Friday, January 31, 2014

Monthly Reading List - January 2014

Books I've finished in January 2014:

- Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2014, read, January 2014
- H.P. Lovecraft, "Essential Solitude - Letters to August Derleth", read, January 2014
- Clarkesworld, Jan 2014, Issue 88, read, January 2014
- Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine - Jan/Feb 2014 - Volume 126 No. 1&2, read, January 2014
- Asimov's - February 2014, read, January 2014
- H.P. Lovecraft, "Letters from New York", read, January 2014 
- H.P. Lovecraft, "A Means to Freedom - Letters to Robert E. Howard", read, January 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Loving to detest the mailman!

The Reader is a strange mythical beast. According to the Bestiary, the Reader has the power to truly understand infiniteness. As a matter of fact, only the Reader is given the opportunity to peek inside an immeasurable amount of lives that are within the wide spectrum of characters contained in books.
As the Reader always welcomes new literary additions with visible joy, a stranger might think that nothing can negatively affect the Reader. Wrong.

Well, I love the mailman. Yet, I detest him. This (seemingly) psychopathic bipolar feeling is created by the never ending physical necessity that I have as a reader to catch a break. However, not only my mind refutes the idea of taking a break from reading, but the mailman doesn't stop his deliveries. 
In other words, as soon as I finish a book or a literary (pulp) magazine, a grinning federal employee on a white American General truck delivers more reading material right at my doorstep.

You Got Mail!

A regular human would be either thrilled or frustrated by this incessant delivery. The Reader can't accept setting on one simple feeling as he knows that the delivered book will contain another wonderful amount of different human and extra-human experiences. After all, that is the beauty of reading.
For example, I just finished reading Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (review here) and yesterday I started King's Carrie - I read it a long time ago, in Italian - that I hope to finish in a couple of days. 
Guess what? Merciless as a Spartan, the man that wears the Eagle on his blue nylon windbreaker with pride, delivers not one, not two, but THREE literary magazines. The delivery of all this goodness means that I will not be able to read Carrie without thinking about the magazines and my reading queue. Then, I will eagerly read them and then I will start reading a new book (Salem's Lot; more on that in another post), just before something else will pop at my house.
I bet the mailman is now at home, laughing at me. He knows that he is subconsciously forcing me to read those three magazines and live the lives of the various characters. He cheers his power over my life and celebrates his feat while I am ruminating over when will I start to read Asimov's Science Fiction. Let it be known that choosing which one of the three magazines will be read first is as hard as selecting which turkey is to be pardoned on Thanksgiving.  

Oh boy, that's a Reader's life.

Thanks Mr. Mailman.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2014, Vol. 59 No. 4

April's is a very good issue with a couple of stories of a different kind than the typical murder-mystery. Quick Review.

"The Monitor" by Tara Laskowski is quite disturbing, the kind worthy of a Weird Tales or Black Static. Myra has been blessed with motherhood and as many new parents she finds out that not all is sunshine and rainbows. Eva, her newborn, cries. A lot. Therefore Myra and her husband decide to buy a wireless video monitor to check on the little girl. One day a sleep deprived Myra observes something strange, mysterious and disturbing appearing on the little screen. Is Myra hallucinating? Best story of the issue!

"Purse Strings" by Gigi Vernon. This is a historical crime fiction short, based in France in the XII century. Jaques, the brother of Thibaut the Knight disappeared. A short time later a request for a ransom appeared at Thibaut's door. Everyone believes that Jaques is faking a kidnapping in order to get a few silver coins, but Thibaut is sure that it's not the case.

"A knock on the door" by Jas R. Petrin. A girl disappears and an investigation involving russian mob-girls begins. This story failed to keep me interested.

"Nighthawks" by Joseph D'Agnese. A very short story about a graveyard shift waitress. Fun.

"Sitting Ducks" by Loren D. Estleman. A bomb kills a cop. This makes a nice police story.

"Trash in the Garbage" by Bruce Graham. A body falls off a dump truck... if that's not a good preamble I don't know what it is. Interesting story.

"The Danua Boy" by Tony Richards. This story is about kidnapping in Zimbabwe and other globally important issues.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Review: Clarkesworld, January 2014, Issue 88

I did not enjoy this issue, very underwhelming. Quick review.

