Friday, March 25, 2011

Thoughts and quotes: Selection by J.Z. Colby

Selection (NEBADOR, #3)Selection by J.Z. Colby

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“We will often get to do wonderful things.” (page 281)

Selection is the third book of Nebador series where we read an important passage in the life of Ilika’s students: he decides about who will become his ship’s crew. The choice comes without many troubles, because it is expected so by the students.

The Ilika’s ‘brand new’ crew stops learning pedibus scarpantibus and the sky becomes the classroom.

“The whole universe is like a huge college, and everyone is always learning new things.” (page 77)

So from the sky comes the northern light or aurora borealis teaching to the students an universal law: humankind as infinitesimal part of the universe, although wonderful things are waiting for us.

Eventually a mention to Tera, the donkey: “Tera’s heart beat a little faster deep in her chest from all the attention and kind words. She sensed that some kind of change was about to happen to her people, but didn’t know what or why. However, she clearly felt drops of water fall onto her thin summer coat during that hour, and knew it wasn’t raining.” (page 150)

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Thoughts and quotes: tHE sHADOW oVER iNNSMOUTH AND tHE hAUNTER OF tHE dARK by H.P. Lovecraft

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

The Shadow Over Innsmouth (November - December 1931) tells of the village of Innsmouth, where lives a hybrid race: half-human and half-fish/frog. Lovecraft resumes Dagon’s myth of the god fish.
The narrator arriving by bus at Innsmouth is facing a deserted city and mostly in ruins. The Innsmouth’s people are fish-like head: the so called ‘Innsmouth look’.
The only normal person is the grocery’s clerk, who informs the narrator about the city and a man, named Zadok Allen, who is known as a good source of information.
Zadok tells to the narrator a story of fish-frog men, they live beneath the sea. These men, called the Deep Ones, help the humans bringing them fish and jewelry in exchange of human sacrifices.

Zadok Allen: "Hey, yew, why dun't ye say somethin'? Haow'd ye like to he livin' in a taown like this, with everything a-rottin' an' dyin', an' boarded-up monsters crawlin' an' bleatin' an' barkin' an' hoppin' araoun' black cellars an' attics every way ye turn? Hey? Haow'd ye like to hear the haowlin' night arter night from the churches an' Order o' Dagon Hall, an' know what's doin' part o' the haowlin'? Haow'd ye like to hear what comes from that awful reef every May-Eve an' Hallowmass? Hey? Think the old man's crazy, eh? Wal, Sir, let me tell ye that ain't the wust!" (page 306)

The narrator is forced to spend the night in Innsmouth, and during the night he hears people talking and forcing his room’s door; he manages to escape from a window.

After some time from the nightmare in Innsmouth, the narrator starts researches into his family tree, discovering …

“In the winter of 1930-31, however, the dreams began. … Great watery spaces opened out before me, and I seemed to wander through titanic sunken porticos and labyrinths of weedy Cyclopean walls with grotesque fishes as my companions …
I was one with them …” (page 333)


The Haunter of the Dark (November 1935) is a short story of the Cthulhu Mythos. The Haunter is an entity living in a church, and it is described as an incarnation of Nyarlathotep (a malign deity in the Cthulhu Mythos).
An ancient artifact, known as Shining Trapezohedron, is used to summon a being from the depth of time and space.
Professor Enoch Bowen discovered the Shining Trapezohedron in Egyptian ruins, although made of alien material.
Members of the Shining Trapezohedron’s cult awaken the Haunter of the Dark by gazing into the glowing crystal.

“Before his eyes a kaleidoscopic range of phantasmal images played, … the thought of ancient legends of Ultimate Chaos, …” (page 354)

Nyarlathotep comes from the chaos, and he shows other worlds, and the secrets of arcane knowledge.

“I am on this planet.” (page 359) (maybe!)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Nightmare AlleyNightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“... we come like a breath of wind over the fields of morning.

We go like a lamp flame caught by a blast from a darkened window.

In between we journey from table to table, from bottle to bottle, from bed to bed.

We suck, we chew, we swallow, we lick, we try to mash life into us like an am-am-amoeba …” (page 242-3)

Nightmare Alley (1946) is set in a carny where Stan Carlisle works.

