Monday, 14 September 2020

Cujo

Author: Stephen King
Ebook Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Ebook Date: Mar. 2010
File size/Pages: 1716KB / 402pp
First Published: 1981

Now let's get something straight. Stephen King is a brilliant writer. I love to read King. Some of his books have had a major influence on my reading material over the last forty years. I think he is one of the most exceptional authors around today. His style is so comforting to read, which sounds strange to say when you are talking about a body of work that mainly encompasses the horror genre. But it just is. You can start a novel by King and instantly be sucked into the characters and places of his story. He is one of the rare authors around for who, when you see the latest book is over 500 pages, you don't think "jeez, this is gonna be a slog" - you think, "wow! this could be great, can't wait to get into that one."

I won't say, I'm a King efficianado, or even a King ethusiast. I don't race out to the bookshop to grab the first edition hardback for each and every novel to come along. But I do stop and pause when I see a new cover with his name on it, pick it up, read the back cover blurb, and think, "Is this one up my street?". Becuase I know if it is, then I'm gonna eventually read it cover to cover, and usuallly very quickly. Like a dog that hasn't eaten alll day, and is sitting there drool dangling off of his jowls.

So when it came to choosing books for Horror Month, I walked past my little collection of King novels languishing on the small bedroom bookcase we have, and I thought to myself, "Which one of these haven't I read yet? Cujo. I've not read Cujo, yet. I'll have that one thank you ma'am. Let's see what Mr King was all about in 1981 Shall we." Well, it turns out he was on a high. Quite literallly. And literally. Does that make sense?

When Cujo was published in September of 1981, King was coming off the back of successive hits with Carrie, Salem's Lot, The Shining, The Stand, Firestarter and The Dead Zone. He was effectivley untouchable, and had even started writing under the Richard Bachman pseudonym (see reviews of The Long Walk and The Running Man) to see if his books would sell as well without the King 'label', as they did with it. He also simply wanted to just get more of his work out there, but was hindered by his publishers wishes to keep his fans on a strict diet. 

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Haunted

1988 UK NEL Edition
Author: James Herbert
Ebook Publisher: Pan
Ebook Date: May 2011
File size/Pages: 893KB / 228pp
First Published: 1988

Horror Month kicks off with a right cracker from British horror writer James Herbert. There hasn't been a single book by Herbert that I didn't enjoy reading, so I was bit excited to start this once I'd decided to do a month of horror reading. I'm pleased to report that he didn't dissapoint me again. I was gripped from the first twenty pages. Haunted is a classic ghost story where the gradual build-up of an unsettling atmosphere over the course of 220+ pages had me glancing nervously at the dark corners of the living room while I was reading. 

James Herbert died suddenly in 2013, at the age of 69. It's a real shame because I feel that he had a few more great books in him, and I'd have loved to be able to read them. The last book he published was titled Ash, and acts as the final book in a trilogy about the titluar character, David Ash. Haunted is the first novel to feature Ash, a paranormal investigator.

James Herbert was born in 1943 in London, not so very far from where I myself grew up in the East End of London. He was educated locally and eventually went to work for an advertising agency. His writing success began with The Rats and The Fog in the late seventies horror boom (although to be fair, they rely on more of a scientific basis for their preimse than a supernatural one). Herbert received the Grand Master Award from Stephen King at the World Horror Convention in 2010. Herbert and King were good friends, both of them starting out with their first books at almost the same moment in time with The Rats beating Carrie by just a few months from publisher New English Library.
I was working in advertising as an art director for five years in the West End of London. I realised as soon as I was writing books full time (before I was writing them in the weekends and during any other spare time), I had to decide if it was one or the other . . . I had to make the decision to either stay in the job I loved or start this new job that I had being doing for five years which I loved even more, because I was king, I played God, characters did what I wanted them to do; whilst in advertising everything is brought down to a certain level. So that's how the career began, and because I no longer had to work in London we moved down to Sussex.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Foundation

Author: Issac Asimov
Ebook Publisher: Harper Voyager
Ebook Date: May 2018
File size/Pages: 1093KB / 241pp
First Published: 1951

The final book of Sci-Fi Month is Foundation by Grand Master Issac Asimov. Over the years I have owned many different copies of editions of this book, but for some reason never actually picked it up to read. Mostly written during the 1940's, and published as short stories in Astounding Science Fiction, a new section was added for the first collected edition as we now know it, under the title of Foundation in 1951 by Gnome Press.

