Tag Archives: John Griogair Bell

The Atrocity Archives

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross is the first book in the ongoing Laundry Files series, for which there’s also several short stories to be found not listed with the series. I read this in conjunction with The Atrocity Archives audiobook, read by Gideon Emery.

This is the first time I’ve read anything by Charles Stross, and I’m slightly in shock by how awesome the first story in the book was. The book contains two separate stories, and the first, “The Atrocity Archives”, for which the volume is named, is a just smashed full of a perfect storm of geeky and nerdy nostalgia for my late 90s self, deeply mixing references to technology, Illuminatus!-style paranoia, magic, and eldritch otherworldly Cosmicism horror. The second story, “The Concrete Jungle”, was good, but not quite as awesome.

Wow. What a start! I’m still blown away by how I hadn’t read this before given how perfectly related the first story feels to so many of my interests, both when it was first published and even still. Then again, maybe the 2006 publication date was a little late to catch me in my 90s Internet-professional phase and too early to elicit the hyper-nostalgia I felt while reading it now. Well, I may have missed it then, but I’ve read it now, by damn.

I made 49 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at The Atrocity Archives

Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is a retelling of a sequence of stories from the overall Norse corpus. There’s an arc, but it’s not a smoothly contiguous novelized story. But, the collection of stories are a good series, and well written. I also read this in conjunction with the Norse Mythology audiobook, read by Neil Gaiman himself. So, I had the author’s own voice to reinforce the rhythm and tone of the writing.

The brightest points were those where the alliteration and poetry arose in the writing and the reading. If this is your first approach to this material, I strongly recommend following up with the pure poetry of the poetic Edda and other source material. If you’re coming to this work already familiar with the source material, these bright points of alliteration and poetry will strongly strike you with memories of what you have already read. But, those moments feel a bit random in the whole, and not in places of the strongest action or in places that seem intentional for the story. They come and pass almost like a surprise for no reason other than, perhaps, they were inspired by such moments in the source material; though I didn’t try to go back and compare.

All in all, a good gift for someone new to the stories, and a welcome reminder for those already familiar with them. Also, having the whole read aloud by the author was a delight.

I made 70 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Norse Mythology

Mud and Horn, Sword and Sparrow

Mud and Horn, Sword and Sparrow by Brandish Gilhelm is the first book by the creator of Index Card RPG and host of the Drunken & Dungeons channel on YouTube.

This was a good, short story. There’s a unique narrative voice and a compelling swords and sorcery adventure. It’s worthy on its own merits, and does not require any knowledge of ICRPG, even though the setting Alfheim is used as a world in the game. The narrative feels deeper and more engaging than the short length would suggest, and it’s actually pretty darned epic.

However, I cannot recommend the ebook edition on Kindle as it is in awful shape from poor conversion. I made 358 highlights as I painfully read through this, and the vast majority of those were about sometimes egregious formatting errors. There were a few other errors, and a couple regular highlights, in the mix, but the formatting issues are overwhelming. So, pick up the print edition, or wait for the electronic text to get updated at some point.

Because of the sheer number of highlights about formatting issues and only having made a handful of non-issue highlights, I’m not making any of them public; but I did send them all to the author directly. (If I hadn’t been making notes to send to the author, I would have given up reading halfway through.) So, I hope a future update will make this good story possible to read for those buying the electronic version.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Mud and Horn, Sword and Sparrow

I Can Explain

I’ll be honest. I picked up Mockingbird Vol. 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain, & al., because I saw the kerfuffle about the cover for the second volume, and grabbed both to support the series. It then languished in my to-read stack for a long time, but I got around to this and devoured it in one sitting.

This is freakin’ hilarious, and smart. The arc in this collection has a modern storyline with a cool narrative structure. It reminded me of Archer and Deadpool in various ways. The dialogue is witty and sharp, there’s tons of easter eggs in the panels to find, and fun cameos, not the least of which is Howard the Duck! And, it’s a female protagonist who’s the smartest person in the room, in charge, and unapologetic about any of that.

Great stuff I definitely recommend.

Originally posted on my personal blog at I Can Explain

A Nation Under Our Feet Vol 1

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Vol. 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, & al., is narratively deep and visually impressive. There’s social, political, and economic allegorical levels to the story, which are welcome complexity to the overall genre. The inter-, intra-, and extra-, relationships that T’Challa must navigate and learn from are well developed and interesting to see explored. The art style is a nifty syncretic of many influences, both pan-african and including the futurism of Jack Kirby’s technological schematic visual lexicon.

This first collection starts out a little slow as it tries to deal with a bunch of previous narrative threads, but quickly picks up and builds a good foundation on which the following volumes can continue to construct. On the other hand, the apparently slow start also did give me a quick primer on the Black Panther series, which I am not familiar with, as this is the first I’ve read of any of them. These previous events are also the collective source of the current state of unrest and turmoil that is core to the developing story for both individuals and the collective groups involved. In that sense, I’ve just completely talked myself out of this being a problem and into it being a strength.

The last part of this volume includes a reprint of the very first appearance of Black Panther, in the pages of Fantastic Four, which is a nice bonus, and provides interesting comparison and parallax to the current artwork and writing, as well as being a bit of history to include.

I’ve already picked up the next 2 collected volumes, and am looking forward to the rest of the story.

Originally posted on my personal blog at A Nation Under Our Feet Vol 1

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way is a rendition by Ursula K Le Guin from many sources of the classic wisdom text about the Tao.

Le Guin’s rendition makes some aspects of the poems much more approachable. For example, she avoids use of the term “empire” or masculine-exclusive language in her version, which she intends to be for a wider audience. She provides extensive end notes about the rendition and a list of her sources ranked in order of utility, and many poems have personal commentary about her thoughts on specific poems in the collection. It’s a personal project. It’s also a fine model of how one might organize one’s own similar project, if one were into that, for this or another source material.

However, there’s still places for me where I’m totally into it one part, for just one example, the anti-capitalist sentiments, and completely repulsed the next, especially in places where I become uncomfortable or disagree with the ideas of what Lao Tzu thinks is good government, involving, for example, keeping the population in the dark about their true conditions and about the tools used by those in power to manipulate them.

On the whole, it just isn’t for me, in spite of a few bright spots. Le Guin’s rendition of Tao Te Ching is okay and interesting, but it’s not astounding or amazing to me. The intentionality in making the text more approachable is laudable. I think a lot of my issue is with my perception of a weakness of the source material, which just isn’t my path or sense of things, though there are a few place where there are hints worth the time to cross the ages and approach the work of Lao Tze as it is, for what it is. It has value, but it doesn’t speak to me in a voice with authority or accuracy per se, so have a hard time recommending it for others. But, if you’re going to approach this material, this seems like is a fine-enough way to do it.

I made 58 highlights.

Originally posted over on my personal blog at Tao Te Ching

Demons by Daylight

Most of the narrative in the stories collected in Demons by Daylight by Ramsey Campbell occurs at night. Daylight, my ass. That’s about the level of quality here, with a few brief but truly good creepy spots that shine, in this rather mediocre repetitive-feeling collection not really worth the light needed to read the pages. I ended up finishing this out of spite, not because I cared at all for it. Publishers Weekly, with glowing blurb on the cover, was smoking crack in a gutter, if they saw any stars at all. Keep this in the dark where unpurchased things lurk, and don’t bother.

I made 11 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Demons by Daylight