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League of Extraordinary Books



  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Item:
    The Adventures and Surprizing Deliverances of James Dubourdieu and his wife (1719)
    One of the interesting things about the title story is that despite the name most of it is told from the wifes point of view. It's also done as an oral tale with the protagonists telling their story to a reporter type person. Due to this style there's very little descriptive writing, it simply tells the facts, its kind of like a synopsis of a longer book like Moll Flanders or Robinson Crusoe.
    After getting through the woman's early life and the numerous times she was robbed, swindled or seduced she finally gets stranded on a desert island although not alone like in most tales of this kind.
    Eventually we switch to Dubourdieu's narrative as he tells what occurred when he was separated from his wife for a period and the plot actually switches genre's to utopian or lost civilization fiction.
    Overall this isn't too bad it's fairly short but as i've said it kind of feels like a synopsis of a larger work. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    The Yellow Danger by M.P. Shiel (1898)
    One of the first of the 'Yellow Peril' books the main villain 'Dr. Yen How' was an inspiration for 'Fu Manchu'. When it gets right down to it this is essentially a Zombie Apocalypse story with all the zombies replaced by chinese people. If you think that sounds a bit racist... well yes its racist BUT its not as racist as you might be expecting.
    The villain is described in surprisingly Hitler-esque language, he creates a cult of personality about himself and manipulates the people of china and japan on an economic, social and religious level.
    Oh and before you ask, yes you can a have a zombie story with no zombies in it! John Carpenter spent a lifetime making zombie movies without actual zombies. As long as you get the atmosphere right you can replace the zombies with just about anything, ghost-pirates (The Fog), aliens (Ghosts on Mars), criminals (Assault on Precinct 13th), homeless people (Prince of Darkness) or in this case chinese people.
    Then we have the hero, a military savant, he appears to be based on Admiral Nelson a little bit but comes across like Rainman or Forest Gump.
    Note, apart from the racism inherent in a story like this there are also some really effecting torture scenes which come across as surprisingly modern in there brutality and effect.
    Overall this is a really bizarre spy thriller / war-story / zombie apocalypse, highly recommended :) . (Available online at [4/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Item:
    Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1951)
    Quintessential zombie-apocalypse type story (although without the zombies obviously). Its amazing how much of this has been reused in just about every post-apocalypse tale. You might think that would make this seem clichéd but it still works surprisingly well in the written form.
    The opening is definitely the most atmospheric portion of the book despite the familiarity of the scenario.
    Some of the cultural and social stuff can be a little odd as it shows its age. Also the narrator tells the story a little too impersonally at times.
    Overall very good, which i wasn't expecting as the pieces of TV and film adaptations i've seen always seemed quite silly. [4/5]

    Old Item:
    Varney the Vampire by Thomas Preskett Prest (1847)
    This isn't a novel it's the equivalent to a 20 season Boxed Set, if the original story ran every week then it went for at least 4 years. Its long, reallll long.
    I'm not sure how many writers there were but i'm sure there was more than one. The writing style becomes much less descriptive and over the top around chapter 30 or so much to its detriment.
    The story becomes increasingly inconsistent with at least 3 different origin stories for Varney, however it is possible to link everything together with a bit of work and if you assume that the origin stories done after he becomes a vampire (he's not one at the start he's just pretending) are simply due to Varney going a bit mad and misremembering.
    The mob scene is probably the highlight of the entire run. The middle chapters are probably the weakest with numerous very similar incidents taking place. It gets slightly better towards the end.
    I wouldn't bother paying for it to be honest, get a public domain version online, read until after the mob situation or Varney falls ill and becomes a vampire and then skip to the end. [3/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais (1564)
    Tough one to review it doesn't really have a proper story it wanders around touching on pretty much every social subject you can imagine. I seriously wonder how much of it i'm actually GETTING. The version i read had no annotations, that coupled with the age, the fact its a translation and the humor which rarely dates well, i doubt i'm really absorbing more than 65% of the original text.
    Its crass toilet humor is probably the highlight of the work as it's so strange to see it in something this old and it's so basic that it transcends time.
    The last two books are the most 'Gulliver' like. Book 3 is the weak link being one longggggg joke which can be a bit of a slog to get through.
    You'll need patience to read this as Rabelais's style is quite long-winded. Overall its interesting enough, i still prefer it to Don Quixote but not quite sure why people go nuts over it. [3/5]

    The Runenberg by Ludwig Tieck (1802)
    Odd haunting short story about a man who sees a beautiful woman and then gets all religious and nuts about it. I'm not entirely sure what the point is. It seems to be about taking what you have and being content, maybe. It has a nice fairytale quality to it. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker (1911)
    So there are two versions of this, the original 40 chapter edition and the far more common 28 chapter edition which is missing over a 100 pages.
    I read the full version and yes it has many, many problems, in fact i don't consider it a proper book, its so clearly a first draft, effectively unfinished.
    There are the most insane conversations between characters and odd glitches in the text like skipped frames in a movie.
    I don't think its as racist as many others do, most of the racism is done by the villains and well they're villains so what do you expect. Also the character everyone hates was also hated and found repellent by his fellow africans.
    The strange story and many bizarre elements could be quite good, there is more craziness in this than just the worm. However the numerous writing problems make things too confusing to follow properly.
    Some interesting ideas, might not be terrible if you think of it as an unfinished draft. [2/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)
    This is not a horror story... its ... ambiguous that was the word i was looking for. It lurches strangely from almost teen drama (i don't know why all the characters act like their 15) to supernatural tale, to supernatural parody, to psychological drama, its a mess. There's also a lot of conversations which are kind of hard to unravel, with statements and gestures the meaning of which is vague at best.
    And yet despite all that confusion or possibly because of it, the story still works brilliantly.... somehow. [5/5]

