The Books of My Numberless Dreams


Posted on: February 8, 2007

I have read, or rather stopped reading, my first dud of the year. (Boo hoo.) Something was very different from his other novels in Mr. Hammett’s The Dain Curse. His detective narrator was neither enigmatic or magnetic; part of the plot unravelled abruptly within the first few pages of a small novel; and (one of?) the villains was allowed to go on about what, how and why she did this and that for far, far too long. I looked at the book askance, wondered out loud, “What the hell is going on here?” and pushed it back into my purse.

A New Age kooky cult is a part of the plot and that should have been warning enough. I always find such things very cheesy, especially in novels; vague images of prisms, people in weird white caftans and a bad cult orgy sex scene in a Danielle Steele novel (Daddy?) where drug fuelled cult orgy is described as warriors with a lot of arrows poking into the female character, go through my mind. (Hey, at least I recognised Steele’s formulated crap for what it was by the time I was 13 or so.) Just…cheesy. I figured Hammett would be able to rise above such pitfalls but I was mistaken. It only has a little over 200 pages, small dimensions, but I don’t see myself completing it. I’ll move on to Nightmare Town with the hope that it lacks any brain washing, crystal wearing con artists.

I don’t want the same to happen to Shriek. It is my first VanderMeer and I’m finding it a little…odd. The style is different from what is found in the fantasies that I read; the story telling is…unconventional I guess. This is not a straight narrative and he plays a bit with the formatting in a way that would be thoroughly unsurprising in a lit fic but which throws me when reading genre. The jacket copy does describe him as a “fantasist”, and he gets blurbs from folks like Steve Erickson and Zoran Zivkovic, so those were clues. While it takes some adjustment none of these are impediments to my enjoyment. I wasn’t gobbling it up but I was enjoying my gradual pace until it stalled. Duncan, a scholarly explorer of a dangerous underground city, describes in his journal a scene that smacks of what I consider to be science fiction.

I don’t like *science fiction. I don’t like aliens really, or space ships, intergalactic space operas or chewbaccas. (I hate chewbaccas.) And this scene of thousands, millions of pale white bodies organically linked to a huge beast, eyelids fluttering as they dream in unison, giving off this vague glow no doubt, this pod-like mass, is off-putting. No fault of the author of course, but there better not be any goddamn space ships or some kind of vast breeding laboratory or…just any of that Alien-like crap!

*I know, I know, there is so much more to this genre, it is so speculative, you like Orwell and Mary Shelley right, then you like SF etc. fiddle dee dum.

2 Responses to "Deserted"

Oh, hey, that Shriek sounds good. 🙂

It really is (so far) and I’d recommend it. Any problems I have with it are all rooted in a silly personal quirk.

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