Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: The Mystery of Marie Rogêt and The Purloined Letter

Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe:
by Edgar Allan Poe
Doubleday (1966), Hardcover, 832 pages

The Mystery of Marie Rogêt is a short story written in 1842, and follow The Murders in the Rue Morgue. The main character in both stories is C. Auguste Dupin, an ‘ancestor’ of Sherlock Homes and Hercule Poirot.
Dupin and his unnamed mate also narrator of the story, undertake the murder of Marie Rogêt in Paris. Marie Rogêt is a perfume shop employee; she is killed and her body is found in the Seine River.
The story is based upon the murder of Mary Cecilia Rogers. Edgar Allan Poe writing The Mystery of Marie Rogêt gives birth to the first murder mystery based on a real crime.
Dupin’s ‘ratiocination’ takes most of the story, and it seems too long and not very interesting.

The Purloined Letter is the third of Poe’s detective stories. He wrote this story in 1844.
Police’s Prefect of Paris has a case he would like to discuss with C. Auguste Dupin. Minister D. steals a letter from a room of an unnamed woman. The letter could contain compromising information. The Prefect tells Dupin that he has searched the Minister’s room but did not find anything.
A month later the Prefect tells Dupin about the reward upon the letter’s return. Dupin asks to the Prefect to sign a check because he has already found the letter.

Among these three detective stories I preferred the first one: The Murders in the Rue Morgue. In this story the narration of the events and Dupin’s ‘ratiocination’ are balanced, so the reader can enjoy reading.

Around the same period another writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, based his books on real crimes reading Moscow’s newspapers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: The Poison Tree

The Poison Tree: A Novel
by Erin Kelly
Pamela Dorman Books (2010), Hardcover, 336 pages


Karen lives in a flat with her mates, she has a boyfriend, good grades at school, parents not too boring, what else? Could Karen be angry with them?
Casually Karen meets Biba, and later her overprotective brother, Rex. A hot London summer begins: are they Karen’s foe?


A child gives birth, Alice. Meanwhile two people die, and one person goes to jail.


Finally Karen takes out her wrath.

Start again
Karen bears ‘... a life lived in translation’, so when she meets Biba and her brother, a new world is before her. A first Karen’s impression: ‘I felt as though I were being read and interpreted for the first time, unfolded and examined like a map left in a drawer for so long that it creates and pleats come permanently to describe their own topography.’ (p.29) But the compass of this undiscovered map points towards drugs, alcohol, and homicides.

The Poison Tree is narrated from the point of view of Karen, jumping between events in the present and in the past. The author of the book, Erin Kelly, during the narration often suggests that something has to happen, creating an atmosphere of waiting for a catastrophe. Almost twenty chapters of the book (there are twenty-nine chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue) are surrounded by this atmosphere, but this is also the weak part of the book. Kelly, every a while, uses some ‘post it’ to remind to the reader about the events to come; but these reminders are not enough for a psychological thriller.
Another weak part is the character of Biba: why is she so special? Is Biba special because of her pseudo-bohemian way of life? Is Biba surrounded by an aura, air of mystery? and which is this aura? Karen and Biba friendship doesn’t suggest anything extraordinary.
The Poison Tree sometimes seems Karen’s journal indicating only a cathartic objective, so the reader is an outsider in this contest.

On overall I liked the characters, especially Karen’s descriptions of other people: accents (maybe inspired by George Bernard Shaw), and idiosyncrasies.

Ending with the poet:
‘A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees’ (William Blake)
Every review is a different translation of the same book.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: The Outsider

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

The Outsider is a short story written between March and August 1921.

‘Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness.’ (p. 43)

A man who has been living alone in a castle decides to search human contact. The narrator knows the world outside only from his reading of antique books.
He finds a way out of the castle and tries to join a party, but the people are terrified before him and run away.
The man detects a presence: ‘It was the ghoulish shade of decay, antiquity, and desolation.’ (p. 48)

Conscious of his figure:
‘Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile. …
Yet in my new wildness and freedom I almost welcome the bitterness of alienage.’ (p.49)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: The Picture in the House

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

The Picture in the House was written on December, 1920.

