Excitatory Amphigorey

Last weekend was Arch Con X, a now-annual event that was flooded by geeks from Cebu and the nearby islands. No earthquake or aftershock could stop people from flocking over at Ayala Center; the place was packed! A friend and I were exchanging morbid jokes about how every Cebuano geek dies if an earthquake strikes and decimates the mall during the event. Okay, maybe not all but A LOT of nerds will perish – in fancy-shmancy costumes too (or holding a comic book, or an MTG card, or an action figure – whatever floats your nerdy boat.)  I didn’t participate because, *cough cough* I insist that I am not that geeky.

I did manage to land a pic with this lovely lad.

ArchCon Cebu
“Life’s a bowl of cherries and this is the pits.”

More importantly, Saturday found me at Fullybooked’s graphic book and comics sale, an event I gladly participated by buying Amphigorey Again. I really didn’t want to drop by because I am working on my maturity and EQ levels but a little peek won’t hurt, would it? Well, that little peek found me this book which I am proud to say that I resisted – for a while. I mean, I did manage to get past about 20 meters from the store, bought coffee, sat down, mulled things over before getting horrified by the thought of an undeserving man getting this book instead of me (the more deserving reader, obviously).

The five minutes that passed between me seeing this Gorey collection suddenly made me NEED this book, so I snatched it up. My EQ and maturity levels might have crashed but my soul was soaring. This is definitely one of the best books I’ve bought this year.

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Amphigorey Again is the fourth collection of Gorey’s previously uncollected works after Amphigorey: Fifteen Books, Amphigorey Too, and Amphigorey Also. All are perfectly awesome books, I am certain, and I need them to be in my collection as well.

There is something uniquely engrossing with Gorey’s works. I was having attention span issues the last few days but Amphigorey Again just got me hook, line and sinker. What a wonderful collection of absurd, morbidly funny, and beautiful stories and illustrations.

Since I don’t have the time (and the attention span) to take good photos of the book right now, here are some phone pictures I instagramm’d the frak out of to tide you over.

I’m definitely a wee bit poorer now but everything is beautiful and nothing hurt.

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As We Grow Older and Wiser

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Amidst all the earth’s shaking and trembling, I have finally wormed my way through a book. I was reading Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and it was taking me forever to turn a page past 66 that I finally caved in and gave it up for later.  Certain books just don’t feel right for a certain occasion, and reading about a glorious science fictional criticism of war is not really my way of coping with the fear of getting crushed to death in the middle of the night.

Funnily though, I found solace in a romance novel – one that I am not in the least embarrassed, and even a bit proud of, for picking up. I used to binge on romance novels while I was growing up and I enjoyed them – until I grew up and everything about love suddenly became petty and ridiculously unbelievable. Romance novels of the bland and graphic kind suddenly shot in superstardom and it became a huge embarrassment to be lugging around a book with covers in fancy fonts, featuring an unclothed male with large muscles, and bearing titles that are cheesy as frak. I mean, “At Last Comes Love” doesn’t really sound literary, but it’s not aiming to be.  However low-brow people think romance novels can be, finding a fun Regency novel whose prose does not come second to telling a good story is very refreshing.

I enjoyed Mary Balogh’s At Last Comes Love. My heart did not come afluttering, it rarely does these days, but I genuinely grinned and giggled my way through Duncan Pennethorne (Earl of Sherringford), and Margaret Huxtable’s ridiculous love story. You see, Duncan Pennethorne (Earl of Sherringford) was threatened to lose his inheritance if he does not find himself a respectable wife in 15 days. 15 Days! With a scandalous past (he ran off with his then-bethrothed’s very-married sister-in-law five years ago), and a secret illegitimate child, it seemed very unlikely for Duncan Pennethorne (Earl of Sherringford) to find maidens throwing themselves at his feet.

Margaret, on the other hand, is thirty years old – ancient in the rules of regency romance, and has never been married. She is becoming increasingly desperate to find herself a husband, especially with the return of new-widower Crispin Dew, her first love and the taker of her uhm, womanhood, who promised to come back for her after going off to war but instead married a Spanish woman, thereby breaking her heart etc. etc.

