Book Talk: March 2018

March: what a shit month it’s been for me. I’ve been overwhelmed and driven close to burnout due to uni work, editing Empire Times, and family issues. I’m constantly in high stress mode right now and unsure on what’s coming up next or not. However, despite these issues, Empire Times issue 2 got released, I started creating a game for one of my uni classes, and actually got to do some reading. So, let’s put the shit behind and get into what I’ve read this month.

Novels

Corpselight by Angela Slatter

This is the second half of my thoughts on Corpselight. For more, read my thoughts from last month here.

I finally finished reading Corpselight this month, after much difficulty. Overall, the story was really good, but it unfortunately dragged in the middle third. I found myself less interested in wanting to continue the story the further it went on. The journey Verity goes on through this part of the novel though is still very interesting, and what happens to her in the end is emotional. It has me interested to know what’ll happen in the next entry in the series.

Corpselight is a good book, but unfortunately doesn’t live up to Vigil, the first in the series. I will continue to read the series in the future as it’s really cool to have a Wolf Among Uslike tale set in Australia. If you have read and enjoyed Vigil then I recommend this book, if not, then pick up the first book and have a read of it before starting here.

Manga

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords (Part One) by Akira Himekawa

In this manga adaptation of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, Link is one of the greatest knights in Hyrule. That is until a Shadow Link makes an appearance, brought back by the Dark Lord Vaati. To succeed, Link must power up the legendary Four Sword, and together with three separate versions of himself bring peace back to Hyrule.

Four Swords Adventures is one of the few games in The Legend of Zelda series I haven’t played yet. Copies for this on the Australian GameCube are rare and expensive, which is why this manga is the only real way I can experience the game’s story at this moment.

I’m still reading this from the time of writing this, but it’s been really enjoyable. It’s easy to read and has an engaging story. Seeing the Four Links argue with each other feels natural and is reminiscent on how the different incarnations of the Doctor from Doctor Who act around each other.

I will give my full thoughts on this in next month’s Book Talk.

Short Stories

I will try to be brief with short story thoughts as always, but this month I read two very thought-provoking stories, which may have me going more in-depth this time around.

The Smile by Ray Bradbury

From A Pleasure to Burn, ‘The Smile’ is the story of art destruction. It places us in a world where art is feared due to its ability to influence people. This story offered a curious insight from the mind of a young boy witnessing this happen, and how a particular smile makes him reconsider his life.

I found this story engaging right from the beginning. The painting chosen to be destroyed really grabbed me as it is one of the most well-known ones in history, and how even in an anti-art world it still can influence people. The ideas behind this story to me also felt very relevant, in a way. I feel due to all of the problems in the world and changes in societal thoughts that the significance of art and literature are declining. Being a writer, this is something that I fear deeply.

I highly recommend this short story to anyone who is interested in dystopian ideas and who fears collective belief. I also recommend it to anyone who is interested in a fascinating read which will make you begin to question the ways of society.

Long After Midnight by Ray Bradbury

Also from A Pleasure to Burn, “Long After Midnight” is yet once again another dystopian story. Unlike the other stories in the collection though, this is essentially a shortened version of Bradbury’s novella Fahrenheit 451. This follows Montag, protagonist of Fahrenheit 451, beginning from essentially the centre of the book and with its ending shortened.

It’s been a few years since I last read Fahrenheit 451. It’s one of my all-time favourite novellas and to return to its world in this shortened version was fantastic. After observing people around me I’ve found myself relating closely to Montag and the ideas in this story. Scary part is, most of what this story says about society’s ideals are happening in our world now: fake media consuming us, shorter attention spans, and literary censorship (recent banning of Animal Farm in China).

If you’ve read Fahrenheit 451, this is the same deal. It’s a great to return to the world in a shortened version. If you haven’t read the novella, then this is a great starting place also.

Obsolete, Absolute by Robert M. Price

From Eldritch Chrome, ‘Obsolete, Absolute’ is a cyberpunk tale that was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. I read this story but found it difficult to exactly understand exactly what was in it. While I liked the idea of the Cthulhu Mythos in the future, I couldn’t exactly understand what this idea of upgrading in it was. I find it hard to recommend this particular story to anyone, but I do recommend the collection it’s in at this point.

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Book Talk: February 2018

What a whirlwind month February has been! I’ve started my third year of uni properly now, brought out the first issue of Empire Times for 2018 (see pic below), and been constantly working to create the second issue. Being this busy has affected my reading time, but I’ve still been able to find some time. The reading list for this month is small, with no short stories for the first time ever, I think. However, I may decide to switch from novels to short stories for next month, just to boost up numbers. Anyway, without further delay, here is Book Talk for this month.

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The first issue of Empire Times

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Detective Sam Spade is hired by Miss Wonderley, a beautiful woman, to track down her sister. His partner, Miles Archer, is shot and killed after following a trail. Its Archer’s death that sees Spade suddenly thrown into a strange new world, where he’s being hunted while hunting himself. It’s during this that he comes across a treasure worth so much that people are willing to kill for it.