    The Commonwealth of Oceana by James Harrington (1656)
    An attempt to describe how to setup and run a democratic state. Given when this was written it might be an important historical work but that doesn't mean anyone should still be reading it.
    It goes into way to much detail about the divisions of the state and how to run the elections etc. Large sections of it are virtually unreadable, they are so boring and meaningless. Also the small parts of interest regarding democratic politics can still be quite difficult to decipher due to the old style of writing.
    Overall i can't imagine any modern reader getting much from this. Reading the wiki entry on it would probably be more useful than reading the work itself. [1/5]

    Old Item:
    The Lost Continent of Mu by James Churchward (1926)
    If James Churchward was alive today he'd be working for the History channel. This is his theory for a lost continent in the pacific and how all the ancient peoples of the world are linked to this lost country.
    One of his great excuses is that the symbolic name for Mu is represented by 3 of something... not 3 of something in particular just 3 of anything. So he goes around the world looking at ancient drawings and writing and whenever he sees 3 of something says 'see they were talking about Mu arn't i a genius!'. No your a tool.
    Its like Ancient Aliens but too boring to laugh at. [1/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Short Items:
    The Adventure of the Empty House by Arthur Conan Doyle (1903)
    Sherlock Holmes returns from the dead. These stories are only ever good when they're personal. [4/5]

    Dick Donovan, Chamber of Shadows by J.E.Preston Muddock (1892)
    I thought Donovan only investigated murders but this time he looks into a fraud which has brought down a major company. Not a great tale but still superior in style to the Holmes stuff. [3/5]

    Voyage to Locuta by Elizabeth Susanna Graham (1818)
    The son of Lemuel Gulliver finds a new island. A short attempted description of the rules of grammer by showing them as people. Pretty interesting although i did get some awful school flashbacks. [3/5]

    Message Found in a Copy of Flatland by Rudy Rucker (1982)
    Decent enough short tale with a twist about a mans research into the writing of the story Flatland. However it doesn't really expand on the original story in the way i had hoped. [3/5]

    Beauty and the Beast by Marie Leprince de Beaumont (1756)
    Early renditions of classic tales often contain surprises but not in this case. I heard after reading this that there is an earlier and more expansive version of this fairytale. [2/5]

    Old Item:
    Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen (1867)
    A play about a habitual liar who runs away from home has an amazing selfish life and does a last minute deathbed confession to make up for it. Is the moral of this story that there's no justice in this world or the next?
    This is a fun one as everyone knows someone like Gynt who tells outrageous lies and for some reason these people are always popular. [3/5]

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  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Item:
    Dialogue Against the Fever Pestilence by William Bullein (1565)
    To the backdrop of a spreading plague various characters wander in and out of the narrative and discuss things.
    Some people flee from the pestilence, some scheme to make money from it, some turn to medicine or religion. A lot of the book is characters telling each other stories, mostly parables. We also get some info on the foreign places of the world, the places with giants and people with only one big foot or faces in their chest. Also on the other side of the world is a land suspiciously like england but with its capital city called Nodnol.
    Although the author does tend to go on a bit too much in some sections and it gets a little too religious towards the end (although it is also religious throughout but not overly so), also it is very old and some of the writing can be a little hard to decipher.
    However i still liked it, there's an underlying humor which pops up in places and the ending for a couple of the main characters was quite surprising. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    The Voyages of Capt.John Holmesby by John Holmesby (1739)
    I'm writing this review a long time after reading this but the rating was made at the time and that might explain why i remember so little.
    So heres what little i retain of the story, a guy washs up on an island he meets an old man who's at one with nature etc. etc. he finds out the old mans people have been virtually wiped out by the materialists on the island and the protagonist is eventually captured and lives among these people. I can also recall something about a prsim that can turn anything into gold.
    It's a little bit like gullivers travels but while i don't recall any more details i do remember feeling that it was fairly uninteresting. [2/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Item:
    The Happy Return by C.S. Forester (1937)
    That was surprisingly good and a bit different than i expected. Hornblower is i think 37 in this a little older than i imagined. The story is also more brutal and realistic than i was expecting. Both realistic in its violence and in its politics.
    There's also a very strong female character which always makes a nice addition to this sort of thing. I was trying to figure out who Hornblower reminds me of and then i realized its Captain Picard from star-trek :) , it really is a very similar character which is a very good thing in my opinion.
    Overall only nitpicks is its tendency to assume you know all of the nautical terms (and also how to play whist ;) ).
    High seas adventure really isn't my favorite genre but this is good, enough said. [4/5]

    Old Item:
    Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers (1934)
    Wonderful stuff, i'll definitely be reading some of the sequels. Its not so much a single story as a series of extraordinary events. There is a nice bit of darkness to it which always leaves an impression on younger readers.
    Clearly this had some influence on the work of Roald Dahl. In fact there's one scene were people float up to the ceiling which Dahl completely stole for 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. Poppins is also quite probably the basis for Granny Weatherwax from the discworld novels.
    This version of Poppins is a very interesting character, she's both far more human and inhuman than the film version. She's vain and proud and goes on dates, oh and she might also be 1/4 King Cobra if i did my math right :) .
    Highly recommended for young and old. [4/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Item:
    The Ghost-seer by Friedrich von Schiller (1789)
    Unfinished mystery novella, a little bit like a Columbo episode in that you know who the victim is and the villain its just about finding out the how and why. actually its also about finding out the what as the villains plan is one of those incredibly convoluted ones who's ultimate aim is vague at best.
    The victim the Prince is a minor royal and comes across a bit like a Kardashian, only known for his name and his social actions. There's some nice critique of celebrity culture.
    Ultimately though it is unfinished so maybe i should have removed a point for that but i decided to leave it, its pretty decent despite not having much closure. [3/5]

