Tag Archives: undead

Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin 4 *’s)

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin is the first book of the Earthsea series, a rather famous series that has been around for decades. The copyright on A Wizard of Earthsea dates it to 1968, so it’s stayed the course of time. I’ll begin my book by saying, I didn’t really like the first chapter that much. It was written in that older style (I don’t recall the technical name—it’s like 3rd person narrative, or something like that) where every scene runs into every other scene and it consists of a shallow narrative that simply seems to connect dots in a line to me. I much prefer the modern style, where you sink into the scene getting glimpses of even the thoughts of the characters. Anyway, from the outset it is quite clear that Ursula K. Le Guin has incredible skill with the written word. Although I didn’t like the style, I was very much impressed with her technical skill.

 

The story told is of the early exploits of the young wizard named Ged. It’s worth pointing out that Ged is his true name (in normal affairs he goes by Sparrowhawk). I’ve always wondered where the notion that knowledge of a thing’s true name gives one power over that thing came from. I’ve seen such referenced in Dungeons and Dragons, The Black Company books by Glen Cook, and now here. As this dates to 1968 it is the current winner in my experience. Anyway, the character of Sparrowhawk begins the book as a precocious, power-hungry wizard-in-training. He is so precocious, and so power-hungry he gets himself in trouble and inadvertently, in an attempt to upstage a rival, unleashes a shadowy being from the underworld onto the real world. The rest of the book deals largely with him dealing with this shadowy being with only a few side adventures. It’s a short book, so the side adventures make up a good portion of it. It’s got a dragon in it, which is always a plus in my view, provided the dragon is done well—and this one is.

 

Strengths: like I said, Ursula K. Le Guin’s skill with the written word is quite impressive. The main character evolves quite convincingly over the course of the book from a rash impetuous youth, to a more mature seasoned individual. I must stress again the writer’s skill: it is very difficult to write in the style she chose. She used that old English type prose that Tolkien did many times (you know, kind of a Yoda-speak: “strong, it was, and sleek,” etc …) and it didn’t come across as tiresome and forced. That is an achievement in its own right. Weaknesses: although I found the tale to be entertaining, I was not fully smitten by it. It was an okay story, written in an earlier, more difficult to read style, but written with incredible skill.

 

Ultimately, I’ll give A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin four stars out of five.

Old Movie Review: Cool Air (2006) (H. P. Lovecraft)

Cool Air is a film based on the short story of the same name written by H.P. Lovecraft. I have never read the short story so I can’t say for sure what liberties were taken with the script; although it seems likely that it did take a number, if for no other reason than that the film is set in modern times.

 

The film tells the story of Charlie Baxter, a struggling screenwriter, who takes up residence in an apartment in a large townhouse near Malibu. From the outset, it is apparent that he is surrounded by strange characters. The quirky landlady and her autistic daughter run the house; the man across the hall from him is strangely reticent as a matter of course; and the mysterious doctor living upstairs remains sequestered in her room pretty much all the time. The combined cast give a strangely compelling aura of mystery to the setting. Struggling from writer’s block, Charlie seeks inspiration from the strangeness of his own surroundings. He begins a tale in which a “mad doctor” plays a prominent role. Then, he suffers a heart attack and, crawling upstairs, is saved by the doctor’s timely intervention. When he comes to, however, he must grapple with the unwitting truth of the mad doctor in real life as the inhabitants of the house begin to reveal their secrets one by one.

 

There is a lot of narration in this film. I found that a refreshing change from the usual cinematic experience. This was one-half movie, one-half Lovecraft reading. And the voice it was done in, a low, tired, and worn voice, fit the film perfectly.

 

Strengths: overall the movie was good. The narration, as noted above, added to the mystery and intrigue. There were no logical flaws, and no loose ends. The acting was decent, and the setting … strangely innocuous. It was a great juxtaposition for the macabre events it told. Weaknesses: well, it was a low-budget film, so the special effects were somewhat lacking. They were okay, just not up to the full-blown Hollywood standard. But special effects alone don’t make a movie. This one easily made up for it with a good tale to tell and a number of clever touches. I particularly liked the bit at the end where the movie claimed it was the work of Charlie Baxter and his return to screen writing. Anyway, other than being limited in special effects, I have no other serious complaints regarding the film.

 

Ultimately, I will give four stars out of five to Cool Air.

Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula” by Bram Stoker is a well-regarded classic of horror literature. I’ve read this book about four times, now. The first three times through (years ago) I liked it, because I liked vampires and was very interested in the part this book played in the legends that have grown up around them. I walked away from the book thinking it was okay, but kind of tame by modern standards as a piece of horror fiction. This last time through, however, my view of this book has changed. It is a masterpiece.

