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League of Extraordinary Books
The Cave Girl by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1913)
Oh boy, i was not looking forward to this after my last Burroughs experience but you know what, it was pretty damn good.
A posh nerdy bookworm gets washed up on an island full of cavemen. He's helped by a girl who teaches him to survive and he eventually becomes the great warrior she already mistakenly beleives him to be.
Its good solid stuff with surprisingly strong characterization for a Burroughs story. [4/5]
The Cave Man by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1917)
The sequel and continuation of Cave Girl. This is a real mixed bag. There's some great dramatic turns in the plot but its marred by many last minute rescues and Deux Ex Machina's.
Also the author clearly didn't reread Cave Girl before writing this as there are a number of elements which contradict the previous story.
Luckily all the investment in the characters garnered in Cave Girl kept me interested despite the flaws. [3/5]
Maza of the Moon by Otis Adelbert Kline (1930)
Another decent pulp story. A Tony Stark-like protagonist accidentally starts a war with the Moon-Chinese (this section is a twist on Verne's story 'Earth to the Moon'). Yes in this all Chinese and presumably all other asians, are descended from moonmen.
If that sounds a bit racist then you would be right, the descriptions of the moon-chinese are particularly stereotypical. However overall the chinese people on earth are fairly dealt with.
There is of course the requisite princess (a caucassian, needless to say), there are also space-ships, deathrays, spacedragons, etc.
This is at least as pulp as 'Princess of Mars' but i still liked it. One great thing was the background material about a war between Mars and the Moon. That really helped give the story-world a bit of depth. [3/5]
PS: The idea that all chinese people are descended from moonmen isn't that much stranger than what the Chinese actually believe.
Most chinese believe that they evolved from Homo-Erectus, not Homo-Sapien, and are thus a distinct species from the rest of us.
A top chinese geneticist attempted to prove this theory recently but succeeded in proving the opposite. The Chinese are indeed just people like the rest of us.0
Wilson Seeker of Champions by Gilbert Lawford Dalton (1946)
Short story about an unbelievably awesome athlete, he's pretty much superhuman. In this he attempts to upstage an american who's training methods he feels are a dangerous influence on british youths. As boys adventure fiction goes its pretty good. [3/5]
Castle of the Carpathians by Jules Verne (1893)
Mysterious things are happening, what's the explanation? A trope used in other Verne works like '20,000 Leagues' and 'Master of the World', add to that a dash of 'Phantom of the Opera' and a pinch of 'Scooby-Doo'.
This is a fairly short book but feels a lot longer and not in a good way. Its told in what i can only describe as a Docu-Drama style. Short pieces of story interrupted by large information dumps.
The only thing which might have saved this would have been a really good final explanation of the phenomena. However thats handled in a surprisingly vague and perfunctory way and does nothing to help me forget the tediousness of the rest of the story. [2/5]
City of Dreadful Night by James Thomson (1873)
A sequence of poems symbolizing depression. Its surprisingly awesome . Each poem is a little tableau set in this city where it's always night. There are various locations like the 'Bridge of Suicides' or the statue of 'Melancholia'.
This has such a great dark atmosphere to it. If your a fan of Lovecraft, Poe or Irving etc. then i can't imagine you not enjoying this. [5/5]0
Lamia by John Keats (1819)
A fairly long and confused poem about a tragic love affair between and man and...maybe a snake, as i mentioned its confused. A beautiful woman was a snake but before she was a woman, then she's a woman again only she's later accused of always having been a snake soooo... i give up. Its a mess. [2/5]
The Time Garden by Edward Eager (1958)
A children's magical adventure very much in the vane of E.Nesbit stories. Unfortunately, it's constantly acknowledging how similar it is to the works of E.Nesbit, which does not help matters. It is especially unhelpful due to the fact that it is quite dissimilar in one respect, which is that it is nowhere near as imaginative.
It picks up quite a bit towards the end but is still fairly tame and boring compared to the predecessors it tries to ape. [2/5]
The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spencer (1596)
Epic poem. I really like this. Its overly long and there are so many characters you'll definitely get confused and feel lost at times, however there are so many memorable moments. The action scenes are particularly good which seems weird for poetry. Diespite magic and monsters there is also an odd amount of realism to many incidents which i enjoyed.
Plus there is plenty of violence and sex which is stange for something which is a self-confessed christian allegory.
Due to its length there is plenty to dig into and i liked it enough to buy a copy despite reading it for free on my ereader. [4/5]
PS: I put some thoughts about this elsewhere on the net might aswell reprint it here...
So the Faerie Queene is quite important in terms of the League comics, in the comics you find out 'Queen Gloriana I' setup the creation of the 1st League and it seems as if Alan Moore is saying that the 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' comics are a spiritual successor to the Faerie Queene.
And theres plenty of evidence to support this, the Queene has this mix of lots of different story elements just like League.
Theres christian mythology, greek myth, oberon the faerie king gets a mention, theres a dragon that wouldn't be amiss in Lord of the Rings, at one point we hear the mythological version of the founding of Britain by Brutus, and of course King Arthur shows up.
So you have this mix of all these elements in the same way the League comics combine characters from different stories and theres further similarities.
Sex, violence, numerous attempted sexual assaults, strong female characters, archaic language, good action scenes etc. (i really don't know how the action scenes work so well in poetry but they just do :lol )
And lastly i was struck by how mature and real some the Faerie Queene is which is weird to say for poetry and a christian allegory, i expected something like He-Man with this endless march of victory but its not like that.
