Tag Archives: John Griogair Bell

The Dulwich Horror

The Dulwich Horror by Oliver Harris is an entry into the corpus of Cosmicism, but not really Lovecraftian. It’s not set in New England, but rather in London, England proper. It doesn’t feature the Elder Gods, but rather an interesting twist on the Old Norse Gods. The protagonist’s name is Ursula, and that’s a bit too on the nose; and I just couldn’t get Disney out of my mind each time I read her name; but, on the whole there’s a good story with interesting ideas, with a real-feeling setting, and compelling familiar flavours of horror in an interesting new mixture. The story is from the viewpoint of a female protagonist who has a bit of a family secret, and so this also, it seems to me, overcomes some of the sexist and racist othering legacy of the Lovecraftian corpus, and thus I feel this is another welcome addition to the ranks of new Cosmicism.

I did get this book because Oliver Harris is the author of Lovecraft, Cyclonopedia and Materialist Horror, in the Cyclonopedia Studies section of Hermetic Library. Harris should not be confused with the crime writer of the same name, but consider checking out that essay and this story.

I made 6 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at The Dulwich Horror

Itsy Bitsy

Itsy Bitsy by John Ajvide Lindqvist is my first return to the corpus that contains Låt den rätte komma in, and its adaptions, about which I swooned a while back.

It’s definitely the same literary voice I recall, though from translations by the same translator, so … who’s voice is it luring me in? Ironically, the title story is only the first 1/3rd of this volume. The remaining 2/3rds is taken up by two previews for other Lindqvist books. So … this story is something of an anglerfish trying to tempt you in with promises for more of what you want.

*ahem*

The story itself is a twist on what seems at first to be a simple tale of a paparazzi waiting to capture the perfect picture to sell, but is taken down by a tickle being given to his deep desires.

I made 3 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Itsy Bitsy

Red Dragon

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris is the first story where the character Hannibal Lector appears, and is the launching point for a series of books, movies and television, not the least of which are Jonathan Demme’s revelation that interior menace was far creepier and disturbing than the externally gross on screen with Silence of the Lambs and the tour de force apotheosis of everything Bryan Fuller that is Hannibal. I could say so much about those two reifications, but will try to focus on the book in particular, though they must be included in passing by reference.

After so many years, this was the first Thomas Harris book I read, and I must admit I finally put it on my to read stack because of Fuller’s television series. But I was surprised by how many esoteric references there were, and some of that comes out strongly in Fuller’s series. To be sure there’s the obvious William Blake connection with the Great Red Dragon image, but there’s so much about becoming and will and good and evil and nature and choice and the interaction and intertwining and internecination and integration of all these selves and shadows here to contemplate and with which to make pacts.

There’s plenty in this fiction to entertain and worth recommendation, but even moreso for those with esoteric interests who will find an even heartier eucharist.

I made 144 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Red Dragon

Straw Boss

Straw Boss by J R Evans is a novella tie-in with Straw Boss: A World of Adventure for Fate Core. A lot of times that might seem like a warning sign, as game tie-ins aren’t always so great; but this one is not only perfectly good as a stand alone without any need to know about the game, but also a well done spoopy October read in and of itself. The only thing that I didn’t get from the novella was what the title references, but the narrative quickly builds its world and premise, and explores it well, and the creepiness creeps up on you to an end that I didn’t see coming. There’s new bits of the world revealed all along the way, in a story with flashbacks, that feels very well supported and developed.

The story explores one character’s experience at a particular cult compound in the rural United States, as well as, episodically, a road trip to return a kidnapped child to her mother. But, as one says, things are not as they seem. The framing premise is that there’s a cult of Scholars, founded by John Dee, that exists around the world; and that they adopt orphans whom they train to become possessed supernatural warriors. If you’re a fan of shows like Supernatural and the idea of the Men of Letters, this cult is kinda like that, but maybe with a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Watchers and The Following mixed in. Basically, you get to conquer your demons and put them to work for you in the game while on the frontlines between dark and light in a mix of mundane reality, myth, and magic.

