I finally finished The Complete Fiction by H.P. Lovecraft. The title explains why this one took me so long: the book contains literally every novel, short story and poem written by the great master of surreal Horror (1200 pages, small print, big pages). As @Alucard mentioned before, these books are not really meant to be read back to back, it rather is a coffee-table book which is best enjoyed when being read over a long period of time. However, I was interested to see how Lovecraft's style would develop over the years (the stories are in chronological order), and I wasn't disappointed by the effect this had. It was a very interesting and highly entertaining read (although I've had my fill of the words "eldritch" "paleontologean" and any word which starts with un-, such as "unspeakable").
Some stories were definitely better than others. The ones that stood out to me were the novellas At the Mountains of Madness, the Call of Cthulhu, the Dunwich Horror, the Thing on the Doorstep, The Shadow out of Time and The Colour out of Space.
Recurring themes are hereditary degradation, forbidden knowledge and something what I would call the Cosmological Insignificance of Man (and racism. Seriously, this guy was a real racist, and not only viewed from our time. I bet he was seen as such in his own time as well. Non-Caucasian races are invariably depicted as malignant, dumb and evil).
The stories can be divided into 3 general strata:
1. Those taking place in and around Arkham/Kingsport/Innsmouth. These are fictional places in New England where the supernatural lurks around every corner. Expect zombie-, vampire- and witch-stories.
2. Those taking place in the dream-world (which is invariably very close to the real world and intermingling between worlds takes place constantly).
3. The cosmological tales, which take place all around the world/universe and involve the Elder Races, Ancient Gods, the Great Ones etc (the Cthulhu Mythos is part of this for example).
The red line through all these stories is the idea that the supernatural is all around us. Human kind is just one of the many races which inhabit our planet. Many more powerful (sometimes alien) races live in our world/universe. Gods walk the earth Malazan-style and are ready to devour the unwary/unlucky person who comes seeking for forbidden knowledge and thereby stumble across things he shouldn't have. Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, the mad poet Abdul Alhazred (author of the dreaded Necronomicon) are baddies who play a role in almost every Lovecraft story.
I am loathe to give this book a rating, as it is a story-bundle and as such the style and quality varies mightily from story to story. Suffice it to say that the book is awesome and that I can recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the history of horror/fantasy/surrealism and is not squeamish about exciting horror tales.
My next project will be to read Anthony Ryan's Raven Shadow trilogy of which Blood Song is the first book.
Will be interested in your thoughts. First book was outstanding. Second book was really good BUT you have to accept the fact the author changed the format from a single perspective (Blood Song) to multiple POVs in book two. Some people couldn't handle the sharing of the story and it bothered them. After re-reading the first two books before the final one I appreciated the second book more. And then you must set the bar really low for the final book (just check Goodreads to see the falling review scores).
There are so many minor characters during this series that it is best read altogether and not over a long period of time.
I agree with Rudy, it's best if you read Raven's Shadow books consecutively. It's one of the rare series I have done so with, and I think the payoff was really good.
Unlike Rudy though, I was fully on board with Ryan's vision. I really like this series (my overall rating was 8.8/10, with 9/9/8.5 for the 3 books respectively). I'm looking forward to his new series from which the 1st book is due this year.
Yesterday I've spent three hours in Milan's Stazione Centrale, due to the umpteenth strike of the rail workers, amidst a measureless and unruly crowd, that at the 50-something cancelled train tried to storm the gates and lynch the bastards. In a corner, seraphic as fucks, me and a few kindred spirits sat leisurely on a wall, drinking beer after beer, each reading his own book - including a frail looking granny reading, with evident delight, Cook's Torre di Tenebra (Tower of Fear) - a woman after my own heart
Anyway, finished Cameron's The Dread Wyrm, in spite of a few minor quibbles
the Blanche romance;
Nita Qwan, the most useless POV ever;
the lack of details on what's happening in the Empire and in Arelat
and the death of a couple of minor characters I was strongly rooting for, another brilliant instalment in this series, probably even the best one. And Cameron in my opinion is definitely the fantasy author who writes the most realistic and engaging fighting scenes, both for individual duels, both for large scale battles.
I'm currently still reading book 2 in the acts of Caine series: the blade of Tyshalle. I've read 63% and I'm liking it, but It hasn't reached the awesomeness of book 1, and I don't expect it will reach that in the end. Still a good read so far
Cugel: The Skybreak Spatterlight. I'm a big fan of Jack Vance, but I wasn't blown away by the first two Dying Earth books. This third book however, is a better example of what I've come to expect from Jack Vance. Whimsical, hilarious, and extremely well written. Of course, it was written much later in his career. The early 80's.Around the time he wrote the Lyonesse trilogy one of my all time favorite fantasy tales.
@moonspawn will be happy to know that after a brief hiatus I have picked up "The Narrator" by Michael Cisco once again. I have to say that this is one of the better "war novels" I have read even though it is considered "weird fantasy" if there is such a classification.
Finished Kearney's Hawkwood's Voyage, what an amazing and unforgiving book, wondrously bleak and bloody, but never gratuitously so. Memorable and quite realistic battles, werevolves, sea voyages, political maneuvering, it definitely seems the start of something glorious.