"The Clockwork Soldier" by Ken Liu. A story about automation, ethics and bounty hunting. I have never been a great fan of Ken Liu (not that I read many of his works), but this one is quite boring. The only thing I liked is the small homage to P.K. Dick when the "PKD androids" are discussed.

"Grave of the Fireflies" by Cheng Gingbo. A strange piece about stars and time. Interesting enough.

Wine" by Yoon Ha Lee wins the trophy as best story of this issue. Nasteng is a recluse planet under siege and its inhabitants want to avoid complete doom. Although apparently peaceful, Nasteng is a planet with a disturbing secret. Somehow this story reminded me of "Torchwood - Children of Earth", although the connection is really not immediate.

The other two stories, "Ship's Brother" by A. De Bodard and "Utriusque Cosmi" by R. C. Wilson are reprints.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review: F&SF Magazine, Vol. CXXVI, Issue 1 & 2, Jan/Feb 2014

F&SF Magazine's 2014 starts with a loud BOOM! I enjoyed every story of this issue and even the two that gave me the least literary pleasure (Reed's and Crone's) are still way above average.

This happened when I finished reading this issue of F&SF Magazine.

Seth Chambers's novella, C.C. Finlay's novelette and Chillemi/Di Filippo's team-up were outstanding. 
I seriously think that this issue has to be bought and kept. I thank all the authors; I will drink a cold beer while singing immoral chants of praise as my personal offering to their honor.
Let's dig quickly into the stories.

"In Her Eyes" by Seth Chambers is this issue's long novella. It certainly is one of the best stories I read in the past few months about Alex's love for Song a grotesque girl with a foul mouth and beautiful blue eyes. She is not a beauty. Paradoxically, she is beautiful. Why? Because she is a sort of shape shifter. I don't want to give it away, but this story is tragic on so many levels, and contains several perversions of our evaluation of physical attraction, racism and sexual pleasure. 

"The New Cambrian" by Andy Stewart is a novelette about a mission on Jupiter's moon Europa. The mission is one-way only and manned by forty-eight people. And then, there were forty-seven, as Dr. Schneider dies. Incidentally, Dr. Schneider is the wife of the main character, Ty, which is in love with Ana, another member of the team. Dr. Schneider - we don't know her first name - was a scientific celebrity as she found a form of life resembling our trilobite (they call it quadlobite). Things go downhill when in a Riley Scott moment Ty vomits a quadlobite. This story has everything, from high-technology, a love triangle, death and so on. The only question is that nowadays there are so many stories and movies based on Europa that when a future civilization will think that we had a colony on the jovian moon.

"The Man Who Hanged Three Times" got me at its first sentence. C.C. Finlay writes a sad story about a wrongful death sentence that is carried out... many times. Fat Pritchard is arrested because of the alleged murder of his love, Pearl. While proclaiming his innocence, Pritchard will discover a horrible secret. I would love to see a thirty minute movie of this short as the western setting perfectly fits the story and delivers the right mood. 

"The Via Panisperna Boys in Operation Harmony" by Claudio Chillemi and Paul Di Filippo. Well, being Italian I feel overwhelmed as soon as I read "Via Panisperna". We all know about Enrico Fermi and his friends. Yet, no one knows what happened to Ettore Majorana, the brightest of 'em all. It is said that he was able to solve the most complex problems in just a few seconds on napkins or wherever he could write. Unfortunately, one day he disappeared and since then many things were said about him and his disappearance. Majorana's is one of the most fascinating European mysteries; I read a couple of books about him and his mystery. Chillemi and Di Filippo give us a different (totally crazy) tale about what might have happened. The only minor issue I have with this story is that the authors located Bruno Pontecorvo in the US when in real life he defected to the USSR. Side note: my father-in-law was present at the Pontecorvo-Segre' reunion in Italy.

"The Story-Teller" by Bruce Jay Friedman, "We Don't Mean to Be" by Reed and "The Lion Wedding" by Moira Crone are weird enough.

Alex Irvine's "For All of Us Down Here" is a nice tale.  The world is afflicted by Singularity, and almost all humans are plugged into a virtual system and left the real world crumbling. I am not much into VR stories but I liked that this one was from the perspective of someone without access to the system.

"Out of the Deep" by Albert E. Cowdrey and "The Museum of Error" get their honorable mention as they are both pleasant and well narrated.

Overall, this issue of F&SF raised the bar. Big time.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Just got 'em!

Thanks UPS!!! A new addition to my Lovecraft collection of letters and the newly started collection of essays.