Archive for November, 2007

a Post In Honour of You

Normally people post things like this when their blog celebrates its birthday or their post count hits a hundred or 666 or what have you. A Slight Apocalypse’s post count is currently at 270 (271 with this post included) which couldn’t be deemed cool or even minutely interesting in any weird universe, so obviously that’s not what I’m celebrating here today.

I’m throwing this party because we passed the 1000th comment earlier today, and it’s all because of you! Yays! It was actually me who handed in the magical little 1000th numbered thing, but that doesn’t lower the value of this anniversary in the slightest.

No, really – it doesn’t. It’s God’s honest truth, is what it is.



Yesterday was one of those slightly more hectic days for me. I woke up at a quarter to seven and got ready for school. Everything was kinda fuzzy since I didn’t exactly go to bed at a human hour. My Norwegian football team of choice, Rosenborg, got a nasty, albeit expected beating at home by Chelsea in the Champions League and I was too depressed to sleep. If we’d only snagged a single point we could have gone through to the play-offs in a group where nobody (including yours truly) had a any higher hopes than maybe causing some upset.

Ah well…

So it was off to school (three hours of P.E. and then some Math and Physics) and then immediately after the mind and body had been stretched to their limits, I was off to feed the steadily fatter public of Norway at my job at a gas station. It all went down in nicely, except I got one of my career’s worst browbeatings by a customer who couldn’t for the life of him understand why we didn’t carry any books in Japanese. I think I made it worse when I accidentally began to laugh at the preposterous idea that we’d have something like that, but I couldn’t help myself. Stupidity knows no limits.

I came home in time to watch “De syv dødsynder” (“The Seven Deadly Sins”), which is my current favourite Norwegian program, and when that was over – all that was left to do before I hit the sack was to open my mail (the regular snail variety).

Normally I don’t get much mail at all, but this day had brought me Gene Wolfe’s “Latro in the Mist” omnibus and a Mysterious Package of Unknown Origin. I never, never, get mysterious packages of unknown origins, so naturally I was over the hills thrilled and overjoyed. I gently opened it and poured the contents into my hands. What the hell is this?

Out came six DVD’s in CD-covers and a little yellow post-it note that read:

“Alms to better Amras Elensar’s education” – Terje

And the “alms” in question was three seasons of Veronica Mars, a TV-show that I’ve yet to watch despite his many attempts to make to do so. I’ve blamed this failing of mine on my inability to obtain this series via my regular channels – an excuse now made totally invalid by Terje’s charity.

One of the DVD’s also contained “The Princess Bride”. I mentioned to him that I’ve always wanted to watch that movie – and then I forgot everything about it, and surmised he had done the same, too.

Terje is without doubt a great guy, and I thank him a thousand times for sending me this surprise present. In return he will receive a similar shipment with goodness so that I won’t feel so awfully bad about him using his stolen student undoubtedly hard-earned cash on me. I won’t divulge exactly I’ll be letting the postman walk away with, but trust me – it’s gonna be good.

Anything else would be an outright outrage.

When I reviewed Joe Hill’s debut novel, “Heart-shaped Box”, earlier this year, I said that I would be following this author with a keen eye. I found his first effort to be a flawed, albeit in the end very entertaining read that was ripe with potential, and I could immiediately tell that this was a guy that was going places. The word on the web was that Joe Hill was something of a wiz kid when it came to short-stories, and that “20th Century Ghosts” was vastly superior “Heart-shaped Box”.

And after having read it, I’m more than inclined to agree. It is probably so much better that it’s almost hard to believe.

Being the son of Stephen King doesn’t exactly hurt your chances to sell books either, but thankfully I found Joe Hill easier to stomach than those of his fathers efforts that I’ve tried. They aren’t in fact hard to stomach at all, because these short stories are far removed from the gore and splatter of the horror genre. They are simply quite lovely, heart warming and amazingly written.