Two more books followed, each consisting of a couple of novellas, and these now form the worlds famous Foundation Trilogy. After a lengthy break from writing science fiction, Asimov was lured back into the fold in the early 1980's by the clamor of fans demanding new stories in the same world - as well as a hefty advance from new publishers. This resulted in sequel books four and five, and then by the early 1990's two more prequel titles turning the sequence of books into what is now called the Foundation Series.

Issac Asimov was born in Petrovichi, Russia. Although there is no record of his actual birth in 1920, he celebrated his birthday on 2 January. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1923 with his parents, and so never learned how to speak Russian. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1928. His parents owned a number of sweet shops during his childhood years, and it was via the racks of newspapers and magazines, that his love of reading and books mostly likely took off.

He was educated in and around New York from the age of five. Whilst completing studies for two degrees, Asimov spent three years of World War II working at the Philadelphia Navy Yard's Naval Air Experimental Station, as a chemist. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1945. His military service ceased in 1946, which meant that he narrowly missed out on being part of the team for the Operation Crossroads nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Horror Month


I know I've not finished Sci-Fi Month yet, but I'm already really looking forward to next month. I've decided that September 2020 will be Horror Month here at Digital Biblliophilia

I know there are a lot of Stephen King fans out there from the review I did of The Long Walk, so you'll be pleased to see Cujo is coming up. I have also chosen one of King's writing partners, Peter Straub, and his novel that was turned into a movie, Full Circle. Added to this will be British horror maestro James Herbert with the first 'Ash' story, Haunted. Finally I've included cult classic The Keep by F. Paul Wilson.

See you in September for some chills! (I hope).

Friday, 21 August 2020

The Corridors of Time

Author: Poul Anderson
First Published: 1965
File size/Pages: 659KB / 204pp
Ebook Publisher: Gateway
Ebook Date: Sept 2011

The third book of Sci-Fi Month is Poul Anderson's novel The Corridors of Time, published originally in 1965. It is available for the reasonable price of £2.99 on Amazon UK.

I have quite a number of Anderson novels in my Panther Science Fiction collection, so at some point I'll want to read a few more. Unfortunately, starting off with The Corriodirs of Time was a bad choice. Hopefully this experience was just a one off. If someone can let me know if I just happend to have kicked-off with a right turkey, I'd be grateful.

Poul Anderson is a Grand Master of Science Fiction. Born in 1926, the son of a Scandinavian parents, his family soon moved to Texas where he spent most of his childhood. His father died when he was still relatively young, so his mother took the family back to Denmark. They came back to the U.S. shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, settling in Minnesota, where he attended University. His career as writer began there, with stories being published in a magazine we now are so familiar with; Astounding Science Fiction. Following graduation he became a freelance writer. After marrying, Anderson moved to San Francisco and became a major player in the burgeoning Fantasy community. He won the Hugo Award no less than seven times, three Nebula Awards, was enrolled in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2000 and had an asteroid named after him; 7758 Poulanderson.

The Corridors of Time is a novel about Malcolm Lockridge, an American ex-marine who finds himself in jail charged with second degree murder after defending himself from an attack by a group of teenagers. In defending himself, Lockridge caused one of his attackers to hit the sidewalk rather harder than intended. He is visited in jail by the stunningly attractive woman, Storm Darroway, that he immediately falls for, and who offers to support him financially and get acquitted - if he will promise to assist her with a job. Naturally he accepts, and she tells him to meet her in Copenhagen as soon as he is released - as she will not be available to see him again until then.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Rogue Ship

1975 Panther (cover by Peter Jones)
Author: A. E. van Vogt
First Published: (in book form) 1965
Pages: 205pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Not currently available in eBook format

I clearly have a very short memory. I last reviewed a book by A. E. van Vogt in December 2019, with the novel The Man with a Thousand Names. Back then, I wasn't particularly blown away by Vogt's writing style, but overall found the book a reasonably enjoyable experience. At the time I couldn't see myself reading another of his books in case I came across one of his novels that fell into his penchant for regurgitating old serialised stories from a few decades before, and link them up with interconnecting new passages (he liked to call them 'fix-ups').