    Old Items:
    The Thinking Machine by Jacques Futrelle (1907)
    Short tale about a Holme's like character who believes he can beat a world chess champion due to his command of logical thinking, despite never having played the game before. Its ok. [2/5]

    The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1764)
    One of the most insane opeing in any story ever :D . Bizarre things are happening in the castle. It gets way too melodramatic as it goes along but what saves the story is the Count of Otranto himself who is a remarkably layered character. My opinion of him constantly shifted throughout the story. [3/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh (1930)
    Sort of an adult version of Jeeves and Wooster. Or half-way between Wodehouse and Dickens funnier stuff like Bleak House. As well as fun there's sex, death, politics and the sort of minor celebrity culture which is probably more relevant now than when this was written.
    There is a central story just about but it's occasionally lost amidst the various secondary characters. The whole thing feels a bit fragmented but overall still quite enjoyable although with a distinctly dark undercurrent. [4/5]

    The Wish House by Rudyard Kipling (1924)
    Short tale of two old friends catching up with the reveal of a secret love and the strange lengths gone to for the lover. Odd tale mixing the weird and mundane. I could have done without the accents of the main characters but still liked the story a lot. [4/5]

    Brushwood Boy by Rudyard Kipling (1895)
    Tale of a man who has strangely vivid and consistent dreams throughout his life. Spends way too much time showing the man's life and how perfect he is but still not bad. A bit predictable too. [3/5]

    Old Items:
    Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo by Edward Lear (1894)
    Fairly good nonsense poetry not much to say about it. [3/5]

    A Honeymoon in Space by George Griffith (1901)
    A rich british man and spunky american woman fly around the solar system.
    Each planet or moon they visit represents a potential view of the past or future of the human race. Its really quite good pulpy sci-fi with a fairly strong female character for the time. [3/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    South Wind by Norman Douglas (1917)
    A tale of a mediterranean island and various foreigners who have ended up there. Its a veritable paradise although with a dark edge. The climate induces a relaxation of the morals and many people who come there are fleeing their past.
    As the story progresses we learn more about each of these characters and their background aswell as the rather bloody history of the island itself.
    The author really captures that sense of freedom, change and unreality you tend to get when you go on holiday. There's a lot to like about the story and i only have one problem with it and thats the structure.
    This is not a smooth read, in fact its downright lumpy with protuberances in strange places. To begin with it seems as if we have a main character but he's lost for large portions of the book. The author goes on abrupt tangents in order to give you character background and island history. Its a very uneven and sometimes quite annoying method of storytelling. Overall though still good. [3/5]

    The Inmost Light by Arthur Machen (1894)
    A pretty good short weird tale, at least until the end which unfortunately lets it down a lot. The mundane area's of conversation in the story are better than the weird stuff. [2/5]

    Old Item:
    The Coral Island by R.M.Ballantyne (1858)
    Very early teen adventure book. Three boys are ship wrecked on a desert island. Its not bad but probably doesn't stand up well to more modern books of its kind. [3/5]

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  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Item:
    Wallet of Kai Lung by Ernest Bramah (1900)
    A sequence of short stories which are meant to seem as if translated from Japanese. Most of the tales focus on the poor but noble triumphing over the rich but corrupt. The later tales seem to hold a bit more humour than the earlier stuff and i really felt it improved as it went. I only read part of this and listened to the rest from Libravox.
    Heres a little sample of the kind of writing your in for: 'A sedan-chair! A sedan-chair! This person will unhesitatingly exchange his entire and well-regulated Empire for such an article'
    I assume everyone will recognise this disguised shakespeare quote which is attributed to a famous japanese writer in one of the stories :lol . I actually wonder whether the entire book was written in normal english then parsed into this faux japanese afterward.
    Because its supposed to be japanese everyone is very polite which means a great deal of passive agressive dialogue which i found quite entertaining. Overall probably a lot easier to listen to than read, i quite liked it especially the latter third. [3/5]

    Old Item:
    The Face in the Abyss by A.E.Merrit (1930)
    Completely over the top pulp adventure with dinosaurs and ray guns, force fields and genetic engineering, a Dark Lord and a Snake Goddess. This is great stuff, i'm not a big fan of pulps but this has a more descriptive style than most. Its sort of like half-way between Burroughs and H.P.Lovecraft.
    In structure its a bit like the Chronicles of Riddick in that it started out as a short story and years later the author expanded it into other crazyness. Unlike 'Pitch Black' however its the crazy over the top part of this which is really enjoyable. There is the usual princess and blank slate protagonist but some of the side characters have real personality which makes up for the card board cutout hero.
    Also you might get a strong 'Lord of the Rings' vibe in places, i'm assuming thats coincidence and that Tolkien never read this but you never know :) .
    The author throws absolutely every idea he can into this story, if you ever wanted to try a pulp this is the one to start with. [4/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (1722)
    Wow! that was just... awful, i mean that was shockingly bad :lol. I was pleasantly surprised by Robinson Crusoe so this was doubly disappointing. Its written in such a dull lifeless manner that it kills any sense of emotion or interest it might otherwise have.
    Its a series of short incidents few of which are interesting, in fact the story only seems to start get going when your 2/3's of the way through. To say it gets interesting from then on, i should clarify that it is only comparatively so, as it certainly couldn't get any duller.
    Not only is it dull but the situation is made worse by the most ridiculous coincidences cropping up here and there. I'm at a loss for words to thoroughly describe how pointless this felt to read. I'm seriously tempted to give it one star but its not even interesting enough to be truly bad.
    A complete waste of time, go read 'Forever Amber' or 'Fanny Hill' or literally ANYTHING else. [2/5]

