Heritage of Hastur (1975) by Marion Zimmer Bradley

A thoughtful review of an author I can no-longer bring myself to read. Nicely done as always C2M.

From couch to moon

HeritageofHastur1“In 1975,” Marion Zimmer Bradley recalls in the middle preface of her Heritage and Exile omnibus edition, “I made a landmark decision; that in writing The Heritage of Hastur, I would not be locked into the basically immature concepts set forth in Sword, even at the sacrifice of consistency in the series” (401). This is promising, though not promising much, given the puerile nature of the 1962 Hugo-nominated science-fantasy novel The Sword of Aldones, which reads like a preteen’s self-insert fanfic that unself-consciously acts out sentimental scenes with her crush. (Here is my own version of this torture. Enjoy.)

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A library of corpses

PHOTO PROMPT © Sean Fallon

Enjoying my role as tour-guide to the Savage, his reaction to the Library was surprising. The idea of retaining ideas and stories in perpetuity was apparently horrifying; indeed he remarked:

“Ideas are like people; all are beautiful at birth. In their youth they are played with, tested. Mature ideas prove themselves good or bad. And when they die (and all do) they must be buried or burned. The old make way for the new.

Your…‘Library’…is full of idea-corpses. Whether good or bad in life, now they all stink.”

I must admit that placating an irate librarian was somewhat less enjoyable.


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Book Review: Perfections – Kirstyn McDermott

What would her mother think now, if she knew of all the times her eldest daughter had ignored that advice? Those hurried, hopeful encounters in her teens. The desperate calculation of her early twenties. Until she could no longer convince herself that Dr Chiang may have been wrong. Until, finally, she forced herself to give it up. To pack it away. The desire, the longing, the need which she felt for near her entire life. Curled within her heart. Within her broken, bloodless womb. Only rarely, now, does she hear them. The ghosts of those children she can never conceive.

Perfections: Kirstyn McDermott

Busy, busy, busy…and barely blogging😦. I’ve been trying to finalise this review for a week now! 

A great dark urban-fantasy story; satisfyingly true to its Australian setting. Kirstyn writes some great dialogue, and has a deceptively smooth writing style; she makes the reader comfortable before expertly ratcheting up the tension. Some excellent twists and dark events, although I got the feeling that she pulled a few punches. It’s enjoyably creepy – a fine lighter horror read. Recommended.

I was provided a free electronic copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Continue reading 

Broken boys

PHOTO PROMPT © Erin Leary

Dusk’s light touched the broken boys as they carried the body, wrapped in a thin sheet to the reservoir’s edge, where weeds grew thick and choking. Mosquitoes droned and magpies warbled and the boys moaned; a low lamentation.

As their brother slipped into the water the linen became all but transparent in the water; death and horror revealed. Bites, bruises, burns; brutal marks by brutal men. Below the waist a ruinous black void, dark with dried blood. Evidence of uncontrolled perversion sinking, joining unknown others.

Backs straighten as they return. A new steel resolve. An unspoken agreement.

No more.


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Book Review: Snapshots: Missives From Beyond the Pale by Glenn C Loury II

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Somewhere out there is the first woman to look mortality in the face and realize that this life is all there is.

We call her Patient Zero.

The disease spreads through humanity like wildfire, a contagious apathy deadlier than any cancer. Stripping away our illusions killed millions. How long had we told ourselves there was more? That beyond life lay heaven or… something. Alas the wool fell from our eyes, no more denying the void before us. The gaping mouth of death that led to empty bowels wherein our memories were digested and, in time, forgotten.

How could we face our children? Those who were once precious to our eyes now appeared as mere ambulatory hunks of flesh born into the grave. Another shovelful of dirt heaped atop them each day.

Patient Zero – Glenn C Loury II

A small collection of flash fiction pieces, rich in imagery and delightfully poetic. At 43 pages I read this in a single sitting (it was $1.49 on Australian Amazon, I understand its 99c US) and enjoyed it, but I do think I might have got more out of it had I read paced myself – perhaps only read one story a day? Continue reading

Book Review: Big Planet by Jack Vance #VintageSciFi

Claude Glystra rose towards consciousness like a water-logged timber. He opened his eyes; vision reached his brain.