I think the Faerie Queene is to poetry what the League and other Alan Moore works are to comics. They are both far more real and interesting than i would have thought given the medium in which they are written.0
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929)
When you boil it down this is just a good drama about life. Theres love, death, birth, the usual. However it's told in a very good way from about 4 different perspectives and jumping back and forth through time.
Each perspective is written with a unique voice especially the first which is from the point of view of a mentally disabled person.
It can be a little confusing with the time-jumps and the fact that there are several characters who share or change names.
The style of this is not for everyone but i liked a lot, although a little more of a climax would have been nice.
Oh and for those who are offended by such things, this probably contains the most uses of the N-word of any book ever written. [4/5]
Puss in Boots by Charles Perrault (1697)
You know the moral of this is all about how hard work can make up for a low birth. Which is complete crap, the owner of Puss does nothing, absolutely nothing in this story and the only work Puss does is a bit of hunting, a murder and a lot of fraud . [3/5]
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1615)
I will say this started a lot better than i expected. I thought this story was about a knight who goes crazy, but no its about a man who reads too much fiction and THINKS that he is a knight. This is quite a relevant idea, although today its more likely to be superhero's rather than knights in the delusion.
There's more relevant stuff about people making bad plays that they think will appeal to mass audiences rather than taking a risk with good stuff.
I was totally on-board, however it just keeps going and i didn't find it all that funny. While the second volume does give some sort of ending which is good, thats really all i got from it and the rest of volume 2 seemed pretty pointless.
Overall still better than i expected but far longer than necessary. [3/5]0
A Plunge into Space by Robert Cromie (1891)
I have heard that Jules Verne critisized H.G.Well's novel 'First Men in the Moon' as "unscientific" due to its use of an anti-gravity maguffin. I find this hard to credit however given his foreword to this book which uses the same idea.
In fact the books are so similar at least in there basic idea, that Cromie accused Wells of plagiarism despite the fact that Cromie was not the first to use such a concept.
Anyway luckily Wells didn't take any more ideas from this as it's pretty bad. It manages to make travel to another world incredibly boring which i suppose i should be impressed by as that must be hard to do.
Its incredibly verbose but still manages to be as vague as any pulp-fiction when it comes to technology. While it's social satire is occasionally interesting its romance is clunky and i can't imagine what the author's overall aim was. [2/5]
Aucassin and Nicolete by unknown (1200)
This is an odd one. It's half poetry and half prose. Its an epic romance but also has some absurd bits. There's fights, captures, disguise's etc. It also has a surprisingly strong heroine who really does far more than the guy. Overall it's a nice oddity and as i understand it unique in its form of storytelling.[3/5]0
What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge (1872)
A story about a girl who might not be the most obedient person and might not be the best influence on her younger siblings but who is adventurous and imaginative. This tells how she learned a lesson. Its got a nice style to it and good characterization however it gets very moralistic and schmaltzy later.
I don't normally care about the message a story might have but after i finished this i couldn't help thinking about it and the more i thought about it, the more annoying the story became. So i've taken a bit off the score for that. [2/5]
At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald (1871)
A sort of young forestgumplike character gets visited by a strange woman. The first third or so of the book is really good as you meet the suitably ethereal spirit of the North Wind and also get some info on the dark-side of life for poor children at the time.
Unfortunately the author seems to run out of ideas later and fills out the story with poems and in one case an entire fairytale which has nothing to do with anything and seems purely there to take up more pages.
Finally the ending is tame and disappointing. Nevertheless those early chapters were enough to keep me from regretting the experience. [3/5]0
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719)
I was not looking forward to this one. There have been a number of desert island type stories on my reading list so far, so i was not expecting anything new from the quintessential one. However this book did have one thing going for it which i haven't seen much of and that is a great deal of psychological realism.
Crusoe becomes religious and philosophical about being on the island which helps give the story a lot more depth than one might expect.
The realism continues in other ways, events which if told differently would seem too lucky or coincidental instead come across as the vicissitudes of real life.
Also the amount of work and various things Crusoe is able to make on the island is far more realistic than other books such as the Mysterious Island etc.
I still think it could have been shortened somewhat especially the ending but i can't deny its pretty good if you can stick with it and far better than i was expecting. [4/5]
Fattypuffs and Thinifers by Andre Maurois (1930)
Two brothers stumble across a strange underground land which is at war. One nation being made up of fat and lazy people the other of thin, miserly people.
Although decently written the more i think about it the less good it looks. There are a number of problems with it.
First the level of death and destruction which seems odd for a children's book of this sort. Second the protagonists really have no influence on the course of events and finally in a story with too such extreme elements the logical conclusion is the emergence of a happy medium but from what i can recall that doesn't happen.
Overall its ok, but i have no idea what the author's point was or what he was aiming to achieve with it. [3/5]0
Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
Maybe its just because these are the last Holmes stories on my to-do list but i felt more disposed towards them than usual. They're decent enough as these things go but i'll never understand what Holme's fans see in this stuff.
The Adventure of the Lion's Mane (1926) [3/5]
The Five Orange Pips (1891) [3/5]
The Adventure of the Second Stain (1904) [4/5]
Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude by Percy Shelley (1815)
Poem about wanting to connect with nature or wanting to feel at one with the universe or something. Its been quite a while since i read it so i don't remember much other than it had some very nice descriptions of the landscape.
In my head i'm picturing a guy standing on a cliff overlooking a beautiful forest valley, thats the main impression i'm left with. [3/5]0
The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell (1924)
Classic short story, can't say too much about it without giving it away but most people will be aware of the general outline.
A man washes up on a mysterious island where he finds a hunter who tells him he hunts the most dangerous type of game and invites him to join in.
I could have done with a few more descriptive details but overall it's a pretty good thriller/action story.
