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League of Extraordinary Books

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  • New Item:
    Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock (1984)
    A fantasy... romance i guess you'd call it. About a wood haunted by primal archetypes of myth. If described it would come across a lot more cliched than it feels when reading. Also the characters seem to accept the weirdness of things maybe a little too easy but these are both small complaints. I liked. [4/5]

    Old Item:
    Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1917)
    The first of the Barsoom series. Considered one of the best of the pulp genre. This was painful to get through. A series of endless witless garbage with no characterization and no point.
    It borrows considerably from 'Gulliver of Mars' in its setup and while that novel was really badly written, at least it provoked a reaction (rage mostly... but still :) ) this on the other hand was just boring. Sound and fury signifying nothing. [1/5]




  • New Item:
    H.M.S. Pinafore by Gilbert & Sullivan (1878)
    Slightly better songs than the Mikado but not as much of a story. Its ok, but not great. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht & Kurt Weill (1928)
    Really surprisingly enjoyable, my favorite musical at the moment. A lot grittier and dark then most but still funny. [4/5]




  • New Item:
    Vathek by William Beckford (1786)
    A faustian tale, written like something from the Arabian Nights. The style of writing can make some sentences confusing but overall its quite clear. Nicely weird in places overall good but can drag a little in places. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1611)
    Not something i consider one of shakespeares best. Not a lot seems to happen in it, its ok but I can't think of a single really memorable moment. [2/5]




  • New Item:
    Hell House by Richard Matheson (1971)
    In many ways an unsubtle ghost story, violent, sordid and cliched BUT still pretty damn good. Ending is a little weak, some of it didn't entirely make sense. Overall though the story is certainly compelling. [4/5]

    Old Item:
    The Alchemist by Ben Johnson (1610)
    A comedy play about a couple of con-men posing as alchemists. The humour doesn't really stand up and its just really uninteresting. [1/5]




  • New Item:
    Utopia by Thomas More (1516)
    A look at what a perfect society might look like aswell as discussions of improvements to law and order. Interesting enough i guess but More's Utopia is certainly not somewhere i'd like to live. [2/5]

    Old Item:
    Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry (1896)
    A short play that i can't remember anything of interest happening in. [1/5]


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  • New Item:
    Hackney: That Rose Red Empire by Iain Sinclair (2009)
    Hard one to describe, seems to be a book about trying to write a book. Lots of interviews, rumours, opinions. Mostly regarding the history of hackney in terms of the artists who have moved through it over the years.
    Despite it being completely outside of my areas of interest or knowledge i still found it quite good despite its length. [3/5]

    Old Items:
    Earth-Spirit by Frank Wedekind (1895) [2/5]
    Pandoras Box by Frank Wedekind (1904) [3/5]
    Two plays about a beautiful street-girl. Involving murder, fraud, lust etc. They're ok, i know theres a german film version, it might be better than just reading the text.




  • New Item:
    Caliban upon Setebos by Robert Browning (1864)
    Poem (but one of those not rhyming poems) featuring Caliban from the Tempest, wondering about the nature of god. Not bad. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    Melmoth the Wanderer (abridged) by Charles Maturin (1820)
    I only read the abridged version as the other is considered to be almost unreadable, the short version couldn't have been that much better. Supposedly faustian tale, its been a while since i read it but i don't remember getting much story from it at all.[1/5]




  • New Item:
    The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg by Mark Twain (1899)
    A short story of a town renowned for the honesty of its citizens and a (somewhat psychotic) stranger's plan to ruin them. Really quite good, a few more twists than expected. [4/5]

    Old Item:
    The Vampyre by John Polidori (1819)
    Short vampire tale. Even given its position as one of the earliest vampire stories, its still not really worth the read. [2/5]




  • New Item:
    The Songbook of Quong Lee of Limehouse by Thomas Burke (1920)
    Non-rhyming poetry book. I like the little scenes it paints of life in limehouse and really liked it at first, so much so that it didn't quite live up to my expectations later. Still decent though. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    Manfred by Lord Byron (1817)
    A dramatic poem apparently. I don't know what people see in it. I read it quite a while ago but the only impression it left was of a guy standing at a window whining about stuff. [1/5]