‘They climb to the moonlit towers of ruined Rhine castles, and falters down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten cities in Asia. …
Most horrible of all sights are the little unpainted wooden houses remote from travelled ways, …
In such houses have dwelt generations of strange people, whose like the world has never seen.’ (p.34)

A traveller in rural New England seeks shelter from a thunderstorm in a house. Although there is nobody in the house, as first impression, the man finds a strange book. The book tells Pigafetta’s account of the Congo region; the volume tends to fall open on a specific page: a butcher’s shop of the cannibal Anziques.
Some noises from the upstairs suggest that the house is occupied.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review: Nyarlathotep

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

Nyarlathotep appeared in 1920 (the story).
Nyarlathotep or the Crawling Chaos is a malign deity in the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.

Nyarlathotep walks the Earth in the appearance of a human being, although he has thousand other forms. Nyarlathotep as messenger of the outer gods will destroy the human race and the earth as well.

‘A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land …
There was a daemoniac alteration in the sequence of the seasons …
And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt …
He said … that he had heard messages from places not on this planet …’ (p.31)

‘Beyond the worlds vague ghosts of monstrous things;
half-seen columns of unsanctified temples that rest on nameless rocks beneath space and reach up to dizzy vacua above the spheres of light and darkness.
And through this revolting graveyard of the universe …’ (p.33)

Maybe there has been a meeting between Batty (Blade Runner) and Nyarlathotep:
- I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die. -

Review: Shredni Vashtar and The Open Window

The Short Stories of Saki:
by Saki
Modern Library (1977), Hardcover

Sredni Vashtar is a short story written between 1900 and 1914 by Saki (Hector Hugh Munro).

This story is collected in this volume and also in an audiobook: Classic Chiiling Tales.

A 10-year-old boy called Conradin lives with his guardian Mrs. De Ropp. Conradin’s is very hard because of his guardian, so he invents a new religion for himself. The idol of this religion is a palecat-ferret. Conradin named it Sredni Vashtar.

‘Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar.’: this is the Conradin’s prayer and the idol obeys to him.

******************** *********************** ************************************

The Open Window was collected with other short stories in 1914.

A girl of fifteen tells to a visitor about her weird family.

Girl: ‘Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her (= girl’s aunt) husband and her two young brothers went off for their day’s shooting.
They never came back.’ (p.289)

Girl: - Here they are at last (she cried)

- In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window. … A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels.

The ghost: - Who was that who bolted out as we came up?

The aunt: - A most extraordinary man … and dashed off without a word of good-bye …
One would think he had seen a ghost.

The girl: - I expect it was the spaniel.
He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere … by a pack of pariah dogs. (p.291)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Review: The Masque of the Red Death

Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe:
by Edgar Allan Poe
Doubleday (1966), Hardcover, 832 pages

The Masque of the Red Death is a short story written in 1842.

Prince Prospero attempts to avoid a plague known as the Red Death. The Prince is hiding inside his castle together with other friends.
They have a masquerade ball when a mysterious figure meets Prince Prospero. After that meeting the Prince dies.

This story reminds another setting: The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, where some people fled from the Black Death in a villa outside Florence.

According to some critics, this book does not suggests an allegorical reading. In my opinion it’s because The Masque of the Red Death suggests so many allegorical readings, that an unique interpretation is impossible The most important thing: many words put together by Edgar Allan Poe to create suspense.

Review: Timber

Timber by John Galsworthy

‘And, suddenly, he saw himself slowly freezing out here, in the snowy night, among this cursed timber.’

Timber is a classic tale of horror written by Montague Rhodes James (M.R. James).

Sir Arthur Hirries decides to sell his timber, and before that he walks in the wood.

A wood becomes a trap crowded by ghosts … but they are only trees.

Review: The Monkey's Paw

Ghost Stories:
Peter Washington (editor)
Everyman's Library (2008), Hardcover, 416 pages

‘It had a spell put on it (the monkey’s paw) … He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow.’ (p. 107)

The Monkey’s Paw is a horror short story written in 1902 by William Wymark Jacobs.

The paw of a dead monkey is a talisman that grants its possessors three wishes. But the wishes, of course, come with a price to pay.

