“N”

This week’s Deep Ones discussion was a story late in the career of Arthur Machen.

Review: “N”, Arthur Machen, 1936.N

This story wanders about the pubs and taverns, churches and apartments of London past and present to an indefinite conclusion. Like “The Great God Pan”, the reader is mostly expected to deduce the relevance of those events though the character Arthur does some of that work.

Despite that inconclusiveness, I liked this tale.

The story starts with three men – “the youngest of the three, a lad of fifty-five or so” – who spend their leisure hours “recalling many London vicissitudes”, a combination of nostalgia and amateur history. Their conversations cover the wax fruit they’d seen in the storefronts of the past, paintings, old stores and buildings, remembered waiters serving long ago in restaurants, and the depiction of the Iron Duke on tobacco tins.

One night, they all realize they really haven’t ventured very far into certain parts of the city, particularly North London. One, Harliss, that “lad”, mentions he grew up in Stoke Newington in North London. Continue reading ““N””

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“The Mind Master”

It’s time for this week’s Deep Ones’ reading.

This week’s selection is not really, to my mind and emotions (and isn’t emotion a crucial element here?), weird.

However, when the nominations are put up, I’ll vote for anything I haven’t read before, and I voted for this one.

Review: “The Mind Master”, Arthur J. Burks, 1932.Mind Master

Lee Bentley is a pretty resilient guy.

A bit over two months ago, in the African jungles, he got mixed up with Caleb Barter, one bad, mad genius obsessed with birthing a better world. And he knows just how to do it: smart guys’ brains in ape bodies.

Bentley’s a smart guy, so Barter put his brain into a great ape.

Bentley’s no sissy. He’s a pulp hero, so he doesn’t have PTSD or nightmares. He’s not boozing it up or sobbing in his apartment after his experiences.

After a couple of months of recuperation in England, he returns to his native Manhattan with Ellen Estabrook, his fiancé. Continue reading ““The Mind Master””

Stealing Other People’s Homework: “The H. G. Wells Problem”

What’s the H. G. Wells problem?

Well, according to Darrell Schweitzer, it’s Wells’ anti-Semitism.

I must admit I wasn’t aware of that aspect of Wells. His love of eugenics and Joe Stalin, yes.

I could quibble with some of Schweitzer’s piece. I will just say that plenty of people in the early 20th century, including Jews, were fond of eugenics

“The Red Lodge”

For this week’s weird fiction, it’s a return to a story I read about eleven years ago.

I remembered the title – just not the details.

Review: “The Red Lodge”, H. R. Wakefield, 1928.Book of the Supernatural

Wakefield’s story is a haunted house tale. But these aren’t the rattling chains sort of ghosts, but, “slimy aqueous evil” as H. P. Lovecraft noted in his Supernatural Horror in Literature.

It’s all told in a somewhat jaunty, 1920s style that doesn’t manage to convey much menace, and one wonders whether certain passages and references are there to pad out the word count or make some philosophical point lost to me.

Our narrator is a forty-year old artist, successful enough to rent himself a country house, The Red Lodge. With him, he brings his thirty-three year old wife and six-year old son. Continue reading ““The Red Lodge””

Plum Rains

A decent respect for readers and book buyers requires I explain why I requested a review copy of this book from Amazon.

Japan, unlike many nations of the advanced Western world, has not been stupid enough to allow a great deal of immigration. They don’t buy that they need immigrants to pay old age pensions or do menial jobs or that large amounts of unskilled labor are going to make them wealthy.

They like their culture just fine. They’re not even fond of ethnic Japanese who didn’t grow up in Japan.

I like Japan’s refusal to embrace ethnomasochism. (Why, yes, that is a mound of Korean noses, and, no, we’re not going to apologize.)

Now, like anything, that can go to extremes as in this book, but I find it preferable to the opposite extreme.

The Japanese, though, have a problem. They’re dying off, births aren’t keeping up with deaths.

So whose going to take care of all those Japanese in their golden years if not immigrants?

Robots, answer the Japanese, and that is the very subject of this, according to its cover copy, “tour de force tapestry of science fiction and historical fiction”.

Review: Plum Rains, Andromeda Romano-Lax, 2018.Plum Rains

This novel centers on two characters: Sayoko, a Japanese woman nearing her centenary (and the attendant media coverage of that birthday), and Angelica, the Filipina immigrant nurse caring for her.

