The Abominable by Dan Simmons is one of those books where my enjoyment of it doesn’t match how well I esteem the author. Given the caliber of much of Mr. Simmons other work, I suspect this may be a better book than I give it credit for.
It’s just not one I enjoy all that much.
The Abominable is one of Mr. Simmons’ entries in his historical thriller novels (the others being Drood and The Terror, neither of which I’ve read yet). In this book, a group of mountaineers attempts an Alpine-style climb of Mt. Everest in 1925, one year after George Mallory’s final, fatal attempt. There’s also a missing British lord, Tibetan monks, Nazis, and international intrigue.
Perhaps it’s ironic, but the more time I spend as a digital librarian, learning and exploring new technology, finding new and better ways to provide technology to our patrons, the more I find myself passionately advocating for the importance of print and the necessity of its continued presence in our reading culture.
The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst isn’t the most comprehensive biography of Lewis Carroll out there. That’s not the author’s intention. Rather, he seeks to explore the available material on Carroll and Alice Liddell—much of which has never been published—as well as their historical context, to trace these elements to the genesis, content, and legacy of Carroll’s most famous works.
This is the biography of a literary creation more than a biography of its author or his Muse.
The book is structured in three main chronological sections, beginning with Carroll’s childhood and ending with Alice Liddell’s death, along with a prologue and epilogue:
Like many of my generation, I went through a Clive Barker phase when I was a teenager. The Hellraiser movies, Nightbreed, Candyman; his novels, The Great and Secret Show and Imajica. He defined dark and edgy for me, and he was much cooler than Stephen King.
Sacrament was the first new-to-me Clive Barker novel I’d read in over two decades. It wasn’t what I expected.
Because of his early work, Mr. Barker is too easily dismissed as a horror writer, albeit one who incorporates a greater portion of magic and fantasy than most. This has never been entirely fair—his best novels have always been more than just horror, as fantastical as they are horrible, works of unfettered imagination.
Sacrament casts off any chains previously tying Mr. Barker to the horror genre. There’s darkness in it, and danger, but it’s definitively not a horror novel.
I last read The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker back when I was a teenager. I loved it then. I wasn’t sure how I’d react to it as an adult.
I’m happy to report the writing holds up really well. It stands the tests of time and experience. This novel is still staggeringly imaginative, exciting, and moving.
What makes this novel unique—what makes many of Mr. Barker’s novels unique—is a narrative structure built on an escalating series of crises and climaxes. The conflict that opens the story would be the climax of an entire novel in the hands of a lesser writer. For Mr. Barker, however, it’s just the beginning. Then he ramps up to another conflict and climax, and another, and another—building tension and emotional investment to a fever pitch.
It’s de rigueur nowadays for people to criticize libraries for being “too much about books.” The idea being that too many libraries are still stuck in the past, in outmoded service models, and failing to adapt to new technologies, trends, etc.
There is some truth in the criticism—although I also find that too many of these critics fail to be critical enough of new trends and tend too often to promote faddishness.
It makes me want to ask the obvious question:
What’s wrong with libraries being about books?
Books mean reading. Books are still the best, most valuable tool of a reading life. This makes books timelessly important—beyond fads, more enduring than ever-changing technology.
Books matter. Still and always. Because reading matters.
The two novels contained in The Rim of Morning: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror by William Sloane are surprisingly satisfying. Well-written and displaying a strong command both of style and the standards of the scifi horror genre, these works present an interesting look into the early history of such work.
They function well as science fiction and even better as mysteries and tales of horror.
These novels make me wonder how much influence Mr. Sloane might have had on the genre if he’d continued his career as an author. Instead, he turned away from writing and spent most of his life as an editor and publisher.