Best New Horror is the first short-story (excepting the one thats hidden in the “Acknowledgments” at very beginning) in this 389 pages hardcover edition that Gollancz relaunched after the success of Joe Hill’s novel. This story has a very vivid ending that you can see coming from a quite a distance, but it’s pretty entertaining to watch the author play with the trappings of the genre with it. One of the least good stories in the collection, but fine entertainment.

20th Century Ghosts is the story that gave the book its title (obviously) and is in my opinion if not the very best, than a heavy contender for the crown in this collection. When I read it I told myself that it was probably the best short-story I’d ever read – which was true at the time – but more awesomeness was to come. What I liked about this one though was how it started off as creepy ghost story and ended as a heart-tearing love story. The ending is superb (this is true of most of these stories, so I’ll be repeating it quite often. Be warned).

Pop Art made me cry. This one is about a troubled kid whose only friend is inflatable (quite literally so). It’s beautiful in and of itself, and the ending had me in bits. Equal or better than “20th Century Ghosts”.

You Will Hear the Locust Sing was an interesting tale about a boy that one day woke up and discovered he’d become a real, human-sized locust. This one didn’t thrall me in the same way that the two previous one’s did, so I’d rate it about as good as “Best New Horror”. It’s also the goriest story in the collection, but it does never become gross.

Abraham’s Boys is a vampire story, which I guess is obligatory content in a “horror-collection”, all though I never found any of these stories scary. This one very good ending, but takes some time before it gets going, and is therefore a little bit better than “You Will Hear the Locust Sing” and “Best New Horror”, all though not as good as the two best stories so far.

Better Than Home wasn’t quite for me, but I really liked the characters in it, and especially the main one, who was a troubled kid who suffered badly from OCD. I always tended to like the character’s we were introduced to, and Joe Hill didn’t need more than a page to make me care about them, which is an incredible feat by every standards, cos I can go entire books or series without giving a shit about who dies or not.

The Black Phone had that extra bit of nastiness and extraordinary that made out Hill’s best short-stories. This one is among my favorites, and it certainly gets the prize for most spectacular phone. Great ending.

In the Rundown was yet another very strong story with a great and flawed protagonist (they were all brilliantly and differently flawed). You could see where he was taking you towards the end, but I enjoyed the nasty ride to get there.

The Cape was a really, really good one that I’d rate alongside “Pop Art” and “20th Century Ghosts. Especially the ending was so brilliantly gruesome that I felt torn apart over whether or not I should grin at the mad genius of the story or if I should be horrified at what it meant. In the end I did both; just for good measure.

Last Breath probably had the best and most interesting idea of all these stories, though it didn’t have the same impact as the best ones. It was about a retired doctor who now ran a museum that displayed the sound of peoples last breaths. A museum of silence, so to speak. Good stuff indeed.

Dead-wood was short and thought-provoking. I liked it.

The Widow’s Breakfast was nicely done, and had good ending. Overall much of the same quality as “Best New Horror”.

Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead was superb. The story took place on the set of George Romero’s classic “Dawn of the Dead”, and the two main characters were both background actors (or “zombies” in this case). It was funny and heart-breaking and one of the best stories in the collection, if not the best. It’s hard to choose since they’re all so good in many different ways.

My Father’s Mask was the closest I came to being creeped out.

And lastly, Voluntary Committal was a great ending to the best short-story collection I’ve ever read. It’s a bit longer than the rest, but every sentence of it was pure gold and towards the end I became really sad there weren’t more stories left to read.

This book is simply superb in all too many ways for a regular or irregular human to understand. The best stories include “Pop Art”, “20th Century Ghosts”, “The Cape”, “Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead” and “Voluntary Committal”, and the rest of them are in most cases not far behind. Joe Hill’s prose flows effortlessly throughout the collection and his characters are often too lively for comfort.

If you’re only going to read one short-story collection in your life, make it “20th Century Ghosts” by Joe Hill. I love it with all my heart. 8,5 /10

Oh noes!

