Review

Strange Weather by Joe Hill

William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 195 Broadway, New York, New York 10007; Kelly.rudolph@harpercollins.com

Joe Hill knocks a home run out of the park with all bases loaded with Strange Weather, 4 novellas that will twist your mind and make your heart skip two beats a minute.

Strange Weather it is, with a major eclipse crossing the United States, an insane clown president with glowing eyes and a mouth that twitters faster than his brain, if he’s got one.

When there is a book of novellas, there is always one that strikes me as my favorite. My rainbow twist of the four is Loaded, about a mall security guard named Randall Kellaway back from the war in the Mid-East, not having served with honors for sure. He is crazy about guns but is far from being a true gunslinger (he lacks honor).

Kellaway isn’t allowed to have guns but he has plenty. And so does the disgruntled employee from the jewelry store that comes to take her revenge with a fancy revolver. She discovered her boss flashing her sex over the Internet and pulled the trigger.

Kellaway comes in with his illegal piece, sees a Muslim woman with something clutched to her chest and everything goes wrong. A witness sees everything and then it all goes black.

There’s a story behind everything that goes wrong in Loaded but that’s Joe Hill’s job. And he does it with finesse. His dad, Stephen King, has created a true gunslinger in Joe and he’ll never forget the face of his father; never be sent west. (Reference to The Dark Tower by Stephen King).

In another story called Aloft there’s a gent named Aubrey Griffin, frightened of heights, who agrees to a sky jump in honor of a dead friend. However, it all goes wrong because there’s a cloud that is alive and it won’t let him pass.

I’ll say no more than Joe Hill has his guns out and they are blazing throughout the length of this novella. Clouds are only supposed to bring Rain, which is the name of the final novella.

The rain that fell was sharp and solid and as deadly as Joe Hill’s words. Truthfully, Joe’s words are as deadly as the bullets that fly from a gunslinger’s heavy gun. Strange Weather is a collection of four stories that will truly keep you awake and realizing that Stephen King’s apple has not fallen far from the tree. In one of the stories a strange man carries a Polaroid camera that takes pictures and makes people forget. Joe Hill has here captured the imagination of his avid readers. He really does quite an excellent job on these novellas, as well as on his other short stories and novels.

Joe Hill’s first book was a book of short stories called 20th Century Ghosts; then he moved quickly to A Heart-Shaped Box, where a man who has played hard (like Ozzie Osbourn) buys a suit that travels with a deadly ghost that plays with a sharp silver blade. A Heart-Shaped Box would make a wonderful movie but it just hasn’t been done yet. Hopefully a good director will pick it up.

His other three novels are Horns, Nos4a2 and The Fireman. He blows the hole out of the bulls-eye on every single book. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his graphic novel by the name of Locke & Key, a book about keys that open doors to other realities and the family that is both blessed and cursed by them.

One other novella that Joe Hill wrote while he was traveling to a writer’s convention in 2006 is named Gunpowder, and is about teenagers with special talents who live on another planet. It is a powerful story in a hardcover all by itself in 3 forms. All three are hardcovers, one has no dust jacket, one does have a dust jacket, and the third is the deluxe edition with a dust jacket and slipcase. The first is a regular trade, the second is signed and numbered by Joe Hill, and the third is signed and numbered by Joe Hill and the artist Gabriel Rodriguez. They are all wonderful and rare.

There is a rumor that Joe is going to lengthen Gunpowder to a full-length novel and this would be great. But right now I highly recommend you buy a copy of Strange Weather. It will be released on October 24th but you can pre-order a signed copy on the Internet from Waterstreet books. It’s so good I just read Loaded for the second time.

I haven’t yet read anything by Stephen King’s other son, Owen. But I’m hoping that he’ll be just as exciting as the rest of the writing family. His new book, Sleeping Beauties, which Owen co-wrote with his father, will be released at the end of September.

These are the days of Strange Weather, which will follow the eclipse. Joe Hill is one of the great writers of these days.

