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review 2017-01-30 20:47
Book Review: Ann Veronica by HG Wells
Ann Veronica - Sita Schutt,H.G. Wells,Margaret Drabble

I had serious doubts about this book when I first started it, not only is it not science fiction, but a ROMANCE, from HG Wells? Yeah, okay. I was thinking it was going to be ridiculous, but once I started reading it, I realized it was completely different from what I had first thought — it’s an early book about feminism. And you know what? It’s done rather splendidly.


Ann Veronica is the youngest of a fairly well-to-do family. She’s not your typical turn-of-the-20th-century girl — she studies biology at a college (with her father’s permission) and enjoys talking about her intellectual interests with others. Her close friends are burgeoning suffragists, so she often joins their discussions about how women aren’t free to do what they want and how they’re caged up in society because men keep them imprisoned, basically. So, when her father literally locks her in her bedroom to prevent her from going to a ball, she runs away to the city to make it on her own. She quickly finds out that there’s not a great way for women to make a lot of money, and renting out an apartment in London actually costs quite a lot. Basically, she has to face harder truths than she realized were out there and more fully understands the plight of women because of her decision to not live under her father’s roof.


What I love about this story is how it covers everything and doesn’t sugarcoat anything. It gives a clear, honest look at exactly what the situation of women was for that time period — hardly any job prospects (and any available were drudgery for pennies), no respect, and no vote. Their lives were at the mercy of the men in their lives and they weren’t taught anything about how to survive or live in the world. Ann Veronica even gets herself into a misunderstanding with a man and it’s sad how much that particular “misunderstanding” can still be seen in today’s world. They talk as if they’re friends, and they go out to lunch together as friends, and then he locks her in a room with him “to make love” because of course she had to know that they weren’t really friends and he wanted her, and deserved her after all that he’d given her. (Isn’t it creepy how familiar that sounds?) HG Wells does a tremendous job in outlining the various difficulties that women faced when they fought for equal rights and equal opportunities in London and really hits, if not all, then at least most of the points.


The first half was wonderful, but it does start to drag a bit as the book goes on. I think the first half of the book is perfect and it would have been 5 stars if it had continued in that vein, but then Ann Veronica falls in love and the whole story sort of starts to fall apart and get into themes that don’t make sense for where the book started. Alas. Basically, I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in feminism, its roots, or even how it was viewed during this time. I was blown away by how insightful this story was and a little saddened by how true those themes remain. If not a great story, it’s interesting to see the thoughts and themes of feminism from a male author born in the 19th century.

Source: www.purplereaders.com/?p=3322
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text 2016-05-06 12:19
The Nine Novels that Defined Steampunk

(reblogged from The Steampunk Workshop)