My first encounter with The Maltese Falcon was through my crime fiction and film class in university. My tutor was talking about hardboiled detectives and showed us the 1941 film adaptation which stars Humphrey Bogart. I really liked the film and ended up deciding to buy the book, as I began an interest in hardboiled detective stories. It was great to finally read this book after so long on the shelf, but like a lot of much older books, I came across some problems.

In comparison with other texts from the era (about the early 1930s), The Maltese Falcon is still relatively easy to read and I understood what was going on in the story. I did though have some problems with the writing style, mainly with it being dated. The story too was extremely dialogue heavy with some sentences feeling long-winded. Despite these issues though, I did enjoy reading this book. The characters in this story is where it really shines. Sam Spade is fantastic and is, in my opinion, very much like Bogart’s performance in the adaptation. Joel Cairo too comes across a lot like Peter Lorre does in the movie, which further enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

The Maltese Falcon may have aged in terms of style, but it continues to remain a good read which is still surprisingly easy to read. If you enjoy the film or other hardboiled detectives, like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, then you’ll enjoy this story. You should give this a read too if you wish to see where the modern hardboiled detective originated from.

Corpselight by Angela Slatter.

The sequel to Vigil, Corpselight once again follows Verity Fassbinder, a half weird-half human living in Brisbane. A new mystery has now appeared, but she is also facing yet another great challenge: becoming a mother for the first time. Her new mystery though threatens her and her family in a way not seen yet.

Vigil was one of my favourite reads of 2016. I really enjoyed the idea of a detective style mystery being set in Brisbane with mythological creatures. Most of all, I really loved the Australian twist that these mythologies had with them, and how familiar they to me, despite not being from Brisbane. So naturally, I was really excited to pick up Corpselight. I may have only gotten halfway through it as of writing this, but it’s certainly still been a good read.

So far, I have been really enjoying following Fassbinder again. The action though has been a little thin in the first half, mainly because of her being pregnant. However, Fassbinder being pregnant enhances her as a character. It shows how she wishes to be a caring person, as well as how much she wants to distance herself from her problems in the past.

I will let you know my full thoughts on Corpselight next Book Talk.

 

Book Talk: January 2018 (Part Two)

This is part two of Book Talk: January 2018. For part one, please click here.

Short Stories

As per usual, I’ll be keeping my thoughts on short stories brief in attempt to prevent any spoilers.

The Cricket on the Hearth by Ray Bradbury

In ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’ couple suspect that their house has been bugged by their country’s government. From A Pleasure to Burn, I found this story a fascinating peer into the fear of oppressive government and a breach of privacy. Despite being written in the 1940s/1950s, its themes convey effectively in today’s world of Orwellian style surveillance and loss of privacy. If you’re into this sort of sci-fi dystopian ideas, give this story a read.

The Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury

A writer likes to go on walks late at night. Sounds harmless, right? Well, in ‘The Pedestrian’, a writer especially walking around in the dark night isn’t normal and very suspicious. Also from A Pleasure to Burn, this story is a fascinating glimpse into a dystopian future where creativity is seen as dangerous. Like ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’, this story too has themes that convey well in the present day, with creativity being suppressed by society. Give this a read if you’re interested in discovering one of the stories that helped inspire Bradbury’s most well-known work: Fahrenheit 451.

The Garbage Collector by Ray Bradbury

A garbage collector goes around on his same old job of collecting people’s garbage. However, one day, he receives some orders which makes him wish to quit his job. Once again from A Pleasure to Burn, ‘The Garbage Collector’ is one story that I found extremely relatable to current world events, especially with North Korea. I found myself frightened on how realistic this story felt, but at the same time fascinated with these being the fears of people at the time of its writing (1940s/1950s). This is certainly a must read in this collection, have a read of it and you’ll see why I see it very much like today’s world events.

The Impossible Planet by Philip K. Dick

In the distant future, an elderly lady wishes to travel to Earth to see it before she dies. To achieve this, she approaches a travel agency, who try to convince her that it’s not real, but later decide to exploit her for money and take her to an Earth-like planet. From Electric Dreams, ‘The Impossible Planet’ I found to be a weirdly fantastical story. The characterisation wasn’t the best, but the theme of nostalgia is strong, which makes the old lady more believable. Also, unlike many of Dick’s other works, I found this to be a very readable story. This enhanced my love for the story and actually allowed me to enjoy reading it. Give this a read if you’re in the mood of an intergalactic travel for nostalgia. There’s also an adaptation for TV of this story in the anthology series Electric Dreams, which you should check out if you’re more visual.

The Hanging Stranger by Philip K. Dick

Ed Loyce discovers a man hanging in the square of his town. From here, he finds himself increasingly becoming isolated from everyone else and as the last rational human alive. Reading ‘The Hanging Stranger’, also from Electric Dreams, I felt a strange sort of déjà vu, mainly with the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Loyce’s journey into believing he’s the last rational human after seeing this sight is very much like the changes in people’s behaviours in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This connection is almost like a fear of the collective mind, very much like the fear of communism in 1950s America. These connections helped me enjoy ‘The Hanging Stranger’ as a plot. I do have one major criticism with it though: it’s a bit hard to read. I found myself getting lost in the bad way in this story and not understanding some parts like I should have. Definitely give this story a read if you’re interested in looking into the fears of the collective mind. Just remember that this is a very complex story that can be a bit hard to read.