The White family becomes the owner of this monkey’s paw, a ‘gift’ from their friend Sergeant-Major Morris (just arrived from India).
Mr White’s first wish is 200 pounds. The price is very high: the life of his son.

Mrs White asks to his husband to express their second wish: Herbert (their son) back to life. Mr White has seen the mutilated corpse of his son and disagrees with his wife about this second wish.

But at the end, and after expressing the wish to the monkey’s paw ... the Whites hear knocking at the door …
‘A third knock sounded through the house.
- What’s that?, cried the old woman.
- A rat, said the old man in shaking tones, a rat. It passed me on the stairs.’ (p.117)

Review: Celephais

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

Fantasy story written in November 1920.

‘Where the sea meets the sky’

Celephais is the name of a fictional city. Kuranes slowly slips away to the dream-world and creates Celephais.
In Celephais there is no perception of time: time doesn’t influence the life in this city.

‘But some of us awake in the night with strange phantasms of enchanted hills and gardens, of fountains that sing in the sun, of golden cliffs overhanging murmuring seas, … and then we know that we have looked back through the ivory gates into the world of wonder which was ours before we were wise and unhappy.’ (p.24-5)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: The Tomb

The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories:
by H. P. Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (2001), Paperback, 464 pages

An horror short story written in June 1917.

‘All things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which we are made conscious of them.’ (p. 1)

Jervas Dudley discovered the entrance to a mausoleum belonging to the Hyde family , whose house had burnt many years before.
Jervas attempts to enter in the tomb, but he is unable; so, inspired by an example of Plutarch’s Lives, he decides to wait until it is his time to gain entrance to the tomb.

After several years, while Jervas is sleeping beside the mausoleum, he believes to see a light from inside the tomb. He finds the key to the tomb and inside the mausoleum Jervas discovers an empty coffin with the name of Jervas Hyde upon the plate.

Following again the example of Plutarch he starts to sleep inside the coffin, so to gain the name upon it.

Jervas is awoken by his father and discovers that he has never been inside the tomb.

A desire becomes dream, or nightmare: every person change with his consciousness the appearances of the things.

Review: The Friends of the Friends

Ghost Stories:
Peter Washington (editor)
Everyman's Library (2008), Hardcover, 416 pages

‘What was her nervousness therefore but a presentiment? She had been hitherto the victim of interference, but it was quite possible she would henceforth be the source of it. The victim in that case would be my simple self.’ (p.82)

A woman is narrating a weird story of another woman. Every person who meet this strange woman after a while dies, but also reappear as a ghost.
At the end the woman follows the same fate.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review: Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

Short story written in 1920.

In the first part of The Late Arthur Jermyn, Lovecraft describes the ancestors of Sir Arthur Jermyn. They are all explorers and they are fascinated especially by the Congo region.

In the second part Lovecraft tells about Arthur Jermyn and his journey in Congo on a research expedition. Arthur heard stories from his ancestors of a stone city of white apes and the mummified body of a white ape goddess.
Could the mummified white ape be anyone of his ancestors?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: White Raven

White Raven
by Deborah Cannon
Trafford Publishing (2006), Paperback, 256 pages

White Raven tells about three themes:
a man, Jake Lalonde, searching for his Haida heritage and parents;
the fight between loggers and environmentalists;
the legend of the Seawolf.

Jake Lalonde was abandoned in foster houses when he was a child, now as an adult is searching for his parents. Jake has just one clue: a photo of a totem pole that bonds him to the Haida heritage.
Jake’s searches open the Pandora’s Box in a small village on Pacific Coast.

