Friday, May 13, 2016

Last Month's Books: "She Walks In Shadows, Among Flowers From the Moon and Other Lunacies"

It has been a long last few weeks. That said, things are starting to come back to a semblance of normalcy. Still, though, I'm falling behind on my reading again. These are the most recent books I've read, and they're from weeks ago. Anyway. Let's talk about them. 

Flowers From the Moon and Other Lunacies
Robert Bloch

"And the third design--bit I must not speak of that!" And then the narrator proceeds to speak of it anyway... Bloch frustrates me. Some of his stories could be quite frightening. Except that, in his hands, they often become absurd to the point of no longer having any fear. I've now read five of his collections of stories (most of which I'm not going to bother to review) and aside from the occasional spark of potential, most of them have greatly disappointed me. Rather than horrifying and absurd they are just... Laughable. 

Voodoo Tales
Henry S. Whitehead

Well huh. For stories primarily about Caribbean and West Indies voodoo written by a white man in the 1920s, these are surprisingly... Progressive? They aren't free from racism, for sure. Many of the ideas and terms used would be insensitive now, to say the least. But compared to Lovecraft or Howard, you can tell that Whitehead lived among, cared about, and respected the people he describes. It also helps that these stories are quite good. While Whitehead's grasp of how voodoo works is maybe not 100% accurate, he is clearly writing from experience. The characters are more relatable than many of Lovecraft's. They far more resemble Watson of Sherlock Holmes, a reader stand-in, rather than some academic. The writing is, for the most part, clear and simple. Nothing overly complex, but excellent descriptions. The antagonists and supernatural forces are interesting and varied as well.  Yeah. It's solid.

Riddley Walker
Russell Hoban

If you write in 12-year-old's Kentish dialect and spelling, it should at least be enjoyable to read. Huck Finn's dialect is fun to read--it's distinctive yet not indecipherable. Clockwork Orange's Nadsat is fun to read--it feels natural after a chapter or two. This is atrocious. Every word is misspelled. It's legitimately worse than reading a 1700s pamphlet where all the s's are f's. Ferioufly. There are better ways to convey lack of education and knowledge. Even Faulkner does it better with As I Lay Dying, and I hate Faulkner. I get it. It's a dystopian post-apocalyptic novel from a child's point of view. You're supposed to get things that the child narrator does not. Again. Make it enjoyable. This isn't enjoyable.

She Walks In Shadows
Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Huh. This is really great. A bunch of re-interpretations of Lovecraftian stories with an emphasis on the female characters. That's a flaw in Lovecraft. Most of his female characters only exist prior to the story's beginning. Here, they form a central part of the narrative. And they are almost universally fascinating. The reinterpretations of Asenath or Lavinia make them far more sympathetic and real than the Lovecraftian versions. The writing is fairly solid across the various authors, though some shine more than others. There are also some excellent illustrations. Overall, a great collection.