The Ultimate Werewolf

This isn’t Halloween programming. It contains a story by Kathe Koja, and I’m working on a couple of postings of her work.

Raw Feed (1993): The Ultimate Werewolf, eds. Byron Preiss, David Keller, Megan Miller, and John Betancourt, 1991.ultimate-werewolf

Introduction”, Harlan Ellison — Ellison makes an interesting case regarding the movie The Wolf Man as the inspiration for most modern werewolf tales, the reason the sub-genre became popular, and the source of most of the werewolf folklore movies and literature.

Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54’ N Longitude 77° 00’ 13”, Harlan Ellison — It’s a great title and some of the writing and ideas are very good. I particularly liked Lawrence Talbot’s much hated fish and the idea of minituarizing yourself to travel a literal and fantastic inner landscape. Ellison does a good job with the scientific sounding doubletalk. However, the story bored me, and I found it alternately trivial and incomprehensible. Clearly, Ellison is trying to say something. The various images are designed to meet symbolic and thematic purposes: Talbot’s thoughts of mother link to entering his body through the navel and blood red placenta-like sea, his much hated pet fish links to the deadly fish of his interior landscape who kills dreams and dies at story’s end for lack of a worshipper, Talbot has the same name as the protagonist of the movie The Wolf Man but that end is unclear, or, worse, trivial. In his interior landscape, Talbot finds alls sorts of toys from a 30s and 40s childhood in a burst of nostalgia that reminded me of Ellison’s “Jefty Is Five” but not nearly as well-used here. (If Talbot is really that young, why does he want to die so badly? He can’t be an unnaturally old man at the time of the story. Is it the guilt? Another failing is no dealing with the relationship between Talbot and Victor’s father.) The point of the story is that it’s only one’s soul that makes life valueable but this soul quantity is unknowable and symbolized by, of all things, a “Howdy Doody button” (and, no, Ellison doesn’t assign specific human attributes like humor, naiveté, or innocence to the button). My reaction was much like Victor’s: “What the hell’s that supposed to signify…”. A story that never really gelled into anything.

Wolf, Iron, and Math”, Philip José Farmer — A slight story but better than I expected. The two major points of interest in this story are Farmer dwelling on the many details of the werewolf transformation experience, and a pleasant experience it i,s and the werewolf magazine complete with personals section in which people promise not to eat their date’s children. Continue reading “The Ultimate Werewolf”

Quin’s Shanghai Circus

Quin's Shanghai Circus

My notes tell me I got a review copy, via NetGalley, of this book on July 17, 2013.

I’m sure the folks at Open Road Media will be happy to know that, while the reviewing mill at MarzAat grinds exceedingly slow, it grinds exceedingly …

Well, perhaps not fine. There’s a lot going on in this novel. I’m not sure, after about a month, I totally understand the relationships between all the characters. That’s appropriate because one of Whittemore’s themes is “relationships can be quite complex. Quite complex when we look into it.”

One of the advantages of the Web of a Million Lies is that you can steal the work of others — or, if you prefer, draw upon the wisdom and insight of others.

So, in that spirit, I’ll refer you to others if you want a more detailed description of plot than what I’ll give in my review:

  • Jeff Topham’s review from 2003
  • Jerome Charyn’s review from New York Times Book Review, 1974.
  • A Time magazine article, circa 1974 from one J. S.

Quin’s Shanghai Circus was the first of Whittemore’s five novels, published from 1974 to 1987. None sold well though there were some favorable reviews. Old Earth Books mounted a resurrection operation on Whittemore’s reputation in 2003. (Whittemore died in 1995.)

It worked — at least in gaining critical favor. Gary K. Wolfe favorably reviewed all of Whittemore’s work in the March 2003 issue of Locus. Jeff VanderMeer wrote about Whittemore’s influence on him in 2002.

I don’t know how successful Old Earth Books was in terms of sales on Whittemore’s books, but, in 2013, Open Road Media attached the marketing electrodes up to Whittemore’s corpus and tried to revive his reputation again via e-book editions.

I remain agnostic on Whittemore’s worth.

I read his Sinai Tapestry in 2004. In my notes, I said it was “a picturesque novel with nothing much at the core”. That was my reaction to this one too, so I still don’t know if I’ll tackle the rest of the Jerusalem Quartet, as the series of Whittemore’s last four books are known.

Review: Quin’s Shanghai Circus, Edward Whittemore, 1974.

Tuneless, masterless

Come the acts of memory,

A Shanghai circus.

So, one character in this novel ponders before the apocalyptic end of Quin’s Shanghai Circus, a fake event in the middle of this novel.

There are two things you need to know about this novel.

It has no quotation marks.

It’s a spy’s novel, specifically a spy with a sense of drama.

And that’s what Whittemore was: an ex-CIA case officer who took up being a novelist. Continue reading “Quin’s Shanghai Circus”