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League of Extraordinary Books
Ralph 124C 41+ by Hugo Gernsback (1912)
A pulpy sci-fi romance. The first half is really just a tour of New York circa 2660 and a chance to show off various sci-fi inventions. Its quite interesting if a little dry at times. The second-half is more devoted to the romance adventure, as Ralph has to deal with two rivals who are in love with his girlfriend. Its surprisingly gripping and with a real sense of danger.
The sci-fi stuff is mostly based on outmoded scientific principals but that didn't bother me. A small complaint, it would have been nice to have more info on the Martians. In addition the world doesn't seem to have advanced socially nearly as much as it has technologically. Overall though really good pulp. [4/5]
The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)
Surprisingly good crime/horror short story, despite knowing the ending due to cultural absorption. [3/5]
The Thousand and Second Tale of Scherezade by Edgar Allan Poe (1845)
Scherezade from the 'Arabian Nights', tells one more outlandish tale to put off her execution but this one is based on real phenomenon.
So you hear of a monster which can push a boulder bigger than itself that turns out to be a dung beetle etc.
Its kind of funny especially the ending, but the idea is better than the implementation. [3/5]0
Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock (1818)
Another great comedy and social satire. I previously read Crotchett Castle which is also really good. The characters in this arn't as various as those in Crotchett, this one is all about Goth. And i mean that in the modern sense, most of the characters really like being depressed, and you have people like Mr. Toobad and Mr. Listless.
Its very well written and has great back and forth conversations. It also didn't have as many words i had to look up as Crotchett Castle. I was so into it and it flows so nice that i nearly finished it in a single day, its good stuff . [4/5]
The Angels of Mons by Arthur Machen (1914)
Also known as 'the Bowmen'. Short uninteresting supernatural story set in World War I. The story however was believed by many to be true and what happened after it was published is far more interesting than the tale itself. [1/5]0
A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder by James De Mille (1888)
A seemingly usual tale of lost civilization and rescue the princess, avoid the dinosaurs type story, but those are mostly background details.
Its a look at a civilization which truly embraces the self-sacrifice teachings of many religious orders, which turns out to be pretty terrifying when you see it in practice . As this single concept can't sustain an entire book and things start to drag, a love triangle appears (not unlike the one in the 80's Flash Gordon movie, with Ming's daughter) which keeps things interesting until the finale.
A very odd thing about all this is the occasional interruption by those reading the found manuscript. These characters feel like they were written by P.G. Wodehouse and are completely at odds tonally with the rather dark story. They also analysis and criticize the texts language, geography and descriptions as if the author was a bit desperate to justify himself.
It started to lose me a few times but kept dragging me back in. [3/5]
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865) [2/5]
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871) [2/5]
Both of these are like listening to someone tell you a dream they had once. Impossible for me to care. Despite being much shorter than you'd think it still managed to bore me. Only good part of either for me was the 'Jabberwocky' poem, which is awesome!
Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll (1876)
Carrol should have stuck to poetry this is quite decent non-sense. [3/5]0
The Green Child by Herbert Read (1935)
Imagine if you were watching a film like 'Lady in the Water' and just as things were getting interestingly weird you find someone's spliced a film about Napolean into it. Now you may enjoy a Napolean biopic but you're not very likely to want to watch it in these circumstances. In the end this becomes a lost/alien civilization tale with some interesting philosophical leanings. It should leave you very thoughtful but somewhat unsatisfied due to its odd structure. [3/5]
Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear (1871)
Classic poem about an owl and a pussycat eloping in a pea green boat. If this were a youtube video it would be 10 million hits easy . [3/5]
Bluebeard by Charles Perrault (1659)
Fairytale about a serial murderer. Aren't fairytales supposed to have a lesson in them? The only lessons I got from this were 'don't give your next victim the keys to your murder closet' or 'marrying a serial killer is a good idea as long as they're rich'. [2/5]0
Some Words with a Mummy by Edgar Allan Poe (1845)
Quite a funny short tale about some people who accidentally wake up an egyptian mummy. Started off really well but later they start arguing over who's civilization is better and the humor felt more dated.
