What I Read – April 2023

What started as a fruitful reading month turned into a morass of unproductivity as life got in the way. It meant I didn’t read as much as I would have liked. As I mentioned last month, I’m reading all weird fiction, both new and old. Two of the books below were some of my all-time favorites, while the other two just didn’t do it for me.

I’m continuing my way through my weird fiction shelf. It’s proving to be one of the most engrossing genres I’ve read in a long time.

The Scar by China Miéville

This book is the sequel to my favorite genre novel of all time, Perdido Street Station. That’s a lot to live up to and it does so in almost every single way. It took 40 pages to get going, but after that, I was hooked. While the first book is set in the city of New Crobuzon, Miéville takes to the seas, setting his story in the floating city of Armada. His worldbuilding is every bit as vivid. I could almost smell the salt in the air. It amazes me that an author can take so many story threads and weave them together so seamlessly.

The Burrowers Beneath by Brian Lumley

Before his Necroscope books, Lumley wrote in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. I have read a fair amount of Lumley’s work and can unfortunately say that this book is one of my least favorites. My issues are threefold. First, he turns all the supernatural elements of the mythos into scientific ones, destroying much of its mystique. Second, it is written in a faux-antiquated style, unnecessary and absent from his other work, no doubt meant to mimic Lovecraft. And finally, it never had a climax, but rather just petered off. I made the mistake of buying all six books in this series, but I’ll give it one more shot.

Punktown by Jeffrey Thomas

The city of Paxton (known colloquially as Punktown) is the setting for much of Thomas’s work. It’s a futuristic metropolis on the planet Oasis, filled with all variety of sentient beings. This collection provides a broad look at its denizens, painting a landscape as vivid as any real city. So why didn’t I like it? While immensely creative and well-written (for the most part), I had trouble engaging with many of the characters and their stories. The book rarely pulled me in, and I was very aware that I was looking at words on the page. It had so much potential, but ultimately fell flat for me.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

Let me just say “Wow.” This novella is a re-envisioning of Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook” from a black perspective. Unfortunately, I haven’t read the original story, but that didn’t prevent me from having an incredible experience. This book makes you feel. It shows life as an African American in 1920s New York, the racism and the oppression. All the while, it contains the unspeakable terror of Lovecraft, but in a fresh way. Of all the visits I’ve made to the Cthulhu Mythos, this ranks among the best.

Keep reading!


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