Blood: A Southern Fantasy – A Review

Blood: A Southern Fantasy
by Michael Moorcock
Read by Chet Williamson

Published by Crossroad Press and Springbrook Audio

(Disclosure Notice: I received a free copy of the audio book version of Blood: A Southern Fantasy from Crossroad Press for review purposes.)

I’m just going to come out and say it. I didn’t particular like Blood: A Southern Fantasy (which I will refer to as Blood for the remainder of this review). It was very dense and written in strange and mostly telling style. It has a strange sub-story that appears like an old movie serial between major sections of the book. The sub-story is related to the main story, but that is not apparent until later in the book. In fact, Blood feels more like a collection of memoirs than a novel. I had a hard time getting into the story.

That all being said, what is Blood about? Blood is set in a world like ours and yet very unlike ours. It is set in an America like ours yet very unlike ours. And most of it takes place in the south. There is a civil war going on between the North and the South. In this world the south is ruled, for the most part, by the black man and the white man is relegated to the north and west. Technology is powered by the energy given off by dimensional rifts. Order and chaos sit side by side, not at peace, but not at war either. It is a strange place, and at times strangely familiar.

The story itself follows the journey of Jack Karaquazian, a gentleman and gambler; his lover, Colinda Devero; and his friends and allies Sam Oakenhurst (Sam is my favorite character in the story), another gambler, and The Rose, a half plant half animal being from a different dimension. Through their various adventures, our heroes, are drawn in the great multi-verse to play the ultimate game.

The story is deep and philosophical delving in the nature of the universe, man, and even God in places. The world is both dark and bright, disturbing and horrific, and yet beautiful. In reminded me of the Moorcock’s Elric tales in some respects.

As far as the audio goes, the reader, Chet Williamson, did a good job. The reading was clean and clear. A bit flat in places, but I think that was function of the style of writing more than the narrator. And he did a nice job marking the transition to the sub-story of the multi-verse and the Chaos Engineers with melodramatic flare and style.

In the end, as I have said, I didn’t like Blood. It just didn’t hook me. It isn’t a bad story. There are things I liked in it: The way and type of games the gambler’s played, the strange cults, the strange mix of technology, the overall dark atmosphere of the story’s setting, and the river boats. (I love river boats.) But I just couldn’t get immersed in the story. I believe if I could have I would have enjoyed it more.

I am going to give Blood an overall score of three out of five snark bites. It isn’t bad. It just wasn’t my thing.

The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature: A Review

The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature
by David Niall Wilson
Narrated by Joe Geoffrey

Published by Crossroad Press and Springbrook Audio

(Disclosure notice: I received a free copy of The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature from Crossroad Press for review purposes. I really need to write a generic disclosure notice.)

You know, in the end, I really have only one complaint about this book, its title is way too long: The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature. It’s fifteen words long! Come on. But that being said, I am starting this review by saying the only thing there is to say about it, “go buy a copy.” Buy it now. Right now. You will not be disappointed. It is the most fun I have had reading/listening to a horror novel in years.

The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature (which I will refer to as CletusJ. Diggs for the rest of this review) is the story of good ol’ boys, perversion of science, and ancient religion. It is set in Old Mill, a small town in North Carolina. It stars, as you’d guess from the title, the Reverend Cletus J. Diggs (who is also a common law attorney, private investigator, tabloid journalist, and anything else he can learn via a correspondence course). Cletus is drawn into the strange going-ons in the back wood of North Carolina when his friend Jasper enlists his help in removing a dead man from his “secret” fishing hole. Things for Cletus, Jasper and Sheriff Bob go down hill from there.

Now I lived in South Carolina for a couple of years, and I currently live in small town Minnesota. I am sure I have met some of the people in this story, or at least there distant cousins. Although the characters depicted in Cletus J. Diggs are humorous, many of them are as real as the guys who live in the trailer park on the other side of town.

This audiobook is humorous, but its humor masks a deep seated dark horror that, in the end, made me squirm. The characters are fun and odd, but they are real. They may act odd, but they feel the same horror and the same fears we do when faced with perversion and evil and “the things that man was not meant to know”. The characters reactions to these are real and not just played for laughs.

And yes, Cletus J. Diggs is laugh out loud funny in places. But it is also dark and disturbing others. Very disturbing. In fact this story reminded me of what made Lovecraft’s work so brilliant.

I am impressed by David Wilson’s ability to keep the humor alive without dispelling the underlying sense of dread. I wish I could write this well.

In fact, it is the end of this novel (which I will not spoil for you) when Cletus comes face to face with the truth, that stuck with me. How Cletus reacted to that truth made me love the story all the more. The ending was disturbing and left me with a true sense of dread. And I think that dread felt by both Cletus and myself is well described by my favorite quote from Lovecraft’s work:

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.” – Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft

The narration by Joe Geoffrey definitely enhances and compliments the story. The voices he did for each character are unique. He captures the pace and style of life of a small town well in his inflections and accents and easy going style. It is pleasure the listen to.

I give The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature five out of five snark bites overall (four out of five snark bites for the audio and six out of five snark bites for the story). Go pick up a copy right now.

50 Books For Geeks

As most of you don’t know, I currently pay the bills by working as a software developer. (Who I do that for is irrelevant to this post.) And as a software developer, I am subscribed to a variety of Tech blogs and email newsletters. One of those is InsideTech (well, I think I got subscribed to it when I signed up for anyway), and few weeks back they published an article titled “50 Books Every Geek Should Read”. I found the list of books interesting and decided to see how many of them I had read and pick five to read in the next year. I’m not going to give you the whole list from the original article here as I think it is worth a read, but I will list the ones I have read and those I plan to read in the next year.

The books I have read listed in 50 Books Every Geek Should Read are:

Neuromancer by William Gibson
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
1984 by George Orwell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte
Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction by Steve McConnell
Getting Things Done by David Allen

The five books I plan to read in the next year or so, that are listed in 50 Books Every Geek Should Read are:

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott
iCon by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon
Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond

So, how many books have you read from the list in 50 Books Every Geek Should Read are there any you think you might like to read?