I’m a librarian by profession, and a scholar by inclination, so when I got involved with the amazing confluence of ideas that was steampunk in mid naughts I naturally wanted to know where this idea of steampunk came from. Most steampunks know little about steampunk’s origins. We are part of a strange phenomenon in which loads of elaborately costumed people call themselves “fans” of books they can’t even name.
This is not too surprising since steampunk didn’t become popular as a genre until after it inspired an art and lifestyle movement. The few histories of the genre are too lengthy for most people to digest, but not knowing the basics about where steampunk came from leaves its enthusiasts wallowing in a shallow puddle of clichés when they could be swimming in an ocean of imagination. As a cure I suggest the reading nine of the most creative works of late twentieth century speculative fiction, the novels that defined steampunk.
The Original Steampunk Novels
A popular idea is that H. G. Wells and Jules Verne were the originators of steampunk. This is not really true. Despite its anachronistic veneer, steampunk is a very contemporary genre expressing contemporary interests and concerns. Wells, Verne, Shelly and others are important sources of inspiration for steampunk but they are not steampunk authors themselves. They wrote in a nineteenth century or nineteen century inspired setting because that’s when they lived. For a modern writer full of current ideas to choose such a setting is a totally different thing. There are isolated examples of writers revisiting Victorian settings throughout sci-fi’s history but steampunk as a word and concept has a clear origin in a letter to the science fiction trade journal Locus published in April 1987.
Dear Locus,
Enclosed is a copy of my 1979 novel Morlock Night; I'd appreciate your being so good as to route it Faren Miller, as it's a prime piece of evidence in the great debate as to who in "the Powers/Blaylock/Jeter fantasy triumvirate" was writing in the "gonzo-historical manner" first. Though of course, I did find her review in the March Locus to be quite flattering.
Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like 'steam-punks', perhaps.
—K.W. Jeter
Jeter’s letter tells us three important things.
1. K. W. Jeter invented the word "steam-punks" to describe authors of "gonzo-historical" "Victorian fantasies"
2. The other two steam-punks were Tim Powers, and James Blaylock.
3. Morlock Night was the earliest of the novels in the newly named genre.
Powers, Blaylock, and Jeter wrote a lot books between them, but of all the novels they wrote by 1987 only four of them were "gonzo-historical" "Victorian fantasies" so the original steampunk genre consisted of only four novels.
Morlock Night by K. W. Jeter, originally published in 1979
There is no clearer illustration of the distinction between steampunk and original Victorian adventure stories than comparing H. G. Wells The Time Machine to Morlock Night. Wells’ novel is a straightforward story about a device that allows one to travel in strictly linear time. It expresses the common modernist idea that technology can do anything but may destroy humanity in the process. In Jeter’s book the Morlocks seize the time machine and invade 19th century London with it. It takes a Victorian premise and mashes it with Arthurian legend and lost technology from Atlantis. More than thirty years after it was written it is still too “experimental,” for many people’s tastes. If read with an open mind you will find an adventure story with some highly imaginative twists. It shows the roots of steampunk as literature that took genre assumptions, smashed them, and made mosaics out of the most interesting bits.
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, originally published in 1983
This novel won the Philip K Dick award. It is stunningly well written. The central character is an English professor who travels back to 1810 to attend a lecture given by English poet. When he misses his return trip he must survive in City plagued by a mass murdering Egyptian god and an evil sorcerer clown. The plot snakes around like a serpent in the dark London sewers where so much of the action takes place. What is most surprising is how Powers combines a very hard science fiction approach to time travel with some of the creepiest portrayals of black magic you will find in late twentieth century writing. It’s worth noting that while Jeter grouped this book with his “Victorian fantasies” it is actually set in the last year of the reign George III.
Homunculus by James Blaylock, originally published in 1986
This is the first book about Professor Langdon St Ives and his archenemy the wicked Dr Narbondo. It involves a ghostly dirigible, undead slaves resurrected with fish guts, a stranded space alien and lots of Laphroaig whiskey. Blaylock writes with a dry absurdity that seems very English especially when coupled with his Victorian wording. One of my favorite scenes is when the Trismegistus Club debates what to do while smoking and drinking to the point of incompetence. Not exactly the behavior of heroes but a brilliant satire of the chattering classes.
Infernal Devices: A Mad Victorian Fantasy by K. W. Jeter, originally published in 1987
Not to be confused with Philip Reeve’s or Cassandra Clare’s later works by the same name. Jeter’s Infernal Devices is one of the funniest steampunk books ever written. The central character, George Dower is a hapless English “every man” character comparable to Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. All sorts of absurd things happen to Mr. Dower until the madcap plot is tied together with an elaborate dig about Victorian sexual repression. This was the first novel in the genre to heavily feature clockwork technology but there are elements of pure fantasy as well.


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review 2016-03-17 02:02
Books of 1915 (Part Five)
Lady Chatterley's lover, The Rainbow, Sons and lovers - D.H. Lawrence
Sexual Politics - Kate Millett
Women in Love - D.H. Lawrence
Aaron's Rod - D.H. Lawrence Aaron's Rod - D.H. Lawrence
The Voyage Out - Virginia Woolf
Psmith, Journalist - P.G. Wodehouse
Leave It to Psmith - P.G. Wodehouse
Oakleyites - E. F. Benson
Complete Mapp and Lucia (Pulp Humour) - E.F. Benson
Vainglory - Ronald Firbank,Richard Canning

The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence


I loved Sons and Lovers, and who doesn’t love “The Rocking Horse Winner”? So I figured I would like this one too. The Rainbow follows several members of a family through different generations. They live on a farm in the East Midlands of England. There was something incredibly irritating about this novel. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but as I was reading it, I was inwardly wailing, “Wheeeennn will this be oooover??” There were a lot of men who didn’t know how to interact with others or have real relationships, especially with women, which I guess is stark realism but was frustrating for me to read. Also, I have no problem with florid prose per se, just this wasn’t doing it for me. One highlight was a grisly alcoholism-related fatal farming accident.


The last family member was a young woman, Ursula, who has a bleak and depressing relationship with another women. You would think I would like that part but I think it was too dark for me. Then she has a bleak and depressing job as a teacher at a brutal school, which degrades Ursula so much that at one point she just loses it and starts hitting a student. And she has a bleak and depressing relationship with a man. Apparently I have blocked out what happens in the end.


Luckily, when I complained to my brother about this elusive annoying quality in The Rainbow, he told me that Kate Millett had gotten to the bottom of D.H. Lawrence in her legendary book Sexual Politics. So, here is what your auntie Kate has to say:


Millett explains that Lawrence is suffering from womb envy, which I would back her up on, and that the “new woman” (like Ursula) intimidates him. She points out that the chapter where Ursula has an affair with another woman is called “Shame,” which I actually didn’t even notice. (Sometimes I am so steeped in my own attitude that I can’t even imagine what the author intended, which has advantages and drawbacks.) Millett also paid attention to what happened at the end of the novel, unlike me, which was: Ursula fails her university exams and becomes a contented housewife. Millett chalks up the irritating quality of The Rainbow to an underlying sexist oinker agenda. BTW, I am not supposed to be reviewing the books of 1969, but Sexual Politics is nothing like what I expected. I had no idea that it was mostly literary criticism!