    Leixlip Castle by Charles Maturin (1825)
    Short supernatural tale, not bad, but the build up is better than the reveal. It definitely feels like the story could have gone down a more interesting avenue than the one it choose. [3/5]

    Old Items:
    007 by Rudyard Kipling (1897)
    aka The Story of an American Locomotive
    Short story about an anthropomorphised train starting his career. Clearly the inspiration for Thomas the Tank Engine. [3/5]

    The Town Where No One Got Off by Ray Bradbury (1958)
    Short story thriller about a man who gets off at a random stop and meets a sinister individual. Its pretty good. [3/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Move Under Ground by Nick Mamatas (2004)
    Kerouac vs Cthulhu. A beatnik pastiche with lots of lovecraft thrown in. Its really well done, of course the gap between the beatniks and lovecraft isn't as wide as you might think. Anyone who's read Kerouacs 'Dr.Sax' or Ginsbergs poem 'Howl' will see distinct touches of eldritch horror.
    Surprisingly for a pastiche this isn't played for laughs, its a proper beat novel with all the humour, sleaze and darkness that one would expect. Because it stars Kerouac as opposed to Sal Paradyse there is a biographical element to it and i wonder how true to Kerouacs personality and opinions this portrayal is.
    Some might find it a little vague in places especially towards the end but overall this is a great impression of the beats but with a little better focus and story than Kerouac usually managed. [4/5]

    Hounds of Tindalos by Frank Belknap Long (1929)
    Short horror tale, also an informative lesson on the dangers of combining quantum physics and really hardcore drugs. Not bad, the method of storytelling could have been better though. [3/5]

    The Red House by E.Nesbit (1902)
    A magazine writer and his illustrator wife inherit a house thats far too big for them to comfortably manage. Its a little bit like 'The Money Pit'.
    An ALMOST offensively nice story, just managing to avoid being twee due to some excellent characterization.
    Its very unusual to find a marriage relationship this well written and with such equality. Especially from something of this period. I had no idea Nesbit wrote non-childrens books so this was a very pleasant surprise. [4/5]

    Old Item:
    When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr (1971)
    Tale of Kerr's own childhood and how her family was forced to flee germany when the Nazi part came to power. It's a kids book but has a couple of quite disturbing parts which is to be expected with Nazi's around. More interesting than entertaining. [3/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Item:
    The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle (1912)
    Well that was a lot funnier than i expected especially at the start. If there isn't a version of this with Brian Blessed as Challenger than someone really mixed a trick.
    It has surprisingly good characterization, i personally think the Holmes stories completely lack in that regard so was surprised to see Doyle could create such memorable characters.
    It does a feel a little abrupt in its ending and a bit random, kind of feels like it was just written on a whim without much structural planning.
    Overall i liked it but was also glad it moved fairly quickly and got to the end before i got bored. [3/5]

    Old Items:
    Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward S. Ellis (1868)
    Western/Edisonian adventure story about genius inventor and his steam powered machine. I didn't think the writing was very good. [2/5]

    Howl by Allen Ginsberg (1955)
    Ginsbergs famous beat poem, some nice lovecraftian touchs, first third better than the rest but overall pretty cool. [4/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs by William Morris (1876)
    This is really quite good epic norse poetry, it does go on a bit too long towards the end but overall better than Beowulf and a real treat for any Lord of the Rings fans. You can see the origin of Aragorn and Arwen aswell as Eowyn, Gandalf, the ring and Isildur's sword.
    Of course the vast differences in where the stories go is also part of the fun. Speaking of fun, you might find it lacking in the latter parts as it turns into a real tragedy, still compelling though. Torn between a 3 or 4 score for this one but as i said a little long winded. [3/5]

    Chitty-Chitty-Bang-#1 by Ian Fleming (1964)
    Maybe my dislike of Bond is bleeding in here but there's just something a bit too twee and artificial about this. Its like an impersonation of an E.Nesbit story but doesn't quite capture the magic of her writing.
    On the upside at least its short, in fact much shorter than i expected. Can't quite point of anything particularly awful about the story it just failed to engage me. [2/5]

    Old Item:
    Briefing for a Descent Into Hell by Doris Lessing (1971)
    Noble prizes in literature to my mind seem like the book Oscars and Oscar winning films are rarely enjoyable. The same in my experience applies to Noble prize books. Occasionally however there are exceptions in both cases and this is one of them.
    Some gods travel to earth to warn of an impending disaster but to exist in our reality they have to play by our rules and effectively be human. Its a bit like '12 Monkeys' were the protagonist is often unsure whether they have really been sent on a mission or whether they're simply insane.
    Nothing i can say can properly describe this book. All i can say is, that its got good descriptive writing perhaps a little too descriptive for some but i thought it was good and i plan on reading it again sometime. [4/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    The Underground City by Jules Verne (1877)
    aka Child of the Cavern, aka the Black Indies.
    Of the dozen or so Verne books i've read i'd put this at number 3 behind '20,000' and 'Paris in the 20th Century'. Having said that Verne does get a bit repetitive in the broad-strokes. This is the fifth story i've read by him that has mysterious events which turn out to be... well i won't say but if he lived Verne could certainly have gotten a job as a Scooby-Doo scriptwriter :P.
    However as Scooby-Doo episodes go this is still pretty good. There's a bit of romance and its also a bit darker than most of Verne's stories. As for the romance, it's not overly creepy which is also pretty unusual, for the time, especially given the origin of the love interest.
    Finally while living in a mine is clearly over romanticized it is a least a pretty interesting setting and Verne does his normal good job on the details. [3/5]

