Review: Kathryn Bigelow: Near Dark

neardarkAnother reminder: You know what’s coming at the end of next week, so we thought we’d bring you this little teaser from our Archives, a review of a nearly-lost treasure, Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark.

Written and conceived by Eric Red and Kathryn Bigelow as a Western/vampire film, with the romance of both genres and the failings of neither,
Near Dark is a fascinating example of how a truly good crossover film should look and feel.

Western/vampire? Well, yes. (No, no cowboys or Indians, but still. . . .) Read the review to see how our reviewer reacted to it.

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Story: Bloody bones, and not much else.

Like visiting musicians who get food, drink, and a place to sleep, storytellers are treated in the same manner. So it was that a storyteller looking a lot like John Hurt’s character in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller came to be resident here this past week. He settled comfortably into the chair by the fireplace in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room and told us this tale…

Not all ancient Celtic barrow mounds are the resting places of warrior kings long forgotten, some contain things far worse. Some of those securely buried with chains and magical bindings are human, some very much not so. Things that even hardened necromancers have nightmares about.

One of these has no name now, or at least no name remembered now. It was either a being to escort the dead into the next life or something far worse. All that storytellers from time beyond counting have said is that it be left well alone. And so it was for millennia until a Victorian Era archaeologist decided to dig that Celtic barrow mound up. And he didn’t live to tell the tale as whatever it was disposed of all that were there that evening. Only blood and very small bone shards remained of them.

It took a major league necromancer, one variant says it was actually Crowley, to put it back in its resting place as it was not dead, just resting. The necromancer added an avoidance spell to keep everyone away.

Now won’t you sleep well tonight?

Review: Katharine Eliska Kimbriel: Night Calls/ Kindred Rites/ Spiral Path

I’m going to let reviewer Jennifer Stevenson tell you what’s in store for you in her review of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s trilogy, Night Calls, Kindred Rites, and Spiral Path:

Once in a while I find out I’ve missed something important in the book world, some classic that’s been out forever that I somehow never noticed when it was first published, something that turns out to be wonderful.

Then once in a very great while I find something I wish I’d read thirty years before it was ever published.

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s novels about Michigan pioneer practitioner Alfreda Sorensson (more properly, Eldonsdottir) came to my notice last year and simply blew me away.

To find out why, click through and read the review — where you can also see the cover art in living color.

Literary Quote: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home

Towards an Archaeology of the Future

HOW THE PATIENT scientist feels when the shapeless tussocks and vague ditches under the thistles and scrub begin to take shape and come clear: this was the outer rampart — this the gateway — that was the granary! We’ll dig here, and here, and after that I want to look at that lumpy bit on the slope …. How they know true glory when a thin disk slips through the fingers with the sifted dirt, and cleared with the swipe of a thumb shows, stamped in the fragile bronze, the horned god! How I envy them their shovels and sieves and tape measures, all their tools, and their wise, expert hands that touch and hold what they find! Not for long; they’ll give it to the museum, of course; but they did hold it for a moment in their hands.

I found, at last, the town I had been hunting for. After digging in several wrong places for over a year and persisting in several blockheaded opinions — that it must be walled, with one gate, for instance — I was studying yet once more the contours of my map of the region, when it dawned as slowly and certainly as the sun itself upon me that the town was there, between the creeks, under my feet the whole time. And there was never a wall; what on earth did they need a wall for? What I had taken for the gate was the bridge across the meeting of the creeks. And the sacred buildings and the dancing place not in the center of town, for the center is the Hinge, but over in their own arm of the double spiral, the right arm, of course—there in the pasture below the barn. And so it is, and so it is.

From the beginning of this novel.

Review: Ivo Andric: The Bridge on the Drina / Starling Lawrence: Montenegro

Serendipity rules. While browsing through the Archives, I ran across Donna Bird’s twofer review of Ivo Andric’s The Bridge on the Drina and Starling Lawrence’s Montenegro. In light of this morning’s “From the Letters Bag” post, that seemed just too lucky a coincidence — obviously, the hedgehogs who run this place meant for me to post Donna’s review.

So, rather than my taking up your time with explanations and descriptions, why don’t you just dive right in? I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

From the Letters Bag: On Lajos Zilahy and Other Points of Interest

It’s always nice to get a letter from a new fan.

To: Donna Bird
Subject: Lajor Zilahy
Date: 25 Sep 2006
Hello!

It is very hard to write to a person you do not know.

My name is Contos Zoltan, I am from a small town Novi Sad in Serbia! I am a big fan of Lajos Zilahy! It has change my life here and there! I have read you work on The Dukays family and I think it is very, very good.

I have to excuse my bad english i am not using it very much.

Well that is about it!