This has clearly had a great impact and you'll find its influence in books, comics, movies, tv shows etc. [4/5]
New Atlantis by Francis Bacon (1627)
An unfinished fragment of a utopian novel. Sailors discover a highly advanced christian society that wishes to keep its existence a secret from the outside world. There is some proto-scifi concerning the technology possessed by the island thats interesting given the age of the story, but overall not much to write home about. [2/5]
Fortunio by Theophile Gautier (1838)
A funny and relatively short social satire/romance. Its about a man who grew up with every want indulged and need met. He finally visits england where he was born and causes all the ladies to fall for him.
Its quite funny, for example it spends an entire chapter talking about the heroines pet cat.
The ending comes on rather abruptly and is a bit disappointing, also modern readers might be a little disturbed by Fortunios harem, his favorite wife being only 12 years old.
Its been a while since i read it and my memory of it seems to have gotten better with age, perhaps my score will be higher if i ever get around to a reread (which i might well do). [3/5]0
The Rose and the Ring by William Makepeace Thackeray (1854)
A delightful fairytale parody. You have the usual suspects, fairy-godmothers, princes and princesses, magic etc. But it doesn't take itself seriously and even critiques the fairytale tropes a bit.
Not much else to say other than it ended on a particularly high note which was great as so many things i read tend to fall down a bit during the finale. [5/5]
The Travels of Sir John Mandeville by Sir John Mandeville (1357)
This is a travel guide written to help pilgrims journey to Jerusalem. For a while its pretty boring but after reaching Jerusalem the author starts describing whats further east in places he has obviously never been too.
Thats when it goes nuts much like the tales or Walter Raleigh or Marco Polo. There are demons, area's cursed with eternal darkness, descriptions of ethiopians who apparently only have one giant leg each etc.
Its bizarre stuff and interesting to see what people actually believed back then. [3/5]0
The Story of O by Anne Desclos (1954)
The quintessential S&M story, although perhaps a little more theatrical than reality. There is an entire group or society involved in this, a bit like in Ninth Gate or Eyes Wide Shut.
I have to say that it was a lot less uncomfortable a read than i expected. I mean even Fanny Hill was a difficult read for me but this was much less so.
I think the main difference is the consensualness of the proceedings. O isn't tricked, intimidated or emotionally manipulated into agreeing with what is done to her. She seems intelligent, stable, financially independent, and is even shown to be something of a predator herself on occasion.
The sex in this book is blunt but not graphic, or perhaps graphic but not detailed.
Its not about sex its about control and need. Sometimes O's suppression of self for something outside herself takes on an almost religious nature. Its a really interesting character piece.
Also now that i think about it, it's also not about pain. Much of S&M revolves around getting pleasure from experiencing pain but that never happens to O.
She likes the pain inflicted on her only in so much as it makes her feel like she is under another persons control. Its a subtle but important difference between this and other S&M stories.
O's journey of self discovery, for want of a better term, is complete by about the 3/4 stage of the book. After that it felt like there wasn't really anywhere else for O to go.
The story ends abruptly and unfinished with only a note to reveal O's possible fate.
However i think it was a good idea to end it then as the plot looked like veering into some questionable areas which would have undermined the clearly consensual nature of the rest of the story. [4/5]
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (1938)
A fake reporter reports on a fake war. Journalistic satire. Its lot shorter than you might expect, or at least feels so because not a lot happens and it felt a bit pointless. It certainly wasn't as funny as i expected and the main character doesn't really get involved in events to any significant degree. Its ok but nothing to write home about . [3/5]0
Penguin Island by Anatole France (1908)
A history book about a fictional place. The country in question has a really funny origin and sarcasm and social commentary are what this book is all about.
It starts off in an almost biblical kind of style and progresses quickly through the ages. The later times are longer and more detailed, clearly being a satirical version of real events. Not being a big history fan i know i missed a lot of the jokes but it doesn't matter much.
Even someone like me can still enjoy it from its comedic and social satire angle regardless of my ignorance of french history.
This is just a really good book with a lot of separate little stories in it. I prefer the early parts a bit more than the modern times but it improves again towards the end and is quite good overall. [4/5]
Kubla Kahn by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1797)
Poetry fragment about a valley in which Kubla built a sort of summer home. I'm guessing its really symbolic as i didn't get much from it. [2/5]
Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (1944)
A biography following a woman's life during the Restoration period, when Charles II became king of england.
Not all of the story is told from Amber's point of view there are various other characters mostly real people, some of it even from Charles II's viewpoint.
Amber is quite a dislikeable character which is a good thing as it makes her interesting, plus her personality is a creation of the times in which she lived and is necessary for her success in the male dominated time in which the story is set.
There is a BBC documentary call 'Harlots, Heroines and Housewives' talking about the various roles woman had during the Restoration and this book covers all of them.
Its a great historical/romance piece of storytelling and my score for it would be higher if it didn't feel a little disjointed in places due to the multiple points of view. I understand it was edited down from a much larger first draft. [3/5]0
Green Mansions by (1904)
Well that was disappointing. This is a sort of supernatural romance, kinda, maybe preternatural would be more apt. Anyway its about a man who finds a forest in Guyana said by locals to be haunted. I can't say much more about it without spoiling the story, especially since there is so little plot.
I was really into it at first burning quickly through the first 9 or so chapters. It seemed really compelling, but after a while i realized the reason i was reading so quickly, was because of the thin plot. I felt compelled to read a lot because that was the only way to get any sense of accomplishment story-wise as so little was actually happening.
Overall its well written but far too verbose and i was disappointed with it after a good start.