The Delicate Dependency by Michael Talbot

First Valancourt Book Edition, 2014, Richmond, VA; Previously published in 1982 by Avon Books, a paperback edition in 1982. Hard Cover Edition first published by Centipede Press in 2017; 300 copies exclusive.

The Delicate Dependency: A Novel of The Vampire Life was written in 1982 by Michael Talbot, an interesting man who lived most of his life in New York City, writing at times for The Village Voice, a Greenwich Village newspaper. The Delicate Dependency was his first novel and is regarded as one of the best vampire novels ever written.

The Avon paperback can be found in small bookstores and on the Internet and is quite high-priced. Of course, with the release of the new paperback the price should come down.

Michael Talbot is extremely intelligent and his book The Holographic Universe, which was written in 1991, is very well known. It is very dense and if you intend to read this book, settle down with a dictionary. If you are interested in physics, this book is right up your street.

In The Delicate Dependency, the vampire, as they call themselves in plural, are the keepers of all human knowledge and are scattered throughout the world, some of them living in monasteries. One of the vampire was actually a Pope in this book.

Dr. John Gladstone is the main human character. His two children, Ursula and Camille, play major roles. Camille, a young girl, is a savant. If she hears a tune played on an instrument, she can duplicate it to the very note on a piano.

For reasons that will be disclosed, the vampire Niccolo steps out in front of Dr. John Gladstone’s carriage, breaking Niccolo’s legs. Dr. Gladstone takes responsibility for Niccolo and takes him to the hospital where several peculiar events ensue.

Lady Dunaway, a fellow traveler with Dr. Gladstone, says, “Never trust the vampire, for everything they say and do is for some other purpose. They will play a cruel and enigmatic ‘game of the mind’ with you and it will be up to you to solve the puzzle, unravel the Gordian knot.”

Niccolo and Lodovico, two very old vampire, combine forces to kidnap Camille, the young musical savant. Lady Dunaway wants to travel with Dr. Gladstone, claiming that her son, a mathematical savant, has been kidnapped by the vampire.

Dr. Gladstone has a strange intuition about Lady Dunaway, who seems at times not quite human, although her body temperature is normal. The vampire have cool body temperatures and their heartbeats (in most stories about vampires they don’t have heartbeats) are about 34 beats per minute.

During the search for the two savant children, Dr. Gladstone and Lady Dunaway wind up in France and are taken prisoner by a vampire named Des Essientes. They are kept in separate, comfortable rooms, but they are told that they will be kept there for the rest of their lives because they have discovered too much about the vampire.

On alternate nights, they are sometimes given the run of the house, always under the watchful eye of a falcon that feeds on rotting meat. Therefore, if they try to escape, the falcon’s claws will infect them with lethal bacteria.

The falcon is the pet of a young vampire, Hatim, who was turned when he was a teenager. Hatim has many of the mannerisms of the falcon and his demeanor frightens Dr. Gladstone. When Dr. Gladstone asks Hatim how old he his, Hatim says that he doesn’t really know, but he assumes he was born over five hundred years ago.

If you have read the book Dracula by Bram Stoker, you will notice a similarity in the frantic chase scene when Dr. Gladstone and Lady Dunaway flee the vampire when they seem to be closing in on all sides.

Dr. Gladstone’s older daughter, Ursula, assists in their escape, but I will stop here and let you be chilled by it as you read the book.

Talbot has the vampire keep records of humanity for many centuries. Many vampire were living in monasteries during the dark ages. Lodovico, one of the oldest vampires, has birds and animals long thought extinct in his giant mansion and gardens, where he isolates himself from the rest of the world.

The Delicate Dependency is a book that is as interesting as the life of its author, who was way ahead of his time. Michael Talbot was gay, born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1953. He died of HIV related leukemia at the young age of 38.