  • New Item:
    Erewhon by Samuel Butler (1872)
    Social satire tale bookended by the adventure sections needed to travel to and from Erewhon (aka nowhere). These sections i found slow going but can't quite figure out why. The satire elements have some GREAT ideas. The author has a wonderful way of making you think by showing things in an absurd light. Also theres some amazing stuff about the fear of machines rising up and taking over, remember this is 1872!!!!. Eat your heart our James Cameron ;) . [3/5]

    Old Item:
    Robur the Conquerer by Jules Verne (1886)
    You know whats interesting about air travel?... Nothing apparently! This is basically '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' but with an air-ship. However unlike the sea there isn't anything up there! Boring and pointless. [1/5]


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  • New Item:
    The Problem of Cell 13 by Jacques Futrelle (1905)
    Short story about a professors wager the he can break out of a prison. Fairly good heist-like story. Not much more to say really. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne (1874)
    The sequel technically, of 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea. Not so much story as DIY guide to building your own civilization. Only recommended for the scientifically minded. If you want to know how to go from hitting stuff with rocks, to a working telegraph line, then this is for you ;) . [3/5]




  • New Items:
    Miss Coote's Confession by William Lazenby (1879)
    Adult story published in 'The Pearl' magazine. A lot of non-consensual whipping involved, some sex and lesbianism. Mildly interesting from a historical context but hardly arousing, a nasty sadistic vein throughout. [2/5]

    The Convent School by William Dugdale (1876)
    The life-story of a Countess is introduced by Miss Coote. More story driven than the above. Kind of like an unsubtle Fanny Hill. Apart from a couple of moments of enjoyment by the protagonist, its very dark and vicious. Like reading an episode of Criminal Minds or something. [2/5]

    Old Item:
    An Antarctic Mystery by Jules Verne (1897)
    An unofficial sequel to Poe's, 'Narrative of Arthur Gordan Pym'. If i was Poe i'd be pretty insulted. It seems to purposefully undercut the weirdness of the Pym story at every opportunity. Before adding Verne's own more scientific weirdness to the plot. Ultimately though its a wasted effort as its as average as Pym was, just in a different way. [3/5]




  • New Item:
    The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco (1994)
    Not as weird as the title suggests. This is mostly i guess a fictional historical biography, set in the 17th century. Very highbrow, lot of words you'll need to look up. About half of it is flashback and another large chunk is a story the protagonist is writing. A lot of it is just conversations and thoughts. A bit like Moby Dick in its continuous digressions from what one might think of as the story. However while it is a little boring in places its VERY well written. I liked.
    (oh and a hat-tip to the translator this must have been a hell of a job :) ) [4/5]

    Old Item:
    Earth to the Moon (2 volumes) by Jules Verne (1865)
    Once again another overly scientific Verne book. Yes its interesting how he anticipated certain aspects of the space program but while he does the science well the story loses out, as it often seems to in my experience. [3/5]




  • New Items:
    Brier Rose by the Brothers Grimm (1340)
    A version of the original folktale, nothing of interest. [1/5]

    The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood by Charles Perrault (1697)
    A properly written version of the above and somewhat extended. [2/5]

    The Wise Woman: A Parable by George MacDonald (1875)
    A tale of a witch-like woman who kidnaps spoiled and unmanageable children and tries to teach them to be good. Nicely weird, has got a very strong Mary Poppins vibe to it. Ending not great, not a lot of closure but overall i enjoyed my time with it. [4/5]

    Old Items:
    First Men in the Moon by H.G.Wells (1901)
    While i admit 'War of the Worlds' is probably Well's best. This is my favorite of his stories that i've read so far. The only downside is that after what seems like a fitting climax there are still a few chapters to go. But if i just keep thinking 'Epilogue' in my head i can still enjoy them :) . [4/5]




  • New Item:
    Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe (1842)
    Wow a Poe story i actually really liked i am surprised. I don't know much about literature or poetry but this struck me as a very poetic story for what thats worth. Quite short but i liked. [4/5]

