"The grass is always greener over the septic tank."
FLATTENED WOOD WITH - PROBABLY VEGETABLE - EXCRETA ON IT
by Richard Karsmakers
Although in the recent few months I haven't quite had the time
for reading books as much as I had it before the previous issue
was finished, I still found some time to read some stuff. And,
rest assured (as if you were in some way anxious), I have plenty
of stuff lined up for the next issue, too. My parents have once
again taken from England a veritable collection of interesting
books (most of them by a certain S.K.) that I'll no doubt peruse
somewhere during the summer or, if necessary, after that.
But let's not delve into the future too much for now as, like
life itself, the future isn't certain. So let's spend some time
with recent readings, then.
Philip K. Dick - The Man in the High Castle
What would have happened it Japan and Germany had won World War
II? Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle" draws an
interesting picture of a world where the outcome of this historic
event was the opposite. The world has been split up between
Germany and Japan. America fell to the Japanese, where Americans
now strive to be as Japanese as they can. Afrika fell to the
Germans and is used as a giant test site for experimental
warfare and genocide.
The book is set in the United States and I won't spoil anything
of the plot as it would probably make the book a less interesting
read (besides that, it's been a while since I read it and the
details are sortof vague now). With its around 240 pages, "The
Man..." is an easy book to read and finish within a few days, and
I think you could do much worse than reading this. It's
interesting, an easy read, and stimulates thoughts a lot (such as
I suspect most of Dick's books do).
Stephen King - Pet Sematary
Since I still had quite a few Stephen King books left to read, I
reckoned the next one would have to be "Pet Sematary". I had seen
the film back in my time at Thalion - dubbed in German - and I
had liked it despite that. So the book would have to be devoured,
too, so I did.
There are quite a few differences between the book and the film.
Not as dramatic as those between the film version and book
version of "The Running Man", but dramatic nonetheless. There is
a lot more emphasis on the unburials in the book, and I seem to
recall the film ending rather earlier than where the book leaves
off. And, of course, there are more King-esque side trails such
as the student that gets killed and...
But, hey, you might not even know what the book is about!
It's about the Creed family that takes up new residence just
outside a town, next to a busy freeway. Lots of pets get killed
on the freeway, so there is a pet cemetary at some walking
distance. But a bit further off there's an ancient Indian burial
ground. And if you bury somewhere there, they're rumoured to come
back to life... In the book, unlike the film, you can feel the
attraction of the burial ground. The old man across the road
couldn't help revealing the mystery to dad Creed, and before you
know it the cat dies. The cat was his daughter's favourite, so
he brings it to the burial ground...it seemed the logical thing
to do. The cat comes back, but isn't quite the same. And daughter
and wife follow the cat by the time the book is out.
I cannot seem to get tired of Stephen King. Although I prefer
his 1000+ page stories because they have so much more atmosphere
and interesting sidelines, "Pet Sematary" is another classic.
Basically, I don't think there will ever be a boring Stephen King
book. Although he has a kind of formula that he uses in all his
books, especially with regard to the way baddies are explained
and the way their psychology is made up, it's never quite the
same and always very much worth reading.
Stephen King is truly the master of suspense. Read this one!
Stephen King - Four after Midnight
"Four After Midnight" is a collection of four shorter Stephen
King stories. Two of them are fairly good and two of them are
actually quite superb. Let's get through them one by one.
An airliner enters a strange anomalous magnetic field of sorts,
causing all passengers to vanish but a select few who happened to
be asleep. They enter version of the world where everything is
lifeless and grey, an alternate reality maybe? They land at
Boston airport, their destination, and find nobody there. It's
really quite disconcerting. There's a psycho who's got childhood
driving fears of Langoliers, little omnivorous monsters that eat
those who don't function well... And before you know it all
survivors are threatened by a sea of Langoliers that are eating
away the world. It's a race against the clock - and against the
psycho - to find back the anomaly to return to the sanity of the
known world. There's a hero, too, there's a nice love angle and
an exciting end, though not an unambiguously happy one.
Secret Garden, Secret Window.
A weird story involving an author and someone that is sortof
making his life hell by claiming one of his stories was stolen,
plagiarised. The nightmare of any writer, I'd venture to think.
It's pretty unsettling and powerlessly claustrophobic in a way,
though in the end there's an even stranger conclusion that
somehow didn't satisfy me at all and brought the whole story down
to a "Twilight Zone" kind of story that requires more than your
average suspension of disbelief.
The Library Policeman.
