The Mechanical is an excellent novel. Truly excellent: I have rarely found myself this gripped by a book which I began knowing full well there could be no happy outcome.
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Where sits along one of those inter-generic fault lines, or (to shift metaphors) it is contained in a literary Schrödinger box, waiting for some categorical function to collapse it into a definite condition of fantasy or science fiction or magic-realism or expressionism, or any number of half-sibling traditions and forms.
It’s tempting to say the novel is a grown-up version of the Divergent series, but that would overlook one of the novel’s main insights: if the government pigeonholes you on the basis of required tests, it’s pretty much a dystopia to begin with, but if you choose to be tested and join a group, the dystopia or utopia is what you and the group make of it.
This current Ashley-compiled volume from Stark House a superb small press which concentrates on rescuing groovy vintage noir, but which has also reprinted ten Blackwood novels and story collections previously features rare stories and essays from the early years of Blackwood’s career.
This volume collects the quartet under the lovely and somewhat Vancian title Romance on Four Worlds, a title which blithely plays with the dual meanings of romance as carnal, emotional affection, a love affair, and romance as adventure, as in “scientific romances,” that great old term that predated “science fiction.”
The dark carnival theme has been a staple of weird fiction since the early part of the twentieth century, and over the decades numerous writers have written stories drawn from its most familiar inspirations, notably sideshow performers whose incredible feats border on the uncanny, and the grotesque physical horrors of the freak show. Several of the stories in Nightmare Carnival fit this bill, but to Datlow’s credit a number of her selections take the dark carnival theme into provocative new territory.
In 1957, with the launch of Sputnik and the dawn of the Space Age, artists in Latin America cast their eyes to the heavens just as their North American counterparts did, and began to incorporate Space Age imagery into their works. Past Futures is the physical record of an exhibition mounted at Bowdoin College which sought to reveal this hidden 1960s realm of SF-inspired painting, sculpture and installations.