He lay on a low bed at the rear of a plank-walled cottage. With a feverish movement he propped himself on an elbow, stared out the open door; and it seemed that he was seeing the most wonderful sight of his life.

He looked out on a green slope, spangled with yellow and red flowers, which rose to a forest. The gables of a village showed through the foliage-quaint gables of dark brown timber. The entire landscape was drenched in a tingling golden-white radiance; every colour shone with jewel-like clarity.

Jack Vance – Big Planet

That’s right – two Vance reviews in a single day! And why not – he’s well known, amazing prolific, and his books are hella short. Given my goal of 70 books this year, I’m seriously appreciative of Jack’s brevity🙂.

That said…I’m sorry Mr Vance, this one just wasn’t very satisfying.

Big Planet – 3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

Big Planet: a huge planet two or three times the size of Earth, has an atmosphere and gravity similar to Earth’s (apparently it is almost devoid of metals and is correspondingly less dense). Principally occupied by the indigenous plants and animals, Big Planet has been gradually settled by the flotsam and jetsam of mankind. Too big and too far away for Earth to directly control, and without metals or other resources to otherwise make the place valuable, fringe societies and extremist groups have headed to Big Planet for hundreds of years, each seeking to carve out a little slice of their concept of freedom. Many of these have devolved into small kingdoms and empires run by tyrants and despots.

A group of nine Earthlings lead by Claude Glystra have headed to stop the arms and slave trade on Big Planet, but crash land in the territory of one of worst of these despots – the Barjarnum of Beaujolais – and are forced to attempt a 40,000 mile trek across the dangerous planet to the Earth zone for safety.

Review

This book was fine – OK even – but there were some real flaws.

Firstly, Big Planet is the LAZIEST naming of a fictional place since Mt Doom. Big Planet might be what it’s called by the uneducated masses, or maybe as a nickname, but apparently this planet is listed as ‘Big Planet’ in the star charts. I’m sure this leads to no confusion at all. Ugh, I just couldn’t take it seriously. (Of course, I live in Australia where we literally have a desert called ‘The Great Sandy Desert‘, so perhaps I’ll just shut up about lazy place names…)

Actually, now I think about my last review…Joe Smith? Vance wasn’t one for stretching when it came to naming anything!

Its not a hard scifi story so I didn’t expect Martian levels of science or believability, but even so the basic plot got me offside from the beginning. Trek 40,000 miles? Earth is just over 24,000 miles around. These guys formed a serious plan to effectively circumnavigate the globe. Twice. On foot. This isn’t a typo either – Vance makes this twice-round-the-Earth comparison himself in the book, and yet still went ‘Yep. Sounds like a reasonable plan, and totally not the ravings of an insane person’.

Perhaps needless to say, this really blew a hole in the suspension of disbelief for me.

Moving past this, Big Planet is a fascinating place with an interesting clash of imaginative cultures and creatures…each of which we see for two or three pages before they move on, generally after killing one of the party members. I know I criticized monoculture scifi in the previous review, but the opposite extreme wasn’t any better. There was no identifiable focus, no substance to any interaction with these multitudes of peoples. We see a single feature (which then defines them) and we keep walking. I think this was my main issue here – the book is only 150 odd pages, and Vance just introduced too many tribes/gangs/villages where the people were immediately antagonistic to our sorry little band. They wash past the reader without leaving impact or furthering the plot (which is pretty simple in the first place). I think that cutting the number of these interactions by half and exploring those left in more detail would have been a significant improvement.

Regarding the characters; they are almost all male with one single young, woman who is (surprise surprise) the love interest. Midway through the book a few more attractive young women bargain their way into the group, basically offering themselves as slaves…Which was a bit weird in my opinion. And most of the male characters are empty shirts as well, with only our hero Glystra taking any real actions or holding any conversations. Everyone else seems content to walk around, follow Glystra, and wait patiently for the planet to murder them.

I suppose I am being a little hard on Vance with this one, as he has a writing style I like, and his stories, (including this one) have some very good moments. But honestly Big Planet is just an ordinary scifi tale, with too little plot to hang its creative alien dressing on.


Another submission into the Vintage SciFi Not-a-Challenge hosted by Little Red Reviewer. If you’re interested in checking some other vintage scifi reviews out, I suggest that you check out some of the links she has posted!

Cheers

KT