Deragon Hex: The Vipdile Key – Carlie Martece

The Vipdile Key

I’ve been looking forward to Carlie Martece’s second novel since reading the wonderful Toxic Nursery a few months ago, and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed.

The Vipdile Key is written in the same fast paced, brutally honest style, and while it isn’t exactly a sequel, some of the themes from Toxic Nursery are expanded upon here. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a pre-requisite that you read the books in order of publication, but knowing the background of some of the characters and their relationship to one another added dimension for me.

Deragon Hex is a dystopian future world where people are sealed in an underground network by a secret key code. Technology, social media and reality TV have all taken a step up in their influence, and now everything is under surveillance; the public may decide the fate of criminals and their victims using voting buttons, raping the unconscious is considered entertainment, and popularity is everything. Even research into medicine has taken an irrational turn:

“All thoughts create energy,” an oncologist is explaining to the narrator. “This new device harnesses the energy radiated when a so called ‘troll’ sends anonymous abuse over the com network to someone with severe depression. We’re investigating whether the frequency of this particular energy wave can slow the growth of cancer cells.”

In a world where justice is in the hands of the popular, how will Ash save and avenge their comatose best friend?

Continue reading “Deragon Hex: The Vipdile Key – Carlie Martece”

Shadowbahn – Steve Erickson

Twenty years after their collapse, the Twin Towers mysteriously reappear in the Badlands. Thousands gather to witness the sight, describing them as an American Stonehenge. What make this even more strange – and haunting too – is that music comes out of the buildings that no one can quite place, and is experienced slightly differently by everyone present.

Which ghosts are being summoned is unclear: the spirits of the Towers? Or the phantoms of the Badlands? Or do, within the buildings, the spirits of two decades previous meet the phantoms of more than a century past, and do they embrace in spectral communion, swap tales of their lives, commiserate and comfort each other over their deaths, display for each other photos and engravings of wives and husbands and children, some wrapped in animal skins and blankets and others donning Mets caps and The Blueprint sweatshirts?’

This event is the ‘landmark’ of the novel, and the blurb. But in itself, it isn’t really what the story is about. As I read it, the story is about the road not taken. Every person, event, and creation has a twin: a shadow which is essentially made of the same principle but has different situational factors acting upon it. Shadowbahn bravely explores this idea on multiple layers.

Continue reading “Shadowbahn – Steve Erickson”

The Spell of the Sensuous – David Abram

As we have evolved, the way we understand the world around us has changed. Nature plays a less obvious part in our lives than it once did, and we pay far more attention to technological devices and man made structures. The Spell of the Sensuous aims to explore the reasons for this, and to demonstrate how we might improve our lives by reconnecting with the natural world. It is a book that successfully merges anthropology, philosophy and ecology, and I expect it will hold the intrigue of anyone with an interest in one or more of these disciplines.

A particular curiosity of mine concerns perception, and how it alters the way we experience, so I was delighted to see the book began with that aspect. Abram considers the feeling of connectedness we get when we truly immerse ourselves in our surroundings, becoming conscious of everything our senses are telling us as we do in the practice of mindfulness. He argues that we are in essence inseparable from the things we perceive, and are in a reciprocal dance with the earth, plants and animals. He relies heavily on the ideas of Maurice Merleau-Ponty as support; a philosopher I hadn’t studied before but found intriguing. Early on in the book we are given the most convincing explanation for a belief in animism I have come across.

Continue reading “The Spell of the Sensuous – David Abram”

Homage to Steve Erickson

Books written by our favourite authors are like old friends, who have accompanied us through years of our lives and seen us at various stages of togetherness. They have occupied that intimate space between the inner workings of our minds that only we know, and the external world. They have fed into our moods, perceptions and understandings. They have comforted and inspired us.

The first book I read by Steve Erickson was The Sea Came in at Midnight, back in 1999. He had published 5 novels before this, but my particular introduction to his work was a short paragraph written about this one in The Times newspaper. I no longer remember the description, but it sounded like nothing I’d read before and I knew I had to get a copy. I wasn’t disappointed. I was thrilled in fact, and having felt much the same about all of his other novels since, he has become my favourite contemporary author.

Continue reading “Homage to Steve Erickson”

Party at the World’s End – James Curcio

Already being familiar with James Curcio  from his zany debut novel ‘Join My Cult’ some years ago, I was excited to discover he had published another.

Party at the World’s End is a lot of fun. It is beautifully chaotic, with events told out of order from the points of view of several different characters; sometimes in third person and sometimes first. Sometimes in recollections, in philosophical musings, in diary entries, and sometimes in dreams or hallucinations. Now I’m sure that sounds hard to follow, but it actually works so well with the subject matter and at no point did I find myself confused. After attempting to read Ulysses this was a breeze.