In this village loggers and environmentalists fight each other: ‘It’s a complicated situation. Some people, Native and White, want logging under provincial legislation. Others want Native autonomy, the right to do with the forests as they will, to log or not lo log, … Environmentalists want to halt the industry altogether. Each has good reasons depending on whose viewpoint you take …’ (p.233)

The novel is surrounded by an atmosphere of myth: the Haida’s legend of the Seawolf.
Haida is an indigenous nation of the Northwest Coast of North America. I liked the Haida’s description of Diamond Jenness: Haida as the Indian Viking of the North West Coast.
Seawolf legend: a man found two wolf pups on the beach. When the pups had grown they would swim in the ocean and kill a whale for the man to eat. But the wolves killed so many whales and the meat began to rot. The Great Above Person saw this waste meat and punished the wolves, so they had to remain at sea and became Sea Wolf (Killer Whale or Orca or Grampus). ‘A great white wolf transformed itself into a killer whale while retaining its white markings and the habit of traveling in packs.’ (p.32)

From the beginning of the novel Deborah Cannon describes to the reader the atmosphere of the Pacific Coast scenery: ocean’s smell, noises of lorries carrying logs, and the omnipresent magical world of ancient myths.
‘The smell of wet cedar filled the air … Jake imagined the village as it might have once been: smoke spiralling out of the roofs of the houses, fires ablaze on the beach to light the fishermen’s return journey, and a captain who called the island home,’ (p.50)

All together White Raven is a good book, although I preferred more descriptions of the Haida’s world and their legends. In the last chapters of the novel, the hideous Thomas MacPherson prevails and the book becomes a thriller losing the original idea.
‘Be patient. A dance is just a dance and spirit masks are spirit masks. You can’t absorb a hundred years of Haida heritage in one night …’ (p. 2)

A brief guide of the characters:
- Jack Lalonde and his girlfriend Angeline, and his friend Damon Spencer (both archaeologists).
- Thomas MacPherson (the logger), and his wife Susan (Susie), and their daughter Lucy.
- Jimmy Sky (the Sgua-ay) was married with Tilley.
- Henry Moon and his wife Leona, and his mother-in-law Flora.

Friday, December 17, 2010


The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

‘The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.’ (from the Call of Cthhulhu)

This short story was written December 1919.

Randolph Carter represents the double of Lovecraft telling about his dreams.

Carter has been found wandering through swamps in a state of shock, this story is his statement to the police. Carter has to explain the disappearance of his friend Harley Warren.
Warren has received from India a book where he learns about a door between the surface world and the underworld.
Warren discovers the location of such portal and invites Carter …

No monsters, no blood, just the atmosphere by the master Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

‘I watched amorphous, necrophagous shadows dance beneath an accursed waning moon.’ (p.13)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe: THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE
Edgar Allan Poe
Doubleday (1966), Hardcover, 832 pages

‘The necessary knowledge is that of what to observe.’ (p.3)

The Murders in the Rue Morgue is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1841. It has been claimed the first detective story.
C. Auguste Dupin and his friend, the last is also the narrator of the story, solve the mysterious massacre of two women.
‘What to observe’ in this omicide is a hair that does not appear to be human.

‘De nier ce qui est, et d’expliquer ce qui n’est pas.’ (p.26)
‘To deny what exists, and to explain what doesn’t.’

Review: Dagon

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories: DAGON
Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

‘Lovecraft’s pseudo mythology brutally shows that man is not the center of the universe, that the - gods - care nothing for him, and that the earth and all its inhabitants are but a momentary incident in the unending cyclical chaos of the universe.’ (p.xvii, from the introduction by S.T. Joshi)

Dagon is the testament, or last letter of a tortured man who plans to commit suicide. The narrator thinks he is destined to die because of the knowledge he has gained.
The narrator is a merchant-marine officer, and during a voyage on the Atlantic Ocean his cargo is captured by a German sea-rider. He manages to escape, but he is stranded on what seems to be a volcanic island. He sees a gigantic white stone covered by hieroglyphs, and when he is watching them … a creature emerges from the sea: Dagon …

This short story introduces Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos: Dagon, the fish-god.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: tHE hORLA

THE HORLA by Guy de Maupassant
Peter Washington (editor)
Everyman's Library (2008), Hardcover, 416 pages

‘But what is this being, this invisible being who is ruling me?
This unknowable creature, this wanderer from a supernatural race.’ (p.57)

The word Horla means - out there - (from the French ‘hors’ meaning out, and ‘la’ meaning there).

The Horla is a short story by Guy de Maupassant, written in 1887 and tells how an invisible being influences the mind of the narrator.
The narrator writes in his journal the progressive domination of the Horla on his thoughts and actions.