I'm sure this was a big influence on the 'Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec' comics (and now a movie). [3/5]
Seven Voyages of Sindbad ed. Andrew Lang (1898)
A tough read for me as are all folk/fairytales. But it makes up for it with the content. This is NOT the Sindbad your familiar with. It's amazing to think they got all those films from this source.
You know he's only called 'the Sailor' because he travels by boat a lot, thats like calling someone 'the Pilot' cause they use a lot of air-travel!
He's also a coward, remarkably docile in captivity and with a nasty habit of figuring ways out of a trap once everyone ELSE is dead. Oh and the 3rd voyage, wow!! it really says everything you need to know about this guy :lol . [3/5]
(read from the Arabian Nights)
Edit: ooops that should have said 4th Voyage above not 3rd.0
The Bostonians by Henry James (1886)
First off one minor quibble. This has THE worst use of chapters i've ever seen! I mean almost every chapter felt like it was starting in mid-sentence. Chapters are supposed to distinguish particular scenes but the chapter ends in this all felt like they were in the wrong places.
Social satire/drama romance thing... i don't really know how to characterize it properly. Set amongst the Suffragette movement in America and with some battle-of-the-sexes goings on.
Its VERY well written with a nice way of painting people and places. I'm not going to say whether it was depressing or uplifting as this might spoil it, suffice to say which ever one it was it did so to an extreme degree.
The authors slow burn writing style became quite annoying later but that was due to how compelling the story was and how desperately i wanted to know what was going to happen . [5/5]
Wreck of the Titan by Morgan Robertson (1898)
Novella about a coincidently (some say suspiciously) similar incident to the Titanic disaster but written 10 years before that real event.
Its actually a bit like the Titanic film in that its a sort of love-triangle with the disaster as backdrop.
However while the film had a sad ending designed to make you feel good, this has what i think was supposed to be a happy ending but was for me at least, one of the most depressing things i've ever read :lol ! [3/5]
Edit: I've just realized 'The Bostonians' was written as a serial perhaps that explains the odd chapter cuts.0
Tannhauser by Richard Wagner (1843)
Text of an opera about a guy who falls for Venus and after leaves her as endless pleasure becomes tiresome. Having sinned by indulging in physical pleasure he asks god for forgiveness and is granted it, for the low low price of his would-be girlfriend killing herself. God really is a bit of a tool. [3/5]
Under the Hill by Aubrey Beardsley (1897)
Beardsley is more of an artist than a writer apparently, the drawings in this are quite odd looking. Its about a man who goes to a party under the hill much like the opera above, except Venus is referred to as Helen in this instance.
After the party the protagonist does a sort of list of his favorite erotic pictures and novels and then its pretty much over.
I don't really get it, its supposed to be filth and i got the occasional hint of that with women wearing false-mustaches and certain suggestive elements at the end between Helen and her pet unicorn Adolphe... but it felt pointless. [1/5]
The Purple Terror by Fred M. White (1898)
Short tale about a dangerous piece of jungle. Nothing special. [2/5]0
A Strange Discovery by Charles Romyn Dake (1899)
This is another unofficial sequel to the 'Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym'. The tale of what happened to Pym is done in a fairly short way.
Its being told by a doctor who extracted the information from Dirk Peters. As such it lacks detail at times.
All of the characters are quite good and it has a number of interesting and funny digressions.
There are various discussions on money, doomsday devices, medicine, politics etc. Can be a little dry at times especially when geology is concerned but it was worth a look. [3/5]
The Monster of Lake LaMetrie by Wardon Allen Curtis (1899)
A short tale seemingly about a Loch Ness style dinosaur but with a nice and somewhat funny twist. Better than you might think . [3/5]
Casting of the Runes by M.R. James (1911)
Supposedly awesome blackmagic tale. It did nothing for me. [1/5]0
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
A sort of biography of someone who was in Dresden when it was bombed in WWII. The technique of telling a persons life story by jumping back and forth to different events, is not original. But here the author just goes with it literally, making the protagonist a time-travel who jumps randomly to different parts of his own life.