Hope to read something of your latest work!

Yours sincerely,

Zoltan

Hello, Zoltan,

Thank you for your message. I imagine you might also appreciate the review I just wrote (should be up now) of Starling Lawrence’s Montenegro, paired with Ivo Andric’s The Bridge on the Drina. I am getting accustomed to place names.

Right now I am reading The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning, an Englishwoman who lived in Rumania just before the German invasion. I also just “discovered” Miklos Banffy, who wrote a series called The Transylvanian Trilogy. From his bio, it looks like he may have been more politically conservative than Zilahy, but that doesn’t mean another set of stories about Hungary in the early twentieth century isn’t worth reading!

Take care.

Donna

Review: Ursula K. Le Guin: Changing Planes

ChangingPlanes_lUrsula K. Le Guin occupies a unique place in the annals of speculative fiction. Early on classed as a “feminist” writer, she is much more than that: Le Guin was the one to explore areas that had been taboo in science fiction and fantasy from its inception, and she was doing it before most other writers in the field had realized that there were such areas, and that they were worth exploring. As our reviewer put it:


Ursula K. Le Guin is an anthropologist of people and cultures that might be. . . . But a great many of her science fiction novels and short stories, set in the imagined future of the galaxy-wide Ekumen, are the explorations of a curious, observant mind who is truly able to hypothesize the differences that might make a culture alien to us, as well as the commonalities that can draw disparate cultures together.

Which brings us to Changing Planes, a collection of short stories about the kind of cultures to be found on airplanes. Really.

Read the review to find out just what I’m talking about here.

Sharyn November on Charles de Lint

Here are some comments on Charles de Lint from editor Sharyn November.

As soon as I read Charles de Lint’s ‘Ghosts of Wind and Shadow’ in Cicada Magazine, I knew two things: first, his writing was sheer magic; second, he had a teenage audience just waiting to happen. I’ve now published one de Lint story collection (Waifs and Strays, a World Fantasy Award Finalist), one de Lint/Charles Vess picture book (A Circle of Cats, also a World Fantasy Award Finalist), one novel (The Blue Girl, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a Locus Recommended Reading Selection), and four paperback novel reissues — as well as a number of anthologized stories — and I know a little bit more. Charles himself is every bit as delightful, empathetic, sensitive, and moral (in the best sense of the word) as his work. He knows that reading can change lives, and the right book can save you.

He has a truly wicked sense of humor. He knows I’ll believe pretty much anything said with a straight face. You can guess the rest.

He is a generous and honest person — and his wife and creative partner, MaryAnn Harris, is every bit as terrific as he is.

I am honored to know and work with them both.

Review: Tim Powers: The Drawing of the Dark

The_Drawing_of_the_Dark_by_Tim_PowersWe’ve all had this experience, of reading a book as a teenager or young adult and coming away from it disappointed, if not confused. And then, for whatever reason, going back to it years later and discovering that it is, indeed, an amazing experience. That experience was shared by Richard Dansky on rereading Tim Powers’ The Drawing of the Dark.

After all, the advertising copy was full of portent and wonder, talking about how Merlin pulled a soldier out of time to war-torn Vienna. My juvenile mind spun all sorts of images from that, most of which involved scenarios right out of an 80s action movie and none of which bore the slightest resemblance to what’s in the book.

Well, he did read it again, with a much different reaction. Read his review to see why.

But I think it was the magical beer.

Musical Musings: An Introduction to Ashley Hutchings

This is one in a series of posts looking at box sets and such for performers both known and somewhat more obscure that I think you’d enjoy knowing about.

burningbrightAshley Hutchings is an English bassist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, band leader, writer and record producer. He more than anyone else created English folk rock in the Sixties, as he was a founding member of three of the most noteworthy English folk-rock bands in the history of the genre — Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and various permutations of the Albion Band — not to mention Morris On and Etchingham Steam Band, among myriad another bands and projects, including a particular favourite of mine, Street Cries, whose name describes it very well.

Such a personage deserves a biography, so not surprisingly he has one in two volumes, the first being Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor and the Rise of Folk Rock, which I highly recommended as it includes what is the best look at the creation of Steeleye Span, and volume two, Always Chasing Rainbows, which unfortunately only came out as a digital publication.

Of course, there is a superb five CD box set covering his career, Burning Bright, which our reviewer gushes about: ‘there is such a wealth of material gathered here, that to do it critical justice, one would have to spend half a year listening to the set, picking apart selections and considering things that didn’t make it, but suffice it to say…Burning Bright covers as much of Ashley Hutchings’ career as anyone possibly could. And after all, it’s simply a “celebration” of that career…not the final word…it’s a career that continues!’

May I pour you another pint while you read our reviews?