A Final Note…

Both old and new readers of Book Talk, you might have taken notice that I no longer have a rating system beneath each story I’ve discussed. This is a new thing I’ve started this year as I’ve found having a rating system to be far too subjective and unfair. I also feel like a rating system diminishes the importance of a story, even if it’s not that great.

So, I’ll no longer carry a rating out of 5 on any of my future discussions. I believe it should be up to you, the reader, to come up with your own conclusions for a story I’ve discussed. By ridding of the rating system, it also allows me to do exactly what I want with this series: discuss stories in the written form and what I thought of them.

Happy reading and I look forward to bringing you another Book Talk soon.

Book Talk: January 2018 (Part One)

So far 2018 seems to be off on a good start. The first issue of Empire Times with me as an editor is in the proofing phase, saw the Foo Fighters live, and I’ve attended NEWS (a student media conference) in Melbourne. With all this happening, you might think that my reading for this month has been lacking. Surprisingly, it actually hasn’t been. I’ve already read a decent amount this month, from Australian manga to a physiologically disturbing visual novel. Because of how much I read, I will be splitting Book Talk in two, with part 2 going up tomorrow. So, with no further delay, here’s what I read in January 2018.

Novels

Thunderball by Ian Fleming

M. is increasingly worried about James Bond’s health. With this, he sends Bond to a health spa treatment, to help him detox and become healthy again. It’s during this time that Bond finds himself nearly killed by someone. While this is happening, two atomic bombs are stolen by SPECTRE and Operation Thunderball is launched. Bond, fresh from his detox, is sent to find these bombs and prevent a global catastrophe.

Thunderball right from the very beginning is an unusual Bond book. To see Bond in such a vulnerable, poor state of health, it’s really quite fascinating. It’s proof to readers that Bond is still human, and seeing this human side of him suffering makes for interesting character development in the beginning. However, once he starts his mission in the Bahamas, he’s back to the alcoholic womaniser we know him best for. Although it’s brief, it’s well done by Fleming to show us that Bond is human.

If you’ve seen the movie of the same name, you’ll quickly notice that this book is radically different to that movie. However, personally, I actually really like the book compared to the movie. Bond feel much more human and the book is where we’re introduced to Blofeld, possibly one of the greatest Bond villains of all time.

Overall, Thunderball is a worthwhile entry into Fleming’s 007 series of novels. It’s a great look into the human side of Bond, has a thrilling story, and introduces us to Blofeld. Pick this up if you want to have a read that’s both exciting and thrilling.

Graphic Novel

The Dreaming by Queenie Chan

Twin sisters, Jeanie and Amber, come out to a prestigious boarding school in the middle of the Australian bush. The school, known as Greenwich Private College, is surrounded by an impenetrable amount of bushland. Over the years, the school has seen a number of disappearances from its students, all of which who have vanished in the surrounding bushland. It’s while they’re at the college that Jeanie and Amber are affected by one of these disappearances. What follows after is a dark tale full of ghosts and mystery.

I like Queenie Chan’s work, having really enjoyed The Man with the Axe in his Back collection. The Dreaming only makes my appreciation for her work become even stronger. I was engaged with this story right from the very beginning, and I actually cared about the characters of Jeanie and Amber. The fact of them being twins enhanced the novel’s horror elements. The plot, while cliché, is fascinating and very much like Picnic at Hanging Rock, a film I really liked (I’ve still not read the book).

What I’d like to spend some time on discussing is the art style of this book. As you’ve possibly picked out already, The Dreaming is a manga rather than a western style comic. It follows a very Japanese style of drawing, but at the same time contains many elements of Victorian era gothic within it. This art styling, mixed with Australian mythology and setting makes this story far more memorable and unique. Jeanie and Amber too are unique characters, being Australian characters of a Singaporean background, living in Australia. All of these combined, I feel, displays to the world how diverse Australia really is, and shows you can make an original, frightening tale all set here.

The Dreaming is by far one of my most favourite reads of this year so far. It’s a beautifully crafted manga series that’s both unique and terrifying. If you’re a manga fan, give this a read. If you enjoy Australian speculative fiction, read this. Horror fans, read this, you won’t regret it!

Visual Novel

Doki Doki Literature Club

Okay, I don’t normally talk about games themselves in Book Talk, but Doki Doki Literature Club is an exception. This is because Doki Doki is more of a visual novel than a video game, which is why I’m discussing it here. I just want to say this about this visual: holy fucking shit it’s batshit insane!

I’ve read some disturbing horror novels in the past, and I’ve played some pretty terrifying horror games along with that too. However, Doki Doki has so far blown most of them out of the footy oval. This game fools you to begin with as being a light-hearted dating sim, but it quickly becomes dark and twisted (players will know what I’m talking about). I feel this horror comes from the combination of the book form with gaming to create this unusual, yet disturbing piece of visual literature.

