Ming

A. Merritt’s Dwellers in the Mirage

Abraham Merritt (1884-1942), usually known simply as A. Merritt, was one of the more interesting American pulp writers of horror and fantastic fiction. Dwellers in the Mirage was one of several “lost world” novels that he wrote and as usual he gives the sub-genre his own distinctive twists.

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A. Merritt’s Dwellers in the Mirage
Gene Tierney Egyptian

the cost of magic

One of the things I liked about Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana, and also most of Tim Powers’ fantasy novels, is that magic is either difficult to do or it imposes a heavy cost on the magic user. This has the advantage of making magic less than all-powerful and therefore means the author cannot easily use magic to get out of plot difficulties.

What fantasy novels in this category, where magic is not easy to use, have you particularly enjoyed?
inverarity

The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder, by William Hope Hodgson

An Edwardian psychic detective chases Scooby Doo villains and the occasional Outer Monstrosity.


The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder

Wordsworth Editions, Ltd, 2006, 191 pages. Available for free on Project Gutenberg. (The Gutenberg edition is missing three stories — you can also find all of them here.)



Thomas Carnacki is a ghost finder, an Edwardian psychic detective, investigating a wide range of terrifying hauntings presented in the nine stories in this complete collection of his adventures. Encountering such spine-chilling phenomena as 'The Whistling Room', the life-threatening dangers of the phantom steed in 'The Horse of the Invisible' and the demons from the outside world in 'The Hog', Carnacki is constantly challenged by spiritual forces beyond our knowledge. To complicate matters, he encounters human skullduggery also. Armed with a camera, his Electric Pentacle and various ancient tomes on magic, Carnacki faces the various dangers his supernatural investigations present with great courage. These exciting and frightening stories have long been out of print. Now readers can thrill to them again in this new Wordsworth series.


Invisible horses, demonic pigs, stolen rare books, haunted ships, and good-old fashioned human skulduggery.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity

Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch

A fantasy Ocean's Eleven and Pirates of the Caribbean mash-up.


Red Seas Under Red Skies

Bantam Spectra, 2007, 558 pages



After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke Lamora and his trusted sidekick, Jean, fled the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can't rest for long---and they are soon back doing what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves.

This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele - and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior...and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house's cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire. Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine floors...straight to Requin's teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb - until they are closer to the spoils than ever.

But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo's secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough.


The Gentleman Bastards go a'piratin' in a crapsack fantasy world.

Also by Scott Lynch: My review of The Lies of Locke Lamora.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity

Anita, by Keith Roberts

Anita the Teenage British Witch: Georgy Girl meets Granny Weatherwax.


Anita

Ace Books, 1970, 221 pages



Meet Anita Thompson: she's young, she's lovely, she's clever ... and she's a witch. A real one.

Anita lives in two worlds: the modern world of supermarkets and sports cars, radio and rock & roll, where she is a thoroughly modern girl with a thoroughly modern interest in boys and fast living and her own independence. But the ancient and rustic world of traditions, cauldrons, and familiars , where she and her Granny (a witch of the Old School, broom and all) invoke elemental spirits in the service of Him Wot's Down Under. She has senses no ordinary mortal can imagine (at least nine); with them, she can hear the voices of every creature of the night. She can changer her shape, call a drowned corpse from a lake, reverse the flow of time, and ride the Sea Serpent (there's only the one, you know; always has been -- always will be) deep into the ocean in the company of a mermaid, even though the modern world is trying to crowd aside -- and even change -- that world of witchcraft and magic. Yet, complicated as a young witch's life may become, Anita never loses her sense of fun, or her essential innocence.


Anita was a teenager when Samantha was a housewife.

Verdict: These stories are a trip, a dated trip back to 60s Britain. Anita is a precursor to Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Charmed, Buffy, and the entire contemporary urban fantasy genre. I would love to see someone write Harry Potter fan fiction with Anita appearing at Hogwarts. 7/10.




My complete list of book reviews.
Gene Tierney Egyptian

1939 Retro-Hugo Awards Best Novel

The 1939 Retro-Hugo Awards were awarded this month. The five nominees for best novel were:

The Sword in the Stone, T. H. White (Collins)
Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis (The Bodley Head)
Galactic Patrol, E. E. Smith (Astounding Stories, February 1938)
The Legion of Time, Jack Williamson (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938)
Carson of Venus, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Argosy, February 1938)

The winner was The Sword in the Stone, which was of course the first installment of The Once and Future King. The Once and Future King happens to be the first fantasy novel I ever read, and I can still remember the huge impact it had on me.. For this reason it’s impossible for me to judge such a book dispassionately, although I will note that when I re-read it some years later I still loved it.

So what do you think of these awards? Do you think The Sword in the Stone was a worthy winner?
inverarity

Wakulla Springs, by Andy Duncan and Ellen Kages

A multi-generational, literary tale of Hollywood monsters and Jim Crow.


Wakulla Springs

Tor, 2013, 99 pages. Available online at tor.com.



Wakulla Springs. A strange and unknown world, this secret treasure lies hidden in the jungle of northern Florida. In its unfathomable depths, a variety of curious creatures have left a record of their coming, of their struggle to survive, and of their eventual end. Twenty-five thousand years after they disappeared from the face of the Earth, the bones of prehistoric mastodons, giant armadillos, and other primeval monsters have been found beneath the seemingly placid surface of the lagoon. The visitor to this magical place enters a timeless world of mystery.


A dreamy, magical piece of historical fiction...but is it fantasy?




My complete list of book reviews.
Clovis La Voyeuse

A Surfeit of Mirrors

Henri de Régnier (1864-1936) was the most commercially successful of all the French Symbolist writers of the 1890s. A Surfeit of Mirrors, published by Black Coat Press, is a collection of most of his important short fiction.

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A Surfeit of Mirrors
inverarity

Six-Gun Snow White, by Catherynne Valente

Snow White is the gunslinging half-breed daughter of a silver baron in Catherynne Valente's latest retold fairy tale.


Six-Gun Snow White

Subterranean, 2013, 168 pages



From New York Times bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente comes a brilliant reinvention of one the best known fairy tales of all time. In the novella Six-Gun Snow White, Valente transports the title's heroine to a masterfully evoked Old West where Coyote is just as likely to be found as the seven dwarves.

A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her parentsóa Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother's death in childbirth, so begins a heroine's tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.


Note: This year, I am going to try to read and review as many of the Hugo Nominees as I can. I will tag them with 2014 Hugo Nominee.

Does the world need yet another version of Snow White? Does the world need more zombie apocalypses or space operas? (Dear Catherynne Valente: I would totally read a zombie apocalypse written by you.)




My complete list of book reviews.