Comics Creators

What non-comics are you reading these days?


Yeah, I know that. But I figured I should just call it “The Great and Secret Show trilogy” because more people would know what I was talking about.

I’m surprised how little I remember of the first two books. I read the synopsis of Everville on wikipedia, and I remember absolutely nothing about that book other than the fact that I read it.

If he ever finishes Book 3 (I think it will just be called The Art) I’ll have to re-read the The Great and Secret Show and Everville first.


1Q84 is my favorite of his books that I’ve read so far. Over 1,000 pages but it’s worth the effort. Have fun!


Dead Souls


Slow Horses by Mick Herron.

The “Slow Horses” are the deadbeats of MI5: the alcoholics, the failures, the political embarrassments, who instead of being sacked are put into a unit where they can’t cause any trouble and spend their days transcribing phone conversations and analysing traffic reports until they voluntarily quit from boredom.

Then one day there’s a terrorist kidnapping and through various coincidences they are the only team in a position to save the kidnapped kid…

That description (which paraphrases the blurb on the back of the book) doesn’t do the book justice. This may be the best spy novel I’ve read. Seriously: more believable than Fleming and more exciting than Le Carre. And funnier than either of them.

The key to the book is that the kidnapping plot is completely irrelevant. The meat of the book is learning about the characters, learning why they’ve been consigned to the deadbeat team, and watching yourself go from rolling your eyes at them to rooting for them to come through in the end.

It’s the first book of a series, but I find it hard to imagine that a sequel could be this good, as the joy is in learning about the characters, and that’s pretty much done in this book.

But Herron’s prose is so nice to read that I’ll look for more of them anyway.


This sounds great. I’ll have to check it out.


So…Legion of Substitute Spies? :wink:


One of the best books ever written. Part I that is, part II sucks.

Damn, I have to read more Russian literature.


One of the things I want to read is Twelve Chairs a Soviet-era novel by Ilf and Petrov inspired by Dead Souls.


I don’t know that one. All the Russians I’ve read are pre-Soviet except two poets, Iosif Brodsky and Marina Tsvetayeva. One Soviet era novel I heard must be great is The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.


That actually sounds really fun.


That’s a good one. We’ve been calling it MI5 Antarctica, but yours fits better :smiley:


Every so often, I feel an overwhelming need to read another Dennis Lehane book; slowly but surely he has become one of my favorite authors. Right now I’m reading Since We Fell, an unusual one for him in that the main character is female. As I’m reading it, I’m wondering why it hasn’t been turned into a film or Netflix series yet (Dreamworks currently has the film rights).


I am reading “Living in Amida’s Universal Vow” a book with essays on Shin Buddhism, but I find myself revolting against what I’m reading. Some of the views expounded in this book are pretty stupid, contradictory and counterproductive.

I’m also reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, for the umpteenth time. I feel pure happiness reading this.


Yeah, the main thing I remember about Everville is that Harry D’Amour is in it.

I do remember every little thing about Great and Secret Show though. That was back when I was very deeply into Barker and didn’t have any new fodder so I reread Weaveworld and Great and Secret Show multiple times.


I’m thinking of trying my Yiddish comprehension with a novel by Nobel Prize winner I.B. Singer.


Hollywood probably thinks interest in his work peaked already. But there will probably be another wave.


Actually, after I’m done Dead Souls, I will read Isaac Baabel, a Soviet-Jewish author, who wrote about the struggle of communism vs tradition. He was executed and banned by Stalin.


The Best of Amazing Stories — The 1926 Anthology


It does exactly what it says on the tin!

Amazing Stories was the first dedicated SF magazine in America (probably the world), and 1926 was its first year of publication. This new(ish) imprint aims to print a best-of collection for each year of Amazing’s publication.

To be brutally honest, there were not that many great SF writers around in 1926, if this is any guide. Amazing’s editor, Hugo Gernsbeck, relied on reprints of old stories by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne to fill out his pages and give the magazine a bit of credibility. The only one of those represented here, however, is Wells with In the Abyss , which is obviously well written but a fairly pedestrian story, definitely not one of his greater works. The remaining seven stories here are Amazing originals, and range from decent to really bad.

Worst of the bunch is one of the longest, The Man Who Saved The Earth by Austin Hall. Its central idea isn’t a bad one, but Hall is a really awful writer. I mean, his prose is terrible, clumsy and amateurish, in the trying-to-be-clever way that amateur writers often have. It might use all the right words, but not necessarily in the right order. It really was a slog to get through.

Whispering Ether by Charles S. Wolfe is humorous and well written; The Eggs From Lake Tanganyika by Curt Sidomak is a mundane giant monster story with little real SF content; The Telepathic Pick-Up by Samuel M. Sargent, Jr. is a decent tale reminiscent of Poe; and Through The Crater’s Rim by A. Hyatt Verrill is like third-rate Rider Haggard.

So, on to the good stuff:

The Man From The Atom by G. Peyton Wertenbaker is considered a classic, though I’ve never read it before, and I can now see why. It’s got a interesting and original (though completely implausible) concept: an experiment expands a man to the size of the universe, and when he shrinks back down again he realises he will never find Earth again. The prose is competent, though obviously dated, but the cosmological ideas presented are really fascinating (though dated).

But the best thing here is The Runaway Skyscraper , by Murray Leinster—the only writer in this collection (other than Welles) whose work I knew beforehand, and from this, his first published story, it’s easy to see why he went on to become a giant of the field while the rest have faded into obscurity. The skyscraper of the title ‘falls’ through time and ends up in the distant past, leaving its occupants trying to survive in a hostile and primitive environment. You can see where Leinster borrows some ideas from H. G. Welles (his description of the sun flicking through the sky seems very familiar), but from that starting point he produces something quite unique. It’s a good idea, logically thought through, well written, and with very believable characters (though very much of their time).

One unfortunate point about the collection is that there are some shocking typographical errors. Possibly they existed in the original magazines, but they feel more like something introduced during the scanning of the source material. Either way, an editor should have caught them. It adds to the feeling that they whole project had been done on a budget (the paper stock isn’t great, and the cover is poorly printed). Which is a shame, because I would think that this is the kind of thing that collectors would be willing to pay more for to get decent quality.

Would I recommend this? For historical reasons, yes, if you’re a fan of old SF, because you’re not going to read these stories anywhere else. But if old SF doesn’t interest you, you’re not going to have your mind changed by the quality on display here.

Despite my reservations, though, I think the series is worth persevering with. 1927 might still be a bit ropey, but by 1928 there will be the first published story by some chap called Edmund Hamilton …


I’m almost done binging his Kenzie and Gennaro series.


The Complete Works of Isaac Babel