Pat just reported that Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Wise Man’s Fear”, the sequel to the heavily lauded “The Name of the Wind”, has been delayed until April 2009, due to massive rewrites of the initial manuscript. I was hoping I’d get this sometime next year, but sadly; no such luck. This probably means that I’ll have to reread tNotW before I carry on with the sequel, which will most likely be the definition of a book that doesn’t stand alone, and I was hoping that wouldn’t have to do that with this series.

Ah, well. Thankfully it’s a good book, so I won’t be bored. But one thing is for sure; this wasn’t what I was hoping to hear on a Monday evening.

Ah, the famous, insurmountable, ever-looming mountain of wordy goodness shines out to you from the picture above. These are all the books I’ll be reading in the near future, barring a few additions that are bound to be added, but I don’t think there’ll be all that many (for obvious reasons). The only two books that I have on order and that are not in this picture is a hardcover edition of GRRM’s short story collection, “Dreamsongs”, and Gene Wolfe’s “Latro in the Mist”.

Let’s take a closer look at the stack:

This is my hardcover and tradeback- stack, which most often takes the highest priority when I pick my next read. From the top left and down is:

  • Charles Stross’ “The Halting State” (SF)
  • China Miéville’s “Un Lun Dun” (F)
  • Chris Wooding’s “The Fade” (SF)
  • Peadar O’Guilin’s “The Inferior” (SF)
  • John Twelve Hawk’s “The Dark River (book 2)” (SF)
  • John Twelve Hawk’s “The Traveller (book 1)” (SF)
  • Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” (Superhero comic)
  • Gordon Dahlquist’s “The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters” (F)
  • Roger Zelazny’s “The Great Book of Amber” (F)
  • Dan Simmons’ “Hyperion Omnibus” (SF)
  • R. Scott Bakker’s “The Thousandfold Thought” (F)

To the right you’re obviously seeing Neil Gaiman’s “Absolute Sandman Vol. 2″…

To the top left and down, you’re seeing:

  • Scott Lynch’s “Red Seas under Red Skies” (F) (Lim. ed.)
  • Neil Gaiman’s “Absolute Sandman Vol. 1” (comic-book collection)

Next stack:

  • Gene Wolfe’s “There are Doors” (F)
  • Charlie Huston’s “Already Dead”(Urban fantasy)
  • Iain M. Banks’:
  • “The Wasp Factory”
  • “Against a Dark Background”
  • “The Player of Games”
  • “The Algebraist”
  • “Excession”
  • “Inversions”
  • “Feersum Endjinn”
  • “Use of Weapons”
  • Christopher Priest’s:
  • “Inverted World”
  • “A Fugue for a Darkening Isle”
  • “A Dream of Wessex”
  • “The Space Machine”
  • “The Glamour”
  • “The Prestige”
  • “The Extremes”

Next stack to the right:

  • Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Tigana” (F)
  • Peter F. Hamilton’s “The Reality Dysfunction” (SF)
  • Richard Morgan’s “Altered Carbon” (SF)
  • Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”
  • Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked this Way Comes”
  • Fritz Leiber’s “The First Book of Lankhmar”
  • M. John Harrison’s “Viriconium”
  • Alastair Reynold’s “Chasm City”
  • Jack Vance’s “Tales of the Dying Earth”

Last stack to the right:

  • Graham Joyce’s “The Tooth Fairy” (F)
  • Daniel Abraham’s “The Long Price” (F), an omnibus of the two first installments in the “Long Price Quartet”
  • Peter Watt’s “Blindsight” (SF)

And that’s about it. I probably have more books that I haven’t read yet in my collection, but those have generally so low a priority that I doubt I’ll ever get to them. I have an idea of what I’ll be reading next after I finish Joe Hill’s short story collection, “20th Century Ghosts”, but feel free to suggest titles you’re interested in getting reviewed so that I may bump them up the pecking order.

And also feel free to call me crazy. That fact cannot be denied by anyone.