At one point, I was amused to see that Murmur seems to get a few cameos in places for some reason. Murmur’s seal showed up on the TV show Sleepy Hollow, back in 2013, on S01e08, as an “Egyptian hieroglyph”, which I found risible, and was pretty much the point when I gave up on that show. Then in 2016, Murmur showed up in Erwin and the Method Demons. So, as an aside, what I’m saying is that Murmur cameos are a thing. Case in point.

The Straw Boss novella does a solid, standalone job of telling an interesting story that would make a good read for October, or another time. Whenever. Murmur murmur murmur. Also, check out the game world supplement!

I made 3 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Straw Boss

Omon Ra

Omon Ra by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield, is weird. But, like, good weird. Like, you should read it weird.

Although this is the first book by Pelevin I’ve read, I’ve had The Helmet of Horror, also translated by Bromfield, part of the Canongate Myths series, on my to-read stack for ages, and I’ve ended up with some other works in my stack beyond those. But this was the first I’ve gotten to read.

There’s a mix of absurdity with realism here that reminded me a lot of Stanisław Lem, and I felt the kind of cinematic weight of Tarkovsky’s rendition of Solaris on me while reading.

For me there is here no small remembrance of the fatalistic loss and distance from My Life As A Dog, which was an oddly influential movie to my feeling in my youth. Moreover, I ended up guessing ahead of the reveal, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There’s some strange kerning on the cover image for this edition that makes the title seem like “Om on Ra” which may tickle a few specific occult antennae out there. But, there’s also the cosmonaut on the cover with the falcon head of Ra, which is a codename chosen by the main character, based on his childhood dreams. Ultimately, there’s a little bit of tie-in with Egyptian myth, but it isn’t quite so integral as it might seem from first glance. One might try to say this is a retelling of Ra’s journey in the underworld, but that seems like a stretch.

There’s discussion of the soul in bodies which is reflected in the story of cosmonauts in their vehicles, and there’s a strange inversion where Gurdjieff, whom I understand was a critic of the Soviet and Marxist systems, is a Party hero who criticized the “bourgeois” belief that “organic life on earth serves merely as nourishment for the moon”, which I gather was actually something Gurdjieff talked about himself. This inversion links to something mentioned about time looping, as an hourglass, where everything lives in reverse when the glass is turned. So, for me, it seems the events here may all occur in that alternate flipped timeline.

I’m not sure this is actually a profound story, but it sure has elements that sound profound and had me thinking about life, self, time, souls, earth as a clockwork, the nature of heroism, and fate. But at least it is a novel about the human condition and yearning, that, in summary, is largely about bittersweet and uncertain survival against the demands of organizational and systemic absurdity.

I made 41 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Omon Ra

The Yanthus Prime Job

The Yanthus Prime Job by Robert Kroese is a novella featuring Pepper Melange from the Rex Nihilo / Starship Grifters series. This is by far the best story out of any of the Starship Grifters books, though available separately it is also included in Aye, Robot, book 2 of the series.

There is not a single bit of Rex Nihilo in this short to annoy, and where Nihilo is an annoying doofus, perhaps like Bill the Galactic Hero but more like that douche Zapp Brannigan, Pepper Melange is smart and capable and funny and perhaps merely a few words of Esperanto away from being as cool as Slippery Jim diGriz, who you may know as The Stainless Steel Rat, with a little bit of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow for good measure.

I really liked this story and the main character in this story. Pepper Melange seems to me to suffer a bit of a personality change and is short changed by being a supporting character in her appearances in the other stories, but here there is just her and her complicated caper plotting savvy and snappy shenanigans that go awry to enjoy.

I’d love to read more stories with Pepper Melange as the main character, but this makes a nice complete story by itself, which I’ll have to be satisfied with. If I hadn’t read this story, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to pick up the other books in the Rex Nihilo series, but I did and I did. To be honest, I’d be more excited about the others remaining in my to read stack if I knew they featured Pepper Melange instead of Nihilo.

I made 5 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at The Yanthus Prime Job

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T Malik is a grim fairy tale fantasy with time and reality twisting short story that is full of excellent middle east magical realism centering around human and jinn interaction. I definitely recommend this.

I made 56 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn