The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft

The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft: stories by H.P. Lovecraft, edited and annotated by Leslie S. Klinger

Annotated H.P. Lovecraft

 

WW Norton has published a series of annotated editions of classic works such as The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of OZ. I own most of these editions and have found the history and information contained in them to be worth going back to and re-reading again and again. So it was with great excitement that I found out that H.P. Lovecraft was going to get an annotated edition for his collected stories. And I was even more excited to find a review copy in the mail, proof that my WW Norton sales rep is looking out for me (Thanks Dan)

For anyone unfamiliar with Lovecraft, he was a writer of weird horror stories in the early 20th century who has influenced many horror and science fiction writers:  his contemporaries in the early part of the 20th century and writers down to the present day. Lovecraft had only a limited number of works published during his lifetime, but thousands of pages have been written by others using his otherworldly gods and “things not meant to be known by man”. He also wrote thousands of letters to other friends and  writers such as Robert Howard (author of the Conan stories) and Clark Ashton Smith. Many of these letters expanded on Lovecraft’s interwoven group of eldar gods which have come to be called the Cthulhu Mythos after the most famous of these gods, the dead dreaming god Cthulhu. Later authors have added to, played with, improved and generally made more creepy the Cthulhu Mythos. All are in debt to Lovecraft for giving life to this universe.

The book itself devotes the first 70 pages to biographical information about Lovecraft and a brief summary of his writing career. It is, as it is meant to be, a good introduction to Lovecraft the man. There have been more full biographies of Lovecraft, as well as a number of volumes of his collected letters, that are available to anyone who wants to dig more deeply into Lovecraft himself. This introduction does a good job of covering the bases about Lovecraft, and does not shy away from some of the less pleasant aspects of his personality, such as his racism and anti-semitism.

The next 806 pages contain 22 of Lovecrafts works. Some, like the 8 page Dagon, are very short. Others, like At The Mountains of Madness, run over 100 pages. The works chosen are a good cross section of his work, and manage to include most of his best known works like Re-Animator and Call of Cthulhu. As in the other annotated volumes in this series the author’s works run in a column down the center of the pages with the notes/annotations along the sides of the text.

Finally there are 50 pages of appendixes, including a complete list of Lovecraft’s works with publication dates, a genealogy of the gods of the Cthulhu Mythos and a short section on the influence of Lovecraft’s works on popular culture.

All in all this tome weighs in at around 1000 pages, and is the size and weight of a large Bible. Not bad for the $39.95 price.

So what did I think. Overall I am very pleased. I have been reading Lovecraft and stories inspired by Lovecraft for years. I have seen films inspired by Lovecraft’s crations, played board games that have a Cthulhu theme and even at one time owned a large Cthulhu figure for a miniatures game called Horrorclix. So I consider myself very familiar with Lovecraft’s works and literary descendants. I found the biographical material enough for someone who had never read Lovecraft to put him firmly into his time and place. I thought that the selection of stories covered all the major bases of Lovecraft’s styles and stories. And I found the annotations helpful in giving the stories additional context without bogging down into the minutiae that could so easily have distracted from the stories themselves.

I only have one quibble with the book. I do not understand how The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath was not included in this collection. It is one of Lovecraft’s longer (141 pages in the 1976 edition I have), stranger and semi-biographical tales (Klinger mentions that it was inspired by a dream that Lovecraft had). I think that it really stands out as one of Lovecraft’s best works. If the editor was going to go with 1000 pages, why not go 1150 and include Dream Quest.

Other than that, Wow. The books feels good in a readers hands. From the tentacles that are on the cover to the feel of the paper the book just feels as if the people putting it together really understood and cared about the subject matter. It will certainly have a place on my shelves.

If you like Lovecraft you will like this book. It feels good to read and contains great stories along with information to help you enjoy them. If you have never read Lovecraft, pick this up and prepare to be introduced to a 20th century horror writer who continues to inspire others to this day. I would put this on my list of presents for any Lovecraft fan.

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Console Wars

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Never has a book made me want to spend an entire day playing Sonic the Hedgehog like Console Wars, the new book that follows the 16 bit game console battle between Nintendo and Sega that took place in the early 1990s.

Author Blake Harris got an insiders’ view from the Sega side, so most of the story is told from the point of view of the Sega America employees who were not only fighting against the 90%+ market share of Nintendo but also against Sega’s Japanese ownership who did not always see eye to eye with the American team on how the games should be marketed.