Add some aliens and a bunch of absurd events many of which might well be true, and you've got yourself enough honey to help the reader swallow this story. A tale which is poignant, dark and depressing, in which thousands of people die for reasons which remain foggy at best. [4/5]
The Birds by Aristophanes (414 BC)
Text of an ancient greek play, which i believe won a Silver at the Olympics. I can't imagine what won the gold this was really quite good. A group of birds decide to rebel against the gods and put heaven under siege. Things do not go how i expected them too :lol.
One of the most interesting things is Basileia who is effectively Zeus's secretary and the person who actually organizes the heavens. Its an oddly modern idea to have an organization being held together by the middle-management types rather than the executives .
(This play is were the phrase Cloud Cuckoo Land comes from.) [3/5]0
Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (1958)
Children's story about a pair of cousins who find a former lake, now swamp and the abandoned summer houses surrounding it.
A surprisingly unexciting story given the setup. There are no great emotional ups or downs. A very comfortable but still quite pleasing story. [3/5]
On Gargoyles by G.K. Chesterton (1910)
Short story illustrating some point about Gothic architecture. It was quite interesting. [3/5]0
The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola (1952)
This is a work of folklore or fairytale, a bit like the seven voyages of sindbad in the Arabian Nights, or maybe a bit like Alice in Wonderland.
Its written in broken english and is very imaginative. If it had been really short i'd probably have scored it a 4/5 but all it has going for it for me is its novelty factor. Personally i find fairy-tales or things like Alice in Wonderland to be quite boring and difficult to read and by the end of this i'd lost interest. [2/5]
Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (1957)
Nothing to say really. [3/5]
So i'll just add a link to some awesome H.P. Lovecraft tales done in Dr.Seuss style http://drfaustusau.deviantart.com/gallery/ .0
The Land of Cokaygne by Harley (1350)
Poem about a land where the walls of houses are made of pies and the roofs are made of cake and you can fly and have a lot of sex. I gave it such a high score simply because it was so unusual for something this old. [4/5]
The Story of Schlauraffen Land by the Brothers Grimm (1812)
The Grimms fairytale version of the above. However here the land is just a place were everything is wrong, doves kill wolves etc. Short nonsense. [1/5]
Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School by Frank Richards (1947)
Various funny goings on at a boarding school. Its unusual in that the main character is so awful. He's lazy, stupid, greedy and sneaky (at least tries to be). Its quite difficult to make a story compelling with a main character like that but this makes it work. [3/5]0
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (1934)
Just a very solid noir. Surprisingly i was able to keep track of the different characters with relative ease. The conversational style of dialogue and some of the 30's slang can get a little confusing, but only a very little. The end came a little quick but it was a very nice ride.
I tend to quite dislike most crime stories but evidently that doesn't extend to noir. [5/5]
Immortal by Jorge Luis Borges (1947) [3/5]
Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges (1941) [4/5]
Two of Borges odd little stories. I think he may lose a bit in the translation but who knows. They're still pretty good. The 'Library of Babel' is obviously a big influence on the one from Terry Pratchetts discworld series.0
House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson (1908)
Weird, weird, weird. Tale of man who lives in strange house is attacked by bizarre creatures and goes on some VERY long trips through time and space.
The author does spend too much time describing the trips but you are left with unforgettable imagery. It really plays like a movie in your head and there are just the right amount of unanswered questions, not enough to annoy but enough for endless speculation.
If you make it to the end you will definitely be thinking... 'what the hell was that all about...' .[4/5]
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (1972)
Marco Polo tells Genghis Khan about various cities he's visited. Each city is in fact a little parable or thought provoking idea.
However it feels a bit of a cheat, other authors would have used these ideas as the basis for something greater.
Each little tableau is like a topic heading during a debate. With the arguments for both sides being left to the reader to invent. [3/5]0
Sorrow in Sunlight by Ronald Firbank (1925)
A fairly short social comedy. A bit like the 'Beverly Hill Billys', country folk move to big city and try to fit into high society.
A LOT better than expected given the alternative title 'the Prancing ******'. Apparently the american publishers suggested that change so i forgive the author, plus the story is very surprisingly unracist. The N-word is only used by one person who's black and is only used as a term of endearment for her husband.