    Nick Carter, Solution of a Remarkable Case by Frederick Van Rensselaer Dey (1891)
    aka Nick Carter detective library #1
    Short locked room detective story featuring superstrong master of disguise Nick Carter. This is absolute dreck :lol. It's the worst kind of dimenovel cliches and illogic. It's almost 'so bad its good' but not quite. [1/5]

    Old Items:
    The Problem of Susan by Neil Gaiman (2004)
    Short story about Susan from the Narnia books. Apparently she didn't get to heaven because she had genitals or something the details elude me but i remember i liked the writing. [4/5]

    Formosa by George Psalmanazar (1704)
    Psalmanazar was a white guy who claimed to be from Japan (Formosa) in order to get free drinks. People liked his bullplop stories because he claimed to have been kidnapped by Jesuits and everyone at the time hated the Jesuits. Then someone convinced him to write a book about his homeland. It sold well until his lies fell apart and he got into big trouble.
    Unfortunately the story of the writing of this book is a lot more interesting than the material itself. It goes into fashion, religion, geography etc. but its all really dry and boring with nothing of interest as far as i can recall.
    Better to just google Psalmanazar and skip this piece of dross. [1/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Letters from my Windmill by Alphonse Daudet (1869)
    A writer gets away from the bustle of Paris and stays in an old mill to do some work. This is a sequence of short stories, actually calling them stories doesn't feel accurate, tableau's might be a better description.
    Each piece paints a little picture of life. Many are quite cheery although it does get dark in places. Its really quite good and the writing can be quite beautiful. Towards the end however things become a bit political and historical and its not quite as much fun. [3/5]

    Jack Wright And His Electric Stage by Luis Senarens (1894)
    aka Leagued Against the James Boys
    Edisonian adventure story. My feelings about this went up and down throughout. It's pretty awful in places and it seems very stretched. Also the cool new invention is basically a bus, so doesn't really seem all that cool.
    The one thing that saves this story is the fact that they're actually after Jesse James and his gang, which is pretty crazy and awesome.
    Good in places but as i said too long and very uneven in quality. [2/5]

    Old Item:
    Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)
    Parody of eh..? i'm not sure quite what specifically, just those manor house sort of novels. A lazy woman decides to mooch off her distant relatives but finding that they live in a pretty bleak and miserable condition she decides to do them a favor (against their will) and sort them out. Its a little too pat, things work out just a little too easily but still quite funny. [4/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)
    Moments of real greatness but overall just a bit too straightforward an allegory. However its fairly short and nowhere near as depressing as 1984 which was a relief. [3/5]

    Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini (1922)
    High-seas adventure story. Looking back on it, it seems as if Mr. Blood is a bit too perfect and the story is a bit too predictable in its outlines but i only noticed this afterward. While reading, the story keeps you completely engaged and you tend to miss its flaws.
    One thing i did notice however is the authors change of perspective, much of the story is done straight from Bloods point of view but occasionally a more overlooking approach is taken. This can be disconcerting and takes you out of the story a bit.
    One final thing i have to mention is the racism, at first it seems like there isn't any until you realize that's because black people are completely ignored by the story. They are shown as not even animals but simple mechanical devices with no personalities at all.
    Overall this is very solid and engaging stuff, its hard not to like despite the author occasionally distancing the reader from the action. [4/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (1873)
    That wasn't terrible, in fact i'd rate it at #4 in the list of all the Verne stuff i've read. Because it is a race story it manages to be fairly exciting for a large section of the book although it started to lose me towards the end.
    Fogg is an odd character which at least make this less predictable than other stories but he's also kind of hard to like and the bit of romance thrown in doesn't really work.
    Conclusion, better than i expected. [3/5]

    The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin by Maurice Leblanc (1907)
    This supposed gentlemen thief is very much like the evil version of Sherlock Holmes. These stories like the Holmes ones are about the puzzle not about the character. A suspiciously high number of these stories try to make Lupin look like a hero but he's still not as likable as his british equivalent Raffles. That's because he is so overpowered, it seems as if he robs simply because he likes too without even any financial motive. Raffles is drawn as a much meaner character but still comes across as more likable because his motives are easier to understand.
    The two things which make this book good are the structure and method. We get some of Lupin's earlier exploits later in the book and this non-chronological story structure works very well. The best element though is the method used by Lupin in his robberies, which often rely heavily on psychology, and its this exploitation of human behavior which is the most interesting thing in the book. In fact calling Lupin a burglar seems inappropriate he's far more of a con-man. [4/5]

    Carnacki the Ghost-Finder was originally published with 6 short stories which i read but later editions had 9. I finally got around to reading the 3 i missed.

