Tag Archives: DarkFantasy

The Graveyard Book – Week Three

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Dave McKean

HarperCollins, New York, 2008

From my book shelves.  Organized by Carl V, Week 3 of our read-along covers chapters 7 and 8 of Neil Gaiman’s Newbury, Carnegie, Hugo and Locus award-winning novel.   It has been a joy reading along with others and seeing their thoughts.  Please visit Carl’s blog for links to other posts about this deeply felt, wonderfully written book.

In Chapter 8 Silas is drawn away from The Graveyard but refuses to tell Bod where he is going or what he is doing.  Bod’s friend, Scarlett, returns from Glasgow and finds herself in a place that seems awfully familiar.  She is befriended by a nice man, Mr Frost, who takes rubbings of gravestones.   With his encouragement she  eventually discovers Bod’s family history, but this discovery has unintended results.

Bod finally learns about his past, about The Man Jack and his organization, and is faced with a difficult decision.  The choice he makes puts Scarlett in extreme danger and she cannot understand it and cannot forgive him for it.  He looses his friend, and is at a loss understanding why.

In Chapter 9 Bod enters young adulthood and begins to change, finding it harder and harder to see his friends and loved ones.  Eventually he must leave The Graveyard and journey into the wider world.

The Graveyard Book is all about growing up, be it in a normal family or a ghostly one.  We make choices, face the consequences and hopefully grow wiser with each of these steps.  If we are lucky we live in a circle of love, amid friends and family who support us, even when we make bad decisions.

Neil Gaiman states in his acknowledgements that he read Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book over and over as a child and as an adult.  This is a book I love and read-aloud to elementary-aged children.  I can see the resemblance, but Gaiman has created a world of his own, filled with wonderful, caring, sometimes strict beings who surround and support Bod as he grows and finally leaves his home.  Maybe someday we will learn about his adventures in the world of the living.

There is a balance between gentleness and horror in this book.  A balance Neil Gaiman holds brilliantly.

Thanks to Carl V and all the folks who took part in this read-along.

7 Comments

Filed under Books, Carnegie Award, DarkFantasy, Horror, Hugo Award, Locus Award, Newbury Award, R.I.P. VII, Read-Along, Thoughts, Young Adult

The Graveyard Book – Week 2

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Dave McKean

HarperCollins, New York, 2008

Organized by Carl V, Week 2 of our read-along covers Chapters 4 thru 6 and includes an Interlude.  Please visit Carl’s blog for links to other posts about this magical book.

One of the best things about The Graveyard Book is that it is made up of many stories, stories of Nobody Owen, growing up, protected and loved by ghosts and other beings that pass between worlds.

We learn a bit more about his guardian Silas, and Bod learns a bit more about the place where he lives. He meets the ghost of a lovely young witch and tries to do something kind for her.  Leaving the Graveyard for the first time since his arrival he runs into trouble.  Maybe the world of the living, outside of the Graveyard fence, is not the best place for a live boy with a kind heart.  But on rare occasions ghosts visit there, and sometimes the living dance with the dead.

     They took hands, the living with the dead, and they began to dance.  Bod saw Mother Slaughter dancing with the man in the turban, while the businessman was dancing with Louisa Bartleby.  Mistress Owens smiled at Bod as she took the hand of the old newspaper seller, and Mr. Owens reached out and took the hand of a small girl as if she had been waiting to dance with him her whole life.  Then Bod stopped looking because someone’s hand closed around his, and the dance began.
Liza Hempstock grinned at him.  “This is fine,” she said, as they began to tread the steps of the dance together.
Then she sand, to the tune of the dance,
“Step and turn, and walk and stay,
  Now we dance the Macabray.”  From page 159.

During the interlude we discover that the Man Jack needs to finish what he started.

Bod learns to fade and to haunt.  And craving knowledge of the world of the living, he goes to school.

Gaiman has a way about him.  A way of mixing life and death and giving grace to both.  Bod’s story is lovely and sad and joyful all at the same time, and oh so gentle, even at it’s most horrific.    I don’t know how this author does it.  It is a mystery, eerie and beautiful.

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Filed under Books, Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon, Horror, R.I.P. VII, Read-Along, Thoughts, Young Adult

Those Across The River by Christopher Buehlman

Those Across The River by Christopher Buehlman

Ace Books, New York, 2011

Borrowed from my library. Nominated for the 2012 World Fantasy Award.  This is the first book I’ve read for R.I.P. VII.

I think is I try to summarize this novel I might give something away so I am including a quote from the author’s website:

The year is 1935. Veteran of the Great War and failed academic Frank Nichols ignores a warning not to move into the home he inherits in the small southern town of Whitbrow; a home his wife calls “The Canary House” because of its fresh coat of yellow paint.