    Old Item:
    Island of Dr.Moreau by H.G.Wells (1896)
    The poorest of the Wells novels i've read. For me it really doesn't stand up to a modern reader. The idea of just reshaping an animals limbs and somehow making it act like a human is so ludicrous given a modern understanding of intelligence. Overall i don't even think its the silliness of the concept but rather just some not very good writing and plot which make me dislike this one. [2/5]




  • New Item:
    The Ivory Child by H.Rider Haggard (1916)
    I'm still not a fan of the african adventure story but this is certainly better than most. A lot of different aspects to it, its got some humor, its fairly dark in places, some romance, lot of magic as well as the usual war scenes. It's good for its type. [4/5]

    Old Item:
    Invisible Man by H.G.Wells (1897)
    There isn't a lot of plot in this one its mostly just a character study. But the invisible man is quite a character. I really like the fact that he's pretty crazy even before he becomes invisible. Not the best of Wells but good enough. [3/5]




  • New Item:
    The Horla by Guy de Maupassant (1887)
    Classic horror short-story. Has some good ideas and one section in particular is pretty creepy. But the writing style and plot are uneven. Good but not great. It might have lost something in the translation. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    The Time Machine by H.G.Wells (1895)
    Much shorter than expected. The protagonist is so detached from events around him it doesn't make for a good story. There are better tales around this subject, even from the same period. [2/5]




  • New Item:
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
    Wow... that was quite something. An insane war story with clear influences on the likes of MASH or Blackadder Goes Forth. However while very funny in places it also has a dark-side, and when it gets dark it gets REALLY dark! Towards the end it also felt a bit Brazil or 1984. Apart from some very occasional moves too far into the surreal this is perfect, and i say that even though this isn't a genre i enjoy. [5/5]

    Old Item:
    The Crystal Egg by H.G.Wells (1897)
    A short story about a weird possibly alien object. Ok, but not much to it. [2/5]




  • New Item:
    The Beggar's Opera by John Gay (1728)
    The opera on which the Threepenny Opera is based. Plot very similar although the Threepenny is a little expanded. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)
    Mystery, romance. Apparently a lot of people like this but i don't count myself among them. I'm probably being a bit harsh as this is considered the very first english detective novel. [2/5]




  • New Item:
    The New Accelerator by H.G.Wells (1901)
    Short story. Ever wondered how old The Flash is? well now you know. Unfortunately the conventions of moving super-fast are so well known that this story feels somewhat dated. But its not bad. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    Moonchild by Aleister Crowley (1917)
    Bit confused on the ending to this. If i got it right i'm unhappy, if i got it wrong i'm stupid and unhappy. The evil guys are so over the top. So much so that when someone was nailing a live cat to the floor, i burst out laughing (or maybe i have issues.. ;) ). Great atmosphere though. [3/5]


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  • New Item:
    Walled Towns by Ralph Adams Cram (1919)
    Essay on the problems of capitalism and communism and how we should all go live in a commune to get away from them both. Not the most original of ideas but this commune is a little different from most, its a sort of Omish / gated community / renaissance fair. Based on the walled towns and guild system of the medieval period. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    Meccania the Super-State by Owen Gregory (1918)
    A chinese diplomat gets a tour of a sort of 1984 style police state. Its pretty interesting and creepy. One problem is that he never really gets to interview individual citizens but thats part of the state system and the lack of personal interaction or real information IS the real information. [4/5]




  • New Item:
    The Crock of Gold (1912)
    Philosophical story featuring leprechauns, policemen and the Great God Pan. Funny, occasionally depressing and very thoughtful. The leprechaun story elements seem a little confused and some of the descriptive or philosophical passages can be a bit long. However i REALLY enjoyed this one and tore through it very quickly. [4/5]

    Old Item:
    Metropolis by Thea von Harbou (1926)
    So this is the book version of the famous film. Obviously its somewhat expanded beyond what they could show in a silent film but its also pretty similar in plot. Its descriptions of machines are one of the oddest things about it. The workers are linked to the machines but you can't tell if it means literally or figuratively. Overall its fairly well written. [3/5]




