Book-Itis is a common complaint in fantasy series and trilogies. Its symptoms include narrative dependence on the events of the previous novels without a clear explanation of what happened before, and the introduction of numerous plot threads the author fails to tie up by novel's end. While Orcs -- Bad Blood, the sequel to Orcs, manages to escape the first of these symptoms, it succumbs to the second, with a lot of other problems besides.'
Last but not least, we have Matthew Scott Winslow and his review of Jeri Westerson's Veil of Lies and Serpent in the Thorns. While Winslow has many positive things to say about these books, he warns readers not to jump to genre assumptions. 'Jeri Westerson seems to be focusing on the noir aspect of 'medieval noir.' These are more thrillers, then, than mysteries. (But I should state that these mysteries are not disappointing, just not overly complex and difficult to figure out.) It's the atmosphere that Ms. Westerson is attempting to draw that makes them enjoyable stories.'
We should remind you about our special editions which are our way of looking at specific writers and other subjects worthy of exploring in-depth. Of course, we've done several editions on master storyteller Peter S. Beagle which you can find thisaway and over 'ere. Needless to say, we're very proud of the great edition on Charles de Lint we did.
We did one on the ever fascinating trio of Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud; naturally we did one on master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien who is much loved by our staff; not to mention ones on Kage Baker, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, Patricia McKillip, and Elizabeth Bear.
Oh, our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the now departed and much missed Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology.
Lastly, we have put together a Recommended Series Reading List covering many genres from fantasy to mystery and (of course) sf for your reading pleasure. You can find that list thisaway.
For our main page, please go here; to search the roots, branches, and leaves of This Tree, use the Google search engine; every past edition of our fortnightly What's New can be found here; for a detailed look at Green Man Review, go thisaway; and lastly, you report errors over here. Still have questions? Email our Editor here. Provided he's not in the Green Man Pub savouring some kick ass metheglin while listening to Blodeuwedd tell her tale, he'll try to answer your question!
Green Man Review News is an e-mail list for readers of Green Man Review. Each edition, we'll send you a brief précis of the week's What's New. This is an announcement-only list. To subscribe, send an e-mail from the address where you want to receive the précis, to this address, or go here to subscribe. Green Man Review also posts its updates on Livejournal.
Entire Contents Copyright 1993–2009, Green Man Review, a publication of East of The Moon, West of The Sun Publishing. All Rights Reserved. WOMAD on The Border and Fare-You-Well Park are aspects of Terri Windling's Bordertown series and are used here with her kind permission.
No reviewer receives any financial compensation what-so-ever from Green Man or the source of the product for reviewing any product.
A metafictional postscript -- all actual living beings referred to in the Green Man grand narrative have agreed to be there. Really. Truly. Confused? Just set back and enjoy our stories within stories. And do keep in mind that opinions expressed in the metanarrative do not necessarily reflect the views of Green Man Review or that of East of The Moon, West of The Sun Publishing. They might, they might not.
Any resemblance in Continuity to persons, places, or times of anyone or anywhere living or dead, is purely coincidental unless otherwise noted. Those who know differently are unlikely to admit their involvement.
Uploaded 17th October 2009 4:25pm pst LLS
archived Samain 2009 9:52pm pst