Showing posts from March, 2010

Salem's Lot

Salem's Lot Stephen King, 1975 I have to admit, I winced when I opened this book.  I'm a little hypersensitive to Mr. King's pet narrative devices after reading Under the Dome last month (review pending a break in my posting schedule), which retreads a lot of the ground first walked in Salem's Lot .  But happily, once past the first page I was reminded why they became his favorite narrative devices.  Because when he's on point, it works beautifully. Man, this was a good American re-telling of Dracula .  King makes no pretensions that it isn't just that, even comes right out and says it in the introduction, also that he tried to blend back in some more horrific elements found in EC Comics.  Old vamp Barlow and his human lackey set up shop in the Maine town of Jerusalem's Lot, with considerable success.  A group of locals figure out what's happening and move against him.  Like most of King's writing, it flows beautifully and reads viscer

I Am Legend

I Am Legend Richard Matheson, 1954 I'm having a really hard time planning this post.  I really enjoyed this short novel, but most of what I found fascinating about it really belongs under a spoiler warning.  Yes, even though the book came out in 1954, has been adapted into three movies, and is a seminal work of modern horror.  You ought to read it before I can give you my full reaction. So all I'll do first is fit it into the context of vampiric literature.  I Am Legend famously inspired many modern horror writers and filmmakers.  The opening premise - guy alone in a house staving off waves of undead - inspired much of what we think of as the modern zombie.  For the most part, the vampires here are less intelligent than humans.  They are only possessed by a desire for blood and an instinct to hide during the day.  On the other hand, similar to Dracula , female vampires seem to also acquire a preternatural wantonness, which is creepy, and at times makes one wonder abo


Dracula Bram Stoker, 1897 I think Dracula needs a longer title.  I'd like to suggest: Dracula: Sexism Kills!   I can't believe I couldn't get through this book when I tried to read it 8 or so years ago.  Maybe my nineteenth century reading skills have improved.  I can't imagine why. I really enjoyed this book.  The characters were properly bluff and British when called for, Dracula was creepy, Renfield really tragic, Van Helsing, among other things, played for comic relief, which I was not expecting.  And Mina!  Level-headed Mina the super typist and analysis girl.  She was awesome.  I know the role she's given to pay in fighting the Undead is a bit of a rear guard, but I love her.  I love that once she accepts that Dracula is real and very dangerous, her response is: 'alright, now see all this information you've got all over?  Why don't you let me sort that out for you and clarify it?  Okay?  Great.'  She's an information processor, t

New Theme: Literary Vampires

Two events of last year have been driving me toward reading/re-reading a bunch of vampire fiction. One, we won a copy of The Strain , Guillermo Del Toro's new vampire book. Specifically Erin won it, with this piece of fiction. Two, I suppose I should see what's up with the whole Twilight thing. So I've decided to hit the highlights of literary vampires through history, starting later today. Here's my projected timeline: 1897  Dracula 1954  I Am Legend 1975  'Salem's Lot 1976  Interview with the Vampire 1993  Guilty Pleasures (one of the first big paranormal romances) 2005  Twilight 2009   The Strain  Did I miss any major ones?

Dragons of the Hourglass Mage

  Dragons of the Hourglass Mage: The Lost Chronicles Volume III Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, 2009 Okay, this is the part where I hang my head in shame.  I not only read this book, I had to order it from another library branch.  I feel vaguely dirty.  Only not really, because Dragonlance, for me, is pure comfort food reading.  It's like mac and cheese from a box: You know what you're getting, and it's gooey and easy and sort of tasty, if not very good for you.  That said, don't read this unless you read and remember the originals, and even then you're going to want to think twice. I find the “ Lost Chronicles ” particularly ridiculous.  The idea here is that Weis and Hickman's kids must need dental work or something, and/or things are very sour between them and WotC.  This is the last of three books that aimed to fill in the time gaps in the original Chronicles trilogy.  You know, besides all the short stories and etc. that others have written

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia Laura Miller, 2008 The last time I looked at Narnia , I came away less than impressed.  When I heard about this book, I was intrigued, but, well, skeptical. The book is a combination of memoir, anecdote, history and literary criticism, as the author explores her own evolving relationship with the Narnia series.  It's divided into three sections, ostensibly containing: the reasons the books are (or ought to be) beloved by a child, the reasons they are rejected in time, and a new way to appreciate them as an adult. By the end of the first section, I felt Miller doth protest too much that these books are special.  Her ideas and explanations for why particular stories are both attractive to children, and affect people all their lives, were interesting and poetic, if at times far fetched.  She picks some of the most beautiful passages in Narnia to quote, and I freely admit there is beauty in some of the writing,