I am Ripper… Tearer… Slasher… Gouger. I am the Teeth in the Darkness, the Talons in the Night. Mine is Strength… and Lust… and Power! I AM (SPARTA) BEOWULF!

This year has already brought us one film affiliated with one of my absolute favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, but you can never have too much of a good thing (well, you could, but let’s not quibble with stupid old sayings), so I kinda had to watch “Beowulf”. I initially a little turned off by the fact that it was an animated motion picture, but got over myself when I asked my head whether or not I had actually seen an animated movie aimed at a slightly less young audience, to which the answer was a puzzled “no”…

It was also quite appealing when I discovered that Angelina Jolie stars as Grendel’s demonic, nudist mother (heehee; that’s a sentence I never thought I’d get the chance to write), as seen in the golden picture above. Add that Roger Avary (“Pulp Fiction”) co-wrote the script with Gaiman and that Robert Zemeckis (“Forest Gump”) was directing, it suddenly became imperative that I should watch this flick.

“Beowulf” is, as your probably aware of, based on the ancient poem with the same name that is the closest thing Britain has to a folk myth (even though the story takes place in an extremely hilly version of Denmark!). It’s about a kingdom that’s terrorized by a gruesome monster/troll called “Grendel”, who often roams their lands, killing everyone he encounters. The king, Hrothgar, has grown old and can not fight Grendel, even though he was a famous monster slayer when he was younger. Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) therefore calls for a new hero to save his people from the demon’s terror, and Beowulf answers his call. What follows is well crafted tale that plays on the strings of courage, glory and pride, and how even the greatest among us may be lead astray.

There are two versions of “Beowulf” in theaters at the moment; one normal one (which I watched) and a 3D-version, which I avoided because I didn’t want to spend two hours with those pesky red&blue glassed on my nose. However, my more mundane choice served well enough and I thought the graphics of the film to be quite superb and at times so real-looking that you didn’t even consider the fact that these characters weren’t the “real deal”. However, whenever that illusion was broken by a poorly crafted scene, it was almost as if I had been drowsing merrily when someone decided to wrench me awake. Thankfully those moments were few and far between.

The best thing about this movie was undoubtedly the start when Grendel and Beowulf were duking it out. Grendel was also the most interesting character in the whole cast, and whenever he was talking to his mother you could pick up Danish and (I think) German phrases, which was immensely satisfying.

The second half of the movie wasn’t as strong and thrilling as the first, mostly due to the fact that we had to sit through a very similar tension build up with a result that was all too apparent, albeit spectacular. I also felt the movie lacked a lot in the “mind-blowing” department, which is a requirement in these kind of action based thrillers, but maybe it’s just the 2D speaking. I did enjoy this movie more than I had initially thought I would, and huge props for getting Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich and Anthony Hopkins on board – all them were as great when animated as they are in “real life”. 7,0 /10

I got this from reading Calibandar’s post over at Westeros, who in turn got it from Amazon. It’s not a complete synopsis, cos if so then this book has the worst ending in history (only kidding, of course). Anyways – it’s nice with a little taster before we get the real thing, right?

The return of the mercenary company the Crimson Guard could not have come at a worse time for the Malazan Empire. Drained by constant warfare, weakened by betrayal and rivalries, many see the grip of Empress Laseen weakening. Conquered kingdoms and principalities test their old independence. Into this gathering civil war on Quon Tali – the Empire’s homeland – comes the Guard. And with their return comes the memory of their hundred year old vow: undying opposition to the existence of the Empire. Yet, rivalries and betrayals stalk the Guard as well – elements of its elite, the Avowed, scheme to open paths to even greater power. Ancient potent entities, Ascendants, also lend a hand exploiting all sides to further their own arcane ends.Meanwhile, a swordsman, Traveller, and his companion Ereko, move from one strange encounter to another in a mysterious dance meant ultimately to bring the swordsman to a final confrontation from which none have ever returned. As the Crimson Guard gathers itself from around the globe, Empress Laseen faces more immediate threats. To feed her wars she has bled dry provincial garrisons across Quon Tali and now regional nationalists see their chance

I will of course be back with the whole thing whenever I stumble over it.

