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atrocityarchivescharlesst46337_fIt’s always exciting when you find a new author that you think you are really going to enjoy, and extremely gratifying when you turn out to be right, as I have been with Charles Stross. I have read about him for a long time, and been intrigued by reviews of his books, but until now haven’t tried any of his works. And in looking for something different after my failure with Emperor, I decided to throw myself into The Atrocity Archives and I’m so glad I did because it is exactly what I needed!

In the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book Stross refers to three authors who made it possible for him to write the book – HP Lovecraft, Neal Stephenson and Len Deighton, which is a really interesting mix when you stop to think about it. The first two have been referred to on this blog more than once (I think – they are both favourites) and Deighton I know mostly through Michael Caine playing Harry Palmer in the movies but don’t think I have ever read.

So as you may have gleaned this is about spies and codes and Nameless Old Ones as seen through the eyes of Bob Howard who has been conscripted into the organisation known as The Laundry and about his experiences as a field agent. It is almost impossible to explain the plot without giving anything away but it is really enjoyable and if you are a civil servant you will recognise some of the worst traits of government bureaucracy (although obviously exaggerated – I don’t remember any zombie doormen, but you never know, I just might not have been looking in the right places). It appeals to the X-Files-and-Fringe-loving part of me, the bit that finds gibbous and rugose perfectly acceptable adjectives, and accepts whole-heartedly that there are lots of secret basements all over the place harbouring information it is better for us not to know about.

I really, really, enjoyed this and am already hunting out more of his work. And don’t skip the afterword – really interesting stuff there too.

emperorgollanczsfstep40263_fI have to confess to a failure here – I managed to get to page 160 of Emperor when I ground to a halt. This is a rarity for me and I’m not sure why it’s happened in this case; after all:

  • I like Stephen Baxter
  • I like reading about Rome
  • I like alternative history type stuff

But, despite all of these things I just couldn’t persevere with this book. It’s not badly written, and the first section (set around the time of the Claudian invasion of Britain) was really good and I trotted through it very quickly. But then……. who knows?

It’s a shame really as this looked like it could be an interesting series (I think it ran ultimately to four books) but there you have it; the second unfinished novel this year.

somethingwickedthiswaycome36579_fI feel as if I have been reading this book forever; that isn’t a criticism of the book itself, just that I started it before my hiatus and have only just finished it today so it has been with me for what seems like a very long time.

I have to say upfront that I was intrigued about how I was going to react to Something Wicked This Way Comes, because I saw the film adaptation many, many years ago, and although it was only one viewing it has stuck with me ever since. As suspected the film and the book are different in a number of ways, but both are equally enjoyable.

This is the story of two boys, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, and how they get drawn into the sinister world of Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show when it turns up in their Illinois hometown. The carnival, and particularly its proprietor Mr Dark, is incredibly sinister and it becomes clear very quickly that all is not as it seems.

This story deals with so many themes – the desire to grow up, the lure of temptation, disappointment, the power of goodness – that it’s difficult to know where to start. I found it wonderfully atmospheric and quite chilling, and the characters – Mr Dark, Charles Halloway, the Witch – really memorable. It is interesting to me that my favourite character in the book (as in the film where he is played by the wonderful Jason Robards) is Charles Halloway, the older father of a young son wondering what he had a achieved with his life.

I think that this is definitely one that I will come back to in the future – if you haven’t tried Bradbury before this is a good place to start. And isn’t it a great cover?

I started writing this post, for the last book in the RIP III challenge, back on 4 October, and it seems strange to come back to something I read all those weeks ago and try to put down in words why I enjoyed it. Because I really did enjoy Uncle Montague – a collection of stories told to Edgar during apparently one visit to Uncle Montague in his strange house in the woods.

The stories themselves have a connecting theme – they are all ostensibly about bad things happening to usually young people who don’t listen to what they are told, although I’m not sure that you could call them morality tales. They have a lovely creepy Gothic atmosphere to them and are enhanced by the wonderful illustrations by David Roberts – I particularly like the expression on young Edgar’s face on the cover, which gives a strong impression of someone trying desperately not to look round at what might be behind him.

Particular favourites are Climb Not and A Ghost Story, but they are all very good, and the revelation of exactly what predicament Uncle Montague is in was satisfying. So definitely worth reading, though as I said more atmospheric than genuinely scary.

This was my final read for the RIP III challenge.

So here we are back again after a forced hiatus due to major desktop problems (don’t ask – it’s enough to say that there are certain pieces of anti-virus software that I won’t be recommending to anyone I actually like) and two weeks in Italy (much more pleasant!) I didn’t actually do very much reading in the four five (!)weeks since I’ve been offline but I’m sure I’ll get back into the swing of things fairly shortly, so watch this space.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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