  • New Item:
    A Voyage to the Moon by Cyrano de Bergerac (1657)
    This claims to be a comedy and i expected something like the satire of Gullivers Travels, however while there is some of that there is far more focus on scientific and philosophical discussions. Its a little hard to understand in places but the ideas discussed are really interesting. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham (1908)
    A nasty tale of an evil magician who turns a woman who insults him into his personal sex-slave. I'm sure theres probably a Manga of this story somewhere ;(. For me this was a really difficult read until near the end when the woman was removed from the picture, then it seemed quite B-Movieish, like an episode of Tales from the Crypt or something. Others not as sensitive to the rape stuff as I, may just read the whole story like a B-Movie. [3/5]




  • New Item:
    Frost by Thomas Bernhard (1963)
    A medical student is sent to a small mountain town to spy on his bosses brother and diagnose his condition. This is all about depression and possibly madness. It uses a lot of gibberish to give you an impression of what despair is really like. While it does succeed to some degree, the effort isn't worth the return.
    I thought it might get better towards the end especially when the protagonist sends his report home BUT this is written in such awful psycho-babble that it was even worse than all the preceding gibberish. [2/5]

    Old Item:
    The Beetle by Richard Marsh (1897)
    Came out at the same time as Dracula and was more popular at the time. 'The Beetle' should be one of those classic monster types if not for a few flaws. The story is just a bit too mysterious for its own good and the ending is sudden and as anti-climactic as that of Dracula.
    However few stories have a creepier start than this book and it really got under my skin.
    P.S. There's an episode of the X-Files based on this story (s05e19 'Folie à Deux').
    [3/5]




  • New Item:
    Blondel and King Richard by Joseph Noel Wailly (1876)
    Short legend of the minstrel Blondel and how he helped rescue Richard the Lionheart from the dungeon of the King of Austria. [2/5]

    Old Item:
    Mysta of the Moon comic (1945-1952)
    Old fashioned comic with a surprisingly strong female protagonist. Set in a post-apocalyptic future Mysta tries to guide the recovering human civilizations.
    I got this strange theory in my head that in the meta-world of the 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen', Mysta may in fact be Mina Murray in disguise. There are a number of similarities between Mysta and Alan Moore's Mina character.
    (comics can be found on Lady, Thats my Skull blog) [4/5]




  • New Item:
    Five Children and It by E.Nesbit (1902)
    Basically its a kids version of the Monkey's Paw or Bedazzled. Get wishes, they turn out badly. Its quite good and while its a kids book so the horrible results can't be too bad its still moving at times. If i was a kid this rating would no doubt be much higher. [3/5]
    PS: I only read a couple of chapters the rest by Libravox.org, reader Jenny Lundak. Who did an excellent job i thought.

    Old Item:
    Frank Reade Jr's Electic Air Canoe (1903)
    Short Edisonian adventure story. Boy invents airship goes to amazon, adventures with natives, giant snakes etc. A black guy and irishman provide comic relief which can be a bit racist. However they're also the only other people in the world who can fly and repair an airship so it evens out. [3/5]




  • New Item:
    The Goddess Of Atvatabar by William R. Bradshaw (1892)
    There's a lot of interesting things in this book, not least of which is the very iffy reforms to utopia that the so called hero makes at the end.
    This is about a ship which finds a way into the inner earth which turns out to be hollow. They then discovered the utopian society of Atvatabar.
    Theres mecanical wing suits and giant mechanical ostriches, flying ships etc. Plus weird half plant half animal things and an interesting religion and social structure. Also actual magic, which is powered by magnets and celibacy! (and no that isn't a typo ;) ).
    The 3rd Act turns into a very pulpy adventure story with flying battles reminiscent of that 80's Flash Gordon movie with the Hawk-Men. BUT none of this compensates for the authors terrible inability to stop describing shiny things. Palaces, jewels, sculptures, dresses, furniture, it just goes on and on and on. So glad i got through it and lots to think about, but can't recommend it. [2/5]

    Old Item:
    three issues of Captain Mors the Air Pirate (1911)
    Unfortunately i could only find 3 issues of this story in english. Its about an engineer who uncovers a plot by some businessmen to start a revolt in Russia for financial gain. The engineer has various flying machines such as a plane, helicopter and rocket ship aswell as a fortified island base from which he fights the conspirators and there mercenaries. Its quite decent pulp. [3/5]