One crazy ball, where she donned a lovely gown with her bosom almost spilling over, she bumped into a tipsy Duncan, who offered her a dance and a marriage and when confronted by Crispin, she hurriedly lied and declared Duncan to be his unofficial bethrothed. Sounds like a win-win, but of course, a marriage done for the wrong reasons doesn’t come easy.

Drama, drama, drama. There are so many things that happened, and it’s so much fun to unfold a romantic story under layers and layers of intrigues, lies and mystery.  I would’ve missed out on a lot had I let my pretentiousness get the best of me. It’s crazy how prejudiced readers can be when it comes to literary genres – thankfully, I’m too old to give a fuck and I will enjoy a book regardless of what other people think of it. If it’s good, it’s good.

Obviously, I enjoyed Mary Balogh’s At Last Comes Love a lot, I was glad I picked it up on a very restless time, and I will definitely be on the look-out for other Baloghs in the future (hopefully a future without aftershocks).

Ta-ta!

Shaken Not Stirred and a Book Haul

I flew back home to Cebu from Manila lugging around a bagful of books. These are some of them:

Books books books #bookhaul

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They were too many to fit in an Instagram video but on a list, my loot looks like this:

  1. Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms
  2. Terry Pratchett: Night Watch
  3. Joe Haldeman: Forever War
  4. Robert Heinlein: Starship Troopers
  5. George Alec Effinger: When Gravity Fails
  6. Neal Stephenson: The Diamond Age
  7. Frank Herbert: Dune
  8. Roger Zelazny: Lord of Light
  9. Stephen King Dark Tower#1: The Gunslinger
  10. Dark Tower#2: The Drawing of the Three
  11. Dark Tower#3: The Wastelands
  12. Dark Tower#4: Wizard and Glass
  13. David Wong: John Dies at the End
  14. Ray Bradbury:  Something Wicked This Way Comes
  15. Bill Bryson: A Short History of Nearly Everything

I haven’t been reading lately though. It’s been a pretty messy week starting with a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that dominantly shook our island and neighboring Bohol last Tuesday, October 15, 2013. There’s death, chaos, and general despair all around. It’s very bad – my second major earthquake and the aftershocks that followed are worse. You’ll never know when they decide to strike and my nerves are frazzled and my brain is fried. I am so tired, and sad and lethargic.

Calamities are horrible, especially when they are so close to home  making it mighty hard to distract yourself from all the horror. Diversions are impossible when your building starts randomly swaying and you get woken up by the sound of your house creaking – the beams are straining and the cats are frakking spooked. It’s horrible, horrible. I never thought I’d be in the middle of this kind of terror. You are getting metaphorically attacked by the very ground you’re standing on and the house that used to be  a place of comfort is now an enemy. The Office is also more of an enemy now than ever but oh, well.

If you’re anywhere near the Pacific Ring of Fire, please take care. Drop, duck and cover, stay calm, hydrate yourself and all that shit.

The Metabarons: My Instincts will Guide this Post

Because I occasionally find myself in the presence of a Jodorowsky evangelist – one who vehemently asks me who my favorite Metabaron is with every meeting, and tells the premise so passionately (even without beer!), I have finally yielded  and read Alexandro Jodorowsky & Juan Gimenez’s The Metabarons series.

The Metabarons

What a ride that has been.

Warren Ellis wrote about The Metabaronsspeed of innovation. That there is literally a new and mad idea on every page, and it’s very hard to put it any better. The Metabarons is a wellspring of science fictional wonder and weirdness. It is the tale of the Metabarons ancestry – a clan of perfect warriors whose initiation includes cybernetic physical brutalizations and whose succession is determined by the child killing his father.  It has a lot of Dune references too: you will find Shabda Oud “whore-priestesses” whose mental powers rival that of the Bene Gesserit and, very similarly, sends their witches to mate and spawn the perfect androgyne, savior of humanity etc Kwisatch Haderach-ish etc.

It’s very hard to talk about Metabarons succinctly without sounding like a fool because it is brimming with ideas that wrestle between being ridiculous and awesome. The universe and the mythic Castaka ancestry is massive with every issue thick with plot and gorgeous, gorgeous artwork. It is one of the most wonderfully illustrated and colored works I’ve ever seen. You could literally hang any page up as a poster and it would look perfect.

