Thursday, December 8, 2016

Total Skull - November 2016

Things that brought me delight in November 2016...


Penguin has done an exemplary service by collecting the poetry that burns gemlike in this collection of fin de siecle verse. This is the prefect introduction for readers new to the Decadent movement of the late nineteenth century, as it includes many seminal poems, but it also compiles enough obscurities to be of interest to devotees. Themes of lust, decay, intoxication, artifice, and imagination resound throughout. If nothing else, this volume has made it clear that I need to read more Sarojini Naidu.

The City & the City isn't fantasy or sci-fi in a technical sense, but it's a noir-ish police procedural that is somehow adjacent to fantasy and sci-fi. It's got me thinking about William S. Burroughs and Deleuze again. I think the idea of citizens of two cities that share the same space who are trained to ignore (unsee) each other would be contrived in the hands of a worse writer, but I was surprised at how well the conceit works in the novel. It's more a statement about how political control shapes how we perceive the world (and especially boundaries) around us. As for the overall writing, I think Mieville did a good job taking on the spare, vigorous style of the police procedural style of mystery. There are moments of more fanciful description, but they're used more like punctuation than syntax. I feel like I haven't read enough Mieville to have a favorite yet, but this is probably the best of his books that I have read; thankfully, he didn't flub the ending to this novel the way he did in Perdido Street Station.

Wylding Hall is the book that I wanted George R. R. Martin's Armageddon Rag to be. The story of Hand's novel is told in the form of interviews with the former members of a British 70s folk band and their immediate hangers-on. The horror of the tale is understated, and slightly Wicker Man-flavored. In the end, the horror might be a little too understated, but this does manage to be a creepy little book that mines the connection between folk culture and darker folk practice.


I re-reading the Prophet comics in preparation for reading the Earth War series. After this second read-through I think I understand 80-90% of the story at this point; a new reader might actually be better served by reading the Strikefiles first, as they explain some of the major characters, events, factions, etc. in a clearer way than the comic's narrative. You can safely avoid the Liefeld original comics if you have an interest in the most recent series--the New Weird post-apocalyptic space opera madness of the new books stands entirely on its own.

I read Julia Gfrorer's Laid Waste and Black is the Color at the same time, so consider this a recommendation of both of them. No one does haunting tales of loss (and loss to come) laced with absurdist and erotic touches quite like Gfrorer. I've read as many of her minicomics as I've been able to get my hands on, and I keep coming back for more. It is crazy that her work doesn't garner more attention.


The setting I most regret not getting into when it came out is Planescape, and I feel that regret in large part to all the great art from Tony DiTerlizzi that I missed out on. Luckily, Realms fills that gap by presenting works drawn from DiTerlizzi's career. This book gives me a millions ideas all at once.


My exploration of the Opeth back catalog continues! This one is excellent. Ghost Reveries still got a lot of heavier influence from their earlier work, but it's married really well to the progressive elements they began to work into their sound. 

Katatonia's Dance of December Souls is absolutely essential if you love that particularly 90s flavor of doom. 


I got three of Kobold Press's books of races for 5e: Unlikely Heroes, Southland Heroes, and Midgard Heroes. The new races and backgrounds presented in these books are cool, and seem very well balanced for a third-party publication. These are all definitely going to see use when I run Scarabae. (Plus, if anyone ever wants to play a dhampir in Krevborna now we're set.) Also, I want to say something about Kobold Press's customer service. My books arrived a little bit chewed up by the postal system. I wrote to Kobold Press, not asking for a refund, not asking for new books, just offering some packaging feedback. The fellow who replied to my email sent me new copies of the books in a sturdy box, no questions asked. Between their high-quality content and great customer service, I'll definitely be buying more from Kobold Press. They're doing it right.