That first disturbing moment struck me like a meteor striking the surface of Mars. My heart was pounding, I was ready to cry, and I suddenly felt guilty for my choices, something few horror games have done to me. The plot becomes further disturbing the more you continue into it, eventually breaking the fourth wall, and actually really creeping me out.

As before, I don’t usually talk about games on here, but Doki Doki is a rare exception due to it being a visual novel. Definitely give this a go, you won’t regret it. It’s available on Steam for free.

Stay tuned for tomorrow (Feb 2 AEST), when I bring out part 2 of this month’s Book Talk.

Book Talk: December 2017

At long last; 2017 has come to an end. It doesn’t feel so long ago that the year started, and it’s already now over. My month of December was really good overall. I continued and finished my journey to both Japan and Hong Kong, began my editorship at Empire Times, and started playing a number of different games. Reading wise, this month has been pretty good as well. This month’s readings had themes of things ending and trauma, which I didn’t take notice of until writing this.

Novels

The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke

Long into the future, the Earth has been destroyed. With the end of the Earth, humanity has taken to the stars and are on their way to a planet in a system they call Sagan. Along the way, they stop on a planet for water, when they find it’s been settled by humans from an earlier mission thought to have failed. It’s here where some of the crew members make the tough choice: continue to the Sagan system, or stay on this new planet?

Compared to my last reading of Clarke (find my thoughts here), I really liked reading The Songs of Distant Earth. It was a good mixture of hard science fiction and engaging storytelling. To me, the main plot reminded me of a summer love story, only set on another planet. The ending too was heartfelt, especially for Loren Lorenson, one of the main characters in the story.

The only major criticism I really have with this story though is the backstory sections. Those parts of the book detracted from the main narrative plot and felt more like info-dumps. Yeah, it was interesting in a way to find out about what happened for them to be out there, but I feel it could’ve been done better.

Overall, I really liked The Songs of Distant Earth. It’s an interesting take on the idea of End of the World and an engaging plot. However, the info-dumps on the End of Earth are a little longwinded and don’t add too much to the main plot, which brings it down for me, unfortunately. Still, give this story a read, you won’t be disappointed.

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

In Castle Rock, Maine, 1974, 12-year-old Gwendy Peterson meets a man after running up some stairs. This man, who has a bowler hat, gives her a box with buttons on it. By pressing particular buttons, Gwendy can either get chocolates or a perfect condition 1891 Morgan silver dollar. However, by owning this box, Gwendy begins to notice strange things happening in her life. These differences range from her life being great to being horrific which she believes she’s responsible for.

I received Gwendy’s Button Box as a present this recent Christmas and it only took me a few days to read through it. Three reasons for this: this is only technically a novella, the writing is well paced, and the story is thrilling. I was engaged in Gwendy’s storyline right from the get-go, and there were moments which frightened me a fair amount. The cover design and illustrations in my version of the book are also really beautiful, making it feel special.

However, despite being a really good, fast-paced read, the ending just didn’t live up to the rest of the story. The ending to it really wasn’t interesting at all, which was a shame. A couple of the characters also felt a little undercooked to me, especially Gwendy’s best friend Olive. It kind of felt like a wasted opportunity with Olive, which could’ve enhanced the story more since she was important to Gwendy.

Overall though, Gwendy’s Button Box was a good read. If you’re into a story that’s fast-paced and interesting, give this a read. If you get this story, try to get the hardback first edition as its artwork is gorgeous and feels unique.

Short Stories

As per usual, I’ll keep my thoughts on short stories brief to avoid spoilers.

Exhibit Piece by Philip K. Dick

From the Electric Dreams short story collection, ‘Exhibit Piece’ is one of the many twisted short stories from Philip K. Dick. I tried to make sense of what was being said in this story, but had a lot of trouble doing so. Like many of Dick’s stories, this is difficult to understanding, but is full of imagination. I really can’t find out on what to say about this piece because of it being far too confusing.

Herman Wouk is Still Alive by Stephen King

Stephen King comes out yet again with another non-speculative tale. From The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, ‘Herman Wouk is Still Alive’ is told from two different perspectives: a young single mother down on her luck and an elderly couple on their way to a reading. I found this to be an interesting look at two different sorts of lifestyles, and a reflection on a post-GFC America. Plus, how these two storylines connect is really sad and twisted, one that I won’t spoil. Give this a read if you want an interesting sort of story.

Under the Weather by Stephen King

Also from The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, ‘Under the Weather’ features the usual of a Stephen King short speculative story: dark and twisted. However, the story is a little muddled and a bit over the place, which made it a somewhat difficult read. It took me until the ending to finally realise what was actually happening, which was a shame.

Moonlight Sonata by Alexander Woollcott

Part of the Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural collection, ‘Moonlight Sonata’ is an interesting little flash fiction piece. I found this piece to be spooky, but forgetful at the same time. I think this is due to its aged writing style and with it feeling somewhat slow.

