Book Review – The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill

The Man in the Picture

The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story is a horror novel by Susan Hill. A young man named Oliver is visiting his old professor Theo Parmitter, an elderly bachelor who lives on campus at Cambridge University. One cold winter’s night during Oliver’s visit Theo tells him the strange story of a painting he has hanging in the room, depicting masked revelers at a carnival in Venice. Seemingly burdened by not having shared this tale, he tells of how he came to acquire it and the disturbing history of people becoming entrapped by its macabre beauty.Read More »

Book Review – Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West

Exit West is a 2017 novel by Mohsin Hamid that blends fiction and magical realism. The story follows dual protagonists Nadia and Saeed, a young woman and man who live in an unnamed city that is gradually beset upon by militants. Though Nadia is more independent and outspoken, which goes against tradition, and Saeed is generally more conservative, the two begin a romantic relationship. As they try to survive day-to-day in their city, with the militants encroaching further and further, mysterious doors begin popping up there and around the world, linking places many miles apart. As life in the city becomes nearly unlivable the two seek out one of these doors to escape the daily violence and build a new life far away.Read More »

Book Review – Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson

Phasma

Phasma is a Star Wars novel by Delilah S. Dawson, published in 2017 as a part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi” series of books released in anticipation for Episode VIII. Despite this banner, the story is largely separate from the plot of that film. Resistance spy Vi Moradi has been captured and taken aboard the First Order Star Destroyer Absolution. She is kept in an interrogation room in the bowels of the ship, where a crimson-armoured stormtrooper—Captain Cardinal—keeps her secret from his superiors. He wants to learn everything Vi knows of his counterpart and rival, the mysterious Captain Phasma, who threatens his place of prominence in the First Order. Vi divulges to him Phasma’s elusive origins on the world of Parnassos, long left for dead by the galaxy at large, and the strange odyssey she took to join the ranks of the First Order. By the end of her story, however, Cardinal may have learned more than he bargained for.Read More »

Book Review – The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham

The Midwich Cuckoos

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham is a 1957 science fiction novel about an alien invasion of a different kind. One morning, the unremarkable village of Midwich in Britain inexplicably cannot be entered. Anybody trying to get in is suddenly knocked unconscious by unknown means. Every living thing within this radius of influence, which encompasses Midwich, is in this state. Military Intelligence, in trying to get a handle on the situation, notice through aerial photos the presence of an otherworldly, silver object at the centre of it all in the village.

A day after this begins, however, it is over. The object is gone, and most of the residents of Midwich awaken unharmed. The event becomes known as the “Dayout,” and begins to recede from memory as nothing more than a bad dream. That is, until all the women of childbearing age in Midwich discover they have somehow become pregnant, and that their ordeal is only just beginning. They eventually give birth to pale, golden-eyed children that appear to be human, but are in fact something else altogether.Read More »

Book Review – Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

Eating the Dinosaur

I’ve found trying to succinctly describe Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman a little challenging. In some ways it’s easy because it is (a) a book of essays, (b) a work of nonfiction, and (c) concerned with popular culture. This isn’t especially helpful though, since that describes a lot of books. A number of the essays revolve around sports and music, that’s for sure. One is so deeply entrenched in football history, in fact, that he advises some readers to skip it (though this is an outlier).

In a broad way, I suppose, I’d say this book questions facets of the reality in our society and how we come to interpret this reality through very specific examples of celebrity and popular culture. Maybe that’s still too vague, but this book has essays about the concept of time travel, Road movies, why we answer interview questions, and ABBA. Connective threads are bound to look a little tenuous from the outside.Read More »

Book Review – The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

The Hidden Life of Trees

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World is a nature book by German forester Peter Wohlleben, translated by Jane Billinghurst. This book is the first in a series by the author called The Mysteries of Nature. We all understand that trees are alive, but they’re so different from us that it’s hard not to objectify them, especially with how we use them as a resource. While his observations and experiences working in forestry serve as the foundation of his understanding, in this book Wohlleben brings together a wealth of modern scientific knowledge about trees that uncovers the unseen ways that they live and interact with each other, helping to make them relatable to the human experience and fostering an understanding of how we can help them flourish.Read More »

Book Review – On Earth as it is in Hell by Brian Hodge

On Earth as it is in Hell

Published in 2005, On Earth as it is in Hell by Brian Hodge is the third novel based on the Hellboy comic book series and the first not written by Christopher Golden. Unlike the previous two novels, this book is considered to be outside of the accepted canon of stories. It does however work off of established Hellboy continuity up until the point that it was published.

Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and other agents of the BPRD are brought to the Vatican after a fiery attack upon the archives kills a number of people, destroying many priceless texts from history in the process. One survived, however, which Hellboy believes to have been the true target of the attack: The Masada Scroll, purportedly written by Jesus of the Nazarene himself decades after the crucifixion. The culprits? None other than seraphim, having unleashed devasting heavenly fire. But why would agents of Heaven enact such death and destruction? In trying to keep the scroll safe for the Vatican, Hellboy and company come up against heretical fanatics, diabolical deities, and a conspiracy to bring about Hell on Earth.Read More »

Book Review – Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Witches Abroad

Witches Abroad is the 12th novel in Terry Pratchett’s comic fantasy Discworld series, and the third in the “Witches” subset of books. Desiderata Hollow knows that soon she will pass on. She’s a witch. Witches are good at knowing things like this. The problem is, she’s also a fairy godmother to a girl far across the Disc in a land called Genua, whose destiny is being meddled with. She passes her wand onto Magrat Garlick, one of the witches of in the kingdom of Lancre, with express instructions to travel to Genua to help this girl, and to not allow the other witches Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg to help her (knowing full well that those two will do the exact opposite of what is asked of them). Their objective vague and their destination clear, the trio commence their long journey to Genua.Read More »

Book Review – Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Fragile Things

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders is a 2006 collection of short stories and poems by Neil Gaiman. Most of the pieces contained within are actually reprints, previously having appeared in anthologies, literary magazines, music albums, and in one case paired with a picture in a photography book. Most relevant to some, perhaps, is the final novella-length story The Monarch of the Glen, which is a sequel to the novel American Gods that takes inspiration from the story Beowulf. This book also contains the story “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” which was adapted into a film in 2017.Read More »

Book Review – The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The Wonder

Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder is a historical novel following Lib Wright, an English nurse and trainee of the famous Florence Nightingale (the pioneer of modern nursing). She is brought to rural Ireland at the request of a committee of locals to act as sentinel to an 11-year-old girl named Anna O’Donnell. She and her family claim that through God’s will she can live without eating, and has supposedly done so for three months already. Lib’s job, working in shifts with a nun, is to continuously watch the girl for two weeks to see if she is indeed a miraculous child or merely conning her community and the people at large who flock to see her.Read More »