"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they
THE SORTOF LITERARY BIT
by Richard Karsmakers
In recent months I've had to read many books. As I had to read
most of 'em for my University English courses, this automatically
entailed the reading of books I would never have read of my own
volition. Maybe you've read books like "The Sound and the Fury"
by William Faulkner, or some post-modernist American stuff. None
of it is enjoyable, I can assure you. And what about 18th-
century 'classics' such as "Pamela" by Samuel Richardson (a
ridiculously long piece of crap that is basically about a girl
who is kissed by her master and who freaks out considerably
because her virtue is attacked). As a matter of fact I've only
read one modern book for my English courses that I would advise
other people to read - "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken
Kesey. It's as good as the film, possibly even better. More about
When the summer holiday started I sighed a profoundly deep sigh
of relief. Nine weeks of time that I could fill in like I wanted
- even though six of 'em entailed a job as an employee of the
Fast Food section of Triple Arches (that's the Dutch licensee of
McDonald's to you). Finally I could read books I had wanted to
read for a long time; books people had been advising me to read
for the last year, too.
I will hereby give a short account of my reading experiences
during the summer.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
by Ken Kesey
As I mentioned before, this was the most enjoyable book I
actually had to read. It was part of the "American Novel 1920-
1980" course, which was the last course I had to do in first
grade. I will not tell you more about the other books - it
suffices to have you know that they were not worth reading to
anyone except die-hard literary fanatics who, among other things,
enjoy long, anti-chronoligical stream-of-consciousness passages
without capitals, colons and periods.
"One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey is a book about
the battle of an individual against the bourgeoisie, one man
against the stupidity of society. Ken Kesey was a rebel himself -
easy to do a book like "One Flew" then. The story is about
McMurphy, a criminal who fakes lunacy to get into a mental ward
which he favours above residence in a regular prison. It's the
story of his struggle against 'Big Nurse', his fight to free the
other patients. Only too late he finds out that he might be kept
in the mental ward indefinitely - or at least as long as his arch
enemy, 'Big Nurse', deems fit.
I had seen the film already, which made it even easier to
visualise rebel McMurphy, to see the haughty grin on the lips of
'Big Nurse'. The book has passages where you, like during a
soccer match, want to jump up and yell "OK, man, that's the way
you do it!". A brilliant book that, certainly if you liked the
film, is much worth reading.
The Darksword Trilogy
by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
It had been a while since I finished reading the Dragonlance
"Chronicles" and "Legends" trilogies by these authors. When I had
finished reading those excellent books (some of the very best
ever written in the fantasy genre, even though some people may
find them too superficial and too easy to read), I went to the
bookshop in search for more of it. It was around that time that
some of my friends (most notably Jurie, a.k.a. Relayer of the
virtual demo group Quartermass Experiment) started warning me
about the fact that their other work was nowhere near to these
Dragonlance sequences. I quit searching and went other ways.
Some time ago Alex (a.k.a. the Nutty Snake of the very same
Quartermass Experiment) advised me to read the "Darksword"
trilogy, by Hickman and Weis. He had enjoyed it a lot and, as I
value Alex' opinion and taste highly, I decided to borrow his
copy of the trilogy.
I was pleasantly surprised. Set in a rather original world where
everybody contains magic and those who don't are considered dead,
the story quickly envelops into an intrigueing plot with
identifiable characters - good and evil, and people that seem to
linger in-between. Although the basic story - about someone who
eventually discovers his claims to the throne - is somewhat
cliché, it is well written and full of moments of suspense.
Unfortunately it seems that the authors, after creating the
exhillerating ending passages of the second volume, got lost - or
perhaps they lost inspiration, or perhaps their publisher
convinced them to do a third book when there should originally
only have been two. The third book breaks the barrier between
fantasy and science fiction. The oddly beautiful world in which
everything happens suddenly gets connected with a 'realistic'
future; the plot proceeds with ingredients that seem to have been
forcedly put into the story's stew. The third book, even though
the final chapter holds some beauty, is an anticlimax of
proverbial proportions. If I would have know what the third book
would be like, I would have gladly stopped after finishing part
two - which, though it is a sad one, has a good ending.
As a whole, the books don't quite match the Dragonlance
trilogies mentioned above. Nonetheless they are thoroughly
enjoyable to read and I don't regret having read them - with the
exception of part three, that is.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland + Through the Looking Glass
by Lewis Carroll
Although you might think otherwise, I didn't actually have to
read this for my English courses. It was mentioned somewhere,
though, and I got the idea it was some kind of monumental work
that was the basis for enormous loads of future ideas in novels.
I believe there are few books that have been quoted more than
"Through the Looking Glass" - who hasn't heard of Humpty Dumpty
or Tweedledum and Tweedledee?
As you may know, Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Dodgson)
originally told these stories to a young girl called Alice he
kindof really liked and her two sisters while they were rowing
down a river in England. The night after these trips (two trips,
two stories) he wrote down notes and extended bits.
Although the stories are aimed at children - and English ones at
that, as multiple references to English nursery rhymes are made -
they are thorough fun to read for adults too (especially foreign
adults). Basically both stories seem to be drug-induced fantasies
that excell in originality and the toying with words and
Both plots are awfully short, actually - Alice gets into some
weird place where very strange things happen to her, and
eventually she gets out. In the first book the border between
reality and fantasy is the border between sleep and waking; in
the second book the border is a large mirror. The way in which
the stories are told is extravagently excellent. Superficially,
these books are an easy read - and fun, too. Deep down, they are
making fun of language in an unparalleled way.