Although the book is more than 500 pages long in the Advanced Reader that I have,  it never seemed like I was reading a tome. I experienced the video console wars as a consumer (I had a Sega Genesis and spent many hours playing Sonic and the early Phantasy Star games). It was fascinating to read about the world behind the scenes. How the Sega got onto the shelves. And how Nintendo lost what at the time was an insurmountable lead to now be a distant third behind XBox and Playstation in the current console wars.

If you are interested in Video game history or just a good story of how a scrappy group of businessmen made good, check out Console Wars.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle

Last Unicorn Cover 2

Sometimes life throws interesting things my way, as happened last Thursday when I got a call from Erin, the events co-ordinator at Rediscovered Books. She was calling to tell me that there was an author who was coming to town unexpectedly. On Friday. Who wanted to do a book signing at our store.

Now normally this would be a clear NO. We had no books. We had no time to advertise. We had no extra staff scheduled. None of the things we normally would want to have for a successful book event.  After hearing the rest of the story, I said YES.

First of all, the author was Peter S. Beagle. Peter S Beagle is best known for his fantasy novel. The Last Unicorn. This was a book I first read when I was quite young, given to me by my brother David. David was largely responsible for me loving fantasy, having fed me a steady diet of novels filled with elves, dragons, unicorns, heros and wizards. He shares this responsibility with a host of authors who I devoured when I was young, including legends such as Issac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley and yes, Peter S Beagle.

Second of all Peter was coming to Boise unexpectedly because there was a 10 year old girl with cancer who had a wish to see her favorite film, The Last Unicorn, on the big screen. Peter and his crew had planned to come to Boise in the spring as part of their northwest tour. When he found out that the young lady had take a turn for the worse he and his crew were going to drive all night from Eugene, do a film showing in the afternoon and wanted a venue to gather afterwards for a reading. His publicist was calling from the van, on their way to Boise, trying to make the event happen.

How could we do anything other than throw our support behind this?

The event was a smashing success.  We had a store full of people. Peter read his short stories and answered questions for 2 hours. Signed books for another hour. His support staff were some of the nicest people I have met in the business.  And all on little/no sleep and the knowledge that they were going to drive to Portland the next day in time to make a noon event.

For anyone out there who is unfamiliar with the story, The Last Unicorn revolves around the quest of a solitary unicorn to find out what has happened to the rest of her kind. Along the way she gains the companionship of a number characters who have become almost archtypes in the 40 years since the Last Unicorn’s publication. There is the bumbling wizard, Schmendrick, who is a much better storyteller than wizard.  Molly Grue joins the group, coming from the company of a Robin Hood inspired band of forest outlaws. Prince Lir is the foundling child, raised by the evil Barron Haggard and desiring to be a true hero.  They all come together to find and defeat the Red Bull, a huge monster who keeps the remaining unicorns of the world trapped in the sea. All together the story is as full of adventure and wonder as it was when I first read it.

I was thrilled to get a copy of the deluxe edition of The Last Unicorn in its graphic novel adaptation. I had not even realized that The Last Unicorn had been adapted to a graphic novel format. Originally done as a 6 issue comic, IDW has produced 2 different collections of that comic. The two versions share the lovely art done by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon. Their art brings the story to life in brilliant color. The Deluxe edition also adds the original covers of the comics, art by other artists inspired by The Last Unicorn, a series of pages showing the drawing and inking of the comic and a short story by Beagle only found in this graphic novel.

If you are looking for a good fantasy novel that does its job of world creation and storytelling, track down a copy of the Last Unicorn. If you enjoy reading Graphic Novels and want to see one done extremely well,  either of the two IDW bound collections of the Last Unicorn are worth having.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian

Andy Weir is a first time author who has managed to write a book that hits all of my buttons. It is great Fiction, that also happens to center around Science. So technically Science Fiction without the starships, aliens or really anything that normally defines the genre.

The martian of the title is Mark Watney. Mark is a member of the 6 man Martian exploration crew of Ares 3, the third manned mission to Mars. When a freak sandstorm hits the surface of Mars and threatens to destroy the astronauts’ return vessel, they have to leave prematurely. Thinking that Mark is dead, they leave him behind on the surface of Mars. Hours later he awakes, and realizes that he has only himself to rely on if he is going to survive.

Mark realizes that he has major problems, He is totally alone, with no way to let earth know that he is still alive. He does not have enough food or water to survive until the next scheduled Mars Mission. The next scheduled mission is going to be landing at a different landing site, with no way for Mark to get to that site.  And the only music he has is disco.  How Mark overcomes each of these obstacles makes a thrilling page turner worthy of a Grisham legal thriller.

The story starts out being told as a series of log entries that Mark makes as he struggles to survive. Soon the narration expands to NASA scientists, the remaining members of the Ares mission and NASA management as the struggle for Mark’s survival and possible rescue becomes a global issue.