  • New Item:
    Well my current book is taking forever to get through so heres this.
    Pandora's Box (1929, film)
    So i read the plays Earth-Spirit and Pandora's Box by Frank Wedekind some time ago so i thought i'd check out the semi-famous film adaptation.
    It's a german silent film but with an american actress Louise Brooks (dear god she's beautiful!) as the lead. It sticks pretty close to the original plays although there are some changes and the story is a little condensed.
    Jack the Ripper is played as a surprisingly sympathetic character. But its totally Brook's film, she flies from one emotional extreme to another at the drop of a hat. She's manipulative and selfish but also naive. She's like a young celebrity willing to do anything for the fame but with an entourage of people feeding off her and using her.
    It's stands up surprisingly well to the test of time despite the 1hr,50mins run time.
    Oh and i nearly forgot to mention the Countess Geschwitz. She isn't just secretly in love with Lulu, instead she goes around in a tuxedo and dances with Lulu (taking the lead of course) it seems to be a surprisingly openly gay character for the time. [4/5]

    Old Item's:
    Sherlock Holmes, The Final Problem by Arthur Conan Doyle (1893) [2/5]
    Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle (1891) [2/5]
    Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe (1841) [2/5]
    Mystery of Marie Roget by Edgar Allan Poe (1842) [2/5]
    The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe (1844) [2/5]
    No way am i reviewing these separately. I've yet to find a detective story that really impresses me. There's just so little characterization to anyone involved that i find it hard to care whether its solved or not.
    'The Final Problem' is mildly interesting because it introduces Moriarty and kills Holmes in less than 20 pages, showing just how little Doyle thought about his creations.
    'Scandal in Bohemia' introduces Irene Adler, Holmes supposed love interest but there's little of that in evidence here, thats all just made up by fanboys over the years.
    Not much to say about the other two, if you've somehpw managed to avoid the spoiling of 'Rue Morgue' it might be mildly interesting.
    And i believe 'Marie Roget' was based on a real case going on at the time that Poe thought he could solve but it was too uninteresting for me to look into further.




  • New Item:
    120 days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade (1785)
    Whatever you may have heard, its worse. The frame story is about 4 of the vilest bastards to walk the earth. They retreat to a remote castle to be able to indulge themselves without fear of interruption. Those they take with them include 16 kidnapped teens aged 12-15, 8 boys and 8 girls. The main point of the story is a catalogue of every sexual fetish the author can imagine. Some are told each day by 4 storytellers who accompany the group.
    Only the first 30 days are told in detail the rest is just sketched as the work was never finished. Just to give some idea of how dark things get, of the 46 participants at the castle only 16 make it out alive.
    The score i've given this is only based on the quality of the writing NOT on the content.
    NO ONE should read this except maybe people who want to be Profilers like on 'Criminal Minds'. [3/5]

    Old Items:
    Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe (1846) [2/5]
    Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (1839) [2/5]
    Not much to say about Amontillado its ok, nothing special. In Usher, Poe does a great job of building atmosphere, unfortunately the atmosphere he chooses is one of dullness and depression. Dullness isn't scary its just dull, so trying to make this into a horror story simply doesn't work.


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  • New Item:
    Beowulf translated by Gummere (1025)
    I tend to like anything written in a different language style and this is no exception... however it can be really confusing at times. Who's talking or who's been talked about can switch without warning. There's 3 monster fights but they're all fairly short, most of the text is people making speeches. If your familiar with the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings it should really help with visualizing the story. Overall i still like it but its not a very smooth read, maybe a different version would be better. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe (1837)
    Poe's only novel. It depicts an accidental trip to the arctic and various high-seas adventures. Poe describes physical sickness and danger and injury well, but his characters seem to have no real emotional reaction to their situation. Then when things get weird as the ship discovers new lands, the creatures and things found are really kind of lame, like something a 12year old would of come up with.
    Finally the story ends in what i'm sure was meant to be really dramatic way but just comes across as annoyingly mysterious and leaves a sour taste.
    Overall its still ok, i've read worse... take that ringing endorsement however you like ;).
    There's an unofficial sequel by Jules Verne called 'An Antarctic Mystery'. [3/5]


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