But there are other problems, the writing can be quite confusing at times and i mean apart from the fact that most of it is written in what i can only describe as a Jamaican accent. Its also often difficult to work out who's talking and there are references which only someone of the time could probably get. Still mildly entertaining though. [3/5]
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (1953)
Some say the version of Bond who appears in LOeG is based on the films and doesn't reflect Fleming's version but having read this that is clearly wrong. This version of Bond is just as incompetent and vile as his LOeG counterpart.
In particular there are two thoughts he has while thinking of Agent Vesper that are truly disturbing.
Overall this is about what i expected from a Bond story except for what i mentioned above. [2/5]
Edit:Oh i got censored, that was the N-word above.0
The Hour of the Dragon by Robert E.Howard (1936)
aka Conan the Conqueror. This is exactly what you would think, which wasn't what i expected . I really wasn't sure Howard's writing would create the same sort of atmosphere as the films but it is pretty similar and Howard has a nice descriptive style. Although conan is definitely a little bit smarter than the film version.
The middle portion started to lose me, it felt like it was meandering too much and there are a few too many coincidences and lucky escapes. However it picked up steam again towards the end.
This clearly had a big impact as i can see its influence in many places, for example Uncanny X-Men issues 189-191.
There's also a brief appearance by an immortal princess called Akivasha, clearly based on Ayesha from the book 'She', but in this case Akivasha is a vampire and in her turn clearly the inspiration for 'Akasha' from the Anne Rice vampire books.
Also Khemi is mentioned, very similar to 'Khemri' a land in the Warhammer wargaming world. [4/5]
1984 by George Orwell (1949)
I called him Orson Wells on my initial post... oops. Anyway what can i say this is of course very good. I knew the ending before reading this so the tension was really terrible for me, once things got where i knew they were going frankly it was a relief, the waiting was awful.
One of the best things about this book for me is Newspeak, the idea you can control people's minds by reducing the words they know... just really struck a cord with me.
Amazing atmosphere throughout this, very depressing of course but definitely something everyone should read at least once. [4/5]0
Adventures of two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg by Bertha Upton (1895)
A nice rhyming kids story (if you can ignore the inherent racism of a golliwog).
If your familiar with the LoEG version of the golliwog, the Galley-Wag as he likes to call himself, you'll see a lot of similarities here. Everything is more innocent of course but you can clearly see the origin of Moore's more adult versions.
Also an african doll turns up at one point, drawn in a much less racist way than the golliwog. It's very stange to have a black doll and a golliwog in the same place, it makes the golliwog really stand out as something 'Other'.
Which of course matchs the LoEG version were the Galley-Wag is actually an alien made of darkmatter. [3/5]
On The Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
A story of some losers who sponge money off their relatives and drive across country listening to jazz and trying to have sex with anything that moves. Its fine if a little too realistic.
It may have seemed incredible at the time with its stream-of-consciousness writing style but i can't say it blew my mind. [3/5]0
The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley (1955)
The tiny country of Grand Fenwick declares war on the USA. It lurches quite quickly from almost Pratchettesque comedy, to dark cold war satire. Surprisingly straight forward story though, was expecting a bit more but still good. [4/5]
Dr. Sax by Jack Kerouac (1959)
I've given this the same score as 'On the Road' but of the two i'd say this is better. Its 2/3's autobiography of Kerouac as a child and there's a lot of neat little stories and information in these parts.
However every so often it jumps to an abandoned house on a hill, where a host of B-Movie monsters are having a meeting. Its quite weird and there's significant references to 'Lair of the White Worm' and Lovecraft.
One other odd thing is that in 'On the Road' Dr. Sax is mentioned essentially as an analogue of satan. So its strange to have him as the hero, or at least anti-hero of this story and whats stranger is the protagonist effectively becoming his sidekick. I'm not sure what writing yourself into a story as satans sidekick says about someone . [3/5]0
The Final Programme by Michael Moorcock (1965)
That was a strange one. Kind of like one of those weird 70's spy series, 'Man from Uncle' or 'Sapphire and Steel' which i think involved time travel... Anyway this has some of that, shoot-outs, strange technologies, pursuits etc.