Reaper 1x 1-8

“There’s something seriously wrong with you.” — Sam “Reaper” Oliver, speaking to the Devil…

“Reaper” is a new American comedy show that started airing this autumn. It got recommended by Loki, over at his blog, and I decided to give it a go, seeing as we in general like the same shows, though maybe not the same bits (i.e. see the “Buffy” reviews here on aSA). And I’m glad I did, cos this is one fun show, and I’ll be following the rest of the season with great interest.

So what’s it about, then? Well, on his 21st birthday, Sam Oliver wakes up and finds out that his parents sold his soul to the devil before he was even born, and now he’s to become Satan’s newest bounty hunter (and judging by the amount of lost souls in Sam’s vicinity, the Prince of Darkness has got more than a few bounty hunters around). Whenever Sam and his Scooby gang isn’t out soul a-catching, they’re work at “the Work Bench”, which is a kind of universal shop that’s, naturally, fully equipped to help them on any mission.

Overall I found the premise of this show to be very interesting and might also be versatile enough to keep things interesting for a few seasons. Beelzebub is also wonderfully portrayed and is probably the best thing about this show. Sam Oliver’s love interest is also very pretty and a good enough actor (come to think of it, there’s only praise to sing for the entire cast). However, I’d liked it if the episodes had been more structurally varied then they’ve been so far; only two episodes of eight hasn’t been plotted the same way (and that’s counting the pilot). But aside from that I won’t complain much, cos I really, really like this show.

It could very well turn out to be my Scrubs replacement in the comedy genre. And that’s a big compliment by my standards.

If I didn’t already own the first edition hardcover and the limited, signed edition of this, I’d totally buy this paperback. I really hope Lynch gets to keep this artist on for the entire series, cos the two I’ve seen so far has been among the best paperback covers I’ve ever seen.

This isn’t so much a review as it is a notification that I’ve really read this short story collection. It was kinda forced on me from Ole when he discovered that I could get it for free, and since I got him to purchase Scott Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora” (he’s officially number 38 of all the people I’ve directly made read that book. I’m aiming for fifty!), I considered it a fair trade-off.

Thankfully it was very short, so I knew it wouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to finish it, and since my term-exams are coming up shortly I thought that reading a couple of short stories in my mother language couldn’t really hurt my chances.

So was it any good? Yes, I think so. It was actually at times rather brilliant and there was a couple of stories in there that I really liked (“113”, “til” and “klor”, to name them). Johan Harstad writes with a very recognizable pen, so I dare say I won’t ever mistake any of his stories for someone else’s work. I mean, the guy could write sentences so long that they seemed to continue onwards for several pages! It was a little irritating at times (a guy’s gotta breathe, you know) but it was also rather effective and well done, so I won’t complain much about it.

The best thing about “Ambulanse” (“Ambulance” in English) was the way every one of the short stories were connected and how they all riffed over the same chords in different ways. I got a little tired of the likenesses in the tunes towards the end, but that’s to be expected when you tear through a book like I did.

So in the end I’m glad that this was forced on me. It gave me some brilliant ideas for short-stories of my own and I think I learned a lot from Harstad’s clever metaphors and the way he pulled his stunts off. It clocks in at just beneath the two-hundred pages mark, and has been published in both Spanish and French, which is understandable given this book’s quality. I’d recommend it to you, but I’ll also say that you’ll probably have more fun reading short-stories by Neil Gaiman or some other foreign heavy weighter, cos this collection made me remember why I love Fantasy so much than regular fiction; real life is sad, sad world and I can’t wait to wander off into fairer places.

I won’t grade this read, cos I don’t think it would be fair. I will, however, vow that it’ll be the last book by a Norwegian I’ll read this year. Not because the one’s I’ve read have been bad or anything, but I’ve always preferred English over Norwegian as a language, so the same thing goes for books as well.