    The Find by William Hope Hodgeson (1909)
    A strangely mundane story, as Carnacki is hired to authenticate a book, not sure exactly why you'd hire a supernatural expert for that its not even a book of black magic or anything. Was hoping it would turn into a version of The Ninth Gate or something but nope. [2/5]

    The Haunted Jarvee by William Hope Hodgeson (1910)
    Odd things happening at sea. Has Hodgeson's usual great details of the strange. Felt a bit like that Star-Trek Next Generation episode with Nagilum, unfortunately there isn't much of a pay off in the end. This might be the most Lovecraftian of his Carnacki stories. [3/5]

    The Hog by William Hope Hodgeson (1911)
    Some really cool horror obviously related to House on the Borderland. However it's anti-ghost technology plays a bit too big a role and the story is a bit too stretched. [3/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Peter and Wendy by J.M.Barrie (1911)
    aka Peter Pan
    Well that was a lot more interesting than expected. Peter Pan the book, aka Peter and Wendy isn't just a retelling of the play, it gives you insights into the characters you could never get from the stage.
    You find out its not that much fun being a Lost Boy and eating imaginary dinners. Peter comes across as quite insane at times but i loved how childish he is and how all the women around him are more sexually mature than him.
    There's just a lot more to like about this book than i imagined, however it is a little uneven and fragmented around the middle hence not a perfect score. [4/5]

    City of the Beast by Michael Moorcock (1965)
    aka Warriors of Mars, aka Michael Kane #1, aka Kane of Old Mars #1
    A knockoff of Edgar Rice Burrough's 'Princess of Mars' (itself a ripoff of 'Gulliver of Mars') but better written, mostly. It starts off good and is overall superior but Moorcock does seem to channel a little too much Burroughs at times almost stooping to his level. If you like Princess of Mars then i can't imagine you liking this as the similarities are too well marked.
    However i personally hated 'Princess of Mars' so this was a far more pleasant read although still felt a little pointless. [3/5]

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  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915)
    Arrrghh what a time to end the story! I was really looking forward to a bit more but wanting more is not a terrible critisism.
    This is a utopian fiction about a country inhabitabed only by females. It does hold up a mirror to the unfair conditions of women in the real world but its hard to properly apply its critique. Its more sci-fi than social commentary.
    What i mean is that the creation of this land is so unique geographically, historically and biologically thats its hard to read it and go, 'oh wouldn't our world be better if we did things like that!' because you can't, there is no possibility of recreating this environment because of its unique formation.
    However there are still some interesting feminist (for the time) views of the treatment of woman as well as the more sci-fi elements of a completely alien social structure.
    The one thing missing from this work is sex, just because they have no men the sex instinct has been completely lost which is ridiculous and shows the age or at least the sci-fi origin of the story. No (good) modern writer would remove the pleasures of sex from society just because its not needed for reproduction. All told i really liked this one.
    PS: Just found out there's a sequel, yes please. [4/5]

    Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1885)
    Poetic version of the arthurian legends, although none of it seems to rhyme. I have to say i have zero interest in arthurian mythology but thats ok because this isn't about myths and legends this is about people.
    These poems have a remarkable amount of humanity in them. There are so many surprises and characters act in very human but unexpected ways. Also the magical elements of the myths are mostly minimized or made ambiguous.
    Other poetry epics like Orlando Furiouso or the Faerie Queene tend to be very good on the action this less so with most action taking place between the lines. However thats ok because it's again about people not events.
    The only real flaw is that each section is a bit long for a comfortable read in one go at least for me.
    One other small complaint is that it mixes in the Tristan and Isolde legend, so if your not familiar with that you may get confused as it assumes you already know it, i had to wiki it.
    This is really like a modern film adaptation taking modern issues and viewpoints and clothing them in the arthurian lengendry, i like. [4/5]

    An Authentic Narrative of the Ghost of a Hand by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu (1863)
    Short haunted house story. Nicely creepy but without any real closure. [3/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope (1876)
    Ugh, that was interminable! I'm sorely tempted to give this 2 stars, which is annoying because i was all set to give it 4 or 5 during the early chapters.
    This is actually two almost completely separate stories sewn together. The primary story following Ferdinand Lopez, an ambitious young wall-street type willing to do whatever it takes to make it rich. The secondary story follows Duke Plantagenet Palliser as he is asked to head up a coalition government.
    Its sort of 'Wall Street' meets 'The West-Wing', and its good, there's a lot to like here. Interesting characters and politics. All of the main cast seem well rounded.
    It gives an honest and somewhat horrifying view of the lives and social positions of women (or at least rich women) of the period, while not looking down on them.
    Oh and i saw a parallel, (real or imagined) between the lives of Emily in one narrative and Plantagenet in the other. I think both characters were prideful but also weak and it was an interesting comparison, although i can't be sure it was the authors intent.
    I really liked it... and then it just kept going.. and going.. and going! Seriously, even on their own each of the narratives would have been unnecessarily stretched, stitching two together was just cruel and unusual. [3/5]

    Dick Donovan, Secrets of the Black Brotherhood by J.E.Preston Muddock (1892)
    Short detective story, a man hires Donovan to defend his fiancee who appears to be a kleptomaniac. Pretty good but the solve comes a bit too abruptly. [3/5]