I think in my younger years, I was too much enamored by sword fights and spell battles, the typical fodder of fantasy fiction. This book doesn’t really have much of that. It is all about a developing plot and building suspense. It is one part mystery, one part horror, not so much a fantasy action book. The prose throughout, although somewhat dated—it was written in 1897—is still remarkable and fluid. It’s a little difficult adjusting to the diary narrative, but once you do so, it is a remarkable read. Having read the story before, I pretty much knew what was going to happen. Even so, I enjoyed pretty much the whole thing. I picked up on a number of different aspects of the story that I don’t remember noting before (of course, it has been several years).

I’ve read here and there that this book is really all about sexual repression or what-have-you. I totally didn’t get that. The only elements that might indicate that, that I picked up on, where as follows: 1) the penetration of flesh by vampire teeth, which is true of all vampire stories. 2) Lucy Westenra kind of idly comments in one of her letters that she kind of wished she could marry three different men because she didn’t want to break any of their hearts. 3) Later in the story, a tacit connection is made between love and blood transfusions and Lucy winds up getting transfusions from four different men in an attempt to save her. Taking all these things together, I think you can interpret the work as promoting polygamy if you want to go that way, but I hardly think it is definitive. There is no connection whatsoever between romance and blood transfusions; maybe at the time it was written, it was thought that there was, but really? You’re trying to save a woman’s life. What else would you do? I’ve also read that the work promotes homosexuality. Throughout the work the male characters are described as “manly men” or something along that route by the other male characters (and the female characters). It’s kind of odd from a modern perspective, but I think that was largely the manner of speaking of the time period. It’s another: if you want to go that route, I think you can, but I, personally, did not think that that was the point Bram Stoker was trying to get across. I just thought it was a mannerism of the time period.

Basically, I’m kind of the opinion that all these literary critics and analysts go looking for things in the books they read, and whether the author intended the work in that way or not, the critics interpret it as they see fit. The critics also enjoy the “shock-value” of their interpretations of classical works. Once upon a time, our society would have been “shocked” by polygamous and homosexual themes being present in Dracula. That’s no longer true today, but by now, it’s become accepted that that is what Dracula is all about. Heaven forbid someone just write a cool story.

Anyway, the book’s great, but I think it was intended for a more mature audience. I don’t think a young adult audience would fully “get” it. I know I didn’t when I first read it. I’m not going to review the plot because I think most people know it already. The Francis Ford Coppola movie from a few years back followed the book pretty closely, although it kind of went with the over-sexualized theme and changed some of the characters around to suit that end. Whatever. If you don’t know the story, and you can put up with some of the older-style language (it’s certainly not as bad as say “Canterbury Tales,” but every once in a while the language may stump you), get the book and read it. It’s well worth it.

Before I part, I’ll list the cast of characters: Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker, Lord Arthur Godalming, Quincey Morris, Dr. John Seward, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Lucy Westenra, and, of course, the esteemed, renowned, and rapacious Count Dracula. There’s also three other unnamed vampire chics, and a host of minor characters spread throughout.

Anyway, I’ll give this book four and a half out of five stars.

This post originally appeared on Goodreads on 10/15/12.

Blurb Blitz Blog Tour for Drasmyr

Goddess Fish Promotions will be sponsoring a promotional blog tour for my book, “Drasmyr,” from November 12, 2012 to December 7, 2012.  It will be a strictly promotional tour, meaning that every visit will be limited to excerpts from my book and a book blurb. The blog tour schedule is currently under construction. As of this writing, we’ve filled thirteen slots of the twenty available. During the tour, I’ll be posting links to the blog host of the day as they occur. Also, make sure you check out the sponsor of the whole tour–Goddess Fish Promotions–it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Also, I will be awarding one randomly chosen commenter on the tour (for those who comment on the tour sites—not atoasttodragons) with a small box of Fenryll metal miniatures, specifically, a collection of three Nosferatu vampires. They are excellent for collecting, or to use in gaming.

Blog Tour Schedule

Thanks. And hope to see you on the tour!

Guest Blogging at Rebeka Harrington’s Blog

Hi again. Just to let you guys know, I did a guest blog today at Rebeka Harrington’s Blog. Those interested can find it here.

Blog Tour: Stop #13: This Author’s Life

My blog tour for my vampire fantasy novel, Drasmyr, continues today. Today we have a guest post at This Author’s Life. Go check it out and show them your support. Also check out Bewitching Book Tours, the sponsors of the blog tour.

Blog Tour: Stop #3: The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom

My blog tour for my vampire fantasy novel, Drasmyr, continues today. Today we have a guest blog post at The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom. Please check them out and show them your support.

Announcement: Blog Tour Approaching

Just a reminder:  Bewitching Blog Tours will be sponsoring a blog tour for myself and my book, “Drasmyr,” during the month of May. The tour will begin on May 7th. The particulars of the tour, including which sites I will be visiting, will be announced at some point in t

he future.

Fantasy Monster Fight: Vampires vs. Werewolves

All right. This is a completely silly post which has no bearing on the real world, or on literary criticism, or on whatever else, but I’m in an odd mood.