It’s the year 2029. Robot development has taken a “Pause” after the Musk-Hawking 2015 letter warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence. There was the South Korean Sexbot Ban of 2025 and the E.U.-U.S. AI Accord of 2026 (rather short-lived since the E.U. goes into the ashbin of history in 2027). Other regional agreements put similar bans in place.

But it’s just a pause, and that’s made clear when a new model of Taiwanese robot shows up to take care of the rather technophobic Sayoko. It’s was ordered by Itou, Sayoko’s son and employed by METI, according to some the government agency that really runs Japan.

The best part of the book is that robot, Hiro, and his conversations with Sayoko and Angelica. Hiro is not a programmed robot. He’s designed to learn and, particularly, learn about his charge Sayoko. Continue reading “Plum Rains”

“He”

Another look at a story I’ve already covered once, but it was this Deep Ones reading over at LibraryThing, so I thought I’d say a few more things about it and defend Lovecraft on some points.

Review: “He”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1925.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

I was faint, even fainter than the hateful modernity of that accursed city had made me.

“He” is the second of what I call Lovecraft’s “I hate New York” stories.

It is also, after his “The Silver Key”, written in 1926, the most autobiographical of his stories, a hate letter to New York City and modernity.

The story opens with that cry from the heart of the narrator and continues:

I saw him on a sleepless night when I was walking desperately to save my soul and my vision. My coming to New York had been a mistake; for whereas I had looked for poignant wonder and inspiration in the teeming labyrinths of ancient streets that twist endlessly from forgotten courts and squares and waterfronts to courts and squares and waterfronts equally forgotten, and in the Cyclopean modern towers and pinnacles that rise blackly Babylonian under waning moons, I had found instead only a sense of horror and oppression which threatened to master, paralyse, and annihilate me.

The hero goes on long nocturnal jaunts to find the hidden historical curiosities of Old New York:

tottering Ionic columns and fluted pilasters and urn-headed iron fence-posts and flaring-lintelled windows and decorative fanlights.

Continue reading ““He””

“How Sere Picked Up Her Laundry”

And we return to Alexander Jablokov.

I came across this when reading the July/August 2017 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.

No, I was not diligently keeping up with my magazine subscriptions, there were other stories in this issue which will be covered in some future posts.

Review: “How Sere Picked Up Her Laundry”, Alexander Jablokov, 2017.How Sere Picked Up Her Laundry

In some ways, Jablokov’s City of Tempest is a return to the type of setting he and other writers used for the shared world Future Boston.

It’s rife with strange alien races, or “nations” as they are called here, and intrigue.

But whereas Boston is a human city estranged by aliens showing up, Tempest is an ancient city, mysterious in origin, rife with aliens, where humans are just another nation.

As far as the aliens are concerned, humans, Oms as they call us, are natural bureaucrats:

This was how a lot of us Oms made our living in Tempest: we’re known for our ability to sit still for long periods and do work that makes other nations want to rip off parts of their own bodies. It was a known fact in the city that, no matter how simple the initial setup, once humans got hold of it, it became a complex, mind-numbing nightmare.

Our heroine Sere Glagolit isn’t a bureaucrat. She specializes, or did until her boyfriend dumped her and took her business, in finding useful and hidden objects in the terraced City of Tempest.

The plot centers around a real estate deal one woman, Mirquell, wants to make with the mysterious aliens known as the Case. She’s acerbic, impatient, and blunt, and was my favorite character. She’s not as rich as she used to be, but she’s better off than Sere, our narrator. Sere offers to find out who actually owns a piece of land to get a fee from Mirquell.

But the plot that follows feels equal part a detective story and a fantasy quest story.

We meet an Extirpator using some really heavy weaponry to get rid of some seemingly insignificant pests. There’s the aliens who go into undesired sexual heat at the smell of bread and other aliens that like to eat their meals on the fly. There’s a spooky alien pet gone feral, and the hunter trying to track it down in the earth of the City of Storms. There’s the aliens who insist on wearing garments to go out into public, garments decorated with lethal amount of heavy metals – and those aliens need to go to a zoning meeting. There’s also the elevator monopoly.

There aren’t really any villains or heavies or vast conspiracies though.

As you would expect from Jablokov, the plot is intricate and its whole interested me less than some of the scenes and characters. Plot threads are wrapped up, but a whole lot of mysteries about aliens and their motives remain.

Despite myself, I did become rather fond of Sere who admits she’s not as smart as she thinks she is, not as observant as she should be.

Jablokov has said he plans to write more about Tempest and Sere’s adventures.

 

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