Also the romance in it became a little uncomfortable for me at times. Modern sci-fi often points out the dubious morality of Kirk's romances in the 70's Star-Trek show and those opinions came into my mind several times during this read. [3/5]
Encounter at Dawn by Arthur C.Clarke (1953)
Said to have been the inspiration for the opening of 2001 A Space Odyssey this is a short story about a primitive species meeting advanced aliens. Its really got nothing much of interest. [2/5]
Child of the Phalanstery by Grant Allen (1884)
Short story about a utopian society and how they maintain their perfect system. A nice little dark tale. [3/5]0
Aepyornis Island by H.G. Wells (1894)
Short funny tale. A man gets marooned on a desert island with a fossil egg he was collecting. Aepynoris is an extinct bird something like an ostrich. Can't say much about it other than H.G.Wells is a surprisingly good comedian . [4/5]
The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares (1940)
My rating for this is higher than my reading experience warrants, this is because i liked the story a lot despite the awful translation job by 'Ruth Simms' (see this great little article for more details http://anagrammatically.com/2011/09/18/the-invention-of-morel-redacted/ ). I'm convinced therefore that i would have given this score if the translation had been good.
Anyway this is a relatively short novel about a man on the run who decides to hide out on an island said to be the source of a deadly disease. On the island he finds some strange rooms and odd people turn up. It's like the show 'Lost' in a way, sort of.
It wasn't too long before i figured out what was happening. However the story managed to pass that point and still be interesting which shows how good it is, as most mystery tales collapse after the reveal.
This is a terrible translation as i said and unfortunately i don't think there is a better one available but even so i liked it a lot. [5/5]
Strange Case Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
I really don't know what people see in this. So many adaptations and versions from so little a source. This is simply an interesting idea, thats it, thats the only thing it has going for it. It's not spectacularly written and not that much actually happens in it. Its just a short story who's premise has been so overused that i can't imagine what interest the original could still hold. [2/5]0
The Front Page by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur (1928)
Comedy play, unfortunately i couldn't get a hold of the plays script, so had to settle for the film adaptation.
The Front Page (1931)
I believe this is close if not identical to the original play. An ace reporter wants to get married and leave the business. However his manipulative boss and his old reporter instincts conspire to prevent his retirement.
Its pretty decent, although a comedy i'd say it borders on dark comedy. It does a good job of satirizing the politicians aswell as the newspaper business. Although i thought the main characters conflict between his love and hate of being a reporter could have been a little smoother. He lurches from one to the other a little too quickly at times.
Also the crosstalk which is used to show the chaos of the news business can be a little annoying at times. [3/5]
His Girl Friday (1940)
The famous adaptation in which the main reporter is now female. You would think having the ace reporter be a woman would be quite progressive and in a way it is, BUT in others ways its kind of sexist. The roll of the manipulative boss is extended somewhat and he is now not only the boss but the reporters ex-husband, trying to prevent her not only from leaving the paper but also from getting remarried.
While the fact she can outdo the men at her job seems feminist, the fact she can be so manipulated by her husband/boss makes it feel chauvinist. The previous version had much more of an internal conflict than this one.
Apart from those changes and issues its the same script as the original version. Oh and there is even more crosstalk in this which can get even more annoying.
Overall i still prefer this to the original but only slightly. [3/5]
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
Well what can i say its Frankenstein of course its good,actually one thing i can say is it's a LOT darker than other classics like Dracula. It also has so much more to say than almost any other classic i can think of. It's operating on a completely different level to other books of the time.
This is such an oddly modern book in many ways and the so-called monster is so far removed from the film versions its quite amazes me how we got from one to the other.
The structure of the story and Victor's reaction to his creation might both be a tad strange to a modern audience but its an amazing story especially when compared to others of its time period. [4/5]0
Childe Rowland by Joseph Jacobs (1892)
A really nice violent little fairytale about a young man who goes into fairyland to rescue his brothers and sister from the Fairy King. Based on a scottish legend i believe, elements of this appear in a lot places including shakespeares 'King Lear' and the discworld novel 'The Wee Free Men'. [4/5]
Freeland, a Social Anticipation by Theodor Hertzka (1890)
This is a utopian fiction written by an economist and based on the idea of all private property remaining private but any property or machines used for making money becoming public property usable by anyone. Also all profits are divided among the workers fairly evenly, effectively every person is self-employed. Not being an economist i can't say where the flaws in the premise are.
Still though there is a fair amount of extra things thrown in to keep it interesting. It starts off with a new nation being founded in africa and there is an amazing amount of detail regarding the travel through africa and the various countries and peoples encountered.
There's some romance thrown in, a bit of a war, it also jumps 20 years into the future so there are minor elements of sci-fi and it finishs off with a big parliamentary debate. Which is just as exciting as it sounds, but i also found it fairly interesting especially a theory about overpopulation which i hadn't thought of before.
Anyway, the various voices and view points in this coupled with the level of detail made it quite good despite its length.
Oh, one thing i found odd was the sexism. This new society gives women equal voting rights, they can work in any profession and they receive a stipend which keeps them financially independent even when married, so far so good. Then the author states that any woman who does a job other than nurse or teacher is socially frowned upon. The fact the author is sexist is not surprising given the time in which this was written, but it is odd that he could maintain his sexism even while creating an equal society under the law.
However the one major indefensible flaw in the story is its smugness, literally nothing goes wrong in the entire book, everything is far too easy, although that is not unexpected as this is essentially an advertising campaign.