Akaky wants to be another person buying a new cloak: The Cloak by Gogol (1842).
Golyadkin thinks that another person has stolen his identity, and this second person step by step replaces Golyadkin’s life: The Double: a Petersburg Poem by Dostoevsky (1846).
A person discovers another side of himself: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson (1886).
At the end Gregor Samsa becomes a beast: The Metamorphosis by Kafka (1915).

Review: Black Bird, Vol. 1

Black Bird, Vol. 1
by Kanoko Sakurakoji
VIZ Media LLC (2009), Edition: Original, Paperback, 194 pages

‘There is a world of myth and magic that intersects ours, and only a special few can see it.’ (back cover)

A silly sixteen-year-old girl, Misao Harada, could be a special person because she imagines demons around herself. But apart from a tempting statement on the back cover, nothing more of the book is tempting.

Go back to the real vampires’ stories.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Review: tHE tELL-tALE hEART

The Tell-Tale Heart
from Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Doubleday (1966), Hardcover, 832 pages

An eye, a heart, and a drum.
The Tell-Tale Heart is the most famous short story by Edgar Allan Poe.
Some unnamed person kills a man with a ‘vulture eye’. The police knock at the door called by a neighbour because of a scream in the middle of the night.
The unnamed person is calm … but a beat from the floor like a heartbeat becomes every moment louder … louder …
‘It was the beating of the old man’s heart.’
‘... as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.’ (p.123)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: The Isle of Voices by Robert Louis Stevenson


The Isle of Voices or a bad dream.
Keola is married with Lehua, daughter of Kalamake (a sorcerer) .
This short novel is set in some Pacific Ocean ’s island.
The bad dream starts with the first spell of Kalamake: leaves become shining dollars, so Keola plans to stop working and share Kalamake’s riches.
The sorcerer disagrees and with the second spell abandons Keola in the ocean. Keola is rescued by a ship and left in an island called the Isle of Voices.
In the Isle of Voices, invisible devils ‘day and night you heard them talking with one another in strange tongues.’ (p.670) ‘All tongues of the earth were spoken there … whatever land knew sorcery, there were some of its people whispering in Keola’s ear.’ (p.673)
Eventually Keola is rescued again, this time by his wife.
Sorcery or bad dream?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: The Waif Woman

The Waif Woman by Robert Louis Stevenson

‘This is a tale of Iceland, the isle of stories, and of a thing that befell in the year of the coming there of Christianity.’ (p.1)

The Waif Woman is a short story suppressed by Stevenson and published twenty years after his death. Many editors prefer not to include this story in their selections because The Waif Woman is unfinished.

Thorgunna, a woman wearing beautiful clothes, a ‘chests of clothes beyond comparison … fine coloured stuffs, finely woven’, takes accommodation in a inn where the innkeepers are Finnward and his wife, Aud.
Aud cannot help herself thinking about these clothes.
But there is a rule: the ‘voice of Thorgunna sounded in her (Aud) ear: "The things are for no use
but to be shown," it said. "Aud, Aud, have you shown them once? No, not once!" (p.11)

‘At last she got to bed in the smooth sheets … she shook awhile … and a grue took hold upon her flesh, and the cold of the grave upon her belly, and the terror of death upon her soul. With that a voice was in her ear: - It was so Thorgunna sickened -’ (p.11)

Sometimes is not necessary an explanation of the meaning of the book, Stevenson suggests the setting and feeling a reader might feel reading The Waif Woman.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: The Ice Child

The Ice Child
Andrea Heyser
Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc. (2003), Paperback, 224 pages

‘The Neander are doomed, our land is changing, we die of Human diseases, … Before we disappear from under the moon, we must know that the Neander gods are preserved in the land of the Humans.’ (p. 91)

The Ice Child tells about The People Who Live With The Wolfs, a clan of Neander, and the early Humans. A sacrifice becomes a beginning religion of the Neander, and it is adopted by the Humans.

