A little research reading

Edited by Michael Stein, ALIEN INVASIONS!: The History of Aliens in Pop Culture caused me a sliver of anxiety as it covers similar terrain to Alien Visitors; fortunately it’s different enough from what I’ll be doing I don’t think it’ll kill my market.

This is a big-picture book running from 19th century pre-War of the Worlds stories of alien visitors through the silents, the pulps, comics and movies of the 1950s on to the more recent works such as Arrival. This would be more useful to someone starting from scratch — even before Alien Visitors my knowledge of this subject was well above average — and some of its conclusions (the Invaders From Mars sucking people into the Earth to enslave is a metaphor for Commie propaganda!) are just daft. It also suffers from the lack of an index which makes it inconvenient when looking for something specific such as Algol. More lavish in its illustration than I’ll be able to afford, though.

I recently started work on a paper about golems in specfic, to be published in an academic book on the subject. As part of that project, I read THE GOLEM OF HOLLYWOOD by Jonathan Kellerman and his son Jesse Kellerman. Back when I read a lot more mysteries I always enjoyed the older Kellerman’s work but this book is a mess.

The story gives us two alternating and apparently unrelated narratives (I don’t think anyone will be surprised they tie together eventually). One concerns Jacob Lev, an alcoholic former homicide cop demoted to traffic detail. To his surprise he’s suddenly transferred to Special Projects and assigned to investigate a head found without a body. It turns out the head belongs to an infamous serial killer, so who did him in? In the other plotline we follow Asham, the sister of Cain and Abel, torn between which of them to marry. Eventually, she dies and bizarrely becomes the soul force poured into the Golem of Prague. Who is still around, in a much-mutated form — rather like a comic-book shapeshifter “Mai” can become an oozing wave of mud or a swarm of giant beetles.

Compared to this mess, Marvel’s Golem was Watchmen. At 500 pages the murder investigation is unbelievably tedious and the Bible stuff isn’t much better — do we really need such a cumbersome origin for the Golem of Prague? The ending is a mess, even given it’s explained in the sequel. The only thing I liked was that Jacob’s a high-functioning alcoholic, still drinking but able to do this job. I’ve read a lot of fiction where becoming alcoholic Monday means you’re living in the gutter by Wednesday; some alcoholics manage to keep the balls in the air a lot longer.

The sequel, THE GOLEM OF PARIS was marginally better for making sense of the mythos: Special Projects is actually run by Nephilim who use Mai as their executioner. Only now she’s out loose so they need to destroy or contain her again, particularly as the Russians are now hunting her for their own use. Better, but not good — this is another long book with another uninteresting murder mystery. I’m just glad there’ve been no more sequels since this one.

#SFWApro. Cover by Ernie Chan; all rights to images remain with current holders.

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