Sunday, 31 July 2011

Dune by Frank Herbert

The definitive Dune cover illustration!
I haven't read Dune since I was a teenager, deep into my personal golden age and reading up everything I could lay my hands on. Dune is still a classic, but back then it stood out even more distinctly in the field that wasn't quite so crowded. By the time I got to it, there were already two or three fat sequels, which was still a remarkable feat. I remember stories in Starlog and Starburst about the abortive Jodorowsky movie, and there was a board game that I never could quite fathom.

When I actually read it, though, I was a bit disappointed. I found it a bit baffling and a bit dull. I couldn't work out what everyone wanted, and there was a lot of talk compared to action. I liked bits of it – the imperial backdrop was really cool, and the weird powers and strange magic mixed with high tech appealed to me, but because I didn't quite “get it” it left me a bit cold. My impressions were further confused by the David Lynch movie, which I also found hard to follow (and I haven't seen since except in snatches on TV, but inevitably, it is available on youtube).

I can't help thinking that I didn't do Dune justice; maybe I was a bit young, and I read it in a concentrated blast in the week before the movie came out (demonstrating even then my particularity about reading a book before seeing the movie). It's been on my vague re-read list for a while, but I never picked it up. However, when I came across this marvellous old New English Edition at a book sale, I knew the time had come! This is the same edition I read back in the 80s: who can forget those thrilling Bruce Pennington covers? They were definitely a big part of the series' appeal, suggesting all sorts of of exotic fantasies within!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

From Beyond

“From Beyond”, first published in The Fantasy Fan, vol 10, No 1, June 1934

This is the the twenty-fifth entry in my read-through of the commemorative edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H P Lovecraft.

. . . . I have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow death and madness. . . .
This is another of the weaker “shocker” style stories, where HPL tries hard to give a shocking weight to something we all figured out pages ago using the mighty power of italics. Once again the climactic line depends on a revelation that's painfully obvious from the start. I'm finding this a surprisingly common weakness in these stories.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Dreams in the Witch House

"The Dreams in the Witch House", first published in Weird Tales, July 1933.

This is the the twenty-fourth entry in my read-through of the commemorative edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H P Lovecraft.

HPL based his fictional Arkham on Salem, the New England town that is most famous for its seventeenth century witch trials. The history and testimony of the Salem witches follow a pattern that was common at about the same time in Europe among the same religiously non-conformist communities that had fled to the New World in search of a new Jerusalem. The religious atmosphere of the seventeenth century in America that led to the witch trials still marks something about the American character: puritanical, literal-minded and keenly aware of sin and evil.

Monday, 11 July 2011

The Invention of Murder & The Thin Man

Annoyingly, I have misplaced my copy of The Invention of Murder. I finished it a couple of weeks ago, then put it down but I cannot recall where it is. It's a mystery, although one hardly worth the attention of any of the real and fictional sleuths detailed within. I feel like a should know where it is, I should be able to recall where I put it, but the information remains just out of reach. It's an incredibly frustrating feeling and yet it's a state of mind that I actively seek in puzzles and mystery stories.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Strange High House In The Mist

"The Strange High House In The Mist", first published Weird Tales October 1931.

This is the the twenty-third entry in my read-through of the commemorative edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H P Lovecraft.

We're back in a Dunsanian mood, this time in the made-up coastal town of Kingsport. The story is told in that archaic, declamatory tone that annoyed me so much about his previous ventures into the style. It clearly spoke to HPL, but it makes me cringe.

Great beach for wind surfing, Plimmerton, NZ