Michael Talbot is regarded as one of the great minds of his generation and has been widely published. Even though not many people have heard of this book about the vampire, it is regarded as the best of its genre. The fact that it has been just reprinted, will make it available to vampire lovers worldwide. The paperback is within the price range of the average reader and the rare hardcover published by Centipede Press sells for close to one hundred dollars.

 

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology by Neil GaimanNorse Mythology written by Neil Gaiman; published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110; (212) 354-5500 http://www.wwnorton.com eriley@wwnorton.com

Neil Gaiman respects the Old Gods and that is why he is the proper man to write their tales. Gaiman did not just read tales that modern men have written to decipher the Old God’s realities, but he went back and studied the original translation of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, the verses of the Poetic Edda, which was written nine hundred years ago to reveal the stories of the Old Gods.

Think back to the early history of humankind, where men, women and children huddled around the fires at the entrance to their caves, or the giant fireplaces in the stone houses of the Vikings, and then you will be able to come to an understanding of the Old Gods.

Odin, Thor, Loki, Tyr the one handed (Odin’s Son) and Frigg, the queen of the Gods, where we get the names of some of the days of the week, for instance, Odin was called Wednesday; Frigg was called Friday, just to name two of them.

Think of Jesus on the cross and then hear the tale of Odin, the greatest of the Gods, who, for the seeking of knowledge and runes, sacrificed himself on the World Tree, Yggdrasil, where he hung for nine days and nine nights; during that time his side was pierced by the point of a spear and yet he lived and hung on the Tree without eating or drinking, alone in great pain and suddenly, just before death took him he peered down at the ground and the runes of knowledge were revealed to him.

Odin came to understand then, and his ropes disintegrated as the great God fell from the tree knowing the power of magic and having the ability to control the world. Now then, think of Jesus on the cross, with his side pierced by the spear. Who is the older of the Gods?

Neil Gaiman spins the webs of the God’s lives in Norse Mythology, tale after tale. Did he drink mead, the poetic drink of the Gods, while he was writing these tales? It may well be so.

One of the tales is called The Treasures of The Gods. It is the best story about Loki, the Trickster God, I have ever read. It starts with a tragic event and ends with everyone happy, all that is, except for Loki. It also reveals how many of the treasures of the Gods are created, even the great Hammer of Thor.

One of Loki’s greatest tricks is to change his shape and appear as anything or anyone he wants. He used this trick to thwart The Master Builder from finishing Asgard’s great wall on time.

Loki was married but he carried his ways into marital bliss. It was bliss to him but to his wife Sigyn had her doubts. Which were well founded, for Loki would disappear for a time and then, when he returned, he was happy but Sigyn was not. After Loki’s third disappearance, Odin dreamed into Loki’s travels and found that he was carrying on with a Giantess named Angrboda.

Loki had three children with Angrboda. One child named herself Hel; another of the children was named Jormungundu and the third child was called Fenrir. These were Loki’s children with the Giantess; he had two children with his wedded wife; one named Narfi and he was not well-behaved, and another named Vali and he was obedient and restrained. But it is Loki’s children with the Giantess that the story is about. You will understand when you read the story of The Children of Loki. That doesn’t mean you will know what you understand.

The stories in Norse Mythology just keep getting better. Another great story is called The Apples of Immortality. After all, the Gods don’t stay young just because they are Gods. What would happen if someone stole the apples of immortality? Only Loki, the God of Mischief, could have a hand in something like this.

I believe that Neil Gaiman was one of the gifts of the Gods, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to spin such tales from the past. I wonder, in the end, if Neil Gaiman will pay the price for his tales. If the Gods read these stories, they may get want to get even with him.

As I read Norse Mythology, I have come to wonder if Neil Gaiman is really Loki in human form. Gaiman’s stories have tricks in them that only Loki could conceive. Sometimes I think that only Loki or Joe Hill could achieve such a feat, but Neil Gaiman pulls it off wonderfully.

The book will be released on February 7th and I am sure that the Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square will have copies for sale. Please don’t miss this book, even if you’ve never read anything by Neil Gaiman. It’s a great place to start.

