Friday, February 2, 2018

Total Skull: The Scar, Madame Two Swords, City of Haunted Dreams, Within Temptation

Things that brought me delight in January, 2018:

China Mieville, The Scar
China Mieville's Perdido Street Station is the best known book in his Bas-Lag sequence, and probably his best known book overall, but it doesn't deserve to be. Don't get me wrong, Perdido has an interesting plot and introduces a really compelling, inventive fantasy world...but it's utterly let down in the end by a lackluster shrug of a conclusion. The Scar should be the Bas-Lag novel on everyone's lips. The Scar amps up the world-building, features more involving characters, and manages an ending that doesn't feel like a cop-out. It's probably a bit early in the game to call it, but The Scar is a front-runner for Best Book I've Read in 2018.

Tanith Lee, Madame Two Swords
Madame Two Swords--words to conjure with! I've been entranced by that title since I've been aware with of it, but the only copies I ever saw on eBay were prohibitively expensive first editions from a limited print run. Luckily, the novella has been reprinted in an affordable softcover by Immanion Press. Madame Two Swords is admittedly slight, but there is enough phantasmaorgical speculation about the way books shape our experience of the world and how art breeds our obsessions to make this a worthwhile addition to any Lee fan's library. 

Simon Marsden, Venice: City of Haunting Dreams
Simon Marsden's photography has long exerted an enormous power of fascination over me. His view of Gothic decay is an essential set of visual building blocks when I work on Gothic settings and rpg adventures. And his work really does invite re-visitation; Venice: City of Haunting Dreams was a big influence on the Piskaro region of Krevborna, so it was especially nice to go back to this one and get a fresh dose of inspiration.

Within Temptation, Enter
I am not much of a Within Temptation fan; their music is a bit too "soft" to scratch the symphonic metal itch for me. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Within Temptation's first album landed much more on the doom side of things than anything they produced since. Enter certainly isn't the most crushing journey of harrowing riffs one can indulge in, but it's got that balance of beauty and beastliness that I like. Fun fact: this was the first album I listened to in 2018.

Honorable mentions:
Molly Tanzer, Creatures of Will & Temper
Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation
Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, Owen Gieni, Manifest Destiny volume 1: Flora & Fauna
Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughn, Saga: Volume Eight
Kentaro Miura, Berserk vol. 1 and vol. 2

The Howling Void, The Darkness at the Edge of Dawn

Limbonic Art, Spectre Abysm
The Handmaid's Tale (hulu)

Alias Grace (Netflix)
Ellis, Shalvey, Bellaire, Injection vol.  3
Katie Skelly, My Pretty Vampire
Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook, Harrow County vol 4: Family Tree
Brom, Offerings
High on Fire, Luminiferous