 

Some people have fantasy football (do people still do that these days?); I’ve got my fantasy monster fight. The question before me is: who would win in a fight? A vampire? Or a werewolf? Whole book series and movies have been written on this topic. In the Underworld movie series, for example, vampires and werewolves are in a state of perpetual warfare. And in the Twilight books… uh, I really don’t know because I refuse to read them, but I understand that there is a love triangle involving a human, a werewolf, and a vampire. Re-reading that, that sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. “A human, a werewolf, and a vampire enter a bar…”

 

Anyway, if a vampire and a werewolf came to blows, who would win? For those of us geeky gamers who used to play AD&D, the winner is obviously the vampire. Just look at the creatures’ stats in the Monster Manual. But trying to evaluate the match through literature is a little bit more difficult. One can only assess the situation by evaluating strengths and weaknesses.

 

Both vampires and werewolves are supernaturally strong. Both tend to be on the prowl or at their peak strength during night time hours. One on one against the typical human, the typical human doesn’t stand a chance. Both vampires and werewolves procreate by biting humans. And typically such transformations are a one way deal. What about weaknesses?

 

As far as humans are concerned, the only way to kill a werewolf is with a silver bullet. And I suppose fire works as well. The ways to kill a vampire, depending upon which particular myth you are dealing with, include: wooden stakes through the heart, decapitation, immersion in running water, sunlight, a silver bullet, and holy water. And I don’t think they are fond of fire either. The vampire also has several other weaknesses, although none of them are fatal. These include invitations, garlic, and roses. Clearly, if one considers weaknesses alone, the werewolf has the advantage. At least, it is clear that a human will find it more difficult to kill a werewolf than a vampire.

 

The vampire, however, does have two more important advantages: it can fly (or transform into a bat) and it always retains a human-like intelligence. Since it is intelligent, a vampire is more likely to seek out a gun and silver bullet if it is about to face a werewolf than vice versa. If one nixes the transforming into a bat bit, and simply gives the vampire the power of flight with a gun and several silver bullets, the vampire’s going to win quite easily. Actually, unless one grants the werewolf the ability to harm the vampire with its claws and bite, the vampire will always have the advantage of intellect over animalistic brawn. It should win pretty much every confrontation on those grounds: a snarling, drooling werewolf simply won’t think to use a wooden stake or a bowie knife. But if the vampire and werewolf can both harm each other with their respective natural weapons, all bets are off.

 

Regardless, as far as humans are concerned: it is better to fight a vampire. You have more options to kill, repel, or, at the very least, escape from a vampire than you do a werewolf. So, remember that the next time you are out wandering through a graveyard beneath a full moon. Go with the guy clawing his way out of the ground rather than the strange beastie howling at the moon.

The Allure of Vampires–Why are they so Popular?

Vampires have been a staple of modern mythology for the last two centuries or so, from Bram Stoker’s aristocratic and sinister Count Dracula, to the sparkling Edward Cullen of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series. The last twenty years or so has seen an uptick in vampire interest; indeed, it is nearly a frenzy. But what is it that makes vampires so intriguing, so alluring?

 

In the beginning, vampires were portrayed as sinister forces of darkness that seduced women and turned them into agents of the devil. Now, they are just semi-dangerous love interests. Throughout they have been associated with sexuality, at least to a certain degree. The drinking of blood summons images of bestial, carnal urges, while the penetration of human flesh by vampire teeth summons images of… well, you get the idea.

 

In Dracula’s time, sexuality was still viewed as a vice, something of the devil that should be avoided. So, making Dracula seductive and human-like in appearance, resonated well with his nature as the prince of darkness. He existed to tempt women, to draw them away from the path of virtue, and corrupt their very souls. His sexuality at that time was synonymous with his corruptive influence; it was his avenue to damnation. We’ve moved beyond that now. Courtesy of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, vampires have become perfectly respectable dance partners, dates, even husbands. I don’t know what that says about us… but it probably isn’t good.

 

There is a third aspect to the vampire that we also find alluring. That of the soul-searching creature of the night. We’ve turned from the vampire as tormentor, to the vampire as tormented. It began with Anne Rice (I think) and the vampire Louis from “Interview with a Vampire.” Now, the vampire broods and ruminates, suffering ungodly horror for his fate. He endures incomprehensible moral anguish for every human he kills. This window into a dark soul entices us, it hopes to offer a better understanding of our own human condition—we with all our faults and failures, and our own anguish for the things we’ve done that eat away at our soul. Perhaps we can find relief and meaning from the experiences of a creature condemned like Louis.

 

In the end, the vampire is a complicated amalgam of forces. It is seductive and intriguing in many ways; it is a monster with a human soul, a sexual lure into darkness, or perhaps… a potential boyfriend with a spotty past. Whatever the case may be, its pull on us mere humans is undeniable.