Graves, Balls and Crosses

Finished Lafferty’s The Elliptical Grave on Tuesday. The whole focus of the book seems to even come at you elliptically – and at the last minute. It wasn’t until the final two chapters that it all came together. Before that I slogged through it for three weeks.

Because I thought there was nothing behind the curtain. Oh, there was something behind the curtain alright. A bet. That was what was behind that curtain. A bet of ultimate consequences.

This is one of those Lafferty books that I find slightly annoying in that, although I will want to reread it anyway, I have to reread it because I am sure I missed 99% of the fruit’s juice. He can throw so much indirection and misdirection at you (to say nothing of the constant word play) it is like coming into a joke at the punchline. You thought you were in a joke or a jest but only opaquely – and then the drum snap and the crowd laughter. Hold on! Back to the beginning.

If Lafferty were instructed to write the plain fact that a cat is on a mat, he’d entertain us for 40 pages and we still wouldn’t have a simple fact, but a multiplicity… a multiplicity that may involve a cat (a feline of some sort at least) and some derivative form of dorsal support. But the cat would have died and resurrected, or simply continued to decompose, or assumed a chair at the Institute for Impure Science and the mat would be constructed by St. Joseph himself (bonus points to whomever can guess the Lafferty reference there).

But once I got the hook. What a story! His stories are like the Spanish Inquisition – no one expects it!

Now to the balls and the crosses.

I was talking to suspected android/writing machine author (or time traveller, or possessor of the 48 hour day) John C. Wright the other day (actually he was talking, me and a few others were listening) about religion in science fiction (talk about an untapped field) and he mentioned G.K. Chesterton’s The Ball and the Cross.

Few authors will get a pass to the front of the line. G.K. Chesterton is one of the few. I already own and am a HUGE fan of his books Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man, and I love his Father Brown stories. So when I heard mention this book about a duel (and one supposes debate) between a fledging secular atheist at the dawn of the 20th century and a Christian (I suppose a stand-in for Chesterton himself although I haven’t got that far yet) well, how can one resist that?

Think of it though. That was a new creature (pretty new, anyway) in 1905. Fresh and full of vigor, and full of utopian answers that were yet to kill millions upon millions of people. Although the French had the news.

Over a century before he and his brethren whittled down the edifice of Western Civilization enough where we can start to see the prayer mats our grandchildren will be kneeling – or bleeding – upon.

This should be a fascinating read.


Reading 2016

I can’t just study all day so, when I am not studying, I will be doing one of my other favorite things, reading! So here is a partial list of what I’ve got pegged for 2016.

First up is John C. Wright’s The Architect of Aeons.


Which is exactly what I needed after Anne Leckie’s disappointing Ancillary series. The first installment was really good and promised quite large story. Then decided to whittle it down and focus on a smaller scale in the second book. And then stayed on that smaller scale for the third installment and then purposely left no ending. Her character states it at the end.

Get this set-up from the first book. A galactic empire is ran by a ruthless tyrant who possesses thousands of bodies. This tyrant one day commits an action so heinous it causes a rift between parts of her – one side is ashamed of herself, the other rationalizes the action’s expedience. The two sides start maneuvering against each other. Now much as the tyrant has many instances of herself, so the ships of her fleets and its crews are all the same person (except for the human elements). There is no distinction between the ship-mind and the minds of the crew, they are all the same person. They serve the human captain, in fact they usually form attachments to their captains.

One day this set up leads the tyrant to demand one such ship/humanoid to shoot her captain dead. The fragment then shoots the instance of the tyrant in the head and goes rogue. This causes another instance of the tyrant on the ship to blow the ship up. One fragment of the ship escapes torn from all her other selves, and her captain who she had to execute.

She vows revenge. Now that is a pretty good set-up, right? Thousands of instances of the tyrant at war with herself and with a rogue ship-fragment vowing to bring her down. If you are a science fiction fan, you want to read that series!

But what if in the next book this ship fragment was sent (by the “good” part of the tyrant) to an outpost where she spent time drinking tea and helping the poor and out of this outpost? What if the story never left this outpost? What if the ship fragment never killed another instance of the tyrant? Rip off! And I left out a bunch of other stuff that was unresolved.

The whole gender neutrality thing? Meh? If they weren’t all girls, the author gave me no indication they weren’t. It was like the female cast of Jane Eyre in SPACE!! Let’s have tea, do you think so and so likes so and so? Ack, give me LeGuin any day, please.

Also the book was pretty humorless. So it was with great pleasure that I picked up Wright’s Aeons. Not only is most of what he writes outlandish, I’m usually laughing right off the bat.

Then in no particular order is: Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.



Nope haven’t read it. I’ve read quite a few of his other works, this one never grabbed me.

A Borrowed Man: by Gene Wolfe It’s Gene Wolfe, nuff said, right?


Nod by Adrian Barnes


I decided to give this one a chance because I am pretty familiar with lack of sleep and its effects and it seemed to have a Stephen King vibe to it. I bought it despite the author interview at the back of the book where he sounds like a college freshman retard, “the corporations man, we need a revolution man…” Shut the fuck up if you want to think and speak with your anus, write me some cool stuff and I will pay you, don’t expect me to pay attention to your late adolescent drivel. On the other hand, he’s Canadian (Canadian science fiction usually has the “Corporation” as the bad guy) so what can you do?

China Mieville: The Scar



I have heard of Mieville for a number of years. So a couple of months ago in the bookstore I open up this book to the first page, read the first couple of sentences and bought it on style alone. This is also a man who thinks and talks from his anus outside his field. But I really don’t care as long as you deliver the product I’m paying for. He would hate that kind of capitalistic libertarian style thinking. Apparently he’s a socialist. Apparently he missed twentieth century history class…

China Mieville: three moments of an explosion  Bought this also on the strength of the sample I read from The Scar. Style can be a rare thing to enjoy. And I mean style of a kind where you just like the way they use words. I have this with R.A. Lafferty. I can read a story of his and not tell you what it was about it or its plot, but man, was it great to read!

Then I decided to go outside my usual stomping grounds.

3 by Flannery O’Connor


Which was cheaper than any of the works singly. I have a certain love for Catholic writers. I haven’t read one I didn’t like. Seems to be a rather dark writer, southern and devoutly religious. Who wouldn’t like that combination in a writer?

Song of Kali by Dan Simmons:


This is supposed to be one of the best, most frightening horror novels of the twentieth century. And it is written by Dan Simmons. I think I’m going to read this before Drood. Drood seems a chore while being a delight… or it could just be a chore, I haven’t read it yet.

Father Brown Crime Stories by G.K. Chesterton:


Remember what I said about Catholic writers? He’s one of my favs. Funny I just started watching this series from PBS last week and then I ran across this.

And there should be another Lafferty collection coming out this year as well!