One of the oddest things is that sometimes you can't tell whether to take things literally or figuratively.
Its just got a really nice writing style and good ideas. [5/5]
Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope (1894)
If you've seen the film 'Dave' with Kevin Klein, then you already know this story. Things are slightly different than the film version and its set in a sort of pre-world war one era.
The name of the fictional country from this book, 'Ruritania', has been used in a number of things so you might come across that elsewhere.
Its decent but the romance isn't as compelling as the film. There is a sequel to this though so that might be worth a look. [3/5]0
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)
Fantasy romance, mystery thing. I've only seen a couple of minutes of the anime but i find it hard to believe it follows the plot of the book.
This is just too odd, it twists constantly and goes in some really strange directions. I'm not even sure if its a kids book, it would be a little hard to follow for younger readers.
The author has an odd method of skipping the reveals, things which you might suspect are suddenly acknowledged and the story continues without pause. Its like the author is saying 'yes we all knew were this was going so lets just move on', it puts a lot of trust in the reader this way. [4/5]
Prince Zaleski by M.P. Shiel (1895)
Its not just in modern times that detective shows need a gimmick. Whether the protagonist is an anthropologist, coroner, cook, author, deception expert, hyperthymesia sufferer, vampire etc.
You always need some unique angle on the detective, well as i said, this is not a recent phenomenon.
This is a set of three detective mysteries which can only be solved by Prince Zaleski the worlds greatest historian!
Its no wonder there's only three given the problems inherent with coming up with cases only solvable by a historian.
The first two are ok but the third is REALLY good. Its on such a larger scale than the other cases. Overall this is a decent set of mysteries. [3/5]0
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (1948)
Short tale mixing the mundane with the horrific. Its pretty good but i knew what i was getting before reading it. Even so it did stay with me for a few days. [3/5]
Palos of the Dog Star Pack by J.U. Giesy (1918)
Tale of a man who can astral project himself. Becoming obsessed with the star Sirius, he projects himself to it and thence to an orbiting planet, Palos.
It makes a good start but after that descends into a fairly conventional sword-and-planet story. The main problem is the lack of suspense. The protagonists ability coupled with his access to earths technology, which is far beyond that of Palos, mean that there is never really any chance of him failing.
By the end he was using tanks against swordsmen it was just so one sided and hence boring. [2/5]0
The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1872)
aka Devils, aka Demons.
That was a wild ride. It starts out quite boring like a soap opera but after about the quarter mark it gets into details of a conspiracy and gets really good.
One of the odd things is, its so realistic. The revolutionists all have a different idea of what they're rebelling against and the group is made up of the gullible, the stupid and the insane. The acts they perform are also quite underwhelming as they would be in real life.
Finally the head of the conspirators is a virtual Super-Villian. His ability to plan and manipulate is a real treat to see. However its the reveal of his ultimate goal and motivation which is the best part of the story. In the end the author gets a bit cowardly with a lot of problem characters conveniently dying.
Despite being far longer than need be especially the start, its character development is certainly worth the price of admission. [4/5]
L'Assommoir by Emile Zola (1877)
Oh dear god that was depressing! A perfect story of peoples lives turning to ****. Some say this is all about the dangers of alcohol but drink seems to me to be more side effect than the cause of trouble in this story.