But there is another house in the woods beyond the river, an estate that lies in ruins; the once-magnificent Savoyard plantation, where a cruel forebear of Frank’s drove his slaves to murder him. Frank means to find this ruin and write about the horrors that occurred there, but little does he suspect that his presence in town will stir something that should have been left sleeping. Something with a long memory. If the people of Whitbrow have forgotten why they don’t go across the river, they will soon remember.

This is southern gothic with a twist.   Buehlman has written a novel that evokes the years of the Great Depression in a small town in the southern United States, with undercurrents of poverty and racism.  More than that, there is terror.   Hidden away on the other side of the river is memory, and that memory carries horror with it.  This combination of elements creates an interesting analogy, horror and parts of our history as a nation.  I found this a great read for R.I.P.  Give it a try.

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Filed under Books, DarkFantasy, Horror, R.I.P. VII, Thoughts

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

“Dear friends, are you afraid of death?”
Patrice Lumumba, first and only elected
Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo

The epigraph from Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

DAW Books, New York, 2010

Borrowed from my public library.

I have been introduced to Nnedi Okorafor’s books on several blogs over the past year.  Her titles for young adults are quite popular, but I haven’t read them.  After reading Who Fears Death I will change that.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book and the impact of it has me reeling.

In post-apocalyptic Africa one tribe has enslaved another.  Now the Nuru tribe has decided to follow their “great Book” and eliminate the enslaved Okeke.  Through rape as a weapon of war a girl child is born.  This child is named Onyesonwu, by her mother.  The word means “Who Fears Death” in an ancient language.  As Onye grows up, strong-willed and determined, she learns she is marked by her unusual hair and skin color, a Ewu, considered an out-cast by some, a pariah by others.   She also discovers she is different in other ways, she can shape-shift and travel outside her body.  She is determined to be trained as a magician .

Because of a prophesy Onye and several companions, including her lover Mwita, travel from their village, heading west through a world of desolation. They are on a journey to find and destroy a magician,  a very dangerous man named Daib, who is Mwita’s teacher and Onye’s biological father.

Okorafor has created a story where the past is unknown and I found myself wanting more of its history.  Who Fears Death is a dark and timely fantasy that uses  violence that occurs in present day Africa, both ethnic violence and violence against women,  as the ground for her novel.  It is a difficult book, at times very hard to read.

As I read, visualizing  the rapes, female circumcision,  stoning and genocide, all I could think of is  that these things are happening in many places right now, not sometime in the far distant future.  This mix of present day current events, fantasy and future technology makes for an intense reading experience, one that has me thinking deeply about what we human beings, through our beliefs and prejudices,  can do to each other.

This is an important book.  Even if you are not a fantasy fan I suggest you read it.

Other reviews:

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Filed under DarkFantasy, OnceUponATime V, POC Challenge, Review

The Thief of Broken Toys by Tim Lebbon

The Thief of Broken Toys by Tim Lebbon

ChiZine Publications, Toronto, 2010

I own this one.  Another book for the TBR Dare.

I discovered ChiZine last year and check their website every once in a while just to see what they are up to.  They publish “weird, surreal dark fiction” in different forms, short stories, novellas and novels and I find myself intrigued by some of their titles.  They are a small press and I enjoy supporting independent publishing so I break my “no new book buying” ban occasionally and buy one of their books.  This one caught my eye.

When Ray and Elizabeth lose their son Toby it destroys their marriage.  Elizabeth leaves their home and takes up with another man.  Ray sinks in to despair and begins wandering the cliffs around their small village.  Then he runs into a stranger who also is wandering the cliffs and everything begins to change.  Are his memories real?  Did he really have a son?

The story is told from different points of view in a way that is gentle and almost seamless.  It could have been awkward but it all flows quite easily, at times beautifully. It is subtle story, filled with longing and darkness.

And now there you are, sitting in your garden above the harbour looking down at the hypnotically shifting sea beyond the harbour wall.  It sways and shifts, bulges and ebbs like the grey skin of a giant beast, a sleeping thing that has no concept of the humans who have come and built themselves around and over it.  Sometimes there is a distant splash as a wave impacts the stone wall and the sound serenades the gulls to provide a melody for the village.  From page 16.

The Thief of Broken Toys is about devastating loss and the inability to deal with that loss, either on one’s own or with others.  It is about memory,  is memory real or is it dream?  It  is well-written dark fantasy.  I have never read Tim Lebbon before and this small book has me curious about his other work.

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Filed under DarkFantasy, Review

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

William Morrow, New York, 2001

Originally published in 1962.  Ray Bradbury has received the National Book Award for distinguished contribution to American Letters.  I own this one.

This is true dark fantasy.  Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway have grown up together.  Each is on the verge of their fourteenth birthday, filled with energy and questions, like all young people they are pushing limits.  Will’s father, Charles is fifty-four and filled with regret, for being “old”, for not being more of a pal for his son.  It is the end of October in Green Town, Illinois, and Halloween is just around the corner.