"If you don't bring back your library books in time, the
library policeman will come to get you." This idea brought
cooking into Stephen King's mind a story involving an adult,
assumed time warps, memories of childhood molestations, all of
this moulded in a compelling short story that is quite credible
and, as usual, very well-written. Of course there's a
supernatural ingredient, but we can all suspend our disbeliefs
enough to like it a lot. In that respect it's a bit like "It".
I really do admire Stephen King. I think he's my greatest
example (insofar as my writing ambitions are concerned) though I
have yet to come in any way near to him. I have some ideas for
novels or novel parts that can sortof match a few of his, but my
writing itself, well...let's not fool myself, I'll most likely
never get to be this good. But I'll sure as hell try, damn it!
This was, at least as far as its background principle was
concerned, probably the best of the four. A young boy gets a
Sundog for his birthday, a camera with which pictures come out,
ready developed after about five minutes. But there's something
really weird about this camera, as no matter what you put in
front of the lens it always photographs a dog in front of a
But that's not the only thing. The dog turns around on every
picture, a slight bit, as if each picture is a new one in a
moving film. And the dog gets hairier, more horrid, and with red
eyes and long fans and around his neck a strange collar - another
gift that had always lain next to the camera in the young boy's
drawer and that had suddenly disappeared... And the more pictures
are taken, the more evil the dog gets. And then it prepares to
Stephen King is truly brilliant. I think "Four After Midnight"
is worth buying for this short novel alone, even though the other
ones are really quite excellent too.
H.P. Lovecraft's Book of Horror
Before you jump to conclusions, this is not a compilation of
Lovecraft stories. Instead, it contains a long Lovecraft essay on
supernatural horror in fiction, then followed by a miscellany of
stories by other authors, supposedly picked out by Lovecraft
because he liked them. All stories are in a gothic vein similar
to Lovecraft's own, and there is work from Louis Stevenson, Edgar
Allen Poe and even Charles Dickens in it. Because at least half
of the stories lacked some kind of impetus (i.e. I found them
rather boring) I never quite finished this. Also because in the
mean time I had obtained three volumes that did contain just
about every tale Lovecraft has ever written.
The most interesting story is called "The Spider", written by
Hanns Heinz Ewers. It's quite brilliant. "The Upper Berth" by F.
Marion Crawford was pretty good, too.
I might finish this compilation (released by Robinson of London
and edited by Stephen Jones and Dave Carson) some day. If I do,
I'll let you know.
H.P. Lovecraft - At The Mountains of Madness
When I was in Bristol for 11 days in the beginning of March,
spending an enchantingly lovely time with my love, we visited
multiple bookshops. Most of the time we were just browsing, but I
suddenly stumbled across three books, omnibusus, that contained
all of H.P. Lovecraft's work. The third of those, which I also
bought but shan't review here, contained the same stories as
the old deteriorated paperback I borrowed off Stefan a couple of
The first contains primarily long stories, primarily "At the
Mountains of Madness" and "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward". The
omnibus is then filled up with half a dozen Randolph Carter
novels, that are quite different from the usual Lovecraftian
vein; they are much more a kind of fantasy fiction, with use of
most beautiful diction and a very rich imagination, where
Randolph Carter relates his dreams. That's the bit I like rather
less - there is no link with reality. These stories are basically
"At the Mountains of Madness" is about an Antarctic expedition
that discovers remains of The Old Ones. It's quite well-written
though I prefer Lovecraft's shorter work. In the end just about
everyone dies. Never mind my negative remark just now, for a good
story it is. "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" is quite amazing,
and I think it's one of Lovecraft's best. It's about a guy who
tries to awaken the dead from ashes, or something along that
vein. Really quite thrilling, and with a weird ending (as usual,
almost, that is at the beginning).
H.P. Lovecraft - Dagon and Other Macabre Tales
Volume 2, "Dagon and Other Macabre Tales", contains a rather
vast amount of short novels, including fragments and unfinished
tales. I read it a few weeks ago so I can't really remember which
os the stories were really appealing and which were only
moderately so. The stories in this second omnibus (unlike of what
I recall of that third volume) are quite similar and are either
dreamscapes (a few) or gothic horror. Some of the better stories
were "The Temple", "From Beyond" (though vastly different from
the excellent horror film), "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" and
"The Horror at Red Hook". One of the commissioned stories,
"Herbert West - Reanimator" (yes, of the film) was positively
dreary, aggravated by the fact that it was split in bits at the
beginning of each bit was repeated some of what went before (it
was probably serialised once).
An interesting, though not unanimously excellent. From what I
recall of the third volume, that is by far the best of the three.
This second volume also had about a dozen rather irritating typos
or text setting errors. Not the kind of stuff that should be able
to end up in a professional book.
More books read in the next ST NEWS issue.
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