The main cause is simply the awful vicissitudes of fate coupled with the fact that so many people out there are arseholes. This is very compelling but so so depressing. I was quite relieved when things reached there stark but inevitable denouement. [4/5]0
short stories by Jorge Luis Borges
Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote (1939)
A tale of an author writing a new version of Don Quixote. Its completely identical in every way to the original but it's totally new, confused? good me too, but it was interesting in its absurdity . [3/5]
Death and the Compass (1942)
A nice riff on the classic Dupin or Holmes detective stories. [4/5]
The Zahir (1949)
A fantastic idea but let down a little by the style. I've had an experience like this when a tune got stuck in my head one night. Next day i couldn't tell whether it happened when i was asleep or awake but i was genuinely scared for the next 2 weeks, worrying i might remember the tune and then not be able to forget it again. [3/5]
The Aleph (1945)
This feels like a few different stories stuck together. The quality goes up and down, averaging out to decent. [3/5]
Brodie's Report (1970)
An encounter with the Yahoo's from Gulliver's Travels, but i just didn't see the point or feel i got anything of interest from it. [1/5]
An interesting albeit vague tale. It seems to have been influenced by Robert E.Howard's Conan stories. [3/5]
The Book of Sand (1975)
An interesting idea but nothing more and with no sense of payoff. [2/5]
Christianopolis by Johann Valentin Andreae (1619)
Utopian civilization description, build around a god-awful (pardon the pun) monastery build like a fortress. Boring as hell (oops there i go again ). [1/5]0
R.U.R. Rossum's Universal Robots by Karel Capek (1920)
A play about a factory that makes artificial people. I believe this is actually the origin of the word robot.
It's really amazing that this was written in 1920. It contains so many modern ideas about the creation of artificial life which are reused today by writers and film makers.
Despite a little sexism which is to be expected from the 1920's, this is an astonishing piece of work and deserves to be remembered as a pivotal piece of science fiction.
I listened to this on LibraVox which was great as it wasn't a simple reading but had a full cast. [5/5]
A Crystal Age by William Henry Hudson (1887)
A man is knocked unconscious and wakes up to find everything has changed. Utopian fiction, the civilization might be compared with the Eloi from the Time Machine but i think this story is better written and has a more haunting atmosphere.
There are hints that the civilization might not be as perfect as it appears but then the story ends before you can get any answers. I don't even know whether my ideas about the dark elements of the civilization were actually implied or merely inferred. A frustrating but interesting read. [3/5]0
Exploits and Opinions of Dr.Faustroll by Alfred Jarry (1911)
A surreal boat trip, utter garbage. You can't even picture its absurdities due to the impenetrable style of writing. Keeping a dictionary beside you might help a very little. Also its made up of references or homages to other works few of which i or anyone else is likely to have read.
There are many other things which make it hard to read, such as its scientific references or mathematical jokes.
But i know this must be ART. I can tell because i got the exact same feeling from this as i do when i see a sculpture worth a €100,000, made out of cat-teeth and the artists own faeces. [1/5]
Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came by Robert Browning (1855)
A nicely dark poem about a knight on a quest which has already claimed the lives of many.[3/5]
Camiola and Roland by William Painter (1567)
Short tale, possibly true if i'm to believe wikipedia, about a noble who is ransomed from an enemy prison in exchange for a vow of marriage. After he gets out of course he denies ever having made the vow and the insulted woman makes him a public disgrace. [3/5]
The Secrets of Dr.Taverner by Dion Fortune (1926)
As supernatural detective fiction goes, this is quite good. It's about a doctor who runs an asylum but is a sort of wizard on the side and each chapter is a different 'monster-of-the-week' style story about a patient. It covers the usual assortment, ghosts, dark magic, past lives, nature spirits etc. [3/5]0
Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg (1922)
Supposedly american fairytales, although they have more semblance to Edward Lear nonsense. If they were in poetry form, or i was american or a child MAYBE these stories would be tolerable.
However i think even as a kid i would have hated this. I gave up reading at about the quarter mark but was just able to get through the rest thanks to a very good LibraVox recording. [1/5]
Dr.Nikola's Experiment by Guy Boothby (1899)
A tale of experiments in prolonging life. Its not as creepy or thrilling as i expected. I've heard good things about the Dr.Nikola character , i hope his other stories are better than this one. [2/5]0
The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois (1947)
Enjoyable children's adventure tale about a man discovering a secret society. A bit like 'The Beach' or 'The Village' but without the darkness.
The story starts off quite similar to the movie 'Up!'. A 66 year old man decides to spend a year ballooning to get away from things. He's a retired schoolteacher and therefore really dislikes children. Since he is going to be up there for so long he designs the basket of the balloon to resemble a small house complete with balustrade all around like a porch.