I liked the first chapters describing the Neander and their surrounding. Heyser suggests the idea of wolf’s pack: a group of Neander and their cave, it seems a bird’s-eye view in the past.
I also liked the sacrifice’s description when the Neander start to believe in god, especially because they will earn protection and a lucky hunting. The sacrifice unified all Neander, rooting the idea of brotherhood among them.
In the last chapters is narrated the friendship between a child, Heiler, and a cub bear, Bruna. I liked also this chapters because Heyser shows us a world where all species can live together.

I feel perplexed and disagree with Heyser about the narration of Neander and Human’s feeling, and self-conscience. In my opinion they are more appropriate lately in Homo Sapiens’s evolution.

The Ice Child is a good start reading about prehistoric people, also with these following reading: Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd, and Jean M. Auel’s books.

Nera, the wolf, is dying: ‘The mother spirit was calling her to follow … before she knew it she was running ahead toward a light, the moon. As she run, faster and stronger, she saw shapes materialize around her, they were her children, an old mate, and her mother.’ (p.95)
I received a complimentary copy of The Ice Child as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

Review: Mushishi, Volume 6

Mushishi, Volume 6
Yuki Urushibara
Del Rey (2008), Paperback, 256 pages

Heaven’s Thread or String from the Sky
A girl was taken by a white string from the sky and disappeared. After a while the girl returns and strange things start to happen to her.
The girl: ‘I just … pulled on this thread that came out of the sky … then everything around me went black …’ (p. 24)
A mushi called Tenpengusa nests in the sky, and ‘They’re born from the shadows … and they haunt the border between sunlight and darkness.’ (p. 29)
Ginko found the girl and they return to the village. The girl is infested by the mushi so she floats in the air. Only the man who wants to marry her tries to understand and ‘... no matter what awful thing happens during the daylight, the stars are always there unchanged.’ (p. 42)

The Chirping Shell
A man and his daughter live outside the village because he thinks the villagers are responsible of his wife’s death. A mushi and Ginko seem to fix the problem.
‘When I say the song in the shell … what’s really singing is a mushi that nests inside of shells. Some call them Yodokaridori. Others call them Sezurikai.’ (p. 62)
‘People who put the shells up to their ears to hear them … forget how to use their own voices.’ (p. 63)
The girl has lost her voice and Ginko thinks that she and her father have to go back to the village, so the girl can learn to talk again.

The Hand that Pets the Night
A man can easily capture animals with the power coming from an eye depicted on his palm. The man’s palm is infected by a mushi called Fuki. ‘ Your hand forces your prey to do whatever you want.’ (p. 106) ‘Fuki is … Koki, the source of life, that has gone to rot.’ (p. 107)

Under the Snow
‘They’re a class of being called Yukimushi. If you unravel a snowflake, sometimes you’ll find them inside.’ (p. 150)
Toki is a boy infested by mushi: he does not feel the cold and he can’t touch anything warm.
‘In a land where white snow blankets the ground for the better part of the year … there are more odd things found in the snow … than one could ever find in the water or earth.’ (p. 189)
Toki rescuing a girl has to carry her on his shoulders, so he has to bear the warmth of another body. Bearing the girl’s warm , although Toki feels it hot, he has to accept his condition and heal.

Banquet in the Farthest Field
Brewing sake, instead of yeast, a man uses a mushi called Suimitsu-to; drinking this strange sake the man see things ‘that looked like red and black hairs.’ (p. 229), but ‘those weren’t hallucinations. They’re mushi called Shojo-no-hige. Mushishi use them as guides to mushishi gatherings.’ (p. 230)
‘... when we can’t make a good batch of sake … I’d drink just a little of that leftover sake.’ (p. 237)
‘Then I’d be able to see the distinct shapes of living things …’ (p. 238)

Many episodes of this sixth volume tells about Ginko helping people who have to accept what they usually refused.