The Lovely Lady by D.H. Lawrence

‘The Lovely Lady’ is a piece from the Vampire Stories short story collection. This was my first reading of a D.H. Lawrence story and it was interesting. The atmosphere felt like a true vampire story and the set up to it was really good. However, I found it hard to connect with the characters and understand what was actually occurring in the story.

Book Talk: November 2017

Well November once again saw a lot of interesting things. The Australian Marriage Equality postal survey came back a majority yes, AC/DC’s Malcolm Young passed away (RIP), and many new games for Nintendo Switch were released. As for me, I attended the Australian Short Story Festival and Supanova to name just a couple of things. However, the best part of this month is that I’ve started my Japan/Hong Kong journey. Writing to you, dear reader, now from Kyoto, I can certainly say it’s been an amazing trip so far. The amount of activities I’ve done as well as the books and games I’ve bought are endless. Anywho, this month’s reading was quite diverse, where I read especially a fair number of short stories. So with no further delay, let’s see what I read this month.


Novels

The Listeners by Christopher Pike

This is continued on from my previous Book Talk. The Listeners was a very interesting story overall. The story picked up a lot more and it started to get really terrifying. I liked the protagonists David and Ned in this story, as well as the twin sisters. Their stories and actions were meaningful and well thought out.

However, despite this, there were still some unfortunate downers with this story. The first being all the flashbacks that occurred in this story. Whilst interesting and explained the plot, they were just so lengthy and broke from the narrative flow. They also felt more like info dumps in certain parts, especially with the journeys in Africa. The ending was a little strange as well and didn’t exactly wrap up the story in a good way.

Overall, The Listeners was an interesting story with a lot of interesting ideas inside it. It’s just unfortunate there’s a lot of flashbacks and breaks in the narrative flow. I really don’t know how to sum this story up properly. I’d just say read this for something different, or if you’re into an X-Files-like story.

3/5

Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor by Matt J. Pike

It’s one of the oldest and greatest fears of humanity: the end of the world. And one of the most frightening, less predictable ways comes from outer space in the form of a comet. Even more terrifying is what will happen to humanity afterwards? Will we die out immediately or die out slowly? This is what Matt J. Pike’s Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is all about.

Written in a first person perspective, Apocalypse tells the story of Jack Baldwin, a 17 year old who finds himself surviving in a world that’s just been hit by a comet. The story is set in Adelaide and is told through diary entries, similar to Andy Weir’s The Martian.

Despite my love for the genre in films and games, I’ve not really read too many end of the world novel in the past. However, unlike many of those end of the world stories I’ve consumed across the mediums, this one is certainly a breath of fresh air. I throughly enjoyed the storyline and the whole idea of the nuclear winter. Yeah, some of Jack’s resourcefulness felt a little too coincidental, but that matters little when his characterisation and quick thinking is realistic. It makes him feel a lot less bulletproof and smarter than the stock standard end of the world character. Also to have this story set in Adelaide made me resonate more with the story. The places mentioned are familiar to me and made the impact of it much stronger.

If you’re looking for a good “end of the world” read, Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is one you should check out. It takes a fresh approach on an old plot line and feels believable. Give this a read too if you’re looking for something new.

4/5

Short Stories

As per usual, I’ll keep my thoughts on the short stories brief to prevent possible spoilers.

Carnival of Madness by Ray Bradbury

From A Pleasure to Burn, ‘Carnival of Madness’ is certainly a strange story. The story is very heavily inspired from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, being so much so that it contains the House of Usher. I really loved how messed up the protagonist is and what he did to the people inside his house. Definitely one of the best short stories by Bradbury. You can also find this story too slightly altered in The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man under the name ‘Usher II’.

5/5

The Bonfire by Ray Bradbury

Yet another story from A Pleasure to Burn, ‘The Bonfire’ once again looks into the idea of literary censorship and destruction. In contrast to some of the other short stories though in the collection, I had trouble following this slightly. There was so much going on with the protagonist and a fair bit of going back to the past. Overall, it had a lot of good ideas and an alright story, but just didn’t stick with me like other stories in the collection.

3/5

Burning Seaweed for Salt by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter

From Midnight and Moonshine, I had some fun with ‘Burning Seaweed for Salt’. This was a very Viking inspired story with a lot of Nordic mythology mixed in. It got pretty twisted by the end, with some really disturbing and graphic scenes. I didn’t like the characters so much as I didn’t feel connected to them, but it still wasn’t a bad thing. Give this a read if you want something different.

3.5/5

A Pig’s Whisper by Margo Lanagan

From Australis Imaginarium, ‘A Pig’s Whisper’ is a story that I found alright but odd. This was inspired by an old English tale about children getting lost in the woods, only with an Australian twist. I did like the strangeness and imagination around it, but at the same time I had a lot of trouble understanding the writing. It’s a unique story, but apart from that, I’m not too keen on it.

2.5/5

Stealing Free by Deborah Biancotti

‘Stealing Free’ is an odd piece from start to finish. Also from Australis Imaginarium, this short story has a child dream-like world filled with strange creatures. It’s a story full of imagination and fantasy, but at the same time I had a lot of trouble reading it personally. I guess it came down to the style of story that this was written is why I found it hard to read.

