Book Talk: December 2016 (Part Two)

Short Stories

*This here is part two of my Book Talk: December 2016 post. This covers the short stories that I read in December, and a quick overview on what I thought of them.

Compared to November, I read a whole lot more short stories than just the one. I read five short stories from four different authors on different sides of the speculative fiction genre; from the 20th century American pulps, to ones inspired by Australian aboriginal mythology.

The Return of The Sorcerer by Clark Ashton Smith

This was the first story I’ve read from pulp author, Clark Ashton Smith. I found this one in a collection of old stories inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. I have wanted to explore this author for a long time, and I saw this as my opportunity. The story, however, didn’t work too well for me. I had a lot of trouble following the story and I found it difficult to connect with the characters. It just didn’t do it for me and was not the introduction to Ashton Smith I was hoping for.

2/5

Once a Month, On a Sunday by Ian McHugh

I came across this story while reading a copy of Australis Imaginarium. I found it to be very well written and quite mystical, which made it a unique experience for me. I had fun while reading it, and found its Australian setting fresh and unique.

3/5

Night Heron’s Curse by Thoraiya Dyer

I came along this story as well in Australis Imaginarium. I had a lot of difficulty following the story to begin with, but I quickly came to love the aboriginal mythology themes mixed with the speculative. This helped make the story a lot more enjoyable for me. Most of the difficulty I had with reading this was primarily me not knowing who the protagonist was exactly. I forgot that in the end, favouring its strangeness instead.

3/5

Prey by Richard Matheson

Compared to the other short stories from the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet collection, I find it quite difficult to sum up with how I feel about this story. It certainly was frightening and had quite a bit of gore in it, but at the same time I had a lot of trouble trying to follow it. It just didn’t have that same kick like the other stories in the collection do. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though; in fact, I actually think it’s really good, and a good addition to Matheson’s horror works. It’s just only compared to the other stories in the collection, it felt a little bit of a letdown for me.

3.5/5

Likeness of Julie by Richard Matheson

And now we’re here: my favourite story of December. Like Prey, Likeness of Julie is also out of Matheson’s Nightmare at 20,000 Feet collection. Holy shit, I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoyed reading this story. I really should start with how I really love the idea of horror stories starting out so sweet and innocent. The things that occur in this story, it’s quite brutal and horrifying to read, let alone even mention now. The story delves a lot into the idea of human sexuality, and how sometimes people don’t know how to control their sexual urges. This premise reminded me of the films StalkHer (2015), and Blue Velvet (1986), despite being written years before those films were made.

If you’re looking at an introduction to one of the greatest horror writers before Stephen King, then I recommend you read this story. It’s haunted, twisted, and sickening, three things, I believe, which make a great horror story. It’s also one of the stories which makes me remember why I enjoy Richard Matheson’s works so much, and why I believe the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet collection is a must-have for any fans of horror fiction.

5/5

Book Talk: December 2016 (Part One)

What a hell of a year 2016 was. All the troubles with politics, the issues with other nations, and the deaths of countless celebrities (R.I.P Carrie Fisher for December) made it a not so good year for some people.

However, for me personally, 2016 overall was a fantastic year. I’d experienced so many great moments in gaming and film, lived in Singapore for a month, and have read some awesome books. December saw no shortage of great stories that I’d read, both in novels and short story form. I continued my reading of Australian speculative fiction throughout the month, and have gone on to read some more stories from some of my favourite authors, both Australian and Non-Australian.

Due to the immense amount of reading I did in December, I’ll be splitting this up into two parts: novels that I’ve read is up now below, and short stories will be up tomorrow (January 2nd).

Novels

Amazon 7: Mission Queen by Alex James

What do you get when you combine Lara Croft and space opera together? Quite simple, you get Mission Queen, the first book in the Amazon 7 series by Australian author, Alex James. Mission Queen follows Astra Solara, a hire-on commander who works for government corporations on missions. She and her team become targets by assassins and they avoid them, while engaging on a mission to save humanity from the deadliest force it has ever faced.

I’m a little on the fence overall with Mission Queen. The imagination to this story is amazing, and I think it’s an exceptionally good space opera because of that imagination. This heavy amount of imagination reminded me heavily of classic Doctor Who, which was also amazing. And adding to the awesome stuff in this story, there are parts of it set in Australia, which I enjoy seeing in speculative fiction.

However, despite this wondrous imagination, there were some unfortunate downers to it. First of all, I had a lot of trouble connecting with the characters. I liked Astra during the action scenes, but found it difficult to connect with her. The other characters felt like cardboard cut-outs to me, which even now I find unfortunate. The story as well to me felt a little disjointed and I had a lot of difficulty trying to follow it.

I can’t finish this without making mention to sex and masturbation in this story. Holy shit, there is just a few times where Astra is masturbating or having sex during the course of the book. There’s even a scene where one of the female characters gets shot in the vagina with a special sort of gun, making her nerve endings even more sensitive. That still doesn’t beat a machine which can give orgasms in less than three minutes and does both the vagina and bum hole. I don’t mind sex or masturbation in fiction, but in here it felt a little distracting and dimmed my experience. I think it’s one of the reasons why I found it difficult to connect with Astra.

Overall, I think Mission Queen is an alright book. It has some good things in it, as well as some bad things. Then there’s the parts in it that made me wonder what was going on, and others which made me cringe. If you like a space opera that’s different then give this a go. If not, then this may not really be the book for you.

3/5

The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly

I never used to enjoy reading that much when I was growing up. That was before I was introduced to Matthew Reilly, and the worlds of Shane “Scarecrow” Schofield and Captain Jack West. I have read almost all of his books (excluding Hover Car Racer and Contest) and have loved each and every one of them. It’s my love for him as an author that I would eventually read The Four Legendary Kingdoms, his latest book. The Four Legendary Kingdoms is the fourth in the Jack West series (beginning with Seven Ancient Wonders). The story follows Jack West after he’s been kidnapped by some strange people and must participate in an event called the Great Games.

As from writing this, I’m only halfway through the book, but I have been really enjoying it so far. It’s got everything a Matthew Reilly book should have: fast paced action, an awesome protagonist, and the inability to put it down. I’ve really been enjoying being back with Jack West after all these years (2009’s Five Greatest Warriors was the last time West was featured). There’s also something really awesome that happens in this book which I won’t say since it’s kind of a spoiler. Want to find out what it is? Go have a read of it and you’ll see.

I’ll have my full thoughts on The Four Legendary Kingdoms in next month’s Book Talk.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I upload part two of Book Talk: December 2016 (Short Stories).