Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Interview with the Vampire (1976)

Interview with the Vampire (1976) by Anne Rice catches lightning in a bottle, beginning the modern vampire novel by fiat. "Let there be darkness," she said, and there was darkness.

This novel predates the modern slasher film, so it's horror comes entirely from that which predates it, both the Victorian vampire novel and Edgar Allen Poe. Indeed, quite a few moments in the novel harken back to Poe.

The horror of this novel is multilayered and multi-fasceted, continually letting you grow used to the horror and the situation before you, only to turn subtly, exposing some new aspect that realienates you to the characters before you.

Forty years later, the writing in this novel still holds up, not yet fallen under its own cliches. Indeed, the cliches in this work still feel freshly buried, for this is the rotting soil from which the modern vampire cliche clawed itself.

Myself, I normally avoid horror novels. They just aren't my thing, yet I found Anne's writing solid, her characters well expressed and compelling, and the interrelationship of the characters continuously repellent. Indeed, at the character level is where the horror of this work best expresses itself. Told from a first person point of view by the vampire himself, his eternal anxiety provides the underlying angst of the work, but this is not the anxiety of a whiney-hiney, but the anxiety of self-loathing murder who has some sense of his own vileness.

If you're up for this sort of read, I greatly recommend this book. If you don't have the heart, then skip it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Mists of Avalon (1982)

The Mists of Avalon (1982) is a thick book written by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Following the life and times of Morgain, Arthur's sister, the book deftly and beautifully weaves a tedious and unengaging tale, demonstrating what happens when you turn an action-adventure-romance series into a meaningful historical fantasy.

After about 50 pages, I switched from reading to aggressive skimming with no loss of comprehension. After 250 pages, I abandoned the work. I may attempt to complete the books, but I feel no compulsion.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Thieves' World (1979)

Thieves' World (1979), the anthology edited by Robert Asprin, was one of the THE primary darlings of the early 1980s. This shared world anthology kicked off the entire idea of a shared world, and deserves a place in the history books just for that.

But was it really that good?

No, but it was fun and it caught the imagination of the public, and that's all that's really required for a hit. Given the option between being good and selling books, this anthology sold books, and that makes is pretty good. At a time when squeaky clean heroes were in, this anthology walked in with nothing but ne'er do goods and outright villains, no heroes to be seen, and lots of interesting stories to tell.

These stories fight right into the sword and sorcery ethic of the late 70's, drawing from Leiber, Moorcock, and the like. This stuff is literally what Dungeons and Dragons was made from. It's should be no surprise that this series appeared at the same time as the A-Team and the film Conan the Barbarian. The fantasy market hungered for grit.

Most of the stories read well, with some working better than others. I won't call any story out as best or worst, because I think that these stories appeal to different appetites. That question is worth asking, but I'm not interested in answering it.

All these years later, the stories stand up pretty well, with only the misogyny smacking me in the face. I'd say that the stories were supposed to be more misogynistic just to be edgy, but having read other 70's sword and sorcery, the misogyny is par for that time period. The female characters prove overwhelmingly whores, concubines, rape victims, and common harlots. Having the women prove equally thieves, conspirators, smugglers, opportunists, and other assorted bad-asses would have been welcome.

While I can't call the book a classic, it's easily a good enough read.