2.5/5

Book Talk: October 2017

Apart from Holden’s closure which brought an end to Australian car manufacturing, October has been a good month overall. I’m now at the end of my uni year and Super Mario Odyssey was released. Even more exciting, it’s now less than a month before I begin my Japan/Hong Kong trip. This month’s Book Talk also marks one year since I started this series of book discussions, a bit of a milestone. For October being the month of Halloween, I made my reading for this month very horror centric. Be prepared to keep the lights on at night as I discuss the spooky stories that made up my month’s reading.

Novels

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

First published in 1971, The Exorcist has been regarded by some as “the most terrifying novel ever written”. The plot follows 12-year-old Regan McNeil, who becomes possessed by a demon. Following that is a story about blasphemy, loss of faith, and hidden secrets being uncovered.

I didn’t know what to think when heading into this book. I’ve not yet watched the 1973 William Friedkin adaptation, so the story to me was completely new. I looked forward to finally reading the most “terrifying” novel of all-time. What I got in the end was not what I was expecting. It simply wasn’t the most terrifying novel ever written, in my eyes.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s some pretty gruesome and terrifying moments in here. Some of the descriptions of Satanic worship too were frightening and grossed me out. Apart from those though, there really wasn’t anything that creeped me out too much with this story. I found it overall though extremely long and filled with many depictions of religion, which made me lose interest in parts. I liked the characters of Chris McNeil and Damian Karras, but I didn’t connect with them. I guess this was more of a personal thing than a true compliant.

The Exorcist is an interesting read, even if it’s not exactly terrifying. If you’ve watched the 1973 adaptation or one of its sequels (and prequel) and want to know where it all began, read this. If you haven’t then still give it a read, just to see what terrified people back in 1971.

3/5

The Listeners by Christopher Pike

First published in 1994, The Listeners is Pike’s second adult horror novel. The plot of the book revolves around David, an FBI agent, who’s undercover as a journalist on a mission.

I’m still reading through this book as of writing this, so the description is only to what I’ve picked up to it. As to my thoughts on it so far, yeah, it’s interesting. The second chapter is longwinded and feels more like an info dump than a true part of the story. Even then though, this is still a good introduction to the character of David and what could be an interesting story.

I’ll give my full thoughts on this book in the next Book Talk.

Short Stories

Ligeia by Edgar Allan Poe

From my Complete Tales and Poems collection, ‘Ligeia’ follows a protagonist and his infatuation for a woman known as Ligeia. This was a good story in the collection, and especially by the end was really creepy and unsettling. I didn’t realise during this reading that it was my second time reading this through. I really liked the creepy feel to it the first time, which still continues to now on the second read. Give this a read if you want a classic gothic short story.

3.5/5

The Kovacs Incident by Mitchell Salmon

From issue 183 of Aurealis, ‘The Kovacs Incident’ is by far the least horror story I read this month, but was still quite thrilling. The plot is all about people swapping bodies to go away on holiday in other countries. The idea of having somebody else actually being in your body is certainly a creepy one, and is what I liked about this story. I also liked the Australian connection to this story as it felt closer to home. This was by far my favourite read of this month, go have a look at it for something different.

4/5

Holden Memories

My Experiences with Holden

On October 20th 2017, the last Holden left the assembly line. With it came the end of 69 years of the car brand’s Australian production history and the end of the Australian automotive industry. On that day, I travelled for the first time to the Holden plant in Elizabeth for a farewell event. A slight tear was in my eye as I approached the plant, seeing all the cars already lined up. It’s with this that I realise that this truly was the end.

Some of you might be asking why would I be talking about a car brand on my page. Well, Holden has been a massive part of my life, and has influenced me as both as a person and as a writer. I will be looking into why it’s special to me and how it’s influenced my writing career.

Right from when I was born, Holden was a part of my life. My parents owned a VH Commodore at the time I was born (1994), a fine car according to them. A few years later they upgraded to the much larger VN Commodore. That VN took me, my parents, and my baby sister across the Nullarbor Plain from my hometown of Adelaide to Perth for a holiday and back again with no problems. We later sold this car off around 2004, which began our brief no Holden period. My parents upgraded to a red VZ in 2009, which they continue to own to now. These family cars had made a major impact on me in a family sense as some of my best family memories are all in these Holdens. I still have memories of driving across that endless stretch of the Nullarbor in that VN, playing with a toy computer and the music of Cream and The Traveling Wilburys playing.

There’s then my family’s history of Holden. Both my parents had a Holden as their first car: my Dad had a Kingswood, and my Mum a Sunbird. When I was younger my Poppa also had a blue early model Commodore, which I still have many memories of. I remember how everything squeaked, the glass plates full of toast crumbs on the floor, and the conversations me and him had about planes and trains.