Anyway, I’m not sure if I can handle Lawrence’s sequel, Women in Love, but I am intrigued by the 1922 offering Aaron’s Rod. With a title like that, what could go wrong?


Still to come-Unread


The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf


I know, I know; why didn’t I read this one? I think I was a little intimidated so I was putting it off. I know Virginia Woolf is super famous and this is probably actually the best book of 1915, so I really will read it.


Psmith, Journalist by P.G. Wodehouse


I am perpetually one book behind in the Psmith series, so I haven’t read this one yet. Here is my brother’s review:


“In the third novel about Mike and Psmith they visit New York, where Mike prepares for a cricket match.  Psmith befriends Billy Windsor, the sub-editor of the children’s journal Cosy Moments.  Billy is fed up with the treacly material it is his job to edit, so when the editor goes on vacation Psmith persuades Billy to revamp the journal.  The current contributors are all fired and Cosy Moments features a new column about the pugilist Kid Brady and a hard-hitting series about tenement slumlords.  It is unusual for PG Wodehouse to focus on the dark underbelly of capitalism, but he does so in his own way.  When a criminal syndicate pressures Psmith to stop publishing the tenement exposé, he declares “Cosy Moments cannot be muzzled.”  It is nice that Mike is not the slightest bit jealous of the relationship between Psmith and Billy, and at the end of the novel Mike and Psmith return to England, where they conclude their saga in Leave it to Psmith, a novel of 1923.”




The Oakleyites by E.F. Benson


Thanks heavens my brother read and reviewed this book for me too! As follows:

The Oakleyites chronicles the lives of the leisure class of the seaside village of Oakley, apparently based on Rye, where E.F. Benson lived.  Here we see the Dante classes, picture exhibitions and amateur piano recitals encountered subsequently in his more famous Mapp and Lucia novels.  Among the Oakleyites are three middle-aged sisters, each a devotee and exponent of vegetarianism, Yoga and Christian Science, respectively.  Their rivalries are as funny as anything Benson ever wrote.  The difference from Benson’s later novels is that the Queen of Oakley society, Dorothy Jackson, is a romantic heroine.  She falls in love with the author of facile novels about Marchionesses when he moves to Oakley with his mother on account of her health.  Dorothy dreams of inspiring him to write a really worthwhile novel (apparently this was a very common aspiration a hundred years ago).  I wanted to give Dorothy a little hint:  “girlfriend, there’s a reason this guy is still living with his mother at the age of thirty-five!”  But Benson apparently felt he could not tell the real story...”



Vainglory by Ronald Firbank

I got this out of the library but it’s due back soon. Firbank’s Wikipedia page says he was an openly gay man who was very inspired by Oscar Wilde, and “an enthusiastic consumer of cannabis.” So that sounds like fun!



The Little Lady of the Big House by Jack London

This is about a love triangle. I bought this novel but, I’m going to be completely honest here, I will probably never get around to reading it. 1916 beckons!


Will Never Read, and why


The Genius by Theodore Dreiser


The Titan was tough going last year. As described on the Wikipedia page, The Genius is a semi-autobiographical novel about a man who is unable to remain faithful and his “affair” with a teenage girl and then his wife dies in childbirth. I just couldn’t face it.


Boon by H.G. Wells


This is a satirical novel written under a pseudonym in which Wells lampoons his former friend Henry James. I was interested to read about it, but didn’t want to read the actual book.


The Return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Look, there are over 20 more of these books to come. I’m sure I’ll read another one at some point.


That's all! See you in 1916!

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review 2015-11-08 08:00
A Slip Under The Microscope
A Slip Under the Microscope - H.G. Wells

Over the summer I've collected all the Little Black Classics that were published by Penguin to celebrate their 80th birthday! Every now and then I'm reading one of them, and my reviews are mostly some thoughts about each of the books.


I only knew H.G. Wells from his science fiction stories, and then only what I've heard about them. At this point I haven't read any of them. I was a little bit surprised when I was reading this booklet and the two stories featured are no science fiction, the latter which is also the title story doesn't even have any mystery element to it. This said, I didn't think they were bad stories, just not what I had expected from it.


Will I try something else from this author? I'm certainly planning to, but I think I will go for some of the more famous stories next.

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text 2015-10-11 09:51
The Flowering of the Strange Orchid by HG Wells

(originally published in Pearson's Magazine, April 1905)


Short and excellent; that was a fun read!


It had been suggested to me ages ago when I was writing Poison Garden: An Elle Black Penny Dread Vol 2 (to be released next year, due to *long sob story* :( ). Yaaaay 19th c creepy/horror garden stories. iN England. :D


Link to story: https://personal.uwaterloo.ca/jerry/orchids/wells.html


~flies away

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