So this is a long, economics based, utopian, philosophical, documentary kind of book. In fact fans of non-fiction might enjoy it more than others. Maybe i was just in the right kind of mood or something but i still liked it. [4/5]
Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1839)
So overall this is quite decent as long as your not expecting a story. Seriously anyone who tells you this is some high seas adventure story should be shot.
There is a plot in there somewhere but you'll have to wade through a lot of whale biology, mythology, symbolism and history lessons, in order to find the story elements.
It starts off a lot funnier than i expected and i certainly liked some of it. There is an entire chapter dedicated to the significance of the color white, which i thought was really interesting.
However all the whale biology stuff i found quite tiresome and since i was expecting a story these sections were doubly annoying. [3/5]0
The Freeshooter by Carl Maria von Weber (1821)
Faustian opera. A land has the strange tradition that a man must make a good shot in hunting in order to prove his worth. This leads to a man being tempted into a faustian deal in order to insure being able to marry his love. Obviously i just read the text as its a german opera but it wasn't bad plot wise. [3/5]
The Golden Cockerel by Alexander Pushkin (1834)
Adaptation of an Irving fairytale, its ok mostly because its odd and leaves you with a lot of questions. I wonder how close it is to the original. [3/5]
Riallaro, the archipelago of exiles by John Macmillan Brown (1901)
In the vein of Gulliver's Travels the protagonist journeys to a fog bound archipelago and discovers various islands each run on different philosophies.
There are four or so major islands, run by what i would describe as liars, communists, warmongers and sensualists. Then each of these islands takes anyone they deem mad and sends them to another island filled with people who share their madness or extremist views.
So you have islands populated by nothing but anarchists, another by journalists, others by religious extremists of one kind or another, one filled with book critics another by people who value pedigree above all else, another by people who will always argue the opposite of what you say, others who will always agree with whoever seems the most popular, another with those who think they can talk to the dead etc.
That last one is one of my favorites, the community has divided into two groups the traditionalists who build creepy castles to attract ghosts and the modernists who say you don't need all that stuff and ghosts are perfectly happy turning up in a modern kitchen and communicating by knocking on the underside of tables, provided you only ask questions everyone knows the answers too. Its funny stuff.
Not as well characterized as Gulliver's Travels but lots of ideas and it also has a certain internal logic, theres a fairly reasonable explanation why this place exists and how such weird communities manage to survive. So nothing as sci-fi-ish as laputa or liliput. Overall i just really enjoyed it.
Also theres a second-part or sequel which i'm definitely going to read at some point its called Limanora, the island of progress. [4/5]0
Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving (1819)
A funny weird short tale. I'm sure everyone knows the story, man falls asleep for 20 years. While it is funny and mildly interesting it doesn't do much with the idea. Winkle does so little with his life that missing 20 years makes little difference to him. [3/5]
The Wolf of Kabul: issue 1 by D.C. Thompson (1964)
The first short story featuring Bill Sampson, a non-military fixer for the british government. In this he has to stop an impending attack on a british outpost after too rival tribes join forces. [3/5]
Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
So i just reread this as it is being covered by hppodcraft.com. I don't recall how long its been since my last reading but it must be awhile as i got a lot more from it this time than i remember.
Also i'm reading this now in a post LOeG world, so 'Alan Moore's' version of Mina made me look at certain things in a new light making it an even more interesting read.
There are still some issues with regard the amount of coincidence in the story, everyone involved is so connected. Also i thought on previous reads the ending was anti-climactic, although that didn't bother me as much this time.
I also have to say i don't remember the rules of vampirism being this confused. Exactly what abilities Dracula has and when he can use them could have been made a little clearer.
By the way Dracula apparently has no issue with sunlight, doesn't bother him at all, which was news to me i hadn't recalled that fact. Although he can't transform into a bat or mist etc. during daylight hours, thats the only issue he has with sunlight. I guess the sunlight destroying vampires must be a movie thing.
Theres a lot more humor than i remember in the book, plus Lucy's part is much more drawn out and more moving than i could recall. I also appreciated the suddenness with which all the pieces came together and how quick the story moves after the Lucy section.
Finally the amount of small details, quotes and such which seem to be pop-culture references for the time, as well as just the overall level of detail and care which has been put into the story comes through much more on subsequent reads.
Its a dense book although it might not feel so on first glance. It really is a classic and still stands up to the test of time. [4/5]0
Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto (1532)
Epic italian poem, featuring knights, damsels, magic and the occasional monster. Its not so much a single story as an entire library of them all mixed together. Set against the backdrop of the Moors invading France. This gives the work a lot more cohesion than other epics like the Faerie Queene.
The author does a pretty good job of reminding you who's who and whats been happening, whenever he switches characters. This helps a lot and i wasn't often confused about which character was which.
The best thing about this is the moral greyness of it all. It really is almost 'Game of Thrones' in places. Heroes lie, make bad deals to save their own skin, kill hundreds of soldiers or farmers, and in one intance tried to rape some woman who they just rescued.
I do have to say it has a LOT less attempted sexual assaults than the Faerie Queene, but a lot more consensual sex. It also has less monsters and magical creatures than Spenser's work but i like that, it means that when things do get strange it has more of an impact.
A few minor issues, one is the lists of famous people rammed in to the work here and there, these are only of interest to people of the day or historical scholars, but are easily skippable.
The other thing that can annoy is the structure, most of the switches between character are fine but occasionally it happens at an exciting moment and instead of hearing what happens next your forced to get through a completely unrelated plot before getting back to the action.
Also this is a direct sequel to the unfinished 'Orlando Innamorata' and while the version i read contained a quick summary of events from that work i still felt confused at the start and on occasions when it refers back to previous events from Innamorata.