For me, my parent’s VZ was the first car I learnt to drive in when I got my Learners. Right from the moment I knew I wanted to own a Holden, which came true. My first car was a 1990 JK Apollo (a rebadged Toyota Camry). This car was everything to me in my late teens and early 20s. I took pride in it, even displaying it at a Holden show or two over the years. In 2015, I finally had enough money to buy my first “true” Holden: a VE Commodore. It was sad to say goodbye to my old Apollo, but at the same time I was happy to finally be a Commodore owner. I still own this car and continue to take pride in it. I do someday though intend to upgrade to a VF (the last Aussie built model), but that can wait a few more years.

It’s from all these personal experiences that it’s only natural that Holden has seeped into my writing. I’ve written many stories over the years where a Holden car of some sort has appeared. One of my Speakeasy Zine stories, ‘The Lion Roars’, features a possessed HK Monaro as the central antagonist. The first novel I ever wrote contained an FE Holden which was used as a connection between the real world and another dimension. Holden’s prevalence has even seeped into ‘Under the Southern Cross’, my current WIP novel. My main character, Ash, is a worker in a car factory which was inspired by the now defunct Elizabeth plant. I also make mention of classic Holdens, like the FJ and FB (my favourite classic Holden models) as symbols of freedom.

Holden has always been a central part to my life dreams. I imagine myself driving down the road in a classic Holden (mainly FB or FJ) listening to 50s/60s music and the sun shining. It’s a very farfetched dream I know, but it’s still one of my more normal ones. My other great dream is driving a Holden in an unusual part of the world. I would love drive a Holden, both classic and modern, through places like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan to name a few places. It sounds crazy I know, but it would make for some very interesting stories to tell, and would certainly turn heads.

Finding Holden in fiction works apart from my own is exciting to me. Some of my favourite Australian stories and films feature a Holden in some way shape or form. Some of my favourite classic Holden models appear in films like The Cars That Ate Paris (1974), while modern films like Wolf Creek (2005) feature more recent models. Once again in literature, some of my favourite Australian stories have Holden featured in them too. The first Wolf Creek prequel novel (Origin) features Holden in it, which combined with the character of Mick Taylor portrays them in that dark way, which I like. As for short stories, an LJ Torana features in the titular story from Jason Fischer’s Everything is a Graveyard short story collection. Having the Torana in that story gave a unique homely feel to an already frighteningly good tale.

Holden has played an important part in my development as a person and as a writer. It’s an icon that helped build Australia to what we see today. Thank you for the memories and story ideas you have given me Holden. There’s still many more memories to be had, even if they’re no longer built here.

For those who are interested in learning more about Holden, below are some links to some articles and videos/documentaries that I believe are great sources to learn about this car brand.

Articles

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-20/how-holden-changed-australia-forever/9011198 – an article about the impact Holden has made on Australia

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-19/holdens-outsized-role-in-australian-arts-and-funding/9042118 – an article about how Holden inspired artists and fund the arts

 

Videos

Part one of a two part TV special from 1986

A Four Corners episode dedicated to why Holden closed down and who would it affect

Nightmare Reading

Five Short Story Collections to Keep You Up This October

October has arrived! This is the month when we love to curl up in a blanket and scare ourselves with something from horror (imo, anytime in the year is great for horror). One of these ways we like to scare ourselves is through the written word. Are you looking for a read that’ll keep you up at night this Halloween? Want to get into short horror fiction but not sure where to start? Look no further than the five short story collections below, which I believe are great places to start.

Night Shift – Stephen King

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This is just one of King’s many short story collections. Within these pages, you’ll find some of King’s earliest works of the macabre and terror, which will make you leave the light on at night. Stories like ‘Graveyard Shift’ will chill your bones while others like ‘The Mangler’ will make you gasp in abject horror. You’ll even find the stories that inspired the films Children of the Corn, The Lawnmower Man, and Maximum Overdrive in here. This is a great short story collection introduction to the “King” of contemporary horror.

Nightmare At 20,000 Feet – Richard Matheson

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This is a must-have for any fan of horror fiction. In this collection, you’ll be given many different stories, each one more frightening than the other. Matheson will scare the shit out of you and leave you clawing for more. The best stories in this collection include ‘Blood Son’, ‘Through Channels’, and ‘Likeness of Julie’. The most famous story in this collection though is the titular one, which inspired the Twilight Zone episode that starred William Shatner. I can’t recommend this collection enough; it’s fantastic, terrifying horror which will haunt you long after you finish reading it.

Everything is a Graveyard – Jason Fischer

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Fischer, an Adelaide author, has crafted some magnificent tales of terror and oddness with a hint of humour with this collection. You’ll find tales of killer kangaroos, zombies, and jesusmen, most if not all with an Australian setting in here, a majority of them fantastic examples of Oz Spec fic. The best stories to find in this collection are: ‘Hunting Rufus’, ‘Goggy’, and ‘Everything is a Graveyard’. Pick this up if you want some tales which will scare the pants off you and bring horror to the strange, alien world known as Australia.

The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury

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This is more of a sci-fi collection than horror, but don’t let that fool you. Some of the tales in here are of pure nail-biting horror, which is why it’s on this list. Some of those horror tales include the Poe-esque ‘Usher II’ and the insanity of endless rains on Venus in ‘The Long Rain’. Even the sci-fi tales come with a nightmare feeling, especially the terror of floating out of control in space in ‘Kaleidoscope’. This is a great collection for you to get a great blend of sci-fi and horror, and for those unfamiliar with Bradbury.