    History of the Seven Families of Lake Pipple-Popple by Edward Lear (1865)
    Short children's tale of various animal families. Not bad, a bit gruesome for kids i would of thought but i guess most fairy-tales are too. [3/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Item:
    The Third Policeman by Brian O'Nolan (1940)
    aka Flann O'Brien.
    This is a great book. Its weird and has a great use of language. People keep saying its really funny but it has such a dark, odd edge to it.
    Apart from the protagonist you have occasional interruptions by the main characters newly found soul, as well as digressions involving a mad philosopher that the protagonist is obsessed with.
    I generally dislike the surreal, some things like Alice in Wonderland or Doctor Faustroll seem to be just weird for the sake of weird. This however is nicely grounded so that the bizarre stands out even more without things becoming too disjointed.
    Overall highly interesting, great turn of phrase, nicely weird, in fact after reading it from the library i'm definitely going to buy a copy for future perusal. [4/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Item:
    The Flying Legion by George Allan England (1920)
    Overall this is a pretty solid book, it has a very pulpy storyline but the writing is far better than you might expect from 1920.
    The hero/super-villain of the story is an ex-army guy, who's somehow a millionaire and inventor extraordinaire. He also only likes to be referred to as 'The Master' (one of his many super-villain traits). Bored he decides to recruit some other ex-military types for an unknown venture. These are joined unexpectedly by the mysterious Captain Alden who wears a face mask to cover his disfigured continence.
    Part one of the plan involves high treason against the United States, part two of the plan involves a military assault on Mecca.
    This is an insane story and some might have a problem with the way muslims are depicted, however while a lot of the characters hate muslims the writer and his main character seem to really like the culture of the middle-east countries.
    The Master is constantly spouting muslim sayings, he never says thank god but rather thanks Allah etc.
    As i mentioned this is a pulp story-wise and it has some crazy pulp technology thrown in here and there. The characters you don't really get to know too well, but the not knowing is quite compelling.
    In the end its a little longer than i would have liked and the descriptive writing while beautiful, can be a bit overdone but the story was compelling and insane which i liked. [3/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (1883)
    Well that was... random. A very pointed fairytale about obeying your parents, working hard and not being an ass. Its pretty odd and doesn't bother trying to give reasons for many of its events. Fairies work in mysterious ways...
    It might be nice to give to kids if you really want to mess them up :) . [3/5]

    The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells (1933)
    A dystopian/utopian novel, written as a history book from the year 2106 and detailing the rise of a single world government. This is really good, despite what i will say about it's shortcomings, be assured that those are minor. As mentioned it is a history book and as such it can be quite dry with all of socio-economic talk etc. but its also really fascinating.
    Once i saw where it was going i thought it was going to turn out very silly and unrealistic. However when it got to the details it was remarkably detailed and authentic. Wells must have studied a lot of history books to be able to mimic them in this manner. The name dropping, references, argument and counter-arguments, every facet of this makes it seem real.
    BUT i do have a few gripes, one, its really long, a bit longer than it needed to be in my opinion although i do think the slowness of things added to the feeling of authenticity.
    Secondly i never understood how the organization's mentioned actually worked, in the details. How were people elected or promoted etc. it seemed a little hazy in that regard.

    Lastly but very much the major problem of this work is its sexism. I'm used to reading old books and good old-fashioned blatant (women should stay in the kitchen) sexism i can easily deal with, this was a little different.
    Women are almost entirely absent from this book, something which even the author acknowledges briefly but then excuses in the worst way.
    Wells is past the old fashioned sexism, he recognizes women as scientists, business people, artists and aviators so why are they so infrequent in this text you might ask?
    Well you see this is a history book, dealing with historically important people and according to Wells, women will NEVER stand out enough to be historically important. He also gives the secondary opinion that women don't WANT to be important.
    That they are naturally meek, submissive and unegotistical, instead of the power-hungry, backstabbing, narcissists we all know them to be, just like men.
    Its somewhat infuriating just because this book is so close to being perfect, if only Well's could have dragged himself a little further up the evolutionary ladder. [4/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    {film image}
    Ruggles of Red Gap by Harry Leon Wilson (1915)
    This is sort of like Jeeves and Wooster but from Jeeves point of view, although Jeeves is a bit smarter than Ruggles. Perhaps 'Frazier Crane' would be a better comparison.
    Ruggles is forced to go to america and deal with the lack of social distinctions. Its a pretty funny social comedy with Ruggles stuck between various factions and social classes.
    The story certainly never went where i expected and Ruggles denseness to some of what was going on around him was always humorous.
    It definitely improved as it went along as some of the early chapters were a bit of a slog to get through. I'm personally not much of a Wodehouse fan but, i mean to say, if you like that sort of thing you'll probably like this too, i mean to say even more then i did, what what! [3/5]

    The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin (1976)
    Another fine Levin story, its a pity they're so good that you can't avoid knowing the plot before you read it. Like Stepford Wives though this doesn't entirely spoil the story.
    Levin is just great at painting a scene so you can picture it all. He's also great at the little odd details that make such a difference to stories. Right from the start, a group of germans meet up in brazil, at a japanese restaurant. Why a JAPANESE restaurant of all places? It's a great little detail and there are so many other little touches which make the characters stand out from the crowd.
    Overall very nice work, very movie-like, only issue is that the individual chapters are a little long, for me anyway. [4/5]

    The Mines of Falun by E.T.A.Hoffmann (1819)
    Short doomed destiny / ghost story tale. It's quite long winded and not very entertaining once you see where its heading. The tale is being told to a group of listeners who after its over, actually poke fun at the story's shortcomings. So even the author seems aware that it isn't very good. [2/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    The Travels of Mr. John Gulliver Vol2 by Pierre Desfontaines (1730)
    Meh... it's ok, its fine really, sort of. I've only read the second volume as its the only part available online but i get the gist.
    It's impossible to judge this without comparison to Gulliver's Travels. I'm not a huge fan of Gulliver, its characterization being the most interesting part for me rather than its satire. No other satires i've read have the excellent characterization of Swift's writing, so its failure to appear in John Gulliver didn't cause me to deduct any points.
    However this book is also both less fantastical and less biting in its satire. I don't even know why this was originally in two volumes as the author seems to have a hard time filling the pages. There arn't very many ideas covered and the entire last section seems to be a desperate attempt to defend the few ideas that are raised.
    There are better satires out there, such as 'Voyage to Cacklogallina, 'Niels Klim's underground travels' or 'Riallaro, archipelago of exiles' to name a few. [2/5]

