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review 2017-08-03 11:37
Downbeat and Offbeat Fiction: “The Shadow Year” by Jeffrey Ford
The Shadow Year: A Novel - Jeffrey Ford

"Her small stature, dark, and wrinkled complexion, and the silken black strands at the corners of her upper lip made her seem to me at times like some ancient monkey king. When she’d fart while standing, she’d kick her left leg up in the back and say: ‘Shoot him in the pants. The Coat and vest are mine.’”


In “The Shadow Year” by Jeffrey Ford


The world-wide craze for superheroes is obvious. We all see ourselves as passive victims and don't expect to rescue ourselves.


There's also the national craze for vampires and zombies in books, TV, movies, and the web. It may seem odd that a deeply Christian country is also obsessed with vampires, but as Joseph Glanvill wrote in the 1600s, if you deny the existence of demons and witches, you deny god. I see it as another form of projection: a few survivors are surrounded by the dead, i.e., the masses of the unemployed and soon-to-be-unemployable. I’m thinking USA here.


Magical realism is a bit like SF, where colorful, fanciful personas, places and technologies are used to explore all too real attitudes, trends and prejudices. It could be said that Ford's take on it is America's second exploration of the genre, since it was also prevalent in the 50's and 60's (and to some extent the 70's) with the proliferation of pulp magazines, SF publications (also the birth of the modern comic book) and SF movies and TV shows (Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, Star Trek).



If you're into SF, read on.

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review 2017-04-22 01:02
Nuanced SF: "Crackpot Palace - Stories" by Jeffrey Ford
Crackpot Palace: Stories - Jeffrey Ford

There are two kinds of "favourite books," I always say. There are the ones that you recognize as original in concept, extremely well written, and strong in theme. Then there are the ones that say something personal to you so that you identify with the protagonist, live in that society, laugh at the jokes and thrill at the adventure, but also realize that the style may not be so good or the theme so strong. I ain't half the SF geek I was when I was younger - you know, before I discovered characterisation and inner life - but I still appreciate a good novel of ideas. So often, it comes down to a tug-of-war of definitions and false differences of opinion. The mundane literary establishment tends to demean SF. Yet, the works of Cormac McCarthy, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut are just as much SF, using the same devices to advance the same thought experiments and commentary on society as many other SF writers can do.



If you're into SF, read on.

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review 2017-03-06 03:22
A Natural History of Hell
A Natural History of Hell: Stories - Jeffrey Ford

Saw this one at the library. I like stories having to do with demons and the supernatural, so I thought it would be worth a try. Since it's a collection of short stories, I'll rate each story and the average of that will be my final review. Overall though I liked these stories. Ford has a good imagination. 


1. The Blameless: 4.5 out of 5 - Really silly and I LOVED the concept. The idea of people having exorcisms as part of a fashion trend was ridiculous and amazing at the same time. It felt like an SNL skit, which I liked. It did get a little too silly at times, more than I think Ford aimed for, but I really enjoyed this story. 


2. Word Doll: 3 out of 5 - It got better as it went on. I liked the idea of the Word Dolls and the image of Mower Manc was spooky. Got a little two dry at points and it could have been a lot spookier than it ended up being. 


3. The Angel Seems: 5 out of 5 - The imagery and mythology of this one was just amazing. The whole thing read like a fairy tale and I really enjoyed reading it. I found it to be a great story.


4. Mount Chary Galore: 2.5 out of 5 - I liked the writing style and the voice of this piece a lot, but the story itself was just all over the place. Didn't feel like it had much focus. 


5. A Natural History of Autumn: 3 out of 5 - It was written really nicely and I liked the Japanese demons it presented. Definitely a different perspective. It got a little out of hand though and I think it needed another draft before publication. 


6. Blood Drive: 2 out of 5 - I actually read this one before in it's original publication After. I didn't really like it then and didn't bother rereading it now. It's written well enough and the concept is decent, it just reeks of political agenda, which ruined the story for me. Made it feel cliche/run of the mill, which made it overall lackluster.


7. A Terror: 2.5 out of 5 - This is based on my favorite of Dickenson's poems, so I found it a little disappointing. Parts of it were very good, especially the description of Death. That said, the story was all over the place and didn't run very smoothly. 


8. Rocket Ship to Hell: 4 out of 5 - This one was fun and creepy. Space frightens me so it hit on that fear rather well. It could ramble a bit though and needed some fine tuning, but overall it was nice. 


9. The Fairy Enterprise: 4 out of 5 - Awesome concept and it felt like a fairy tale while I was reading it. Felt a little too on the nose at points but overall it's a fun, creepy story. 


10. The Last Triangle: 4.5 out of 5 - Really liked this one. The characters were good and I like the perspective of Thomas, the recovering addict. I also liked the way magic was used in this story. The end was kind of confusing but over all it was really good. 


11. Spirits of Salt: A Tale of the Coral Heart: 3 out of 5 - A cool story, felt like a myth in the way it was told. Got kind of boring at points though and I wish the story had gotten to it's bare bones sooner and more clearly. 


12. The Thyme Fiend: 5 out of 5 - I really liked this story. It was a sweet story, a mystery, and just written really well. This one is probably my favorite story out of the whole book. 


13. The Prelate's Commission: 3 out of 5 - I liked the mythology of this one and the way the Devil was characterized himself. It got confusing at many parts though and was a little wordy at points. Could have used some trimming. 


Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. That's what the math tells me, anyway. A good book if you're looking for some fun, supernatural stories. 

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review 2016-02-17 00:00
The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque
The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque - Jeffrey Ford "Say hello to Mr Wolfe." Rubbish cover, fun novel. I don't know what "Pynchonesque augury" is but while lapping that up the Baltimore Sun have completely missed that this is a wonderfully light and humourous tale with superb flights of fantasy. This is in no way a heritage pastiche or literary exercise; it's a meditation on creativity, if anything, but always undercut by the fantastic voice of the narrator and the bizarro cast of characters he runs into (including a “prognosticating turdologist” incarcerated in Bloomingdale's asylum for the insane). Hired to paint the portrait of a woman he’s not allowed to see, our perplexed hero has to gather impressions of her from the stories she tells. Meanwhile, on the streets of New York there’s a bug doing the rounds making women cry blood. Film this and you'd have plum walk-on parts for every character actor in the land. A cracking piece of entertainment.
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