Short Ghost Stories: The Man with the Axe in His Back – Queenie Chan

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Unlike the others on this list, this collection of four short stories are comics-prose (a combination of comics and prose fiction). Each of these four tales from Chan is gut-wrenchingly terrifying, only made even better with the addition of the visual storytelling. The manga art styling of the comics is gorgeous and is well mixed in with Twilight Zone-like storytelling. My own personal favourite is ‘The Hollow Tree’, which is set in WW2 era Singapore with a boy hiding in a tree. Get this collection if you want to read some truly unique, terrifying stories which are unlike anything you’ve read before. You can get a prose only copy too if you’re not keen on comics, but I heavily recommend the comics-prose version.

Book Talk: September 2017

September has been a month yet again full of many events. Reports of the world ending on September 23rd, the AFL Grand Final, and finally, It getting released (it’s fantastic) all happened this month! For me, September was when I finally watched Stranger Things and my SNES Classic Mini (which I’m playing right now). This month in terms of reading was what I call “Ape-tember”. I coined this term because I read novels where apes were an essential part of the story this past month.

Novels

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

First published in 1912, Tarzan of the Apes follows the main character Tarzan, the son of a respected British house, who is raised by apes in West Africa. This is the first book in the long-running series and introduces us to the now famous Tarzan and his love interest, Jane Porter, and to that fascinating world of the African jungle.

I used to enjoy the Tarzan cartoon from Disney when I was younger and his scream has been instilled into my memory. When I found out in a bookstore that they were all descended from books by Edgar Rice Burroughs my curiosity grew even more. From there it led me to read this, as well as a fascination with Burroughs’ other legendary series: John Carter of Mars.

Anyway, Tarzan of the Apes was an interesting read. I really enjoyed reading this story, even if it’s a little dense and clunky by modern standards. The story of Tarzan’s origins as well as him being around the apes really interested me and was very intriguing. Most of all, the characters were my favourite part of this story. Despite being written over 100 years old, the characters of particularly Tarzan and Jane still feel relevant in today’s world.

However, in contrast to A Princess of Mars, Burroughs’ other work of the time, Tarzan of the Apes hasn’t aged well. As I said before: the writing is a little clunky and dense, which is slightly disappointing. Burroughs’ description of the natives is slightly racist by today’s standards, but it’s a piece of its time and is forgivable.

Tarzan of the Apes may not have aged too well, but it’s a fascinating look into where a pop culture icon started. The story is timeless and still has a fresh feel to this day, despite becoming a storytelling cliché. If you like the Tarzan movies, or early 20th-century genre literature, give this a read. If you’re new to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, start with A Princess of Mars and then come to this.

3.5/5

Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

First published in 1963, Planet of the Apes follows a group of people who travel from Earth to the nearby star of Betelgeuse. Whilst on their journey, they discover a planet identical to Earth, which they name Soror. However, there’s something unusual about this world. That unusualness is that primates are the dominant creatures on this planet, not humans.

I’m a fan of the 1968 adaptation of this book, which stars Charlton Heston. It’s an impressive film of its time, and the ending is wow! I know it’s been said so much over the years by film critics and pop culture, but it’s still a fantastic ending. Despite its recognition by some as being one of the best sci-fi films of the 1960s, it’s nothing like the book. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever been a Planet of the Apes adaptation that has caught the essence of this book.

It’s this major difference from the book is why I really enjoyed reading it. I loved the imagination behind it, and all the similarities between Soror and Earth. Perhaps my favourite part of this novel is that it depicts the French travelling through space rather than Americans. This new perspective to me is fresh and thrilling to read, which makes this memorable. The characters were really well done too, especially Nova who didn’t even really talk at all to the main character. Her character development is well done for someone who can’t speak. Like the first movie, the ending to this story is really twisted and nothing to what I was expecting (hint: it’s completely different to the movies).

Planet of the Apes is a very interesting read, and is vastly different to all its film adaptations. If you love the films and want to know where it began, read this. If you want a space travel story unlike others out there, read this. I can’t recommend this classic of sci-fi enough.

4.5/5

Short Stories

As always, I’ll keep my thoughts on short stories brief to prevent spoilers, and for the fact that they’re short stories.

Bright Phoenix by Ray Bradbury

From A Pleasure to Burn; ‘Bright Phoenix’ is set in a library during a book burning frenzy. I really liked the premise of this story, and all the thoughts around books being dangerous. Despite this, it’s not the most memorable story in the collection to me.

3/5

The Mad Wizards of Mars by Ray Bradbury

This story is full of imagination that I find hard to say in these words. Also from A Pleasure to Burn, ‘The Mad Wizards of Mars’ is a fascinating piece that has Edgar Allan Poe on Mars. This is very Martian Chronicles-like, which is why I had a lot of fun with this. Give this a read if you want a story that’s both unique and strange.

4/5