Tag Archives: John Greenwood

Valiant Razalia – Michael Wyndham Thomas

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Cover painting: Simon Bell

Continuation from HERE of my gestalt real-time review that deals on this page with the end of THE MERCURY ANNUAL (2009), then seamlessly into the beginning of PILGRIMS AT THE WHITE HORIZON (2013) both of which books constitute ‘Valiant Razalia’ by Michael Wyndham Thomas.

Publisher: Theaker’s Paperback Library

This review will take place in the comment stream below as and when I read the books:-

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The Weirdtongue Palaver

I have believed in the literary theory of ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ since I first encountered it in the mid 1960s. Whether I am right or wrong in this belief is, I accept, arguable but it is a sincere philosophy of mine. Not something to be covered briefly here. But what I will say, in the context of the Weirdtongue Palaver, is that this literary theory broadly suggests, inter alia, that once a book is posited in the audience arena, it then becomes the possession of all its readers, including its author who, I argue, has no more or no less fallibility, no more or no less rights, than any other reader. Hence my recent reviews or commentaries of some books for which I was responsible before they were posited in the audience arena, as well as my real-time reviewing since 2008 of “friends’” books such as those of Denis Diderot, John Cowper Powys, Thomas Mann, TQF etc.

I am not swayed from such a life-long belief by buckling, for authorial self-interest, under any ‘political’ pressure of fashions that, we are told here, seem to apply to book reviews these days.

And, as an aside, there can surely be no benefit to any author in keeping quiet about any reviews that cross a line of mockery or tendentiousness.

[Edit (8.00 am 19/9/13): at least one more comment below in comment stream.]

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Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #44

tqf44My next gestalt real-time review is of the fiction in Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #44 and it takes place in the comment stream below as and when I read each story.

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ISBN (print) 978-0-9561533-8-8

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Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction website.

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The fiction is by Charles Wilkinson, Allen Ashley, Howard Phillips, Douglas Thompson, Ross Gresham.

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My previous reviews of TQF publications: Real-Time Review of TQF #37 & Real-Time Review of TQF #39 & Real-Time Review of TQF #40 & Real-Time Review of TQF #41 & Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #43.

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All my real-time reviews from 2008 are linked from HERE.

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Real-Time Review of TQF #41

Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #41Silver Age Books: 29 July 2012.

This is a paperback book I have purchased.

That cover – truly stunning in the real-time life of the book I hold in my hand – is by Howard Watts (who once mentioned ‘Marmite’ to me).

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

My previous reviews of TQF publications: Real-Time Review of TQF #37 & Real-Time Review of TQF #39 & Real-Time Review of TQF #40

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.  There is no guarantee how long any real-time reviews will take to complete, whether it be days or years!

There is much more in TQF#41 (i.e. book reviews etc.) but, as has always been my custom with real-time reviewing, I shall only be dealing with the fiction. The authors of the stories are: Ross Gresham, Charles Wilkinson and Douglas Thompson. As ever, my aim is to identify leitmotifs from all the fiction in any one discrete publication and mould them into a gestalt.

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Milo Don’t Count Coup – Ross Gresham

Pages 7 – 13

I mean, what price can you put on peace? All part of whole-universe reconciliation, and our role, Marmite’s and mine,…”

This seeming novella, at this early stage, seems to have a style to which a reader may need to acclimatise before fully enjoying and/or understanding it.  But I’m sure I’m already at least halfway there on both counts, it being a lively, prose-buzzing viewpoint from the year 4068 regarding a Universal War peace conference of Burpers, Tonies and others: mixed with ordnance (probably not ‘ordinance’ as the text has it?), officers of armies and their names (some female), tentative breakings out of non-peace with melted weapons, side-stories as opposed to backstories and a “both/and” rather than an “either/or” ethos of futuristic vision of Weird Wars and even Weirder Peaces, or so I infer so far. Milo (the narrator) and Marmite seem to be chums who are just one slant upon the angles slanting back at them of this strange conference (as well as digging a pit toilet). Very promising. Most acclimatisable. Can’t cover all its text-crisp details: and my future reviews of this novella will probably be shorter if not sweeter.  (7 Aug 12 – 11.15 am bst)

Pages 14 – 20

“Nothing in their wiring allows them to conceive of defeat.”

