Books

HIDE ME AMONG THE GRAVES is Tim Powers’ sequel to Stress of Her Regard in which the father of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti reawakens the vampiric Nephilim, whose gifts trigger a vast spike in artistic talent, but at the cost of jealously killing anyone else you care about. Thus Christina finds herself tormented by her nephilim-turned uncle John Polidori, while another couple—a desperate streetwalker and a London vet—have to set out and rescue their child from the Nephilim schemers. This isn’t as powerful as the original—it’s one of Powers’ weaker ones, and his fondness for ways to make supernatural beings lose track of you is becoming a recurrent shtick in his books. Still, even weaker Powers is good reading (and given the reference to the devouring of ghosts, I wonder if he’s planning to tie it into the later series that began with Expiration Date).
Some Lovecraft scholars have held up The Dunwich Horror as a parody of Christianity (a half-man, half-god dies calling his father’s name from on top of a hill). In THE DRUMS OF CHAOS Richard L. Tierney takes that a step further by presenting Jesus as the son of Yog-Sothoth, whose self-sacrifice will open a gate for his father and thereby end mortal suffering (along with mortal existence, of course). Opposing him we have Tierney’s series heroes, the Gnostic swordsman Simon of Gita and time-traveling adventurer Richard Taggart, who attempt to thwart Jesus’ sacrifice and the schemes of various Israelite mages centering on it. Lively and entertaining, and Tierney does a nice job skewing the Passion to fit his alt.version (though not perfect—there’s no logical reason for Taggart to resurrect Jesus at the end). However the Lovecraftian mythos here doesn’t fit well with the Gnosticism of Simon’s stories (which Tierney handwaves away by asserting that even the Old Ones don’t grasp their role in the Big Picture) and the Star Wars in-jokes like a Yoda-esque wizard get a bit much.
BLOODY BUSINESS: An Anecdotal History of Scotland Yard by H. Paul Jeffers chronicles the history of Britain’s police from its precursors (a team of investigators known as the Bow Street Runners) through the development of a Metropolitan Police Force situated in the Scotland Yard district to the later expansion into counter-terrorism (back when the Irish Fenians were the Big Bad) and forensics. As the title suggests, this emphasizes the classic cases (Red Jack, Dr. Crippen, the Brides in the Bath) which makes for entertaining, but not deep reading. A bigger problem is that this comes off way too reverential in showing the awesomeness of the Yard, only occasionally pausing to acknowledge the possibility of corruption or failure.
SWORD WOMAN and Other Historical Adventures by Robert E. Howard is surprisingly familiar to me, as several of these swashbucklers got reworked into the Lancer Conan series of 40 years ago (plus the thuddingly tedious Spears of Clontarff was rewritten into the superior The Grey God Passes). Many of the stories come off too similar
(at least for someone like me who isn’t a straight-historical fan)—Howard wrote them for Oriental Stories which wanted tales of the Crusades (back when the Orient included the Middle East) so we have lots of scheming among rival warlords on both sides and way too many savage Gaelic killing machines for heroes. The best stories are Howard’s two unsold tales of French mercenary Dark Agnes (plus a fragmentary third), and “Shadow of the Vulture” which introduced Sonja prototype Red Sonya (ore effective than the Hyborian version—largely because the male lead is a Big Lug who doesn’t steal the show). Middling overall, but the good stuff is really good.

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4 responses to “Books

  1. Pingback: Authentic Witches | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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  3. Pingback: The Lancer Conan: Why I thought Robert E. Howard was bland (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: The Pat Savage syndrome | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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