What Am I reading Today?
I’ve almost finished Thomas Ligotti’s THE SHADOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD, a collection of short stories, from a writer who is rarely collected, and my opinion so far? I have to say… I’m pretty underwhelmed.
Often spoken of as a modern answer to Poe and Lovecraft, and with glowing reviews by his small, but vocal cult; his stories fail to live up to the hype. They are derivative, nihilistic, and self important, while eschewing anything close to narratively strong conclusions.
The stories of Ligotti do not so much end, as simply give up. Simply stop. And for all the supposed nihilism and depth of Ligotti’s work I can’t seem to shake the feel that Ligotti (possibly a pseudonym, as Ligotti remains a faceless mystery) is laughing up his sleeve, at people drawing parables of meaning when he’s just tossing out tripe. That said he’s an obviously talented wordsmith, and I consider one of his early stories, DR. VOKE AND MR. VEECH a masterpiece, and others good, but most… underwhelming.
For a story by story review/breakdown, check out my short story review section. Conveniently located over in the sidebar.
THE FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS VOLUME I by Jack Kirby
First, the paper choice for THE FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS leaves much to be desired, for what is a $50 book. And all those people rushing to defend the paper choice with the odd argument “well it looks like newsprint, and smells like newsprint, and tears like newsprint, and rots like newsprint, but it’s really not newsprint!!” can take a flying leap. This isn’t the company being retro, it’s just them cutting costs.
But paper stock aside, this book is frigging AWESOME! I’m one of those who was a Neal Adams, Don Newton fan in the 70s, and really wasn’t a fan of the sporadic work of Jack Kirby that I came across. It wasn’t until the late 70s and Kirby’s return to Marvel, and the fantastic covers he did for the AVENGERS and his absolutely phenomenal bi-centennial run on CAPTAIN AMERICA, that Kirby earned for me the title of King.
But the DC stuff I, like everyone else, missed the boat on. So here, THE FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS collects in sequential order, for the first time, the outrageousness and brilliance and creativity and output and explosive gall of Kirby’s work. Here in this volume a man’s phenomenal reach and phenomenal grasp, can concisely be seen and appreciated. And seen, it is jaw droppingly good. Every single page puts a smile on my face, how rare is that.
I mean Kirby isn’t the greatest artist, or the greatest writer, he has definite weaknesses in both areas, but what he is, what comes through in this volume, is what a great visionary he was, will always be. His works emote, and get up on their hind legs, and speak to you.
There is such an audacious, hyperbole filled, genre shattering, world building love in these issues of THE FOURTH WORLD. There is such… joy here. Joy. A joy that modern comics for the most part has long ago turned its back on.
Jack Kirby was about creating worlds, whereas too many of today’s writers, bereft of Kirby’s burning vision, all they can do is deconstruct at the best, and debase at the worst… the visions of better men.
So JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS is the perfect distillation of that abandoned age of wonder. And comes, paper stock not withstanding. with THE HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION! A-.
What Am I Listening to Today?
THE DEAD YARD by Adrian McKinty. Performed by Gerard Doyle. A follow-up to the phenomenal DEAD I WELL MAY BE, is an engrossing tale of young expat Belfast hero Michael Forsythe, and his sublime walks through earthy heavens, and earthy hells. masterfully performed by Gerard Doyle. Much like the audio book pairings of Walter Mosley and Michael Boatman, the audio book marriage of Adrian McKinty and Gerard Doyle is one made in heaven. Adrian McKinty’s writing style is like poetry, elegant and beautiful and haunting and uniquely disjointed. Very odd and effective use of foreshadowing/foretelling right up till the end.
And as effective as the words are, it’s the nuances and wonderful romantic brogue of Gerard Doyle, that makes the audio book captivating. However it’s not quite as good as DEAD I MAY BE, the ending seeming to stumble a bit. By the end the story is wearing thin, I’m getting a little tired of the parable of Michael Forsythe. It seems a little wading water redundant. Seems a bit forced and abrupt. But judged in its entirety STRONGLY RECOMMENDED! B+/A-
However, by the third book in the Forsythe series… THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD (which I’ve also listened to), the honeymoon has definitely come to an end. The story from the beginning is tired, and forced, and by the numbers. It’s just exhausting, like treading water. And I find myself very burnt out and bored with the character of Michael Forsythe. It all seems so rote and predictable and I’m not even interested enough to finish the audio book. This one revolving around him heading to Belfast to save the daughter of his enemy, a daughter that is exactly the right age to be his daughter. Ugghh. This is what I mean by forced and uninteresting.
So stick with the first two. McKinty has taken this character as far as he can.