The theme is sex, drugs, rock and roll, with the added twist that all of the main characters are insane by most people’s reckoning; in fact the story opens with two of them escaping from a mental institution. But there is a constant question; are they really insane or are they actually enlightened through their detachment from what is ordinary? Are they just using too many drugs or are they remembering their past reincarnations as mythological beings?

Continue reading “Party at the World’s End – James Curcio”

The Active Side of Infinity – Carlos Castaneda

Experience would have me believe that we find books at the precise moment we are ready to receive their message. Such is the case with this book for me, and come to think of it, every Castaneda book I have read. I have been missing a few from my collection, and finally found them hiding on the shelves downstairs at Watkins Books in London. This was the one I was drawn to at the time: the final book written by the author before his death in 1998.

Castaneda’s books are all about his apprenticeship with a Yacqui Indian Shaman, Don Juan Matus, who may or may not have existed in reality; though this is a detail I find ultimately unimportant to the philosophy. They are a delight to read because the events described are in a simple and light-hearted guise, yet on a deeper level there are some hard-hitting spiritual messages.

Continue reading “The Active Side of Infinity – Carlos Castaneda”

Dark Matter – Blake Crouch

image

‘We all live day to day completely oblivious to the fact that we’re part of a much larger and stranger reality than we can possibly imagine.’

Dark Matter has been getting a lot of positive attention lately, and I picked it up after seeing a couple of good reviews on other blogs I follow. It is a science fiction thriller about the nature of love, regret and our concept of reality. I’m always attracted to books that take on the idea of the multiverse, quantum realities, and the Schrodinger effect (though it is difficult to do well), so I was looking forward to this.

This is quite a difficult book to review or even describe without giving spoilers. I bought it based on little more than the description I have given above, and even the information on the inside cover gave me more of a clue to what was going on than I’d have liked.

Very basically, the protagonist Jason is knocked unconscious by a masked kidnapper, and the world he wakes up in is not his own. People and places he recognises are there but they are not the same, and there are high expectations upon him to be someone he doesn’t know how to be. He has to figure out what has happened and how to get back to his family. It is the search for a grain of sand on an infinite beach. Continue reading “Dark Matter – Blake Crouch”

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

image

I am a fan of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, but surprisingly this is the first of his novels I have read.

The premise is a man, Shadow, who has just been released from prison and finds his wife has died in a car crash. Feeling lost and numb, he accepts the offer of a job from a strange character he sits beside on his plane journey home called Mr Wednesday. He accompanies Mr Wednesday around America, meeting all manner of strange beings and becoming unwittingly involved in an altercation far bigger than he ever expected.

It is no spoiler to say that this book is packed full of deities and myths from around the world who have been brought to America by their believers, and in most cases stranded with very little support remaining. They are portrayed in wonderfully unique ways. For example there are deities in prison for fraud, working in funeral homes, turning to prostitution, and becoming insane and eating nothing but roadkill. It is written in a very fun way and is always entertaining.

Continue reading “American Gods – Neil Gaiman”

Book List 2016 (Part Two)

If you haven’t already read it, part one of this post is here.

The Fire From Within – Carlos Castaneda (10/10)
This is one of the books I enjoyed most in 2016, even though some of the content was repeated from Castaneda’s previous works. It follows some of the later parts of his shamanic training, in which he learns some complex ideas about heightened awareness and the state of being he is aiming towards. You can read my full review here.

Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter – Kent Wayne (6/10)
This is the first part of a dystopian science fiction novel written by fellow WordPress blogger Kent Wayne. It has a promising storyline and is engaging and well written. My only issue with it is that this part is too short to really form a clear opinion. I am aware that part two (and maybe three) is already available, so I will be sure to read more of this in 2017.

Hideous Gnosis – Nicola Masciandro et al. (2/10)
Hideous Gnosis is a collection of essays analysing the Black Metal music genre. I found it a very hard going, despite having both a strong background in philosophy and appreciation of the genre. There were some interesting ideas hidden in there, but on the whole it was unnecessarily dense and poorly written. My full review is here.

The Cat Inside – William Burroughs (5/10)
This is a very short read. It is a collection of brief pieces of prose about cats, and the author’s relationship with them throughout his life. It is heart-warming, and shows a different facet to Burroughs than we are used to seeing, but I consider it to be a curiosity rather than an engaging read.

Continue reading “Book List 2016 (Part Two)”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