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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Lynnwood

This post has been long in the making. A month or two ago, I received an offer from a friend of mine – the estimable Thomas Brown of Hell’s Water, and Revive fame – in which I would receive an electronic copy of his new book, Lynnwood, before its release in exchange for my thoughts on it. Naturally, I leapt at the chance, having loved both of his previous novels (and eventually I’ll get around to his short stories, I promise!). Unfortunately, just after having received my copy, my last semester of university hit me like a truck and I was laid low for several weeks, only last week finally having the time to pick the book up and read it properly, after it has been released as an eBook.

And how glad I am I did! It very quickly reminded me of Hell’s Water, in that the book focuses in a very particular sin. Because of that similarity, as well as the presence of a Church in a rather central part of the story, I was expecting Christian theology in the same manner as the previous novel. To my delight, there was almost none of that, and Mr. Brown took off in a completely different, wild direction. Lynnwood was filled with many twists, turns, and surprises, and forced me to read the second half of the book in one sitting!

Lynnwood grabs you starting with its opening line, which, fittingly enough, involves a dead pig. The entire novel is perfectly encapsulated in the very first sentence, in which the corpse of a pig stirs strange feelings within the protagonist, the poor Freya. Freya lives in the titular town, Lynnwood, which slowly goes mad as winter approaches. The descent of the town into madness perfectly mirror Freya’s own descent into madness, so that the two seem like one and the same, which in many ways they are. For a very brief period, Lynnwood seems like a pleasant and wonderful place, in which everyone is happy and contented. The fast pace of the novel soon changes that, however, as everything that the town and the reader holds dear is ripped from them.

Lynnwood showcases Mr. Brown’s greatest strength as a writer, talents which manifested themselves in both Revive and Hell’s Water, but have really blossomed in Lynnwood. Mr. Brown is a master of character development and psychology; he is able to almost literally place the reader inside the heads of the characters, so that you are not reading their thoughts, you’re thinking them. The fast-paced and very accessible writing really help the reader become one with the characters, until it does not feel like you are reading the story, but experiencing it.

Along with this naturally comes a set of well-developed central characters who are extremely believable and seem very real, from their first, sane appearances until their final howls as primal madmen. I felt sympathy for each and every one of the characters, and felt their feelings almost as acutely as my own. Mr. Brown did a superb job of portraying the effects of the horror of Lynnwood on the main characters, and through them made me wonder what effect it would have had on me.

Mr. Brown also makes a sparse and very effective use of poetry and diary entries to add to the effect, and makes the world come even more to life. Even more impressive, however, was his command of epicurean language. His subtle descriptions of every item of food consume add a sense of horror and revulsion throughout the entire novel, and through them he manages to evoke the very hunger he writes about in his readers. The food becomes an unnoticed yet absolutely essential part of the story, and serves to demonstrate Mr. Brown’s mastery of the language.

My one, sole criticism of the novel is its lack of explanation. By no means does horror need to be explained, and in many – if not most – cases a lack of explanation enhances the fear. However, in this case, I was left slightly unsatisfied with the ending, as very little was explained. These explanations are by no means critical, and the story works very well without them, but I think it could have been more effective if the horror itself – the primal madness of the Forest – had been explored more, in addition to its effects on the characters.

But that minor point in no way takes away from the brilliance of Lynnwood. It is superbly written, superbly paced, and deeply unsettling. It is a very quick read, and thoroughly enjoyable. I very highly recommend it to any fan of horror. Visit Thomas Brown’s website here and then go buy yourself a copy of Lynnwood from one of the many links provided here!

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in Readings

 

Lexx

I finished watching this very unique and fascinating dark comedy science fiction show a while ago, but haven’t yet had the time to write my thoughts on it. I still don’t exactly know how I feel about it, but I do think it is very overrated. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it was Farscape‘s major competitor (and I think Farscape was the better show myself), and had a similar set-up: a mismatched motley crew on board a living ship, traveling through space. In the case of Lexx, the crew consisted of a low-ranking security guard (Stanley Tweedle) who inadvertently gains control of the Lexx, the titular ship capable of destroying planets, a mutant love-slave (Zev/Xev), an undead assassin who was once a warrior-poet, and a talking robot head hopelessly in love with Xev (and later Kai).

