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Search tags: 1001-must-read-books
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review 2017-11-16 04:27
Brave New World (Audiobook)
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley,Michael York

Brave New Shock Value: the Anti-Utopia

 

So, I read that. Or listened to that. I can see why this was a revolutionary novel when it was written. Huxley set out to write a satire of the utopian novels so popular in his day and wrote a horror story instead. It's certainly imaginative, and not entirely out of left field, unfortunately. It does show its age in some respects, but since this is meant to be uncomfortable, that's not as much of a deterrent as it could be. I'm not really sure what to rate this though, so I'm leaving it unrated.

 

Narration is top-notch though - 5 stars for Michael York.

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review 2017-10-30 17:21
At the Mountains of Madness / H.P. Lovecraft
At the Mountains of Madness and Other Works of Weird Fiction - H.P. Lovecraft,D.M. Mitchell

I read this book to fill the ‘Monsters’ square of my 2017 Halloween Book Bingo card.

I’ve read a few accounts of Antarctic exploration and At the Mountains of Madness starts out in exactly the same style, but then it veers dramatically off course--the tale becomes an H. Rider Haggard adventure novel crossed with a cheesy horror movie! Lovecraft is very skillful at making the readers use their imaginations—he doesn’t describe the horrors experienced by the men of the expedition. Instead, he shows us a destroyed campsite and lets the expedition leader tippy-toe around the ancient ruins, jumping at every sound. There is a lot of hinting and alluding to mysterious writings, rather than descriptions of actual creatures, which would have become silly quite quickly. Much better to let each reader’s mind fill in the details that they would find the most horrifying.

It has taken me a long time to get around to reading Lovecraft, probably because I’m not much of a horror reader. If you are going to read any significant amount in this genre, a basic knowledge of Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos will stand you in good stead. I now realize that I have been missing allusions to his work in a number of short story collections that I’ve read in the past.

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review 2017-10-24 17:02
Wise Children / Angela Carter
Wise Children - Angela Carter

Dora and Nora Chance are a famous song-and-dance team of the British music halls. Billed as The Lucky Chances, the sisters are the illegitimate and unacknowledged daughters of Sir Melchoir Hazard, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day. At once ribald and sentimental, glittery and tender, this rambunctious family saga is Angela Carter at her bewitching best.

 

Read to fill the “Magical Realism” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

The large cast of off-beat characters in this book reminded me strongly of Canadian author, Robertson Davies. And all of the links back to Melchior Hazard, Shakespearean actor, made me think of Station Eleven! But Carter definitely makes this tale all her own, despite the echoes with other authors.

Like the Shakespeare that permeates the novel, there are lots of twins, sudden changes in fortune, costumes, and a lot of uncertain parentage. As the old saw goes, it’s a wise child that knows its own father. Dora Chance, Melchior’s illegitimate daughter and twin to Nora Chance, tells the tale and it unrolls like an article in a gossip rag. Whether you can trust all she says or not is a Chance that you’ll have to take! The Lucky Chances, as the sisters are known, can only be considered lucky in comparison to others in the tale. For instance, they were raised by a woman who seemed to actually care about them, rather than by their biological parents and in this, they seem to come out ahead.

Dora and Nora sound like they would be a lot of fun to have a gin and tonic with, but I wouldn’t want to stay in their house!

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review 2017-10-10 18:58
Northanger Abbey / Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen,Elizabeth Hardwick

'To look almost pretty, is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life, than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive'

During an eventful season at Bath, young, naïve Catherine Morland experiences the joys of fashionable society for the first time. She is delighted with her new acquaintances: flirtatious Isabella, who shares Catherine's love of Gothic romance and horror, and sophisticated Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who invite her to their father's mysterious house, Northanger Abbey. There, her imagination influenced by novels of sensation and intrigue, Catherine imagines terrible crimes committed by General Tilney. With its broad comedy and irrepressible heroine, this is the most youthful and and optimistic of Jane Austen's works.

 

I chose this novel to fill the “Gothic” square of my 2017 Halloween Book Bingo.

In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen turns the gothic novel inside out, having some fun with all of its parts. Catherine Morland, our main character, is not a stereotypical gothic heroine—she isn’t tremendously beautiful, she isn’t sophisticated or educated, and she’s not even too bright! But she does read gothic romances, like The Mysteries of Udolpho to use as a guide for her behaviour. Unfortunately for her, her frenemy Isabella turns out to be a gold-digger, her visit to Northanger Abbey produces no murders nor secret passages, and there turn out to be no impediments between her and the man of her choice. The most ungothic of gothic romances!

I do have to wonder a bit about Henry, who is obviously intelligent and amusing, if only Catherine had the wits to understand him! I’m afraid he will be singularly bored, unless she can be enlivened a bit.

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review 2017-09-26 16:19
The Island of Dr. Moreau / H.G. Wells.
The Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells
  I’ve been cataloguing an enormous collection of H.G. Wells for the special collections division of our library, and as a result I’m thinking I need to read a little more Wells. Just looking at the wide spread of his interests is fascinating! It was an interesting exercise to read this tale, which I read in school at about Grade 5, I think, and see how different the experience was.

Wells was a very dedicated socialist and didn’t have much time for religion (although he went through a phase of flirting with the spiritual). I don’t think there’s any doubt that he had read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species before he wrote this story (it was published in 1859 and Moreau in 1896).

Dr. Moreau has set himself up as God on this little island and he has handed down his commandments to the Beast-Men that he has created. Edward Prendick watches as their essential nature pulls the Beast-Men back to their original state—but he sees the same in people, suggesting the Darwinist view that humans are animals too. Moreau never gives any rationale for what he is doing, rather like the Christian God, who has left his creation to its own devices.

The Island of Dr. Moreau seems rather prophetic today, in our days of bioengineering and genetic modification. I’ll be interested to see what other tidbits await me in Wells’ prolific writings.

 

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