Summer is nearing its inevitable end, and so the time has come to review a second book from my summer reading list, a very famous, classic SF novel, which had inspired countless readers and writers. Its huge intellectual impact and popularity was increased by the Hugo Award for 1960.
A Canticle for Leibowitz is the debut, and the only completed novel by Miller, Jr. (a sequel to A Canticle…, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, had been published posthumously), although he was a prolific writer of short stories. Come to think of it, even A Canticle… can be read as three separate novelettes. It had been originally written this way, as three separate parts, and the division is clear even now. The completed novel consists of three fairly independent parts, closely connected to each other by the main themes and the place of action, but still each part stands firmly on its own.
My vacation is coming, so instead of a full review a short list of recommendations.
I don’t really know why, but my summer readings tend to be rather heavy – SF, military fantasy, everything that is long and massive and emotionally wringing. Everything that I don’t have much time to read during the year. This year I plan to read quite a few heavy, massive doorstops, and a couple of classic SF novels. Starting with grimdark favorite The Darkness That Comes Before, going through SF/fantasy mix with fairies, Little, Big, and on to classic SF: Flowers for Algernon and A Canticle for Leibowitz, below’s my list of summer readings.
Yes, another Scandinavian writer of children literature – but what can you do? I was enchanted by the Moomins a long, long time ago, and the enchantment still holds, even when I read them now aloud, to kids. We’re talking about books here, mind you – not that dreadful Japanese-European animated series, nor the gloomy Polish puppet animated show (although I still remember the Groke from this show – with a memory of lingering terrified fascination).
Actually, Tove Jansson wanted to be a painter; she studied art in Sweden, Finland and France, and she painted intermittently throughout her life, both commissioned and private works. The images of the Moomins’ world were also created by her – apparently the prototype for Moomin was Jansson’s caricature of Immanuel Kant. She drew “the ugliest creature imaginable” on the toilet wall and named it Kant after she lost a discussion about the philosopher with her brother. Fortunately, the final image of the Moomin is much more friendly and blobby, with a big, round nose, a big, round belly, short, fat arms and legs, and a thin, slightly incongruous tail. Tove Jansson’s illustrations form the world of Moomins as much as the text – and they are in perfect harmony with each other.
I’ve been called out to write a review of The Broken Sword. I accepted the challenge, although without much enthusiasm. You see, I’m not a fan of Moorcock, whether he fawns over Anderson’s book or not. For me his prose is the epitome of good intentions paving the road to hell. Or maybe a slightly less dramatic, but very accurate saying: when your best just isn’t good enough…
And the same can be said for Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword. If I read it when I first read Tolkien… If I haven’t read Nordic sagas before… If I wasn’t allergic to the word ‘quoth’ and ‘fey’ or to overconfident writers who write their afterword as if they were Metatrons giving us heathens the word of God… If cows could fly. Then I might have liked it. But as none of these things happened, I must admit I found Anderson’s work artificial and boring. I know, I know, The Ultimate Fantasies series, Fantasy masterworks, a classic, one of the founding stones of modern fantasy, blah, blah, blah.
Foto: Jacob Forsell COPYRIGHT PRESSENS BILD
Today’s post will be a short but heartfelt tribute occasioned by the recent birthday anniversary of Astrid Lindgren, falling on 14th November. Astrid Lindgren was – and still is – one of the most popular, prolific, and influential authors of children’s literature, one of the most translated, too, right on the top with the classics: Grimms and Andersen. And most empathetic, and humane, of them all ;).
But why do I write about her on a blog dedicated to fantasy and science fiction? I have my reasons, rest assured :).
Although she didn’t write many fantasy books, Astrid Lindgren was an exceptional fantasy writer, one of the greatest among all authors of books for children, and probably the best the whole Swedish literature has to offer. Period. And don’t tempt me, I could forever go on about Shakespeare, Goethe or Mickiewicz being great fantasy writers as well :D.
I remember seeing these books for the first time – way back in 90’s. The covers were in typical American style, informative but rather ugly (which is why they are not shown here at all 😉 – check this entry if you want a taste). What drew my attention to them was the name – Robin smacked of Sherwood and outlaws and all things Medieval. Yay! 😉 But those were the times when I still chose books based on their cover, so the Farseer Trilogy had to wait for its turn to be read for another decade.
When I’ve finally started reading Assassin’s Apprentice I couldn’t stop. I devoured the next two books and went looking for more. Fitz and Fool quickly found their place among my favorite characters. And they’re still there.
Zelazny was a literary master, that’s an undisputable fact, period. The Lord of Light, an ingenious sf masterpiece, or first five books in The Chronicles of Amber series – these are first in a row of books being not only milestones in the evolution of sf/fantasy genres, but also wondrous works of art and literature in general. This review, however, is about something entirely different – a very short (280 small pages, medium font plus illustrations!), stand-alone novel, Zelazny’s last – and one of his own favorites.
It’s illustrated by Gahan Wilson and the illustrations are apt. Very simplistic, maybe even going over into the field of caricature, and capturing some of the dark humor of the book. Could they be better? Yeah, certainly – but anyway they are a quite handsome complement to the text of the book. And let me tell you, A Night In The Lonesome October is a rare gem indeed, Koh-i-Noor of quirky fantasy, smallish but 100% pure.
What could I say to preserve the sense of wonder and ultimate relish coming from reading that book for a first time? I really don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone who hasn’t yet read it. That means that this review won’t be digging deep into plot construction or characters – if you want to know it, read the book 😉