And it’s filled with all sorts of things:  a cybernetic crotch that guides a ship through Metabaronic instincts; beautifully-drawn females; astronomical battles; a tarantu-wolf that breastfeeds a metabaronic baby, and so much more shit you never thought would be printable.

 

Jodorowsky is definitely a master myth-maker and The Metabarons is a comic book from a wonderful and fantastical poet. For someone so used to American superheroes to suddenly read about a mythological warrior so strong who travels to worlds so rich and fight battles whose scale and suspense so inventive, is like mental assault. Everything is so interesting, and though riddled with some weird jumps of logic, the book’s a grabber. I took turns laughing, turning pages in suspense, and slapping my forehead with the face of my palm.  The Metabarons has some crazy shit…probably some of the craziest shit I’ve seen in any medium. And it has a lot of flaws  – the robots become annoying past the tenth issue, the world is sexist as frak, there’s incest, the translation is cheesy, and the sex scenes are cringe-worthy.  But ultimately, this book was so much fun, and it’s surreal and epic and I enjoyed reading it a lot.

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It’s an intense roller-coaster ride through moments of painful personal tragedies and hollowed victories  of these driven, intensely passionate, comically insane, larger-than-life heroes. It is a story about power, death, misguided love, the chokeholds of unavoidable filial obligations – and the wonder of rising above these limitations while embracing the true virtue of humanity. A brilliant concept of sci-fi space opera and gruesome, violent action – I LOVED IT.

To Scar the Armada

China Mieville's The Scar

The Scar is a novel that grows on you. I’ve read this a few days before but I wanted the layers and layers of stories to grow on me before I write about it, so I’ve since let it simmer down ( but not without moving on to other books: The Metabarons series and Roland Barthes’ Mourning Diary).

The Scar is a fantastic adventure book and Miéville has this way of letting you feel an initial gut reaction to the concepts he presents encased in a wild ride, but leaves you on your own to ponder on the book’s complexities. It is a very weird book – very unusual in its plotting, in its story-telling but very brilliant. Miéville is not afraid of telling the story he wants to tell and he respects our intelligence and writes accordingly.  If you want fluff entertainment – he can give you that, but he also makes (or forces) you to think. About mercantilism, suspicion of authorities, and the “game of thrones”, where people are played as pawns in the game of power. It is very deep, layered and labyrinthine but it is so much fun.

And I love this kind of writing. I mentioned when I talked about Perdido Street Station about the lack of spelled-out resolution. And The Scar is the same way. They’re written as grand slices of life – China chooses not to tie up every loose end and detail to us the fates of every characters into some ride-into-the-sunset kind of credit roll chapter. Those kinds of books can be great too but this – this is memorable. This is Real Life – the kind with no real endings apart from death.  The Scar is like chancing upon some people in your time, travel with them for a while, and part ways without knowing what will happen to them.

Which leads us to the aftermath. There is always an aftermath – a potent hangover that hangs above you like a dark cloud. A weird mixture of joy, sadness and loneliness. I’ve noticed this after reading Perdido Street Station, and again with The Scar. A very coherent Miévillian describes this phenomenon thusly:

“Sometimes a book ends and leaves you feeling hollowed out, yet with a feeling that your chest is under a great pressure. This is what happens when a book builds tension and engrosses you so fully that by the end of the book you are physically responding.

Most authors release this tension during a climax, and you achieve some sort of completion and end the book sated and satisfied. But occasionally the author denies you a climax. This is not the same as an anticlimax, as the author has not made obvious and deliberate attempts to dodge your expectations. Instead the book more or less stops.

I’ve come to see this as a great artistic achievement, because done correctly it leaves you with a memorable and haunting sensation.”

You’re godsdamn right.

The Scar is a great book – a masterpiece of fiction. It is more tightly controlled than the very verbose Perdido Street Station with its long-winded sentences and pages and pages of fantastical computer calculations.  This is more restrained and less staggering and I would highly recommend this to people as the gateway book to Miéville’s works.

Wild sea battles; creatures a mile wide; possibilities that could be mined; possibilities that could be harnessed (in a SWORD!); and a chasm at the end of the world, jagging accross the face of the Hidden Ocean – teeming with the ways things weren’t and aren’t but could be. The Scar was definitely another great Miéville book. I can’t wait for Iron Council!