Norse Mythology is one of the best books by Neil Gaiman that I have ever read and I’ve read almost all of them—The Sandman, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, & Black Dog, which is a novella that was born from American Gods. There are other books, books written for Young Adults such as Coraline and The Graveyard Book, just to name two.

Enjoy!

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis: A Book Review\ By Marc D. Goldfinger. Goldsboro Books, 23-25 Cecil St., London, WC2N 4E2, United Kingdom, S & N Limited Edition/and Crown Publishing Group, A Division of Penguin Random House

“Think on why I ain’t killing you.”-Kreagar

Elka doesn’t remember her parents. She lives in the wilderness, after a war that destroyed civilization, with a man named Trapper. Trapper teaches her to survive in the wilds but hates the small towns around them; he has a terrible secret that he doesn’t want Elka to find out about.

For a brief time before living with Trapper, Elka lived with an old woman she called NaNa, but Elka got separated from her during a “thunderhead”, a giant storm that occurs sporadically since the wars, that the people refer to as “the Damn Stupid”, wrecked the infrastructure of civilization. From the description of the world, it sounded as if it was a nuclear war.

Elka was about 7 years old and wandering about in the woods when Trapper found her. He told her that he would take care of her until they found her NaNa. She was a little frightened of him because he had what looked like blue mud pictures on his face that didn’t come off.

One day Trapper came back and told Elka that her NaNa was crushed by a tree during the last “thunderhead”, but he said he would take care of her. Trapper taught Elka to hunt, build snares, skin rabbits, squirrels and deer, and generally how to survive in their world.

Trapper had mean parts to his personality, and one time Elka cut herself and spilled her blood over a snare. Trapper made her sleep outside by the snare for three days because he no animal would come near a snare that smelled of human blood.

The description of Elka’s life with Trapper takes place in the first 50 pages. At the end of her apprenticeship, Elka is about 17 years old and a really strong woman. This is where the story really begins.

So I haven’t told you a lot of the story, just some clues as to how the book begins. It’s really an exciting story where the tension builds as Elka goes to town for the first time and sees a Wanted Poster with the picture of the man she lives with. Elka knows him as Trapper but the Wanted Poster calls him Kreagar Hallet and says he is wanted for murder.

Elka is approached by the sheriff of Dalston, the nearest small town to where she lives. The sheriff, Jennifer Lyon, claims that the man Elka knows as her father is the killer of eight women and one child.

Elka is dumbstruck by this information. At this point she feels she needs to get out on her own and think things through, never realizing that the man she calls Trapper and thinks of as her Daddy, will track her, no matter where she travels.

The book is told in 1st person narrative. At first, Elka’s way of telling the story took a little getting used to, but once I got used to her thought pattern, the book was difficult to put down. This is Beth Lewis’s first novel and it is a wonderful beginning.

When a civilization breaks down, a feudal society fills the space. Women, on their own, need to know how to fend for themselves or men quickly take them into servitude. In today’s world, we call them pimps.

Elka meets friends along the road, and I use the term friends loosely. We cannot always trust someone we think of as a friend. Religion has its place in the world, and in a world where life is savage, so are so-called men of god. Blood is more than symbolic in one church that Elka stumbles into.

Luckily, Elka is quite strong and her naivety quickly dissipates which makes it possible for her to survive. Elka is hunted, by more people than her father, and her travels are full of interesting situations.

The Wolf Road gets its title from the nature of the path on which Elka finds herself. The world is strange and, at one point in the story, she camps at a lake that radiates warmth. She is lucky to get away with her body intact.

One of Elka’s friends camps there with her father and their story does not end happily. However, if that event didn’t take place, Elka would not have met Penelope, a woman of the same age who teaches Elka some useful things—yet there is something about her that makes Elka wonder if she can be trusted.

I purchased the book from Goldsboro Books, a specialty book-seller in Europe. It is a Signed & Numbered edition for a fair price. There were only 750 copies printed. I highly recommend that bookseller which can be found on the Internet. There were still some copies left the last time I checked.

