My "reading theme" this year is fantasy.
At the moment, I'm (re)reading The Sword of Shannara, which is the first high fantasy novel I ever read, back when I was younger than The Lad is now. Because it was the first high fantasy novel I ever read, I didn't say then (as I'm saying to myself now) "Holy Carp, this thing's starting as a shameless ripoff of the plot of first few chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring!!!" Nevertheless, it's pleasantly readable, Tolkien doesn't own the bits and pieces of a classic medievalesque fantasy so I'm more amused than annoyed, and since Brooks managed to knock out 30-ish books in this series he must, at some point, have found something original to say with those bits and pieces. So I'm in (at least for a while).
Speaking of being amused, I started the year with the first (and my first) Discworld novel, The Color of Magic. Looking forward to more of those.
Between Brooks and Pratchett, I could probably just call it "The Year of the Terrys", but I've set aside a ton of other things I want to sample this year (including several recommendations from The Lad. Unless I wear out, this could turn into a 2-year project.
I finished The Psychopath and I thought it was very good. When done well (a huge caveat) I think I like non-fiction best right now.
About 2-3 weeks ago, I made a rare Wednesday appearance at my LCS. Another customer had brought the owner in boxes of graphic novels and regular novels. He told me to go through the non-graphic ones and take whatever I wanted. When I asked him if he was sure, he just told me it was less books he would have to take to Half-Price Books. So, I grabbed one.
The first one I was going to read was a book from the Hard Case Library simply called Pimp, because how could I not? Well, its the fourth in a series, so I will have to come back to it. Instead I started A Swell-Looking Babe by Jim Thompson, for some reason that title is kind of funny to me as well.
I had the same reaction when I read the first couple of Shannara books. I refer to the series as "Americanized" Lord of the Rings.
Doctor Hmmm? said:
At the moment, I'm (re)reading The Sword of Shannara, which is the first high fantasy novel I ever read, back when I was younger than The Lad is now. Because it was the first high fantasy novel I ever read, I didn't say then (as I'm saying to myself now) "Holy Carp, this thing's starting as a shameless ripoff of the plot of first few chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring!!!"
"My 'reading theme' this year is fantasy."
I'm not sure what mine is (or if I even have one).
I started with "That Which I Have Not Read" but I'm drifting slowing into "Nerd Canon" (which will eventually become "That Which I Have Not Read"). Case in point...
TARZAN ALIVE: I have read this before but I have yet to complete all of ERB Tarzan. I usually read Tarzan Alive in conjunction with ERB, but now I am reading it instead of. When I was a kid, every drug store and book store and what-have-you carried nigh complete runs of Tarzan, Doc Savage, etc. Consequently, I thought (old as they were) that they would always be readily available, so I neglected them at the age I should have been reading them. I don't actually remember at what point I left off when I did start reading them, but I started re-reading them from the beginning a couple of years ago. At that point, I left off in the middle of The Son of Tarzan in 2015. (I know because I was reading it on an airplane and used my boarding pass as a bookmark.)
ASIDE: My favorite book of those I have read so far is The Return of Tarzan, but one shouldn't read it for the first time divorced of Tarzan of the Apes. I have a BOMC edition of the first two novels combined; that's the way to go.
I'd like to pick up where I left off, but I have no intention of re-reading the first three yet again, so I used Tarzan Alive as a kind of summary. It is broken down by both volume and chapter, and the first 15 chapters lead directly into The Son of Tarzan. That is as much of Tarzan Alive as I plan to read at the present time.
Tarzan Alive is one of four books/authors for which I learned not to trust peer reviews when I was a teenager. [For the record, the other three are The Three Musketeers ("boring"), Mark Twain ("boring") and Charles Dickens ("dry and kinda boring").] The guy who reviewed Tarzan Alive for me opined that "It was written by a crazy guy who believes Tarzan was real." It is written by Philip Jose Farmer, whom I already knew from Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life.
ASIDE: I was drawn to Doc Savage by the cover of the first issue of Marvel's b&w magazine. that led me to the books, but there were so many to choose from! I chose the Famer one as an overview, and it was a good choice. When I finally started to read the books themselves (years after I should have read them, as noted), I found them kind of formulaic and repetitive.
But Farmer wasn't "crazy"; he was writing meticulously researched fanfic. Here's what her says in the foreword as he sets out his thesis: "This is a biography of a living person. It should, therefore, be placed by librarians and booksellers on the 'B' shelves." He goes on to admit that he may well have been duped into believing that Tarzan was real, although whay he is really doing is giving himself some verisimilitude, because if the writer doesn't "believe" what he's writing, how can he expect his readers to?
I would recommend Tarzan Alive to anyone who would like to better acquaint himself with Tarzan but who passed on the opportunity to do so when he was "the right age" (but I still recommend the first two books as well, regardless).
Dad had all the Tarzan books, plus huge runs of Doc Savage, G-8 and His Battle Aces, and Mack Bolan: Executioner books, but I've no idea what happened to them.
I've been reading a lot of Agatha Chrisie. Right now, it's Evil Under the Sun! Like Murder on the Orient Express and Death On the Nile, Hercule Poirot is on vacation.
STOP GOING ON VACATION, Poirot! SOMEONE'S GONNA DIE!