…which is not promising for a peace conference,  I guess – even if the eventual treaty is in wonderful verse? Meanwhile, we are given glimpses of a past battle, Marmite and I, as Burpers, against Tonies, Capos, Frogs, each force against the others… With the enticing conceit of alliances, side-alliances, friendly fire etc. rather than an all out battle that merely two forces of enmity normally conduct? Wonderfully conjured-up crazy-ordnance, robots,  ‘carpet’ of suicide spiders et al – and they even remember Custer’s last stand in the 41st Century – a comforting thought for issue 41. And a topical Olympic reference to ‘synchronised swimming’ – indeed I wonder if the peace conference itself will eventually have retrocausal effect on past battles? A beautiful image of a robot with a neck like a “swan leaning in to sip out your liver.” (7 Aug 12 – 12.45 pm bst)

Pages 20 – 31

“I didn’t hear the specific human demands — ‘Earthling’ demands — sparkling versus spring water, you know. I guess we walked out a few times over the placement of the candy dish.”

The so-called peace conference is really taking off within my reader-imaginarium: what with Marmite and I having our own alliances and enmities concerning life as well as war, music and sex, with sexually-demanding women at the conference, then who subject to whom as Burper friend or gunner or driver or member of the same music band: as moving parts in this multifaceted cyborg conference that seems, with its various wild constituents,  to spin round a sort of madcap Olympic velodrome (my conceit, not the story’s, but true nevertheless)  with all manner of weapon ‘ordnance’ with the ‘I’ of me and us and you and them embedded, yes, embedded cyborg-like amid the word to make ‘ordinance’? Wonderful stuff. Meanwhile, I sense my own backstory with a “fiancé on another world, sending confusing signals…” like whether the word should be ‘fiancée’? “Of course I was just making this shit up.”  (7 Aug 12 – 2.35 pm bst)

Page 31 – 44

“…WD-40 killed it off, just little squirts.

I had thought I was reader-enough to cope with this story. Thank goodness for the WD-40: just a squirt – and it all dawned on me… But, then again, was the peace conference just a counter in some sort of futuristic chess game where checkmate is just another coup, where honour passes not with a physical struggle (“A lot of this story, really, is the misconceptions that arise from the human form.”) but with a symbolic touch on the shoulder or the hostile pirating of music or sexual politics merging mind-and-flesh-and-metal or the winning of a pointless argument really being the act of losing it? (“‘Where’s Marmite?’ I asked. ‘My gunner.‘”) — My mind’s still frazzled but satisfied.  Concepts of “living metal“, fiction-on-fiction bribes to win out as a victorious reality, more war than peace misperceived as a beneficial force, war extrapolated into a form of music or a symbolic touch on the shoulder with a conductor’s stick during an atonal symphony concert (my conceit, not the story’s, but true nevertheless). A story with an arguable moral. But also quite amoral and mad. A reading experience I shall hardly forget, not being naturally attuned to such ‘friendly fire’ fiction, of which new genre (first named by me here?) this story, I suggest, is a prime  effective exponent: a suggestion from between the word-frazzlings my mind is currently ‘suffering’ as result of this story that has enabled me to think I have nailed it down — but only after it nailed me down first? (7 Aug 12 – 3.50 pm bst)

Oh you sweet thing
Do I what
Will I what
Oh baby you know what I like
—Big Burper.

[Marmite and I. Or Milo and I? NB: The novel ‘Milo and I’ by Antony Mann.]

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Notes on the Bone – Charles Wilkinson

It was, he thought, the season when every colour had an undercoat of grey,…”

I was thinking, if I had not got into the habit of reading and reviewing TQF issues, I would surely have missed this substantive, high-quality story that would greatly appeal, should they happen to read it, to many lovers of Weird Literature and Horror Fiction: blending together, with a stylish prose worthy of such a blend, many of my favourite elements in such fiction: Aickman-like characters and scenes, the ‘knivish’ prose of Gary Fry, a blend of Corporate Ligotti (that early undercoat later becoming paint beside a decorator’s ladder and rain that rains ‘industrially’ and graveyards with ‘official’ stone tag-graffiti, or so I infer from the context), the backstreet bed-sits and house-shares, the shadowy menace of shapes and figures, the colleges and museums of jewellery-making that echo the cyborg quality of this TQF issue’s first story: causing me to think of the central figure of the boy-man character, as seen by the main protagonist, to be a sort of walking statue or spider-robot or knife-sharpener… leading, in turn, toward a conceptual usage of human bones for which I would have simply died just to get it for my recent-published book anthology containing multi-authored ‘Classical Music’ Horror Stories. This Wilkinson story seems so honed from textured mineral on the page, it is sure to ‘outlast’ me or any other reader.  In interesting contrast to the far-future Weird Wars  of the first story, yet strangely dovetailed with it in a way I can’t yet explain other than by means of that cyborg connection… and, yes, the ‘outlasting’ into such a future – as a sort of fiction-alchemised cryology? (8 Aug 12 – 2.50 pm bst)

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DogBot™ – Douglas Thompson

But of course it could also talk to its friends in the sky, the drone planes. It had many friends it seemed,…”

A neat bracketing of another exciting robot chase, here around the velodrome of Messiahship and/or Holy Terrorism with the mixed motives, the mixed ends and/or means of two opposing states of eternal grace beyond suicide or friendly fire by machine and/or flesh (now both ‘both/and’ and ‘either/or’), and it takes from Wilkinson’s earlier mention of Damien Hirst a new dimension of preserved dead-animal art (with or without golden horns) and spin-painting.