The book is structured in twenty-two chapters, the same number of the Major Arcana: they are the Tarot cards used by the fortune-teller. Each chapter is named from the name of the cards. Gresham does not follow the order of the Major Arcana, but shuffles the deck, following an order bonded to Stan’s life.

In the first pages Stan is staring at a geek, a ‘wild man’ in a carny who bites the heads off live chickens.

The young Stan wants to leave behind himself, in every way, this way of life symbolically shown by the geek.

Stan is a pride man as well described in the following passage: “How helpless they all looked in the ugliness of sleep. A third of life spent unconscious and corpselike. And some, the great majority, stumbled through their waking hours scarcely more awake, helpless in the face of destiny. They stumbled down a dark alley toward their deaths.” (page 59)

Stan begins his social climbing by seducing the fortuneteller Zeena. His objective is to learn Zeena’s secrets of a mind-reading system. When Stan becomes master of the mind-reading, he leaves Zeena and escapes with Molly, another girl of the carny.

Stan’s pride helps him to become The Great Stanton: admired as the sun (the Tarot’s card: “The Sun: On a white horse the sun child, with flame for hair, carries the banner of life.” (page 115)

Stan’s performances introduce him in the high society, where, with the help of another woman, a psychologist, Stan tries to fool an industrialist ‘resurrecting’ his girlfriend.

But as always the sun burns if you are too close to it: Stan’s nightmare, every day the same, becomes reality: “To the left was an alley, dark, but with a light at the other end of it. … And behind him the heavy splat of shoes on cobbles. He raced toward the light at the end of the alley, but there was nothing to be afraid of. He had always been here, running down the alley and it didn’t matter; this was all there was any time, anywhere, just an alley and a light and the footsteps spanging on the cobbles but they never catch you, they never catch you, they never catch you …” (page 259)

Stan becomes aware of the impossibility to change his destiny: the geek, the nightmare, are always at the end of the alley, waiting for him.

The web surrounding Stan is built with feel of guilt, pride, and uncontrollable desire to repeat, endless, the same nightmare in the same alley.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

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

Akeley: “Do you realise what it means when I say I have been on thirty-seven different celestial bodies-planets, dark stars, and less definable objects - including eight outside our galaxy and two outside the curved cosmos of space and time?” (page 255)

The Whisperer in the Darkness (February - September 1930, soon after the Planet Pluto’s discoveries) refers to Cthulhu Mythos, although the main theme concerns the Migo, an extraterrestrial race of fungoid creatures.

The story is narrated by Albert Wilmarth, an instructor of literature at Miskatonic University in Arkham.

During a flood in Vermont, strange things are seen floating in rivers. Wilmarth starts a debating on newspapers, and although he is skeptical about the floating things in Vermont, he uncovers old legends about monsters living in the Vermont’s hills.

Henry Wentworth Akeley, a farmer living in Vermont, learns of Wilmarth from the local newspaper and he writes to him affirming that he has proof about an extraterrestrial race of monstrous living in Vermont hills. Akeley writes that the monstrous don’t menace the human race, they only hire human agents as spies.
Akeley’s first letters describe the attacks of the monstrous at his farm.
Eventually he decides to meet the extraterrestrials (but is he truly Akeley, or someone else?), so he writes to Wilmarth that they are a peaceful race and they have taught him about marvels beyond all imagination.
Akeley invites Wilmarth to his farm.

“Mad or sane, metamorphosed or merely relieved, the chances were that Akeley had actually encountered some stupendous change at once diminishing his danger - real or fancied - and opening dizzy new vistas of cosmic and superhuman knowledge. … to be linked with the vast outside - to come close to the nighted and abysmal secrets of the infinite …” (page 237)

Wilmarth arrives finding Akeley immobilized in a chair. Akeley, whispering in the darkness, tells to Wilmarth that the extraterrestrial have extract his brain, so to permit him a travel in the outer space.

“I knew enough now. It must indeed be true that cosmic linkages do exists - but such things are surely not meant for normal human beings to meddle with.” (page 257)