The story and characters are well thought out and well rounded, something that is often lacking in Science Fiction. Normally this would be where the reviewer would say something along the lines of ” while I am not a scientist, the science sounded good…” Well, I am a scientist (I no longer run a lab but you don’t give up being a scientist just ‘cuz you stop chasing electrons for a living) and the science in the book did more than sound good, it was plausible. The science was important to the plot without being either dumbed down or overly technical.

I read the book in 2 sittings, and would have read it in one if I had not started it so late on a Thursday night. I think it will be a book that breaks out of the circle that normally reads science fiction and into book clubs and the general fiction reader. Keep this one on your radar screens.

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

Serpent of Venice

Joy of Joys, there is a new Christopher Moore Book coming out this spring.  There is much in the new book that will delight his fans, and nothing in the new book that will change the minds of those who find him “offensive”.

Christopher Moore is one of our favorite authors to hand-sell in the store.  When a customer is looking for something different and funny, Moore is a go-to author. With books like Lamb (the story of Jesus told by his best childhood friend Biff) and You Suck (a vampire love story) Moore amuses and tweaks readers in a good way.

Moore introduces memorable characters in his books, and I found myself really liking the main character of Fool, one Pocket of Dog Snogging. Pocket played the jester/fool in Moore’s twisted retelling of King Lear.

Pocket returns in Moore’s new book which combines elements of the Merchant of Venice and Othello. Trying to explain Moore’s funny, twisted stories is beyond my abilities. Just know that he manages to do a mashup of two of Shakespeare’s plays, mixes in Marco Polo and a sea Dragon, and makes it all work.

Serpent of Venice is going on my list of books to look for in the new year, I suggest you put it on your list too.

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates

VNHLP coverThe Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson.

This book was fun to read. It is chock full of Pirates, Magic, talking gargoyles, daring escapes from finishing school and treasure maps.  The whole story is told in  a way that reminds me of the old Loony Tunes Cartoons. The slapstick and silliness is done in such a way to appeal to all ages, and there are asides for the adults to keep them interested in what is essentially a book aimed at upper gradeschool readers

The author creates a world where pirates send letters to each other (reproduced between chapters) and have a training handbook that teachers valuable skills like how to recognize a real treasure map (hint: it must have an X to makr the spot).

A world in which Magic is used mostly by the rich and powerful, but where pirates like Jasper the Terror of the Southlands seek to redistribute magic treasure to the common people. His crew of castoffs and misfits form the cast for our story.

A world where Hillary (our hero) runs away from Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies to chase a dream of becoming a member of the Very  Nearly Honorable League of Pirates.  After all she can tie knots, use a sword, has a remarkable knowledge of pirate lore and customs and can tread water for almost 37 minutes.  Jasper the Terror of the Southlands is willing to overlook minor matters (girls are not allowed to join the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates) because of Hillary’s passion for becoming a pirate.

The whole tone of the book was light and funny. There is so much more to this book than I can describe in a short blog post. It would be a great choice for any child who dreams of adventure leavened with a bit of fun.

Beautiful Lego

Beautiful Lego by Mike Doyle

Beautiful Lego

We spend a lot of time building with Legos at my house. My son Dennis has a huge collection of Legos, both the kits and various blocks that I have picked up for him at yard sales and thrift stores. We also have a number of Lego books. Most of them give the history of a style of Legos (Lego Batman, Star Wars Lego, etc..) or are instruction books on how to build certain things out of Legos like dragons or ships.

So when Gary (my Ingram rep) pointed out this new Lego book at the PNBA tradeshow I was intreagued. A Lego book that was not a sales catalog for more Star Wars Minifigs. A Lego Book that did not have step by step instructions. No, this is a Lego book for inspiration.

Beautiful Lego contains works from dozens of different artists. The works are divided into themes, with sections on houses, people, animals, ect…  The works range from tiny (less than 20 blocks) ot enourmous (must be over 10K blocks). What the works have in commmon is that they are all cool.

My favorite section contains mostly tiny models of animals. Tyler Cites’ Nautilus is not only cool and clever, it looks like something that Dennis and I could make. So do the Snails on the facing page, the clownfish a few gapes away or the rearing stallion that ends the section.

Dennis favorite section was the section featuring Mecha robots. Giant fighting robots are always interesting to a 9 year old, but these give him ideas on how to build some Mecha to share the battlefield with his star wars minifigs.

Dennis and I  have sat down together and gone through this book several times in the week since it arrived at our house,  and I know we have not yet begun to exhaust the  ideas for building contained within.