The Far Side of the Lake

Woken fresh, this morning. Valentine’s Day. My second thought today (after giving my wife my traditional ‘anonymous’ card to mark the day), was about the long-held tradition of giving a copy of the Bible (certainly in the UK) to participants of Court cases for swearing the oath on.  I was wondering if they will ever start offering an Ebook version of the Bible contained within a Kindle or Ipad to place one’s hand upon?  Just asking that question bears somewhat upon the subject of any books that are held to be sacred (however many editions of them exist) and perhaps tells us something about this whole ongoing debate.  The centuries-long existence of physical books, whatever they contain, however new or old they are, will always prove  something about remaining ‘sacred’ in some sense of that word. (14 Feb 12 – 8.00 a.m. gmt)

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The Far Side of the Lake – Steve Rasnic Tem

Real-Time Review continued from HERE

Fogwell

There were trees so tall he couldn’t see their tops. There was ground that hid stone and pockets of stone,…”

A haunting ‘boy’ story blending the best of, say, King, Bradbury and Tem (cf: the climbing tree story earlier).  The boy was physically born – as if by deliberate accident on his pregnant mother’s trip – in Chicago, a fact which, for me, and semi-consciously for his parents, has some astrologically mis-harmonic effect on his outcome as a person in his home town of Greystone Bay, thus presenting a new slant on this book’s fragility of inter-generationality theme. I say, ‘mis-harmonic’, but that depends how you look at it: as this boy, Willis, ‘benefits’ from what I call a primary-source imagination, a larger-than-life synaesthesia of creativity amid his often clumsy relationship with his peers, two of whom are well-characterised in this story. This story crystallises eventually towards an amorphous image, an image which paradoxically, against the grain, focusses the reader’s attention beyond life’s normal ‘real’ clutter towards a mystic awareness that only good fiction can actually create (cf: the centaur in that earlier story by the sea).  [Transcending the real clutter of this ipad, as just one example: a transcendancy that is not required with a ‘primary source’ of a physical book: more spiritually intrinsic, for me, to a great work of fiction than a machine happens to be.] (14 Feb 12 – three and a half hours later)

Ice House Pond

“More life meant more death.”

A novella-sized tour de force.  The male protagonist says the pond is much bigger than it is. A strange statement. [But this ebook is much bigger than it is, too. I had no idea how big when I started it – unlike with a real thick book in your hand as you riffle through its pages assessing its scope.  Certainly got my money’s worth.] Thus, by means of that ostensibly strange statement, sharing the previous story’s boy’s larger-than-life or imagino-kinetic abilities and whose ‘fog’ trope is now here to be frozen. The male protagonist (who suffers his own past of inter-generational tragedies of wife and daughter in a car accident and more)  takes over a desolate ice-property (you have to read this novella to appreciate the enormous stunning scope of that expression, that ‘ice-property’ concept in real cold-numbing, cold-abrading, shard-tall grandeur as well as this book’s erstwhile seedy ‘Leaks‘ potential infecting that grandeur, the erstwhile ‘Underground‘ and its ‘hawling’ images, its death-sacrifices to prevent suffering, the purging of past sorrows by creating today greater sorrows or diseases that are paradoxically easier to bear, the Concentration Camp gas ovens [that map-maze with yellowish haze the “mad scientist’s” inner earth of my aforementioned ‘Nemonymous Night’ by dint of its sister novella ‘Weirdtongue’]; the Ice House’s inner scrying cryological crystal-ball shapes both sickishly mutant and ripe with potential stunning palaces of magic realism (not unlike that sometimes evoked by ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ in retrospect) – “…the cold had the presence and intensity of stone” – the ‘genius loci’ of the house, ice pond, ice house that he’s bought, complete with nursery, is via cumulatively powerful prose, or rather an ice-genie-loci? The sun like a huge white eye in the sky reminding me that it is my eye scrying the white screen of this novella (it’s white on my screen).  “Magic ice“. “Ice palaces“. This is Greystone Bay again, now complete with a hinterland of the missing people that the ice has taken and turned into self-redemptive ghosts (your self, not necessarily their selves). An ice house with the scope of a literally global shock, too. Ice block, “love breath” (sharing a bed is important on Valentine’s Day of all days, and I agree with what this novella says so touchingly on this score!). “The oldest cold”. The madness-veined ice-walls. Can memories be frozen like food? (My question, not the novella’s). Fishermen fishing for painted fish (still waiting for something to happen?). Can you tell I’m impressed? Yes, I particularly resonate with the cruel kindness of such fiction. It is replete with traditional stylisms of the Horror fiction genre; it’s as if the artificial world built up cumulatively like an ice sculpture, striking image piled upon striking image with feverous authorial gluttony; it never actually goes over the top because of those genre tropes employed so skilfully, even though it may go over the top for some not accustomed to such literature; and it will melt like all great ice sculptures will inevitably melt as my memory fades with the onset of old age and even my sadnesses will be numbed by the coming ice beyond any melting. Accepting that is like appreciating what makes you accept that. Like this novella. There’s even a bookshop in it with real redolent books waiting to be riffled through. Only global catastrophe will destroy them, I guess. (14 Feb 12 – another 4 hours later)

The Dancers in the Leaves

“I used to have a living husband, a good man, and now I have a stone to visit on Sundays.”

Someone who denies his status as a ghost-hunter tries to solve the rhapsodic angst of an old woman whose Valentine seems long past. I have an affinity with Autumn, as some may know already, having read my reviews. This is a delightful ‘dancing on air’ in the tradition of Frances Oliver fitting to exhume any Valentine worth his salt..  (14 Feb 12 – another 2 hours later)

Hearts

A complete and utter shock, I assure you. I can safely say that the experience of reading this story for the first time today (finished in the last few minutes) — in today’s context and in the light of what I have already said about Valentine’s Day above — is THE most amazing reading experience of my whole life. No exaggeration. And, furthermore, in itself, it is a great story, too, even when disregarding the dark serendipities seemingly involved in me reading it today of all days.  A strongly explicit Valentine’s Day story with encroaching ‘Leaks’,  as well as a plot definitely backstoried by this book’s theme of inter-generational posterity, here as a sad motive for this story’s (‘Tales of the Unexpected’-type) dénouement.  ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. I don’t necessarily expect you to believe me, but it is undeniably true. Here, as possible evidence, is the publisher’s public suggestion a few days ago that I embark on this book as my first real-time review of an ebook, i.e a book by an author whose work I knew I hadn’t read as much as I should have done – an author I have long admired from the odd few stories I have read of his before reading this book. I must now surely take breath, and continue this review another day. (14 Feb 12 – another hour later)

THIS REAL-TIME REVIEW NOW CONTINUED HERE.

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