Here, in the United States, the book will be released on July 5th, and by the time you read this, that date will have come and gone. I always recommend the Harvard Book Store, one of the few independent booksellers left. If they don’t have it in stock, they will be happy to order it for you.

The Wolf Road is a great summer read and I’m looking forward to Beth Lewis’s next book. It’s a great, if a bit dark, adventure.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuval

Sleeping Giants; by Sylvain Neuval; Published by Penguin Random House LLC, New York, N.Y. in 2016; A Series:The Themis Files; Book 1. www.randomhousebooks.com

Rose Franklin is riding her bicycle in her hometown in Deadwood, South Dakota when, as far as Rose is concerned, the world ends. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole; its walls are glowing and the firemen who came to save her are staring down into the hole.

What they see is a little girl at the bottom of a hole lying in a giant hand. The story begins 17 years later. The little girl is grown up now and she is known as Dr. Rose Franklin, an extremely bright physicist who is being interviewed for an unusual job by a powerful employer.

Before Sylvain Neuval started this book he built a giant alien robot in a tale specifically designed for his son. So the story began with two children and one very motivated adult with an extremely varied background. Much like the characters in Sleeping Giants.

The book was originally rejected several times, but Sylvain Neuval persevered. When he sent his manuscript to Kirkus for a review he received an ecstatic review. All of a sudden, he had an agent and Sony was optioning book one of The Themis Files for a movie.

This young novelist was born in Quebec, dropped out of high school and has worked an amazing number of jobs. One of them was in an ice cream shop in California, which endeared him to my heart because that was one of my many jobs. Sylvain sold furniture, went back to school and taught linguistics in India and has worked as a software engineer; is also a certified translator and received his PHD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago.

Well, that’s enough about him. I started reading Sleeping Giants and couldn’t put it down. I finished it in less than a day and a half and just sat there stunned by the ending—about which you couldn’t pay me to give you a clue. Let it be said that there are two more books coming; the next book will be called Waking Gods and is due out in 2017.

Sleeping Giants is set up as a series of interviews with the main characters by CIA type individuals who are privy to information that most people are not. One individual is CW3 Kara Resnick, United States Army, who is a top-notch helicopter pilot.

At the Coleman Army Airfield in Mannheim, Germany, an unknown interviewer talks to Kara about an incident that occurred when she and her co-pilot CW Mitchell were drifting over Syria to try and investigate suspected nuclear development sites. All of a sudden, they noticed light below them, which was unusual in itself because it was farmland.

Then all engines went full stop and for a moment all was peaceful and then they fell into what was once a field. What appears to have brought them down was another piece of the body that the original hand was a part. Secrecy was wrapped as tight as it could be and the piece was shipped back to an unknown giant chamber where the hand was resting.

I found myself reading interview after interview. Things developed and events took place that surprised me and pulled my interest into the story in such a way that I became part of the enterprise. I’m not going to reveal those events because I don’t want to throw spoilers at you.

This book is one of the most dynamic adventures I have ever read. Sylvain Neuvel is terrific and I can’t wait until Waking Gods is released. I always worry when I begin an exciting trilogy at my tender age of 70 because I want to be there when the next book comes out. At this time Sylvain Neuvel plans to complete The Themis Files in three books.

He has a beautiful website that goes with the book and I encourage anyone who has interest in the book to peruse it. It is www.themisfiles.com/ and you will enter the strange world of Sylvain Neuval.

There are people who compare this book to World War Z and The Martian. The only thing this book has in common with World War Z is the interview style. It’s so much better than World War Z—I couldn’t even finish that book. I loved The Martian, to tell the truth, but Sleeping Giants has a magic that goes beyond Mars. It really does. They have the book at Harvard Square Books, and you can get it on Amazon too but if you buy it on Amazon, go to Amazon UK and see if they still have it in stock—the European dust jacket is killer.