Read Recently — January 2014 — And the rest

All Spell Breaks Loose: a Raine Benares novel by Lisa Shearin

The latest and probably last of the Raine Benares series (I was gonna link, but there’s five of them so if you want the details just check the tags for Lisa Shearin) finds Raine and her allies raiding the goblin kingdom to overthrow Nukpana and destroy the Saghred, the magical artifact that has screwed up Raine’s life for so long now. As a final fuck-you, the Saghred has removed Raine’s magic, leaving her helpless against Nukpana.

So we finally get to see goblin society, and meet Tam’s family (which may only make sense if you’ve read the series). And we get to see some dragons. I’m pretty sure this ends the series, but I enjoyed it a lot and I recommend the whole series if you’re looking for some relatively light-hearted fantasy.

The Ghost Pirates and Others: the best of William Hope Hodgson by William Hope Hodgson, edited by Jeremy Lassen

Hodgson is called in the introduction “one of the most influential fantasists of the 20th century”, and when you consider that he died in 1918 and thus barely saw the 20th century that becomes quite a claim. But the list of writers influenced by him is long and includes H. P. Lovecraft, whose own influence was not small. And, just to note, Simon R. Green’s newest series, the Ghost-Finders, uses an organization called, “The Carnacki Institute”, which is named after Hodgson’s “Carnacki the Ghost-Finder” series of stories.

“The Ghost Pirates” is a long story about a doomed ship, as told by the sole survivor. Things are not as clear as you might think, based on the title.

“A Tropical Horror” is a very short story told in the present tense about a strange monster attacking a ship.

“The Sea Horses” is an annoying, cloying story about a very stupid child and his even stupider grandfather. One of Hodgson’s rare failures.

“The Searcher of the End House” is a Carnacki story, as the ghost detective tells his friends about one of his earliest cases.

“The Stone Ship” is the story of a ship’s encounter with a strange object in the wake of a volcanic eruption. One interesting thing about Hodgson’s sea stories is that often, nothing supernatural happens.

“The Voice In The Night” is the story that inspired a Japanese horror movie.

“Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani” is, really, impossible to sum up in this kind of space. Cosmic horror, though.

“The Mystery of the Derelict” You remember that story about the abandoned ship that was drifting across the atlantic and which someone, in the complete absence of data speculated might be overrun with cannibal rats? Hodgson wrote that story over a century ago.

“We Two and Bully Dunkan” has two sailors give a lesson in employee relations to a captain who really needs it.

“The Shamraken Homeward-Bounder” has shown up now in two collections that I’ve read and I have no idea why. It certainly demonstrates the broad range of styles Hodgson uses, but I don’t understand why anyone would want to read it.

“Demons of the Sea” is another story like “The Stone Ship”, though with different things being encountered.

“Out of the Storm” is another cosmic horror story.

I realise I’m not exactly selling this well. But if you’re at all interested in horror, or the roots of 20th century fantasy, Hodgson is a writer you should check out. His works are probably coming into the public domain, so soon they’ll be all over the place, but this is a good “sampler”-type book and it’s out now. Mostly recommended.

Why Darwin Matters: the case against intelligent design by Michael Shermer

Shermer can be something of a dick sometimes, and for some reason he feels obliged to bring the Randian “A is A” line into this book, but he’s a talented writer and a good science populiser, so if you’re interested in the whole ID/Evolution debate (and if you’re American, you should be), this is worth checking out.

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