    all 17 issues of Hugo Hercules by Wilhelm Körner (1903)
    Brief comic-strip run. Clearly an influence on Desperate Dan and possibly Superman. The ever helpful Hugo often does some damage when lending a hand but unlike in Desperate Dan, nobody seems to mind. Just as easy! [3/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Angel of the Revolution by George Griffith (1893)
    Set in 1903, a world war approaches and an international group of terrorists mean to take advantage of the situation after getting their hands on a new form of combustion, which finally solves the problem of powered flight.
    This is pretty prophetic in some ways, it combines the devastation of machine warfare realized in the first World War with the speed of machine warfare realized in the Second.
    George Griffith it has to be said, isn't a particularly good writer. His writing tends to be quite plain and pulpy, its not bad, but its by no means spectacular. He does however have two things going for him. One is a great imagination, and the other is his love of strong female characters, which is pretty unusual for the time.
    Apart from the fact its hard to like anyone in this story as they're all gradations of evil from a modern perspective, the other major flaw is the racism in favour of anglo-saxons. Which is all the more remarkable given that most of the main characters are russian. Still i suppose it's no more racist than Star-Trek and every other sci-fi show in which the entire world appears to be ruled by white english speakers.
    A very interesting plot, i am planning on reading the sequel. [3/5]

    {random female crusoe image}
    Hannah Hewit: Or, the Female Crusoe Vol II by Charles Dibdin (1794)
    I have mixed feelings about the fact i skipped Vol I. On the one hand Hannah is a very interesting character and i'd like to know more about her. On the other hand Dibdins writing can sink sometimes to Defoe's worst (Moll Flanders), while it never rises to Defoe's best (Robinson Crusoe).
    Its an odd writing style that can feel very monotone in circumstances that instead should feel exciting or emotional.
    The saving grace of it all is Hannah, a genius at engineering and pretty much anything else she puts her mind too, a very strange female figure for the times. Even Dibdin's poor style and needless 'a series of unfortunate events' plot-lines fail to make Hannah unengaging. [3/5]

  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    {another random female crusoe image}
    Hannah Hewit: Or, the Female Crusoe Vol III by Charles Dibdin (1794)
    It finally occurred to me what this writing style reminds me of, its an american soap opera! It has it all, the constant twists and turns, the wild coincidences, the returns from the dead and new found relations.
    In defoes Moll Flanders these things are incredibly annoying but Dibdins stuff feels less serious and so its ridiculous aspects are more acceptable.
    The genius Hannah continues to delight and the first half of this volume is probably the highlight of the work. The second half is spent clearing up loose threads and so can be a bit of a let down. Finally the author reveals the main point of his story which i liked a little better in this than when the same point was made in Candide.
    Overall Dibdins writing still isn't good but i enjoyed my time with Hannah. [3/5]

    I found a great new resource for public domain comics, all free and legal, highly recommend.
    all 6 issues of Brain Boy comic (1963)
    These are really quite good despite the awful name. A young man with telepathic/telekinetic abilities is recruited by the U.S. government. Quite a bit darker than you might imagine and some very interesting badguys. Unfortunately there always seems to be some small thing in each issue which doesn't entirely make sense otherwise i'd rate it higher. [3/5]

    The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman (1816)
    A somewhat twisted short story, i suppose it could be called a fairytale. Unfortunately it goes on a bit too long and there's a sort of explanation done in the middle which really drags things to a halt. Also the final section is a little too descriptive. Still not terrible though. [3/5]

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  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    New Items:
    Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd (1985)
    In the early 18th century an architect oversees the construction of 7 churches while in the 1980's a policeman struggles to solve a series of murders.
    I'm giving this a reluctant 4 out of 5. This is an awkward one, very high-brow but some of it was definitely lost on me. It requires a considerable degree of patience and concentration to read.
    Much of it is written in Ye Olde english from the 1700's which i liked, its not the style but the substance which is hard to digest.
    Oh and you will definitely feel soiled and depressed after reading this (even if you manage to avoid feeling confused). [4/5]

    The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke (1948)
    The short story 2001: A Space Odyssey is supposed to have been based on. The similarities are quite slight but this is a solid and interesting little tale of moon exploration. [4/5]

    first 10 issues of Dan Dare comic (1950)
    I can certainly see why this is considered a classic. The story ain't bad but the artwork and the 1950's vision of the future is really beautiful. [4/5]

    first 10 issues of Captain Pugwash comic (1950)
    Who knew Pugwash started as a comic. I haven't actually watched any of the cartoon but in this Pugwash isn't a nice pirate he's simply an incompetent and cowardly one. Its quite fun. [4/5]

    *If plays are considered literature then why not film, i'll be adding the occasional film/serial etc that gets referenced in the LoEG comics.
    Film Items:
    Modern Times (1936)
    Not quite a classic, this has some great set pieces but it's far too random and unfocused. Clearly Chaplain had a decent idea to begin with but wasn't able to spread that one idea wide enough for a full film. Interesting as a production as its a semi-talky with just a few bits of dialogue, mostly delivered via some very 1984-esque video screens. [3/5]

    The Great Dictator (1940)
    Now this IS a classic! Chaplains first proper talky still stands up today. Not only moving but genuinely funny, despite the dark subject matter. Chaplain plays a german/jewish barber and former WWI soldier who looks remarkably like the country's new dictator Adenoid Hynkel.
    There really arn't a lot of movies this old which i think hold up under modern scrutiny so i was very pleased with this one. The ending might feel a bit of a let down for some but i thought it was an interesting and bold choice which worked relatively well. [4/5]