Next time I decide to set myself a challenge of reading specific genres in a single month, perhaps I should double-check what I've chosen before I list them on this site! I guess it couldn't really have been that bad - otherwise I'd have subconciously rejected reading this author again?

Rogue Ship is one the novels Vogt constructed from previously issued stories into a 'fix-up' and has a complicated history. From the notes in my 1975 Panther paperback edition it started life as three seperate stories that were rewritten for this single novel. Beginning in 1947, with Centaurus II, which was first published in 'Astounding Science Fiction' (which became the magazine 'Analog Science Fact - Science Fiction'), we then move on to Rogue Ship published in 'Super Science Fiction' three years later, and lastly have a story called The Expendables published within the pages of 'IF Worlds of Science Fiction' in 1963. Drawing all three together and re-writing chunks of them to establish a more coherent plot (something that is debatable when reading a Vogt book!) he repackaged the lot into it's single title.

Rougue Ship is set in an undated future and concerns the journey of the Hope of Man, a giant space cruiser sent out to investigate the Centaurus star system in order to find a new place for mankind to settle. Back on Earth leading scientists are convinced that a cosmic event is imminent, which will pass through the Sun and  become a terrifying wave of solar radiation that will eventually cross paths with our own planet and cause such devastation that it will be the catalyst for the end of mankind on his homeworld.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Capella's Golden Eyes

First Published: 1980
File size/Pages: 645KB / 218pp
Ebook Publisher: Gateway
Ebook Date: Sept 2011

The first book of Sci-Fi Month is Christopher Evan's novel published originally by Faber and Faber in the UK back in 1980. It is available for a very reasonable £1.99 on Amazon UK.

Evans is a new author to me, I'd not heard of him, or read any of his other works before starting this. Internet searching reveals that there is very little known about him. He has a sparse Wikipedia entry that tells me he was born in 1950, a native of the south-eastern Welsh town called Tredegar. He was educated at Cardiff University from 1969 to 1972, and then Swansea University until 1974.

It's possible that he crossed paths with noted fantasy and science fiction writer Robert Holdstock whilst at university (Holdstock attended another Welsh institution, Bangor University in the late sixties and early seventies). Regardless of whether that is true, they combined to edit the Science Fiction Writers Magazine, Focus from 1979 to 1981. The magazine contained many essays on writing SF by noted persons, such as Ken Bulmer, Christopher Priest, Richard Cowper, David Wingrove (Note to self: I really must review one of his Chung Kuo books), and Holdstock/Evans. There were also stories, but it mainly served as the British Science Fiction Association's (BSFA) book for potential or established SF writers.

Evans again worked with Holdstock when they edited the anthologies Other Edens I, II and III, all published in a three-year run during the late eighties. He won the BSFA Award for Best Novel of 1993 with Aztec Century, a novel about an alternate history where the Aztec Empire conquers Britain. He has also written under the pen names of Christopher Carpenter, John Lyon, Nathan Elliott and Robert Knight. He later became a Chemistry teacher in London.

Capella's Golden Eyes was Evans first novel. The title is a reference to the twin suns of the planet Gaia, part of the Capella star system. Generations ago, man travelled to Gaia in a space vessel designed to support its occupants upon landfall. The human colonists struggled to survive, using what resources they could utilise from the land as well as the craft. Just as long-term survival was beginning to look unlikely, a mysterious alien race arrived on a nearby island to the main settlement. The aliens, called M'threnni, allowed the 'Gaians' to prosper by providing resources and guidance. They co-existed together for a short time, but then the M'threnni retreated into their helical structure and rarely ventured outside. All they asked of the settlers was that a few chosen humans would freely volunteer to live with the aliens, becoming in effect their Voices to allow communication to continue with as little interaction with the growing population as possible.