This is stuff you simply have to have read - and read again.
The Real Story
by Stephen Donaldson
Stephen Donaldson is one of my all-time favourite authors. In
the field of serious fantasy, he ranks at the top with Tolkien in
sheer depth, magnificence and brilliance of language. I plowed
through all six volumes of "Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever",
admiring every word in spite of the fact that it was pretty damn
impossible to sympathise (let alone identify) with the
protagonist. I read the brilliant short-story collection
"Daughter of Regals". Some time ago I finished reading the two-
part series "Mordant's Need" (possibly even better than the
Thomas Covenant books).
Recently I went to the house of the local hardrock club's
dungeon master to do some "Forgotten Realm" role playing and
there is just lay, sortof discarded, on a chair: Stephen
Donaldson's new series - or at least the first book of that
series: "The Real Story - The Gap Into Conflict". Needless to say
I immediately harrassed the guy into surrendering his copy to me
which I greedily devoured within a short time after that (don't
think this was a feat of some importance, as the story is only
about 180 pages in size).
I am not quite sure what I thought of it when I finished. Of
course there was the unmistakable brilliance of language and a
rather good plot with sortof deep characters. But somehow it
seemed to lack originality. Basically, as far as I could judge
after reading this first part of a series, it's a story about
piracy and love (or perhaps jealousy) set in a science fiction
atmosphere. I liked it, of course, but it didn't reach the
heights I had expected after reading Donaldson's previous stuff.
I will, in due time, try to get my hands on the other books of
the series. Maybe the first part suffers from the lack of
excitement that many initial parts of books lack. I guess I'll
see when I read the rest - I'll keep you posted.
I have also started reading the entire Discworld novels anew
(magnificently witty series by the master of Tolkien-and-Adams-
mixing, Terry Pratchett). A couple of years ago I had already
read "Mort" and "The Colour of Magic" (part IV and I
respectively), but I decided I would have to read the whole
series in one go. I have refrained from getting into details
about them here, as I seem to recall good ol' Stefan already
having written his bit about them quite a while ago - all the
more reason to get digging into back-issues of ST NEWS! In case
you want to read them, too, I will only give the titles (in
correct reading sequence) here: "The Colour of Magic", "The Light
Fantastic", "Equal Rites", "Mort", "Sourcery", "Wyrd Sisters",
"Pyramids", "Guards! Guards!", "Moving Pictures" and "Reaper
Man". More titles have been finished in the mean time, I believe,
and I'll report about them in due time - if Stefan doesn't beat
me to it, that is.
by Douglas Adams
The fifth part of the increasingly unaccurately named
"Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" trilogy was released, finally,
during the 42nd week of this year which, by some extraordinary
coincidence, I spent three days in London of. Although only
available in hardcover, I could not resist shelling out the
£12.99 required to become the proud owner of a copy of my
favourite author's latest, "Mostly Harmless".
"Mostly Harmless", let's get this over with right away, is in no
way comparable with the other Hitchhiker books except for the
fact that, in fact, it features Arthur Dent, Trillian and Ford
Prefect. The writing style and general story plot is fairly
reminiscent of the Dirk Gently books - an enormous pile of
seemingly unconnected events happening to loosely connected
beings that get thrown onto a huge pile of holisticality which
eventually gets unravelled in a climaxic puff of logic.
This means that you may not like this book if you didn't like
the Dirk Gently stuff (which, amazing though it may seem, has
actually happened with several individuals of my acquaintance).
Although as absurd as ever, it is...well...different.
Of course, Adams' writing style is still as excellent as ever.
He still hurls unheard-of English style forms at you,
hustles'n'bustles common sentences into logical gibberish and
intraveinously injects humour aplenty into the whole Mish Mash.
"Mostly Harmless" is a story of sperm donorship, a tenth planet,
alternate realities and parallel universes with altogether
different (and even more absurd) earths, Perfectly Normal Beasts,
Switzerland, the Craft of Sandwich Making and, indeed, The Whole
General Mish Mash. I will not spoil anything for you by
attempting to scrutinize the plot any closer - you will all just
have to read the book yourself. If you're slightly Adamsesque,
this is mandatory reading matter.
The Future Hath In Store?
In the near future I'll be reading some more books, of which
you'll no doubt get to read something in ST NEWS in the future.
Lined up for scrutiny are Stephen King's "It" (my colleague in
Thalion times, Karsten Köper, was rather enthusiastic about the
film so I guessed the book wouldn't be worse), Guy Favriel Kay's
"Fionavra Tapestry" trilogy (advised by our dear Nutty friend Kai
Holst), Hickman & Weis' "Rose of the Prophet" trilogy (advised by
Alex - I'm going to give these writers another chance) and
Michael Moorcock's "Jerry Cornelius" sequence (advised by the
Software Saint himself, Mr. Jeff Not-so-hairy-anymore Minter). I
will also attempt to get to a final verdict of the new Stephen
Donaldson "Gap" series.
Stay tuned for more in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.