Mushi could be similar to spirits in western culture, and they have to be accepted as they are. Ginko as Mushishi can understand the meaning of mushi in the world, so he helps people to live with mushi, to avoid mushi, etc., but Ginko never kills mushi.
Mushishi episodes are set in rural Japan, during the Edo and Meiji eras (1600 / 1800).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Review: Alichino, Volume 3

Alichino, Volume 3 by Shurei, Kouyu
Kouyu Shurei
TokyoPop (2005), Paperback, 160 pages

‘The dark beauty … of insanity and suffering … lurked so deep … in your marrow … that you lost sight of … who you are.’ (p. 10-1)

Ryoko and Myobi are looking for Tsugiri and Enju. During the search they meet Matsurika, and finally the mysterious connection between Ryoko, Myobi, Hibiki, and Matsurika is revealed.
Hibiki is a Ryoko’s friend and when Matsurika catches Hibiki’s soul, Ryoko can save his friend only signing a ‘contract’ with Myobi (a beautiful owl or girl or Alichino).
Only Kusabi can destroy Alichino / Matsurika’s soul; and only Tsugiri is the Kusabi.

‘When you forge a contract with an Alichino, your two life forces merge. You will remain alive, for as long as that Alichino takes breath … and you will be infused with that Alichino’s power. But in exchange, you will completely loose sense of who once were.’ (p. 43).

The characters are solitary (uninhabited cities), with the feeling that nothing matters, kneeling in front of Fate.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: Nebador: The Test

NEBADOR Book One: The Test
J. Z. Colby
Nebador Archives (2010), Paperback, 306 pages

Received from the Goodreads Firstreads Program.

‘And someday, perhaps a story will be written about our adventures, and students will pay two great silver pieces to purchase a copy to learn to read.’ (p. 263)

A young man arrives in a medieval city seeking for crew to hire for his ship. Ilika from Satamia in the region of Nebador as captain of the ship finally found ten young boys and girls suitable for his purposes.
‘I have been training to be a ship’s captain … Now I have my own small ship, and for my final test, I have to find and train my own crew.’ (p. 82)

The narrative proceeds slowly as the growth of a tree, but Colby keeps high the mysterious plot and the reader never puts down the book until the end.

Nebador falls under the genre of young adult books, maybe the old fashioned word Bildungsroman (Formation Novel) could explain what this books are about: usually they tell of psychological growth from youth to adulthood, and teenager are their target.
I recommend Nebador for young adult readers, but I’d like to advise a complementary reading: The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse.

P.S. A brief guide:
Girls: Kibi (16 years old), Buna (14), Mati (13), Neti (15), Sata (11);
Boys: Rini (13), Kodi (12), Toli (19), Miko (16), Boro (14).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review: Berlin Book Two: City of Smoke

Berlin Book Two: City of Smoke (Bk. 2)
Jason Lutes
Drawn and Quarterly (2008), Paperback, 200 pages

‘And what a dirty, dirty city - the soot, the automobile fumes, the smoke from the factories.’
(p. 152)

The May Day demonstration of 1929 doesn’t solve the tensions between Communist and National Socialist, Jews and Gentiles. Jason Lutes in book two following various threads tells about people living in Berlin: the main problem is which idea / party is better than another to solve the deep economic crisis.

Marthe Müller follows Kurt Severing while he interviews survivors of the May Day. People struggle to keep their goods, other people struggle to gain food.
An American jazz band holds concerts in Berlin, and this music helps people to avoid the Berlin’s smoky words.

Berlin a city without rules, moral, only words spread everywhere like smoke.
‘The world outside is filled with different sorts of words. Thanks to the emergency election, the rhetoric has come in thick, like smoke downwind of a burning building.’ (p. 206)

Review: The Body-Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson

Ghost Stories (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets):
The Body-Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson
Peter Washington
Everyman's Library (2008), Hardcover, 416 pages

When the past rings two times.

First time: a group of friends, Fettes among them, are reunited talking and drinking. A sick man in the village needs a doctor, so they are waiting for this doctor to show up. Eventually the doctor rings at the door and Fetter is shocked: MacFarlane enters, he is an old Fetter’s companion from the time of medical school. Fetter and MacFarlane pick up corpses for the school of anatomy; sometimes when dead corpses lack, MacFarlane, in disagreement with Fetter, kills someone.

Second time: Fetter and MacFarlane after resuming a woman’s corpse from the grave and returning to the city from the graveyard, when rain is pouring and every light is (also) dead … they become aware that they are carrying a different corpse: a man who Fetter and MacFarlane have already dissected in the past …