An intense gestalt experience: the three stories presented in this issue of TQF. And, as an aside, I am fast becoming a Douglas Thompson fan. Only in the last few days, I real-timed, on the second page of this review here, another quite different story by him.  The inspiring disparateness of Douglas Thompson as well as of each dose of TQF fiction: culminating in some worthwhile revelation from fiction’s ever onward, sometimes frenzied robotic, sometimes human fine-artistic, attempts at cohering…with or without a squirt of WD-40. (8 Aug 12 – 6.45 pm bst)

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linking links to links

http://theakersquarterly.blogspot.com/2011/08/new-review-of-theakers-quarterly.html

reviewing my review of this book’s fiction:

Corollary: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/john-updike/

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Real-Time Review of TQF #37

I’m due shortly to start below on this page another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

And it is of the fiction stories in ‘Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #37’ – Silver Age Books: July 2011. This is a book I have purchased.

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years. Indeed, this is said with the knowledge that a busy Season is afoot and many people have calls upon my time. So I do not wish any of you interested in this review to keep returning to this page and finding nothing added. However, I do not know how to resolve this problem ….

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

There is much more in this book (i.e. book reviews etc.) but, as has always been my custom with real-time reviewing (e.g. of various issues of ‘Black Static’ etc.), I shall only be dealing with the fiction. The authors of the stories are: Douglas Thompson, Mike Sweeney, Rafe McGregor, Ben Kendall-Carpenter, Alex Smith, Skadi meic Beorh, David Tallerman, Chris Roper.

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Apoidroids – by Douglas Thompson

“Suddenly the occasional cactus started to look like the soft option.”

A story that appeals to my interest in the hive- or swarm-consciousness – intriguingly less a version of Jungianism to which insects and other bugs might be subject than a “conferring by WiFi” – interlacing the virtuous-circular eco-sustainability of our planet, robotics, cut-throat business, satire (Steve Dobs and Bill Yates!), politics, and, for me, an implicit view of economics not irrelevant to today’s ‘default’ debates in USA and the Eurozone. It is SF-crisply written as well as with a satisfyingly textured prose – including stream-of-consciousness (aptly!) as well as direct narration. I enjoyed the ending – an ingenious comparison of insects as thoughts – but the final pay-off I will not spoil here.  (26 Jul 11)

Make It Sacred – by Mike Sweeney

“The old man placed his head in his hands. Tears weren’t far away. / ‘I know, I know,’ he whispered. ‘It’s time for me to go.'”

This story is one with traction, with difficulty (in a positive sense), a gradually emerging meaning, an invitation to re-read.  Yet, I sense I have it already somewhere inside. Vonda McIntyre, Kazuo Ishiguro?  Fruit-stoners like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich man, Poor man, Beggar man, Thief – here Physician, Judge, Armourer, Artist, Facilitator, Writer &c. – telling of young mother Shimako’s work in the Bunker of a sexual or role-playing nature, and a  most amazing concept of ventilation-shafts or slits that have varying degrees of darkness, some serpentine: which bring us to the last three devastating sentences of the whole story … a story that is its own Platonic Cave. Something that,  with recent events in the news, we all need to read, I guess. Or re-read? To make things sacred again. If one can see through all the mixed intentions and complexities of life that we all have to negotiate as if in “the reptile house at the zoo.” —  “can you be of the thing and not be the thing itself?” — “…wiped an imaginary something from his eyes.” — “…that would make a Microsoft executive blush.” — “Peace that’s where the real money is. That’s when everyone buys their weapons. We need peace.” (26 Jul 11 – three hours later)

The Last Testament – by Rafe McGregor

“…a cloud of flies and other insects milling around the rotting flesh and fur.”