It was the description of the crew that got me interested in the show, and I absolutely loved the first season, which consisted essentially for four hour and a half-long movies. It was dark, gritty, and absurdly funny at moments, and full of sexual innuendos that didn’t overpower thw show. It was clever and portrayed the absurdity of bureaucracy and totalitarianism, while simultaneously displaying the brutality of humanity and the universe, all set against a fascinating backdrop. The characters were great and I loved every minute of it.

Then we got to the second season, and halfway through it I almost stopped watching. The big bad guy of season one is gone, replaced by a different bad guy bent on destroying the universe, with a rather poorly-explained motivation. He didn’t click for me. Furthermore, the first season had a general continuous storyline, and the second one didn’t so much, and the episodes were either hit-or-miss, depending on the writer that week. Most of them were misses. A twitter response to my thoughts about leaving the Lexx ship prompted me to keep going, and I reluctantly powered my way through season 2, and I am glad I did.

Season three was by far my favorite, essentially taking place in Heaven and Hell, and exploring the war between the two. It introduced one of my favorite villains of all time, and doesn’t even try to explain his motivations outside of “I was created evil and so I will be evil and enjoy it.” They were honest about this, which was why he – Prince – worked so well as a villain. The third season I also found clever, and the “city of the week” set-up, in which the crew visited different cities on Hell (Fire) and Heaven (Water) every episode, fun and a good way to examine life.

The fourth season was also enjoyable, and took place on what we know as earth. It had its moments of both good and bad, and an unsatisfying ending, but I preferred season 3. Season 4 was definitely the most humorous, however.

Overall, it was a good show, and all but season 2 were worth watching. Season 2 was extremely depressing – which was fine – and completely overtaken by bad sexual innuendos that just got extremely annoying. I found it dull and not at all inventive or clever. Its villains, both minor and major, were two-dimensional and didn’t seem well-thought out; they seemed caricatures more than anything else. So, you can live without season 2, although some of it is important in later seasons, no not critically so. I would definitely recommend seasons 1 and 3 at the very least!

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Watchings

 

Back in Business!

Hello dear readers, did you think I had forgotten you? Have you spent the past few months escaping from the sorrow and misery that had descended upon you as a result of my absence? Fear not, for I have returned from my journeys!

The last semester at university was riddled with all sorts of stress and work and assorted problems, and as such I got very little writing done (though I did write some!) and haven’t had the time or energy to really put up an effective blog post. Now, however, I have graduated with a B.A. in History and Sociology, and I’m taking this summer largely off. I hope to use it to get seriously back into writing and to establish a schedule! Of course, come fall I will be beginning my doctoral program in Sociology at Brown University, so we’ll see how that affects my writing then. But for now, I have returned!

My first order of business was to make myself promise to stop starting new projects. I will finish all of my WIP’s first! There is quite a lengthy list of WIP’s, but in order of priority (at the moment) they are:

Ziggurats (Juxian Mythos academic expedition gone very wrong)

Beneath (Juxian Mythos induction ceremony gone very wrong)

Tal’kan (Juxian Mythos Techno-space druids!)

The Divine Madness of Kings (Juxian Mythos direct sequel to the Jakken Trilogy)

People of the Storm

…and then everything else. I have largely decided to ignore what I wrote for A Deadly Dance, as I really don’t like how it came out. Similarly, The Divine Madness of Kings will be seriously reworked and expanded upon. I will also continue to work on short stories in between these larger WIP’s; right now I’ve been working on one called “Wings,” based on a prompt a friend gave to me.

I will not go away this time, and will return to EsoTarot soon as well! Ta-ta for now!

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2013 in Writing