Overall despite not being able to read it in its native language, its REALLY good. There's just so much in here and some of it is just the right amount of morally gray for a modern audience to appreciate. Oh and there's some kick ass females in here aswell. [5/5]
Notes: I read the 1831 verse translation by William Stewart Rose. However there are a small number of pieces missing in that translation. I mean there was this guy spying on the queen who was having sex with a midget and then for some inexplicable reason , Rose starts skipping lines.
Anyway the missing pieces (which arn't all naughty) i was able to find in the earlier 1591 translation by John Harrington. That translation is harder to find on the net, the audio is surprisingly available on LibraVox, but i also was able to get the text from Lulu.com. You have to sign up but they don't ask for a credit card to download.
If i'd have had access to the Harrington translation earlier i probably would have just read all of that one it seems pretty good and it was written only 60 years after the original.
I can't rate these like normal literature but i thought i'd mentioned them anyway. My personal favorite method to experience greek myth is letting 'Dael Kingsmill' tell them to me .
She has a mythology vlog, formerly on GeekandSundry, now on her own channel MonarchsFactory. She's covered several myths referenced in the League comics including:
Tiresias the Blind seer
Seven Against Thebes
Aeneas and the Founding of Britain
also she's covered a couple of fairytales referenced in LOeG:
The Snow Queen0
The Lake Superior Water Gods by Charles M. Skinner (1896)
Just some short notes on Native American myth regarding Lake Superior. [2/5]
The Country of the Blind by H.G.Wells (1904)
Short story examining the adage 'in the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king'. Things really don't go as planned. I found this to be quite a disturbing tale. It has a sort of invasion-of-the-bodysnatchers kind of vibe to it. I like it. [4/5]
The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (1930)
Well that was awful... don't get me wrong i kind of enjoyed myself watching this version but i enjoyed it because of the performances . They really tried their best but the source material is still terrible.
The story is fine, a group of on the run criminals start a town with hookers and gambling. Things progress and they get rid of all the rules, except the 'paying your bill' rule of course.
However it does that awful opera thing of singing speech, but there's little to no tune or rhythm to it. There isn't a single memorable song in the entire production.
Overall severely disappointed considering how much i love the 'Threepenny Opera'. [2/5]
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson (1844)
As i mention last post you can watch 'Dael Kingsmill' tell this fairytale but its also long and detailed enough to read. Its insane but in a good way and seems like several tales stitched together. The little robber girl being particularly memorable . [3/5]
The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson (1837)
This has got to be the most depressing fairytale i've ever heard of. Its awful, insult is added to injury as the mermaids sisters also suffer when they try to help her out. Do not read this if you like the disney version as you'll be scarred for life .They pretend to tack on a happy ending but even that feels like more of a punishment. [3/5]0
The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati (1940)
This reminds me a little of Catch-22.. a little. Its shows the absurd side of military life somewhat. However this shows not the horror of war but rather the horror of peace.
The story is about a solider posted to a barracks which guards an area no one ever expects to be attacked. The place is so isolated and runs on such strict rules and regulations its practically a prison. Some people suffer from what in prisons is termed 'institutionalization', unable to find a place or function outside of the routine of the barracks.
Mostly though this is a story about trying to find a purpose in life and how time can slip by so quickly while your waiting for that purpose to find you.
Its kind of haunting and a bit depressing but it'll stay with you for a while. Also its quite a quick read and is just the right length i'd say. [4/5]
The Castle by Franz Kafka (1926)
I rated this when i read it but am doing this review much later and in hindsight it seems better than the rating i gave. It is unfinished but that doesn't matter much due to the nature of the story.
A man arrives in a village which stands in the shadow of a castle. He seems to be some sort of revolutionary who wants to get into the castle to fight the System and stand up the The Man etc. He assumes the people in the castle are afraid of him or at least deem him a threat but your never sure if this is the case or whether they even know he exists.
Its the original dystopian bureaucratic nightmare story. It has an amazing atmosphere to it. Its greatest strength however is the constant change of perspective. The nature of each character changes a lot during the story as the protagonist learns more about them. Nothing and no one is ever what it seems. [3/5]0
Lolotte et Fanfan by Francois Guillaume Ducray-Duminil (1787)
aka Ambrose and Eleanor.
This is a kids book and i mean that in the worst way, its the kind of book designed for kids, not the kind of book kids would actually like. Its uses a simple writing style and is definitely supposed to educational and morally instructive. Whats the word i'm looking for.... insipid, thats it.
The story is about a man who gets washed up on an island and finds two children have been previously abandoned there. Then you have various incredibly convenient adventures. There's a lot of god-thanking which there should be, because the plot needs some very active hands of fate to get where its going.
Its by no means terrible and its a fairly quick read but if you want my advice don't bother. [2/5]
The Kindly Ones by Anthony Powell (1962)
This is a drama/comedy/biography sort of thing full of interesting characters and funny moments. The only way to describe it more would be to describe individual incidents which would be spoilers. If you like 'Downtown Abbey' or 'Jeeves and Wooster', that sort of thing then you might like this.
This is book 6 in a series of 12. Its well written but doesn't quite make me want to read all the other 11, but thats just me. [3/5]0
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)
I had great reservations about reading this. From what i absorbed about it from popular culture i was expecting something really dark, gritty and unpleasant to read.
I could not have been more wrong. There's a level of absurdity and unreality in this which keeps things from getting too depressing.
The story is that some people are stuck on a boat in london waiting for the tide to change and so one of them tells a story to pass the time. The story is about a time when the protagonist worked in africa for the terrible ivory trade and how he met a great and terrible man.