I AM FRANKENSTEIN: I bought this paperback new in 1996 knowing that I would read it in 2022 (truthfully, "someday"). It is the second of a pair of science-fantasy novels written by C. Dean Anderson, the other being I Am Dracula. It is 349 pages, but broken up into 22 sections and 96 (very short) chapters overall. There are blank pages between the sections and the print is quite large. Given that and the brevity of the chapters, this made for a quick (but entertaining) read. The shortness of the chapters made it difficult to put down, always convincing me to read "just one more."
In this version, Frankenstein is neither Victor nor Henry; he is Gunther Thunnar. Also, forget what you have heard about the creature having no name; it is Anton Gorobec. The story also involves ancient Earth gods, outer space alien abductions and time travel; it even involves Valkyries toward the end. The aliens behind Frankenstein's experiments are called "The Masters." The body of Frankenstein's creation is supplied by The Masters from the past, and his assistant, a young woman named Katiasa, if from the future. This last detail allows for the inclusion of references to various "Frankenstein" movies (starring Karloff, Cushing and Boyle), as well as Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space and even the killer rabbit from Monty Python & the Holy Grail.
The story is told in a distinctly non-linear style, with alternating chapters being related by Gunther or Anton, yet it is surprisingly easy to follow for all that. Eventually, the two parallel narratives join together as the story barrels headlong to its conclusion. A vampire shows up at the end (but not necessarily the one you're thinking of). The identity and motivation of The Masters is never fully revealed, but the end seems to suggest a sequel. I Am Frankenstein was written after I Am Dracula, though, so there may be more revealed in the first one.
In any case, although I never saw I Am Dracula in 1996 but knew I would read I Am Frankenstein someday, I never foresaw Amazon.com or how easy the internet would make finding book unavailable through my local bookseller. In other words, I Am Dracula is on its way to me even as I type these words.
I finished A Swell-looking Babe, by Jim Thompson, and it was okay. He definitely has better stuff.
I just started the First Lensman by E.E. "Doc" Smith. This is my first experience in the Lensman series, and I'm excited to dive in.
I picked up one of the later books in the Lensman series at a used book store. I gave up on it after a couple of chapters so I will be interested in reading your take on this one.
I just finished Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The book came up as a recommendation on my local library site under " if you liked Dune... And I did like it. Although it turns out it is only Book One in a trilogy. Why do they all have to be trilogies?!?
When I was working in downtown St. Louis, there was a used bookstore I used to go to on Washington Ave. just west of Tucker Blvd. (12th St.). I have forgotten it's name, but it was amazing. The front area of the store was impressive enough in its size and diversity of selection, but the back room is what blew me away. The building itself was quite old and extended half a city block to the alley. It had 20-foot ceilings with aisles and aisles of shelf that went all the way up. There was a wheeled ladder (not for customer use), but I can't imaging what books were shelved above eyelevel never to be seen.
It is in this bookstore where I bought ten first edition James Bond novels (with no dustjackets, unfortunately) and also where I bought first hardcover editions the first seven Tarzan novels (also with no dustjackets). [NOTE: The Tarzan novels first appeared in pulp magazines, then they were serialized in newspapers, then they appeared in hardcover.] These were a set owned by a girl named Mary Fuse, which I know because she wrote her name in them. (I say "girl," but they were dated "1936," some years after they were published.) She also handwrote the volume number, which was not provided by Grosset & Dunlap. These volumes feature the artwork of J. Allen St. John.
THE SON OF TARZAN: This fourth book in the series first appeared in the pulps in 1914, but the copy I just finished is the first edition hardcover, 1917. There's something I enjoy about reading a book that is physically over 100 years old itself, and I wish I could talk to Mary Fuse about it. [Despite its French origins, St. Louis experienced an influx of German immigrants in the 1850s, and Mary's surname would have been pronounced "Fusey" (like Gary Busey).] I've attempted to read through the Tarzan series a couple of times before, never quite made it, and always (until this time) picked up at the very beginning. Consequently, I have read the first several volumes more than once. Although I don't remember exactly how far I got overall, I know I've read at least the first seven or so. This time, I picked up where I left off last time, in the middle of The Son of Tarzan in 2015. I know it was 2015 because the boarding pass I was using as a bookmark was still between pages (although I did start over at the beginning of this volume). I overestimated the durability of this old book, however, as, although I thought I was being extremely careful, wear and tear has caused the cloth binding to split nearly the height of the book where the back cover attaches to the binding. Oh, well. Books are meant to be read, and everything eventually turns to dust anyway.
Whereas Edgar Rice Burroughs was not a polished novelist, he is a vivid storyteller. The Son of Tarzan spans a period of six years, and it is as much the story of Korak's friend Meriem as it is Korak. I didn't read Tarzan at the age I should have, but I do have (second generation) nephews and nieces. I would recommend The Son of Tarzan to my nieces (with the proper guidance and historical context, of course) as heartily as I would to my nephew. ERB was writing for adults, though, so I would, of course, seek their parents approval.
I tried to go back to the St. Louis bookstore where I purchased these books, oh... it's been some time ago now, I don't remember when... but it had closed and the store was completely empty. (It's probably a nightclub or loft apartments by now.) I wonder wat happened to all those hundreds of thousands of books?
I just caught up with the 90s and finished Irvine Welsh's The Acid House. What amazes me is the range of his storytelling, from the familiar Scots dialect lowlife stories to other voices and topics. There are even a couple of contemporary fantasy tales in the collection. Not for all tastes, but one of the best I've read lately.