A strange man, a lightening rod salesman, harbinger of storms and bad news, marches into town, finds the boys. Then, in the middle of the night, at the odd hour of 3 AM, an unusual train arrives.  Jim and Will see it, Charles Halloway hears it. The train carries Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, come to entertain, to touch the lives of Green Town.  A traveling nightmare, come to steal souls, by answering dreams and wishes.

And there stood Jim, and  there stood this tall man, each examining the other as if he were a reflection in a shop window late at night.  The tall man’s brambled suit, shadowed out now to color Jim’s cheeks and storm over his wide and drinking eyes with a look of rain instead of the sharp cat-green they always were.  Jim stood like a runner who had come a long way with fever in his mouth, hands open to recieve any gift.  And right now it was a gift of pictures twitching in pantomime, as Mr. Dark made his illustrations jerk cold-skinned over his warm-pulsed wrist as stars came out above and Jim stared and Will could not see and a long way off the last of the towns people went away towards town in there warm cars, and Jim said faintly, “Gosh…” and Mr. Dark rolled down his sleeve.  From page 76.

Through writing full of poetry, dream and desire, Bradbury creates a classic story of good and evil, were self-centered wants lead to devastating results and  hope and laughter are the antidote for fear and longing.  It is dark, creepy and delicious.  This is my third reading and I am still amazed at the density of Bradbury’s lyrical style,  his words convey emotion in ways that are not stilted or sugary-sweet. Deep, heartfelt, real.  Reading this novel as a young adult was one of my introductions to the power of words.

And, of course, it’s all about names.  Knowing the true names of things, of people.  In magic, knowing a name is knowing the inner being. Knowing the inner being means having control over that being.  The weapon against such dark magic is love.

Other reviews:

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Care’s Online Book Club

regular rumination

The Indextrious Reader

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Filed under DarkFantasy, Review, RIP V Challenge, Young Adult

Kraken by China Mievelle

Kraken by China Mieville

Del Rey, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.

I have admired and been astonished by China Mieville’s writing ever since reading Perdido Street Station.  I find his work intense, multi-layered and somewhat twisted.  Oh, hell.  Sometimes very twisted.

Kraken is dark comedy, an urban fantasy with the city of London as one of the main characters, and there are many characters.  It starts in the research wing of London’s Natural History Museum, where Billy Harrow, a curator and laboratory technician, is giving a tour.  He leads group down a long hall and into a huge space where the main specimen has disappeared.  A Giant Squid, the Kraken, preserved in a large metal and glass box, gone.  It turns out that Billy had actually preserved this monster, and there lies the strange connection between the two.

All I could think of while reading this passage was a trip I took to a university fish collection.  We entered a room by stepping down, the lip a protection against spilled preservative, and walking between shelves of jars and bottles of specimens, millions of them.  The weirdest thing I saw there was an angler fish, denizen of the aphotic zone, squishy and gelatinous at sea level, with its little dangly bio-light hanging to one side.   Billy, naive geek that he is, has no idea what he has just walked into, for the Kraken is considered a god by some and its disappearance has signaled the end of the world, all of it, every bit going up in flames.

London was full of dissident gods.
Why?  Well, they have to live somewhere.  A city living in its own afterlife. Why not?
Of course, they’re all over, gods are.  Theurgic vermin, those once worshipped or still worshipped in secret, those half worshipped, those  feared and resented, petty divinities;  they infect everybloodywhere.  The ecosystems of godhead are fecund, because there’s nothing and nowhere that can’t generate the awe on which they gaze…
The streets of London are stone synapses hardwired for worship.  Walk the right or the wrong way down Tooting Bec you’re invoking something or other.  You may not be interested in the gods of London, but they’re interested in you.  From page 103.

Billy meets up with Dane Parnell, a Krakenist, a psychic special operative named Collingswood and a group of Londonmancers. And then there are the Angels of Memory. Even though the plot line reads like a romping police procedural, the novel is so dense that at times I had to put it down and take a breather.  It is filled with bent cops, multiple magics, odd religions, cults and horrible villains.  I will not forget my first meeting with Tattoo, a nasty crime boss, dragged from some evil, dark place or the funny and horrific pair, Subby and Goss.

Billy made a scratchy sound in his throat.  The man put his finger to his lips , glancing expectantly at the boy, who slowly did as he did, and gestured shhhh at Billy, too.
“Goss and Subby do it again,” the man said.  He unrolled his tongue and tasted the air.  He clamped his hand over Billy’s mouth and Billy sputtered into the cool palm.  The man went room to room, tugging Billy, licking floor, walls, light switches.  He drew his tongue across the face of the television, leaving a spit-trail in the dust.  From page 65.

Finally, within all of this,  Kraken is a  tale of the battle between knowledge and superstition.  I didn’t see this coming, caught up in the characters and the magics and brilliant inventions of language and culture that is Mieville’s world building.  I found it difficult in spots, as if over-stuffed, but that’s what made it all work.  To tell the truth I cried at the end.

15 Comments

Filed under 42SciFiChallenge, China Mieville, DarkFantasy, Review, SciFi