There are few books i've read which have left me with so many questions and i mean that in a good way. Even if you accept the bare facts at face value so much of the story takes place in the storytellers head. Its all opinion and conjecture.
It reminds me a lot of Lovecraft's writing in both its fantastic descriptions and the fact that so much is left to the imagination of the reader. Its really amazing that this was written in 1899 as it feels far more modern than other books i've read from those times.
Its not too long either but might be a bit highbrow for some, it took all my concentration to read and fully understand and even then i'm sure a reread or two would be rewarded.
Oh and did i mention its descriptive writing, well i'm going to again anyway as its darkly beautiful. [4/5]
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (1984)
I have a feeling this will work even better on a reread. Its still good first time but its level of weird changes a bit too rapidly. Anything goes in a story but generally you adjust to how weird a story is and can deal easily with whatever it throws at you. However in this I was caught offguard a few times and had a hard time getting to grips with how strange things got.
The other minor quibble is related to the first, it doesn't go were you expect. What i mean is i was expecting a longer story, involving more locations and then the carpet got pulled from under me. Both of these problems I guess are more my issues than the books.
Anyway this is a tale set at the turn of the 20th century. A reporter is interviewing a trapeze artist who claims her stage wings are real, (its a tiny bit like that John Travolta film 'Michael'). He decides to travel in disguise with the circus as it tours Russia.
Some knowledge of the late 1800's in terms of politics and social upheaval would help but isn't essential.
Its a very unique story and not something you'll ever forget. [4/5]0
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin (1903)
Well written tale about a poor but precocious teen girl. She goes to live with her aunts who are going to pay for her further education. Its heartwarming and endearing but by half-way i started to worry it wasn't really going anywhere. This worry was completely justified by the end.
Although Rebecca ages and there are some changes to her situation you can't really say her character advances much and by the end you still arn't sure what if anything she will accomplish with her life.
There were some very interesting background characters, a female teacher determined to help Rebecca and develop her budding writing talent and a creepy older man determined to.. well we're never quite sure what he intends which is a pity.
Overall decent but not enough sense of progress for me. [3/5]
Mother London by Michael Moorcock (1988)
This is a sort of biography of multiple characters as their lives in london interact. On a minor note all of the characters suffer from mental issues due to being psychic. I say this is a minor note as being a bit psychic certainly hasn't done any of them any good and doesn't play a very large role in the story.
Its very well written with very well rounded characters. I will say i did get confused among some of the minor characters, the story jumps back and forth through time a lot and you could say there are a lot of moving parts.
I'm sure some familiarity with london and its history would be beneficial but i still liked it despite my lack of background knowledge.
Its also quite long and might reward multiple reads as there is a lot to dig through. [4/5]0
The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1918)
aka Caspak #1.
A mixed bag. The first half of this is like the 'Hunt for Red October', i liked those bits overall. I also like the introduction to the island and the female character is good most of the time. There is an interestingly weird thing happening with the various tribes encountered which i also liked although i'm sure it will be more fully explained in future parts.
On the other hand it is pulp, the characters are only shown in broad strokes, there are major coincidences and Deus Ex Macina's. Also several incidents seem to happen multiple times.
Some elements are also clearly taken from a previous Burroughs story, 'Cave Girl' which i enjoyed more than this. [3/5]
Roadtown by Edgar Chambless (1910)
This is another utopian novella thing but its an amazing idea. Imagine a city built in a single long line, connected with underground rail. The author lays out this plan which seems really do-able. This isn't a very long read and its one of the most startlingly simple and original ideas i've ever heard. [3/5]
Utopia Limited by Gilbert & Sullivan (1893)
The first G&S opera i ever watched or rather listened to as i couldn't find one to watch. I also read along as i have a bad ear for music especially if there are a lot of people singing and there are a LOT of singers in this production.
The story is about an island nation, Utopia. The princess and several other women have just come back from school in england and its decided to make the country a limited liability company so they can borrow as much as they like without ever having to pay it back if things go wrong.
Its very funny satire and i liked it a lot more than i expected. [3/5]0
Paris in the Twentieth Century by Jules Verne (1863)
Do mine eyes deceive me or is this an actual good Verne story, i was beginning to think they were a myth (except for 20,000) but no this is actually really good.
A view of the far dystopian future of 1960, at least dystopian from the protagonists point of view but he specializes in latin poetry so its a little hard to sympathize .
People these days are more interested in science and making money than wars or poetry, and the music just sounds like noise, not like the music we had in my day etc. etc.
Its quite a funny book, a dark comedy almost. The protagonist is only 16 and he's a poet so its not surprising he's having a hard time dealing with the real world. I really liked the dystopian view of literature, its not that books are banned however its just that the classics are wanted by so few people that nobody sells them anymore, they've died out naturally unlike in most dystopia's like Farhenheit-451.
There's a lot to like about this and its not too long and has just the right mix of story to scientific vision. [4/5]
The People That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1918)
aka Caspak #2.
A little bit worse than the first part but not by a lot. It at least has less story and so makes itself feel shorter although there is about the same number of pages.
Starts out well as the story switches from the last characters to a rescue team coming to find them. However it quickly devolves into the usual princess and warrior kind of story Burroughs is famous (or infamous) for. Another seemingly strong female character who ends up being pretty much useless. Theres a little bit of political intrigue between the various tribes of Caspak but it doesn't really go anywhere and the story ends rather abruptly. [3/5]
The Warden by Anthony Trollope (1855)
A courtroom drama more or less. Its based on real events and shows a legal case from multiple points of view. It doesn't actually spend any time in the court instead you see how the various people involved and the press react to it. Its nicely moraly grey and is well written and not too long. [3/5]0
The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin (1972)
I don't know about the supposed satire people associate with this book, i read it as a straight up horror story. I knew the premise going in but wasn't sure how it would play out.