But not only this book’s erstwhile swarm- or hive-consciousness – this “Boy’s Own” yarn (amid a military campaign in 1874 in Assam, Lucknow? I’m not a history-detail expert!) is from the point of view of one of the soldiers and is, for me, an enjoyable Lovecraftian skirmish among tribes and with the Crawling Chaos hive-consciousness here in well-described physical form  – ‘experienced’ within another form of the Platonic Cave or Bunker or Snakepit? – and the story’s closure will remain unknown as far as this review is concerned “Because I have a sacred trust.” (27 Jul 11)

Curios – by Ben Kendall-Carpenter

“…where each reading sees new and sometimes distinctly inappropriate rhymes -“

A perfect gem of a vignette, listing an enticing collection of curios with (just up my street) a hilarious take upon the nature of identity itself.  It even has a homing miasma! (Cf: the swarm-consciousness). (27 Jul 11 – thirty minutes later)

The Model of a Boy – by Alex Smith

“I was only myself as I looked and behaved from moment to moment, and I was allowed to be whoever that was.”

And the ending of the previous story resonates with the beginning of this one – and of its end – by dint of this skirmish with ‘identity’ and its collections of curios (a spurious number of them) – a collection-with-a-personal-history kept in moist-aired Hotel Reynolds beside a lake. One such curio is a model of Huckleberry Finn whose life, I recall, intriguingly parallels the father-and-son mis-synergy here, including, at the end, the lake as if it were a mighty river of escape. For me, this is a very atmospheric, Aickman-like fiction – and I can give it no greater compliment. There is a lot of mature thoughtfulness to this story that I cannot cover here and many a frisson of both character and incident. Meanwhile, it’s infested (almost unnoticeably) with “insects”, “mosquitoes“, “bugs” and one “night moth“.  But no “gnats“, albeit they are mentioned. (27 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

Harrowing of the Barrow – by Skadi meic Beorh

“…for an intrepid gloom moved with a personality of its own…”

This is an inspiring mythic Druidic story, one that is as if the father-son relationship in the previous story is interpreted by an Irish Robert E. Howard.  It is tractable music rather than fiction, echoing itself as well as the foregoing context in this book: “Here, sir, is where you are.” — “See how the earth beneath us rolls ever so cunningly, as if it were ocean waves?” Tides swarm as well as ebb and flow? — “creeping silence” — “self-wrought fools” — “He slid into the gore beneath him…” — “Hear, then, the yarn of a lost man.” Another last testament or statement of proffered truth? — “skirmishes were a rare thing, indeed…” –“the return of the White Serpent King…” “I was deep inside a warm cave…” — This is a haunting story, too, of the ‘Androcles and the Lion’ legend, echoing thecrucified tigerearlier in this book.

“Small thorns cause great pus”. (27 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

Devilry at the Hanging Tree Inn – by David Tallerman

“The inn grew more dilapidated with each passing year, and featured on only the most pedantically drawn maps.”

I laughed out loud when reading that sentence. This is an engaging fairy story of pent-up monstrousness with the air of a fable-and-a-moral – and, if the previous story was a variant of the classic Jack and the Giant, this is Jack and the Devil, the latter out of the fire into the shape of Jack’s back-clinging ‘Old Man of the Sea’, via cockerel fat. Well, you’ll see what I mean when you read it!  I enjoyed it. [If there is a running theme in this book’s fiction so far, it’s of the often misinterpreted interface of age with youth, wisdom with quick instinct. Life’s quick instinct or considered wisdom are not however the sole possession of any one age or any one temperament since they are carried by many items-of-osmosis around and through us all; they don’t necessarily lie within us; they need absorbing, processing, then releasing and given due consensual dissemination when sunk within the cavernous labyrinth of the Collective Unconscious. Consensual dissemination or “…casting blows like rice strewn at a wedding.”  No easy process.] (27 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

The Watchman – by Chris Roper

The man stared for a long time at the seascape, trying hard to get a feel for its motion, understand its idiosyncracies. They’d trained him to study the water, to build a rapport with the pattern of the waves.”

Bravo! That sort of sums things up for me. This is a powerfully written story of a lone gunman (or believes himself to be alone despite helpers in various Beacons controlling from a distance and also firing guns) trained to be Watchman for monstrous things that come out of the sea. And you must read this story – as I will not give you even a hint of what these things are like and how one of them carries its young etc.  He is underpinned by a reported situation with his father in the past. You see how everything potentially fits? You may disagree when you come to read this incredible set of stories. Each separately satisfying, yet as a gestalt: extremely powerful. [This book’s copyright page indicates it was published on 4 July 2011. I am reviewing it today: 27 July 2011.  Much has happened in the world in the interim.  This designated Watchman – what did he see? What did he imagine threatening him and the world? “The man watched with casual indifference as the waves gently eddied around their limp, lifeless forms.”]  One of those monstrous things had a mothering-lair or ‘cave’ or Bunker (my expressions, not the story’s) in a dune: “The hissing of the grains grew louder as the sand spilled…”  You see it all fits Between each “caffeine buzz”. (27 Jul 11 – another two hours later)

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