Natsuo Kirino – ‘Grotesque’


I don’t really know what to say. I was amazed. This book is an extraordinary rumination about big ideas like gender, economic class status, Japanese and Chinese society. But this is also one of the most intense depictions of the complex nature of human emotions. There is horror here as characters descend into madness and brokenness and death. But it is never so overwhelming that I felt I wanted to put it down. It is a “page turner,” but I felt sometimes that I should set it down, out of respect for the loss these characters endure.

I went into this expecting a mystery, a detective novel. I come out of it thinking so many things, chief among them that I will read all of Kirino’s translated work. ‘Grotesque’ is quite simply on of the best books I have ever read.

Riding the White Bull; Catlin R. Kiernan (@auntbeast) has kicked my ass again

CRK is an artist I have grown to love over the past year or two. Her recent collection “Two Worlds and In Between” shows her remarkable strength writing in shorter format.

The collection includes “Riding the White Bull,” which I just finished this evening. I am simply amazed by how this intensely dense tale retains a poetic grace while still being jammed with details, plot points and descriptions. The rawness of Dietrich’s whole predicament as a Blade Runner-esque special agent who has been to the edge of the abyss, quite literally, and looked over, is truly powerful stuff.

I have no problem bringing my influences to picture this story as it unfolds in multiple times, spaces and dreams. Even if the author owes nothing to Blade Runner or Alien in conjuring such riveting fiction, these crutches helped and only reinforce the weight of emotion and loneliness.

One place where they author does acknowledge her influence is with a chilling quote from Charles Fort about the unlikely nature of contact with an alien race:

Of course, there’s nothing to that mystery if we don’t take so seriously the notion – that we must be interesting. It’s probably for moral reasons that they stay away – but even so, there must be some degraded ones among them.

Ramsey Campbell’s ‘The Grin of the Dark’

This book shocked me. I had no idea how Cambpell would rope me in with mundane human drama of an academic struggling to publish his research, moving in with his girlfriend who has a seven-year old and excessively wealth parents who hate him. And in this context, an unspeakable evil will venture forth into our world, latched to the legend of an obscure silent-film star whose antics caused his movies to be banned. Campbell’s otherworldly view of the internet is just off enough for me to forgive its somewhat awkward role in the story’s conclusion.

The true gift is the nameless, soul-destroying dread that Campbell conjures. This has nothing to do with how creepy clowns are, that’s just the icing on the cake. I’ve never been that frightened of clowns, nor did I seek them out. Now, I’m definitely frightened of clowns

I’m reading @auntbeast again

And she knows that there are things, things in THIS world, that are so horrifying that any attempt to understand them will drive you beyond the point of madness, and you will be forever shunned by society.

The book is A Murder of Angels, and I’m at the 18% mark. It is utterly unrelenting and its not even near her best work.

Shattered Sword – The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

Shattered sword untold story battle midway anthony p tully hardcover cover art

Every so often, I like to cleanse the palette with a bit of non-fiction mixed in among the sci-fi and horror fiction.  Several years ago I read the stunning ‘Lincoln’ by David Herbert Donald.  More recently I’ve enjoyed the work of Ken Auletta including ‘Googled’ and ‘Backstory’.

The war in the Pacific is something about which I am both utterly fascinated and completely ignorant.  I love the sea and I was drawn to the stories of the big boats doing battle against one another for the last time.  This sort of military engagement will absolutely never happen again, that much I knew going in.  As I surveyed the history and the available resources, I decided I would wait on Guadalcanal, and start with Midway, as the next logical step (with the exception of Coral Sea) after Pearl Harbor.  I had no idea what I was in for.

What went on to the north and west of this tiny atoll on June 4-7, 1942, literally defied anything I could have imagined.  Shattered Sword, by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully is a magnificent study of the conflict at Midway, told with minute-by-minute detail, from the Japanese perspective.  The authors’ intention was to debunk some common myths, but as I was ignorant even of these widely held notions, it was all the more fascinating for me.  I was shown both the prevailing narrative, and then confronted with the painstakingly documented sources which disproved a large part of the myth of Midway.  It is a technical, yet exhilarating ride.

But even more that the intricacies of carrier warfare in the Pacific in 1942, I was struck by the stories of the men who fought and died on those three days.  Somehow this book, with all of its technical sophistication, never lost sight of the human element.  You simply cannot help but be moved by the fate of Japanese navy men on the carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu.  And all through the ranks, on both sides of the conflict, there was heroism and failure, and always the brutal horror of war.

From the American pilots getting cut down by Japanese Zeros to the high commanders such as Nimitz and Yamamoto, this book captured the epic and slammed it squarely into my chest.

Just finished Threshold by @Auntbeast Caitlin Kiernan


Kiernan’s storytelling is brutal, unrelenting.  This is a nightmare that goes on in the day, in the night, awake, asleep – it doesn’t matter.  And it can’t be explained.  And in the end, these characters, and all of us, can try to be the heroes, but there’s no way to know if any of it really matters, or if any of it even happened.  The only things you can be sure of are fear and madness.

You can buy Threshold on Amazon.

Do the math or get the goat!

I originally got this story from the wonderful WWW trilogy by Robert J. Sawyer, second book, which is WWW:Watch.  The idea is that you are on “Let’s Make A Deal” and you can pick from one of three doors.  Behind one door is a brand new car.  Behind each of the other two doors is a goat.  You make your choice (door No. 1, 2 or 3) and Monty Hall opens one of the other two doors to reveal – a goat.  Then he says you can change your mind or you can stay with your original choice.  What do you do?

Cancerninja posted this on her tumblr and I see that the scenario was discussed in another book, one I have not read, called The Curious Case of the Dog In The Night, by Mark Haddon.

The point is that every fiber of my being says it doesn’t matter if you change your mind about the remaining two doors.  But Marilyn vos Savant proved that your chances of getting the car go WAY up if you simply change your mind when confronted with the 50/50 proposition.

In WWW:Watch, Sawyer reasoned that the natural selection had not favored the trait of accurately evaluating probability because of the following scenario:  If proto man see a rustling in the bush and there is a 1 in 10 chance the rustling is a hungry tiger, and proto-man plays the odds, 1 in 10 times he will get eaten.  But if proto-man always thinks its a tiger, he will be wrong 9 out of ten times, but he will still be alive.

Anyway, here is vos Saavant’s proof, as reprinted in the Cancerninja post:

I have no idea what any of that means, but it looks awfully cool.  Would you have thought that changing your mind would have improved your odds of getting the car?

And remember, all of this starts with the basic assumption that you don’t want a goat.