This is very good, Levins style lends itself well to drawing the mundane. Everything is very clear and easy to picture. Although his scene switching can take a little getting used to. The scene changes being rather abrupt.
Overall its shorter than I expected and it leaves you with plenty of room to speculate and think about the story. I like it and i'm glad i have another couple of Levins books on my to-do list. [4/5]
Out of Time's Abyss by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1918)
aka Caspak #3.
The last part of the Caspak trilogy and by far the best. It gives the final details of the strange evolution of life on Caspak. Which is both weirder, grosser and cooler than i expected. Its also far more horror based than the first two parts. [4/5]
Mount Analogue by Rene Daumal (1952)
A strange one this. A man has determined there must be a huge mountain on the earth so large it bends light around ti which is why it hasn't been discovered yet. He assembles a varied group of people to scale the mountain. I liked, if not understood, what there was of it but it is unfinished so it doesn't really feel like it accomplished much. [3/5]0
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (1902)
Slightly dated especially in one story which uses some racist language. However overall really delightful kid stories explaining the origin of things, like the rhino's skin and the alphabet, but in the most insane and fantastical way.
Great rhythm, strange but very good use of language, comes with pictures and bits of poetry, its really very good. [4/5]
Ayesha by H.Rider Haggard (1905)
The sequel to She, this is quite a long read and i was expecting a lot of messing about before getting to the main plot this wasn't the case however, it jumped quite quickly into the action and there really isn't any wasted pages.
I love the characters, the hero comes across as kind of lame and its really nice to see the two powerful heroines fight over this weaker man as the reverse is so often the case.
I like the layers of characterization, everyone is flawed and both the heroines are quite evil in their way. The action is great but its really the mystery and the lies which surround Ayesha which makes this work so well. She gives numerous versions of her origin until you have no idea what the truth might be. Its a really solid adventure/mystery/romance. I was kind of surprised how much i liked it, especially how superior it seemed over the original. [5/5]
Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1832)
This is really quite good although the second-half isn't as good as first. Its a lot funnier than i expected, maybe its not supposed to be but i couldn't help laughing at how bad a demon Mephistopheles is. His power is incredibly limited, almost everything he does is through secondary means, he hires a witch, a water-spirit or some super-soldiers as opposed to doing things himself, he also can't access Greek hell or 'The Mothers'.
The Mothers is probably the best part of Faust being very Lovecraftian. The other best bit is near the start when Faust wants to meet the most beautiful woman in the world, i'm not going to say what happens other than demon's are really sneaky .
Overall theres a lot to like although it does go off the boil towards the end. [4/5]0
Algernon Blackwood, short stories
The Empty House (1906)
Overly typical visit to a haunted house but still well told. [3/5]
A Haunted Island (1899)
Supernatural tale about a man staying alone on a small lake isle and his growing paranoia. Again well told but kind of lame storywise. [3/5]
The Wolves of God (1921)
A man returns to his island home after years in the Canadian wilderness haunted by something that happened there. I've begun to really like Blackwood's characters but his plots a still a bit meh. [3/5]
The Valley of the Beasts (1921)
A brutal man goes hunting in a forbidden valley said to be protected by an indian god. Ending a little disappointing but overall a nice strange tale good characterization and visual descriptions. [4/5]
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (2000)
I'm not going to give in to the hype, this book isn't perfect. I felt that Truant's story could have ended with a little more closure. However while not perfect this is an excellent read and definitely something i will read again.
Don't get intimidated by the text layout, it's a far easier read than it might look and if you do feel a little lost at times you'll probably find your feelings matching perfectly with those of the characters.
This is a Weird tale in the classic sense of the word, its got some very lovecraftian elements to it. I also have to say its quite lurid. One of the main characters has a very sleazy sex life, adults only!
One of the many interesting things about this horror tale are the footnotes, which analysis and add many additional levels to the story, something like the digressions in Moby Dick but not as mind numbingly boring.
This story or rather stories (since there are really three interweaving plots) didn't terrify me to the depths of my soul but it did get inside my head which isn't something many stories can boast of.
I read this in a library and liked it so much i bought a copy, plenty of reread value on this one. [4/5]0
Madame Butterfly by John Luther Long (1898)
An american man buys a wife while visiting japan it goes about as well as you'd expect.
I'm torn on this one, its heroine is pretty silly most of the time and therefore hard to sympathize with. Also it uses a lot of broken english which really gets annoying.
However its plot is excellent and almost makes up for these faults. [3/5]
A Journey in Other Worlds by John Jacob Astor IV (1894)
Nope.. can't do it, i can't give this 2 stars. Part of me wants to, it has some interesting sci-fi elements and alien critters but its just too awful.
It's very dry and boring most of the time with an overly scientific style that also reacts very badly with the story, which is so unscientific. When its not being mind numbingly boring the characterization seems to be from a really bad pulp.
Then there's the religious stuff which manages to be both terrible on its own and still as dull as the science.
It has been quite some time since i've had such a painful reading experience, despite minor points of interest, such as one of the characters turning into Patrick Swayze (Ghost), this is a truly terrible book.
Go read 'A Honeymoon in Space by George Griffith' instead. [1/5]
The Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner (1843)
I wanted to read some version of the Flying Dutchman story and came across this libretto. Its a pretty straightforward romance. The Dutchman has an opportunity every seven years to break the curse in 'Beauty and the Beast' fashion.
A girl has heard of the Flying Dutchman's curse and is determined to break it even before he shows up, there isn't much to the story. [3/5]0