The Week In Reading, 2013. First Week Out the Gate Edition.

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Summary: Here begins my weekly (or possibly bi-/tri-/*shrugs*-weekly) recounting of the books I've been reading. We'll start with the last books of 2012 and the first of 2013, with Ramsey Campbell beginning the year.

BLOT: (09 Jan 2013 - 12:30:49 AM)

The Week In Reading, 2013. First Week Out the Gate Edition.

The first week of the year is dead, and I have dead trees (and a couple of dead electrons) under my belt to prove it. Since the threat of embarrassment is a great motivation to keep me reading, I figured I would chronicle what I've read (with some occasional tallies) in the past week (maybe past two weeks or so). And, this way, if you see something that is close to something and you think I should read said first cousin, well, just drop me a line.

First week out, we have a couple of fairly British ghost novels, a collection by the generally-considered premier English spouter of ghost tales, an early reread (by way of listening) Discworld book, and a Doctor Who graphic novel. It was very British.

Originally, I was going to include longer reviews, synopses, and other details, and decided to limit it down to a single paragraph review, a more-fun scoring system, some basic notes on the edition where appropriate, and some basic links to key websites to get your own information, including synopsis or further details.

Ramsey Campbell's The Influence

{Amazon | Goodreads | Open Library}

Once this calm, supernatural novel[-of-manners] reaches its pay-off moments, it works pretty well, but there is a bit to get through before then. Just a tad too muted in all the wrong ways: not quite paranoid enough, not quite desperate enough, not quite willing to go far enough, and not quite expressive enough. Still, as a novel of an imperfect family dealing with life's not quite black and white tragedies, it has some strength, and what creepy, panicked imagery does show up helps to make it memorable. Just needed to not be quite so definite towards the end or to be more definite towards the beginning [I'd vote for the former]. Gets a bit too stuck in the middle. Final Score: 5/8. +1 if you are parent who has some fear of your child becoming devoured by outside forces. -1 If you tend to nitpick grammar or if you need horror novels to come out the gate swinging.

Edition Note: I read the Centipede Press edition with the J.K. Potter photographs. Would recommend taking a look at them if you get a chance.

Terry Pratchett's Equal Rites

{Amazon | Goodreads | Wikipedia}

One of the first Discworld novels I read, and an early favorite that I decided to go back and reread to see how it sits knowing later Discworld material. It is not quite so superb on later readings. This is not the Granny that you will come to love in later books, and this is not quite the Unseen University you will adore, nor is it quite the same magical world or the same magical wit. All in, it helped to set-up a lot of things that I ended up liking more, but the biggest shock was seeing the inchoate Granny Weatherwax. As much as I like Esk, I am ultimately glad that it was the "background" character that ended up being the big sensation from this. Final Score: 4/8. +1 if you are looking for fantasy with a bit of gender consciousness (but, you know, maybe not too much). -1 If you have only read the later Discworld novels and need things to feel precisely in canon with them.

Edition Note: I listened to the Unabridged audiobook narrated by Celia Imrie (via Audible). Her reading is perfect and I highly recommend her.

M.R. James's A Thin Ghost and Others

{Ebooks @ Adelaide | Wikipedia}

Have been reading M.R. James (at least the ones I hadn't previously read) pretty much in order following the Podcast to the Curious and this collection is, appropriately, the thinnest so far. While I liked "The Residence at Whitminster" and found the dream sequence in "A Story of a Disappearance and a Reappearance" to be the most chilling thing I've ever read in a Jamesian tale, but in all cases, the endings are a frustrating mix of too specific and too vague. From a story about hair that muddles up its own point, to what seems to be a story about psychic pillow strangling [that, had it not happened to have been in a ghost story collection, might have come across as not a horror story at all]. At least most leave you with the feeling that there is more story there, if you just dig hard enough and fill in the gaps [and/or got the in-jokes undoubtedly tied into James's circle of friends]. Final Score: 4/8, largely held up by the two stories I mentioned at the top (which are well recommended. +1 if you really like digging into a story to get the best bits out, including research and rereading. -1 if you really do not.

Jonathan Morris, et al: Doctor Who: The Child of Time


This first collection of Doctor Who Magazine comic strips featuring the Eleventh Doctor was a mostly enjoyable affair. There is a story with Axos that is just like what Axos via Nu-Who would be, and the eponymous story's central villain/entity is both frustrating and fascinating, if more fitting, right down to the resolution, with the Seventh Doctor's style. Some interesting galactic religious war with crusading robots action, a fun-if-one-off friendly Bollywood parody, a story with a naked Amy as a butterfly, a trippy 60s throwback with my favorite baddies from this volume, a C.S. Lewis tribute, and a neat Phantom of the Opera reference [that only just gets a little too close to Talons of Weng-Chiang] finish out the volume. Not a bad package between two covers, if only the whole thing didn't feel just a little too incomplete. By the nature of the medium, a few of the storylines get a little too sped up, with the religious-war-crusade leading to Child of Time arc having the sensation of missing panels. Still, this is the sans-Rory period, so the Amy featured is more in-line with her original formation (strong, closed off, but kind of childish, as a compliment to the Doctor's own similar traits) and fans of her before she became Mrs. Pond might like to revisit some alternate-adventures for her. Final Score: 5/8. +1 if you like to see a variety of styles and story types and visuals flavors of the Doctor. -1 if you don't like surreal plots or rapid (and sometimes weird) resolutions.

Mrs. J.H. Riddell's The Uninhabited House

{Dover Publications | Goodreads | Open Library | Project Gutenberg}

Not much of a ghost story, nor much a mystery, and not quite a comedy, nor romance, it embraces elements of all four. With its slight plot and moments of high coincidence, it feels like a Dickens-lite, but really Riddell's gift is her capturing of not-quite-everyday Victoriana and making it compelling and brief. It is an enjoyable read, if not meaty. Shame so much of her other stuf is so damnably hard to find, now, or I would probably commit to another short novel of hers at least. I'll keep my eyes out. Final Score: 5/8. +1 if yesteryear's fluff is your beach read of choice. -1 if you have ever read Great Expectations and hated every character with so much passion that you're pretty sure people who like Dickens must be insane (-2, even).

Edition Note: I read this via a five novel collection put out by Dover Publications (see link, above). Part of the selling point was the difficulty of finding the novels, so that they were a little slice of forgotten literature. However, this novel [see link, above] and the other four are all available, now, via Project Gutenberg. In that light, maybe avoid the $20+ Dover Edition unless you are dead tree fanatic.


Written by Doug Bolden

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