Book Talk: March 2017

We have a saying in my hometown for this past month: Mad March. Usually it refers to our numerous festivals, but that’s what it’s been like for me as well. I started back at uni and I’ve been involved with a lot there since then. Along with that I’ve been playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild almost every day since its release and been enjoying every moment of it. I’ve also been writing features for my uni magazine and been getting ready for my local Oz Comic-Con, which is where I’ll be when you’re reading this. It’s these factors however made my reading this month a little slower than usual. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from reading, and I’ve still got enough to talk about for this month. So, with no further delay, let’s dive in.

Novels

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

Released in 1953, The Long Goodbye features Philip Marlowe as he attempts to solve the case of the death of his friend, Terry Lennox. This case has him meeting all kinds of strange people and finding himself in the middle of some murders and attempting to keep the police from arresting him.

This is by far one of Chandler’s most personal works, and possibly, in my opinion, inferior to the other two Chandler stories in my copy: The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely. There’s a lot of social commentary from the early 1950s in this piece, as well as trauma from war, alcoholism, and the corruption of capitalism. These are themes that I’m not used to seeing in detective fiction, which makes it an interesting addition to the genre. It however made it a much slower read than the previous two, in my opinion. Parts of this story just felt so longwinded and there were times when not much was really happening, which was a little disappointing. The character of Marlowe though was much stronger in here than the previous two stories. In this story he felt less of just a private dick and more like a human being, which is something that I liked seeing.

The Long Goodbye won’t be making my list for all-time greatest books, but it’s still an interesting read. It’s not as legendary as The Big Sleep or Farewell, My Lovely, but it still has many great merits. It’s an interesting glimpse into the life of Chandler and his thoughts on society, despite being fictional and a little longwinded. Give this a read if you’re interested in a hardboiled detective story with heart and social commentary.

3/5

The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson

Released in 1956, The Shrinking Man follows Scott Carey, a man who’s shrinking after being exposed to radioactive gas. The story follows Carey in a nonlinear fashion, being broken up between him in the present and how he came to shrink.

As I’ve probably said in a previous Book Talk, I’m a massive fan of Richard Matheson’s works. I’ve loved almost every single one of his books that I’ve read so far. It’s because of my undying love for Matheson is why I picked this book up. I’m proud to say that it’s still as magical and fun as any of his other works.

Following Scott Carey on his journey to becoming this tiny man is nothing short of fascinating. I enjoyed watching his humanity slowly seeping away from him the shorter he became, and of his sexual frustrations as his wife, Louise, becomes estranged to him. Perhaps my favourite part of this is when Louise hires a babysitter to take care of the daughter, Beth, when Scott is too short to do so. Due to his sexual frustrations, Scott becomes almost obsessed with the babysitter, and begins acting in a way much like an awkward child would when discovering sexual feelings for the first time. This made me feel uneasy while reading and effectively portrayed Scott’s decaying humanity.

The other part I just can’t ignore in this story is him fighting the spider. Holy shit, the terror I felt while watching him fight that spider is unspeakable. I hate spiders and this scene just made my skin crawl. It may only be a black widow, but still, it’s frightening to see a tiny human fighting a spider.

The Shrinking Man is one of Matheson’s best known works, and there’s a reason why. This story is fantastic and offers a nice blend of science fiction and horror without being too orientated towards one side.

4.5/5

Short Stories

I managed to find time this month to read some short stories. As usual, I’ll only write mini discussions on them and not go too much in depth.

Mirror Mirror by Ethan Fode

I found this story in an issue of Andromeda Spaceways. It had a fantastical feel to it to begin with, only to turn into a creepy story all based around a mirror. This story had a Matheson feel to it, which I liked and overall was an interesting read.

3.5/5

Gunning for a Tinkerman by Jason Fischer

Appearing in Everything is a Graveyard short story collection, Gunning for a Tinkerman is a strange sort of tale. To me, it feels like Stephen King’s Dark Tower meets Australiana. I really wanted to enjoy this story, but I unfortunately had a lot of difficulty following it. Still, it has some quite horrifying things in it, which made it enjoyable in a way.

2.5/5

Rolling for Fetch by Jason Fischer

Also from Everything is a Graveyard, this story was an interesting read. It reminds me somewhat of the 2004 film I Robot mixed with Australian lifestyle, but isn’t about robots or is quite sci-fi. I had fun reading this piece, and especially liked the love story in it.

3.5/5