Monday, July 22, 2019

Book review: A SCANNER DARKLY

A SCANNER DARKLY (1977) by Philip K. Dick

This novel comes with an author's afterword that makes a few things clear:


1) The characters and settings are based on Dick's own experience living in California during the hippie/counter-culture era;


2) He lost a lot of friends to drug abuse.

Thus, A SCANNER DARKLY is more than a typical ("typical" meaning very weird) Dick novel about shifting realities, paranoia and questions about human identity.

It is also a fictionalized account about the dying days of the drug-addled hippie era. Lives are wasted, minds disintegrate, addiction destroys the bonds and community between humans. It's a sad story, despite the dark humor and compassion.

Since the story is so grounded in lived-in reality, the science fiction elements feel almost unnecessary. No "sense of wonder," no moments of "conceptual breakthrough" are available here - only the bleak insight that drug addiction ruins everything.

Recommended, but kind of a bitter pill to swallow. (The movie version is very good.)

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Sunday, July 07, 2019

Book reviews: DAMNED and DOOMED by Chuck Palahniuk

(FOOTNOTE: These reviews previously appeared in my Instagram feed.)


1. DAMNED (2011) by Chuck Palahniuk

What the hell is it about "Hell" that has attracted so many poets, writers and artists for thousands of years? (Dante, Hieronymus Bosch, Sartre to name a very few...)
Perhaps it's misanthropy, or guilt, or a mix of both - I don't know...

Anyhow... In the black comedy DAMNED, Palahniuk throws a teenage girl into Hell. She's forced to work in a telemarketing call center to torment the living.
(Well OF COURSE telemarketing is based in Hell. No sane person would argue with that.) Our heroine eventually decides that Hell isn't nice (she's right) and starts a rebellion against Satan.

The novel ends with "To Be Continued..." and there's a sequel, DOOMED, which is reviewed below.

I think this book is obscene, tasteless and thoroughly unsuitable for anyone under the age of 15. It also made me laugh a lot. Perhaps I have bad taste. Also, the plucky heroine and her band of rebels are sympathetic characters - especially the British punk rocker.




2. DOOMED (2013) by Chuck Palahniuk.

At the risk of spoiling the plot: DOOMED is what Neil Gaiman's GOOD OMENS would've read like if it were written by Chuck Palahniuk (the author of FIGHT CLUB).

This is a sequel to the novel DAMNED (which has been reviewed elsewhere in this feed).

The protagonist, who died and went to Hell in the previous book, is now back on Earth as a ghost. She must stop the nefarious plot of Satan... but of course it's not quite that clear-cut and simplistic. Things get weird, confused and icky.

I laughed out loud several times while reading DOOMED. I also squirmed as many times. You have to be aware that Palahniuk almost always tries to make the reader both laugh and feel very uncomfortable.

DOOMED won't make much sense unless you've read DAMNED first. And it's definitely not for everyone. Recommended for Palahniuk fans... and people who haven't forgotten what satire really means in these strange times.







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Friday, July 05, 2019

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Recension av REX OMEGA på Instagram

Bokbloggaren i_min_bokhylla har postat en väldigt positiv recension av min nya roman REX OMEGA.

Läs recensionen HÄR.

REX OMEGA finns på biblioteket och i de flesta nätbokhandlar.

Book review: THE LEGION OF TIME by Jack Williamson


THE LEGION OF TIME (1938 magazine serial; first book publication in 1952) by Jack Williamson.

This is the kind of pulp-magazine sci-fi that inspired today's blockbuster movies: Fast-paced adventure with nonstop action, flat characters, a dash of romance, imaginative settings, plus one "Big Idea" as the motor of the plot.

The plot could be summarized as "The Magnificent Seven in a time machine." The idea of a legion fighting across time has cropped up in pop culture now and then, but THE LEGION OF TIME is the granddaddy of them all - it originally appeared as a 1930s magazine serial in ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION.

Author Jack Williamson used the (then) fresh and unexplored theme of quantum mechanics, and came up with a truly original plot: There are two competing alternate futures, fighting each other by trying to alter the past. This being pulp fiction, one future is Good and the other one Evil.

The "good" future gathers a crack team of scientists and soldiers from the past,
with the American protagonist as its leader - the "legion" of the title - to help find the "hinge point" in history that determines which future will come true...

It's a fantastic idea, but it's squeezed into a pulp serial that was obviously written very quickly. The book contains far too much fighting at the expense of plot, character development and depth.

Though Williamson had talent, this short novel will seem overly simplistic to modern readers - like a very violent YA book, with outdated gender roles and crude ethnic stereotyping.

I recommend THE LEGION OF TIME for three reasons. One: It's got a great idea that could have been used better. Two: aspiring writers should study it to learn what works and what doesn't work today.

And the third reason: THE LEGION OF TIME is an escapist adventure and it does "carry the reader away" by its sheer momentum... and "Sense of Wonder."


I think there ought to be more escapist adventure fiction for present-day readers, and perhaps this book could teach young writers how to create such stories.

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Monday, July 01, 2019

Book review: THE DEVIL'S PARTY by Colin Wilson

THE DEVIL'S PARTY (2000) by Colin Wilson.

Well, this book left me underwhelmed.

When it comes to gruesome accounts of insane, violent cult leaders, brazenly dishonest charlatans and mass delusions, THE DEVIL'S PARTY delivers - in spades. Wilson writes in a plain, lucid prose about the rise and fall of Messianic cults - some of which you probably have come across in the news.

But when he tries to explain why and how these cult leaders gained such fanatical followings, and why the cults often ended in self-destructive violence, my skepticism starts tingling...

Wilson's explanations flirt with pseudoscience and mysticism. He finishes the book with grandiose claims about the hidden powers of the "unconscious mind" and comes off almost - but not quite - as one of the charlatans he describes in his own book.

Also, he promises to explain the psychology of cult followers but fails to do so. That's my biggest disappointment, because there's a mystery that really needs explaining.


The "big idea" of THE DEVIL'S PARTY is that you don't have to be crazy to become a cult leader, just insecure - and once people start worshipping you as a Messiah, this will drive you paranoid and crazy. (Well, duh.) Which is a perfectly reasonable argument, supported by evidence - but instead of delving deeper into this and using evidence, he goes off on an unrelated tangent about "untapped" mental powers that really isn't justified in the context of the book.

Recommended? Not really. If you want to read up on Messianic cults, there are plenty of other books.

FUN FACT: Colin Wilson also wrote the novel THE SPACE VAMPIRES, which was filmed as LIFE FORCE (1985) - a glorious mess of a movie.

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