Its funny and interesting, however it loses some suspense since it's told in flashback so you already know the ending. [3/5]
A Voyage to Cacklogallinia by Samuel Brunt (1727)
Said to have been the inspiration for Gulliver's Travels. A Gulliver like social satire about a man who gets washed up on an island run by giant chickens. Later the chickens make an expedition to the moon to mine for gold.
Its great stuff and still fairly relevant, especially the parts about investment schemes.[4/5]0
The Laughing Cavalier by Baroness Orczy (1913)
A prequel to the Scarlet Pimpernel featuring one of his ancestors. A very nice swashbuckling adventure romance. The best thing about it is how unlikable the main character is, he's a real anti-hero which makes him more interesting than most.
This whole book seems better written than the Scarlet Pimpernel. I'm not sure whether the author improved with age or if its simply because Pimpernel was adapted from a play.
There seem to be a few small spots of confusion as to who knows what and when, but overall its a solid piece of work. [4/5]
The Horse Stealer's by Anton Chekhov (1890)
Short tale about a robbery. Great characterization and descriptions, especially of the weather. [4/5]
The Unfortunate Traveler by Thomas Nashe (1594)
aka The Life of Jack Wilton. Comedy about a soldier who's only in the army for the looting and free beer. He's willing to go to any lengths to ensure an easy life for himself.
He's a bit like Shakespeare's Falstaff.
Be warned there are several torture/execution scenes in this which are truly horrific and very much at odds with the generally comedic tone. [3/5]0
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1910)
Well that was a lot funnier than i expected. I've read the Discworld parody of this story 'Masquerade', but had no idea how close it sticks to the source material. Also given how funny this is in places, it hardly seems worth doing a parody of.
Its like when Scary Movie came out after Scream, which was practically a horror parody by itself.
Of course its not all laughs, there's murders and romance too but the story is just as operatic as the setting which keeps even the deaths from making things very scary or dark.
The only problem is the structure, it goes back in time a lot to show the same events from another perspective, this can be both good and bad.
In addition the ending might feel a little anti-climatic to some but it didn't bother me much. [4/5]
Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1871)
The original lesbian-vampire story. The rules of vampirism in this tale are a bit different from what most readers would be used to but i found the differences pretty interesting. Also the strong sexual undertone makes it quite compelling. Downside is its length, its quite short and ends just as your getting into it. [3/5]0
Short stories by Edgar Allan Poe
Silence - A Fable (1837)
Told in a similar manner to the Arabian Nights. It has some ok imagery but is a bit confused and ending isn't good. [2/5]
The Island of the Fay (1841)
Some nice imagery again, about nature and time. [3/5]
The Domain of Arnheim (1847)
A tale about the art of landscape gardening. Most interesting because of its obvious influence on the Lord of the Rings. Specifically the ride down the river and past those big statues. [3/5]
A Tale of the Ragged Mountains (1844)
Confused story about past-lives maybe. Its odd and clunky and i don't know what the point was. [1/5]
The Devil in the Belfry (1839)
A bit of a fairytale, reminds me of the Pied-Piper or similar tales. Has a good sense of humor about it and i was really enjoying it but it ends rather abruptly. [3/5]
Shadow - a Parable by Edgar Allan Poe (1850)
Another tale like something from the Arabian Nights, but a little better with an almost Lovecraftian tinge to it. Still not great but i liked the ending the more i thought about it. [3/5]
The Raven (1845)
The classic poem. I thought it a bit funnier than horror based like the simpsons version. I also didn't know that they had downsized the poem for television. It's quite interesting how you could interpret it as purely psychology. Overall as good as expected although slightly confused at times, the protagonist sometimes seems both terrified and eager at the same time. [4/5]
Pollyanna by Eleanor Hodgman Porter (1913)
If this were written today it would be used as the script of a Pixar film. Like a Pixar film it slides right through the hardened shell of the cynical adult and stabs you in heart.
Its about a little girl who always tries to look on the bright side. It would be truly unbearable to read if not for fact that everyone else in the story is sane, and reacts just as normal people would, its a wee bit like Forest Gump. Its just so damn cute... but in a good way.
The ending isn't the best as a certain climax level is reached which the last part of the story can't live up to but overall i was VERY surprised at how much i liked this. [4/5]0