A Darkness Surrounds Him

Outcast, Vol. 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him by Robert Kirkman, Paul Azaceta, &al., collects the first issues in an interesting new story in just as dark and depressing a world as Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and the show. It’s an interesting take on possession horror, but here’s the thing: I’ve gotten tired of the depressing and awful trudge through mud that is The Walking Dead, and that’s not even mentioning the unappealing-to-me descent fully into torture porn, so the promise of another whole series just as persistently relentlessly repetitively rotten and dark just doesn’t do it for me. Beyond the gore in this one, given the way exorcism horror goes, more torture porn is sure to come as well. It’s not bad. It’s actually good at what it does. I just have trouble finding a way to want to go further in either story. But, if you’ve got the wanderlust for more dark travels without respite, this would no doubt appeal. For myself, I enjoyed it for a while, and again here, but I’ve moved on.

Bubba Ho-Tep

I was looking for books set in the weird west, for reasons, and ended up being reminded that Bubba Ho-Tep by Joe R Lansdale was a book before it was a movie. So, I got sidetracked by this one, which is a kind of hillbilly gumbo of conspiracy theory supernatural horror humor. As a bonus, there’s even “West Texas” hieroglyphics. Turns out there’s also a sequel, which is probably just as ridiculous … ly awesome as this one. Guilty pleasure, to be sure, but who isn’t seduced by the spectral comfort of butter fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches like this, especially in our declining years as we try to remember which famous person we once were while battling the forces of evil?

I made 25 highlights.

Total Recall

Total Recall by Philip K Dick was originally titled “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”. Wow, is that original title retro-awesome or what? Well, I read it. I mean, I think I read it. I remember reading it. I have evidence to remind me I read it. I’m still not totally sure though. But, as long as I’m alive, the world is safe from aliens, so it’s all good.

I remember loving the Paul Verhoeven / Arnold Schwarzenegger cinematic rendition, but I’ve not yet seen the Len Wiseman / Colin Farrell remake. Getting into the original story was a good mix of nostalgia and surprise. I could feel lots of the inspiration for the movie, but there was still a lot of difference. I loved the layered twists in the short story and they definitely felt more PKD than the movie, for sure, of course; identity, memory, and one’s place in the universe—all tricksy, mostly beyond one’s control, and questioned. Good stuff and darkly humorous.

I made 16 highlights.

The Dulwich Horror

The Dulwich Horror by Oliver Harris is an entry into the corpus of Cosmicism, but not really Lovecraftian. It’s not set in New England, but rather in London, England proper. It doesn’t feature the Elder Gods, but rather an interesting twist on the Old Norse Gods. The protagonist’s name is Ursula, and that’s a bit too on the nose; and I just couldn’t get Disney out of my mind each time I read her name; but, on the whole there’s a good story with interesting ideas, with a real-feeling setting, and compelling familiar flavours of horror in an interesting new mixture. The story is from the viewpoint of a female protagonist who has a bit of a family secret, and so this also, it seems to me, overcomes some of the sexist and racist othering legacy of the Lovecraftian corpus, and thus I feel this is another welcome addition to the ranks of new Cosmicism.

I did get this book because Oliver Harris is the author of “Lovecraft, Cyclonopedia and Materialist Horror“, in the Cyclonopedia Studies section of Hermetic Library. Harris should not be confused with the crime writer of the same name, but consider checking out that essay and this story.

I made 6 highlights.

Summary for the month of Oct 2017

Here’s a summary of activity for October, 2017.

It continues to get darker and drearier up here, as the cold starts seeping in for real. The cats are getting more and more cuddly, and the weight of them at night is like sleeping in a mummy bag, trapping me in cat created claustrophobia …

Lots of reviews this month, and food. Cats, books, and food. I’m okay with that.

Do check out what I’m up to over at Rigaroga’s Odd Order and Hermetic Library for more.

If you can, drop a buck in the tip jar or become a Patron to help me create a firm foundation with a Basic Income and also keep the cats healthy and happy!

Here’s a summary of posts on the blog from last month

Itsy Bitsy

Itsy Bitsy by John Ajvide Lindqvist is my first return to the corpus that contains Låt den rätte komma in, and its adaptions, about which I swooned a while back.

It’s definitely the same literary voice I recall, though from translations by the same translator, so … who’s voice is it luring me in? Ironically, the title story is only the first 1/3rd of this volume. The remaining 2/3rds is taken up by two previews for other Lindqvist books. So … this story is something of an anglerfish trying to tempt you in with promises for more of what you want.

*ahem*

The story itself is a twist on what seems at first to be a simple tale of a paparazzi waiting to capture the perfect picture to sell, but is taken down by a tickle being given to his deep desires.

I made 3 highlights.

Principles of Extreme Living

The pamphlet Black Book Volume 1: Principles of Extreme Living by Christopher S Hyatt, with Nicholas Tharcher, S Jason Black, has a lot of quotable quips, but one must consider them in context of the question “to what end?” I suspect that far too many would read this as a primer on how to justify being worse assholes instead of a call to action to become better. I think the text’s attempt to be shocking and a splash of cold water make it difficult to arrive at the challenge to exceed of the latter, and will ultimately appeal mostly to those seeking the former as confirmation bias to stay stuck.

In this sense, I might argue that the kind of “extreme living” is a form not of excellence but of self abuse, not just abuse of others, ultimately amounting to a kind of principled self-hate for the human condition, which I think is a social one that draws an overall arc to increase interdependence and mutual aid in spite of meanness and hatred. If one constantly draws the circle of their care in the world closer and sharper to the self then there’s no surprise that so much hate springs forth from such sad little monkeys who drive themselves slowly insane nurturing hate for others ultimately cannot but aim inward for recognition of their own inexorable humanity into become self-hate and abuse.

There’s a Venn diagram of reasons I read this, which include Hyatt’s esoteric work, the place of Falcon Press as a once great publisher of still notable esoteric and outsider materials, and so forth, but also that I was interested in trying to understand a bit more about how groups such as the MRA people justify themselves to themselves. Although I read this before the most recent events around alt-right and white supremacy movements occurred, I have to recognize there are a lot of overlaps, not just to Men’s Rights Activists. There’s a strain of thought here that seems to get picked up over and over again through the years.

It all still seems like faulty thinking and broken feeling to me, and I can’t help but wonder if they might find a way to heal themselves from whatever damage they are acting out and perpetuating if they tried to less willfully cleave to and suckle from the dystopian wire monkey of their hatreds.

If you can filter that dross and drek out, and not be put off by the overstatements attempting to shock, there is a call here to realize that the self lives in relationship with other, and that means there is useful dialectical interplay between both self and other. If one manages not to forget the relationship part, there’s something to be said for the need for a kind of rigor to being true to oneself as long as one is heading along whatever path toward excellence one takes. There is a healthy reason to have a balance, even if maintaining that balance requires discipline that may seem harsh at times to others; moreover that discipline of self balance is itself a skill to develop.

But I think the idea of extremes advocated here is more likely a form of dysfunction than one of excellence, most attractive to those seeking to justify being shitty in a world trying to route around them as energetic dead ends, those who are essentially necrotizing tumors in the collective body the rest of us all share.

I have a kind of morbid historical curiosity about the other volumes in the series, but, really, I don’t see the point in going further. It seems to me these kinds of screeds are best remembered as examples of how thoughts and feelings can go wildly wrong and then become codified scar tissue, not as exemplars to emulate or follow. I suspect one should know these errors well enough to avoid them and then do that.

I made 40 highlights.

Red Dragon

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris is the first story where the character Hannibal Lector appears, and is the launching point for a series of books, movies and television, not the least of which are Jonathan Demme’s revelation that interior menace was far creepier and disturbing than the externally gross on screen with Silence of the Lambs and the tour de force apotheosis of everything Bryan Fuller that is Hannibal. I could say so much about those two reifications, but will try to focus on the book in particular, though they must be included in passing by reference.

After so many years, this was the first Thomas Harris book I read, and I must admit I finally put it on my to read stack because of Fuller’s television series. But I was surprised by how many esoteric references there were, and some of that comes out strongly in Fuller’s series. To be sure there’s the obvious William Blake connection with the Great Red Dragon image, but there’s so much about becoming and will and good and evil and nature and choice and the interaction and intertwining and internecination and integration of all these selves and shadows here to contemplate and with which to make pacts.

There’s plenty in this fiction to entertain and worth recommendation, but even moreso for those with esoteric interests who will find an even heartier eucharist.

I made 144 highlights.

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T Malik is a grim fairy tale fantasy with time and reality twisting short story that is full of excellent middle east magical realism centering around human and jinn interaction. I definitely recommend this.

I made 56 highlights.

The Yanthus Prime Job

The Yanthus Prime Job by Robert Kroese is a novella featuring Pepper Melange from the Rex Nihilo / Starship Grifters series. This is by far the best story out of any of the Starship Grifters books, though available separately it is also included in Aye, Robot, book 2 of the series.

There is not a single bit of Rex Nihilo in this short to annoy, and where Nihilo is an annoying doofus, perhaps like Bill the Galactic Hero but more like that douche Zapp Brannigan, Pepper Melange is smart and capable and funny and perhaps merely a few words of Esperanto away from being as cool as Slippery Jim diGriz, who you may know as The Stainless Steel Rat, with a little bit of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow for good measure.

I really liked this story and the main character in this story. Pepper Melange seems to me to suffer a bit of a personality change and is short changed by being a supporting character in her appearances in the other stories, but here there is just her and her complicated caper plotting savvy and snappy shenanigans that go awry to enjoy.

I’d love to read more stories with Pepper Melange as the main character, but this makes a nice complete story by itself, which I’ll have to be satisfied with. If I hadn’t read this story, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to pick up the other books in the Rex Nihilo series, but I did and I did. To be honest, I’d be more excited about the others remaining in my to read stack if I knew they featured Pepper Melange instead of Nihilo.

I made 5 highlights.