Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Filmed review.

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life was written by Ruth Franklin. Franklin is an American literary critic who spent six years researching Shirley Jackson’s work and life to write this book. Once published, she was awarded several accolades for her efforts. Among those, the Bram Stoker Award for Best Nonfiction, the Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography. And after reading this myself, I can unequivocally say that she absolutely deserves the praise.

I am by no means a Shirley Jackson super-fan. Rather, I wasn’t, but that may have changed after reading this fantastic biography. I’ve read some of Jackson’s biggest works, the Haunting of Hill House, the Lottery short story collection, as well as both of her personal memoirs, Life Among Savages and Raising Demons. Of course, there are many other works I haven’t read, perhaps the biggest being We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Any hesitation I had about reading her other works has vanished. Franklin has inspired me to read Jackson’s entire list of work, and reread this biography when I’m done to fully appreciate the depth and significance of Jackson’s work.

I originally sought out this biography after reading Life Among Savages, Jackson’s first memoir, in October of 2019. I had hoped to get a look into Jackson’s psyche because I knew how significant her work (e.g. the Haunting of Hill House) is in the horror genre. Imagine my disappointment when I came to find out that it is less a memoir and more of an outtake of what it’s like to be a housewife in the 50s (or what you’re expected to be). There’s nothing really discussing her personal life outside of her kids; never is there a mention of her life as a writer. There is the hint of what might be satirical commentary on her life and society, but overall, the book comes across as somewhat antiquated. I couldn’t decide if the book is Jackson being cleverly critical or just doing exactly as it seems, trying to paint herself as the “perfect” housewife. I ended up thinking it must be somewhere in between. Franklin goes deep into what Jackson was trying to get at with these memoirs and what motivated her to write them, and it seems I was mostly right about it being a mix of critic and showcasing. My point here is that the memoir left me wanting. I realized it was never meant to be an honest peak into Jackson’s life.

I approached this biography hoping for a deeper dive into her personal life as well as into her mind. Thankfully, that is exactly what I got. This biography excels because it is more than just an outline of her life; it’s a detailed look at how her life fed into her work and vice versa. Franklin’s expertise as a literary critic really shines through in this aspect. This is as much a critical analysis of Shirley Jackson’s literary works as it is of her life. As someone who has come to enjoy reading memoirs and biographies of celebrities and other significant people in history, I must say this is one of the best that I’ve ever read. Sure, I am biased as a fan of Jackson, especially after learning more about her, but objectively speaking, there is so much here to love.

It is at times almost academic in its detail, but never is a dull. The hardest part is adjusting to just how dense the story is, but it quickly morphs into a compelling story of Jackson’s life. This book is very long—over 600 pages, but never was I bored. I found myself lying in bed at night listening to the audiobook eager to find out what happened next. Needless to say, this book is a masterpiece. I absolutely loved it.

That said, there are caveats. Because this is a literally analysis, Franklin walks us through every single significant work that Jackson wrote. That means spoiling the big reveals and walking us through the arc of Jackson’s books and stories. That includes how the story originates and how it eventually morphs into what we read today. Of course, if you haven’t read all of Jackson’s work and intend to, you absolutely should read those first. I’m not the kind of person who is bothered by spoilers. Plus, I’m often very forgetful, so hopefully it won’t affect my enjoyment when I get around to reading Jackson’s other works.

While I highly recommend you read Jackson’s works before this biography, the exception to that would be Jackson’s memoirs. I mentioned before how the memoirs felt very calculated and almost disingenuous. It’s interesting to hear Franklin discussion of these, and given the somewhat dated nature of these memoirs, I think that they would work better if read with Franklin’s analysis as a frame of reference. Sure you could read the memoirs, then the biography, and reread the memoirs for a complete experience. Except, I don’t think her memoirs are worth the added effort of rereading. The most fascinating side of it comes from Franklin’s analysis. Quite frankly, if you aren’t a Jackson fan working your way through all of her works, I don’t think they’re worth reading in the first place, but that’s your decision to make.

Memory and Delusion | The New Yorker

As a person, Jackson doesn’t come across as the most likable. There are aspects of her life that a very pitiful; she has “a rather haunted life” indeed. She suffered in a mediocre marriage with a husband who was not good to her. She had a mother who was insufferable and unfair, and that doesn’t even consider the everyday struggles of being a woman in a patriarchal society. As a result, she suffered with addiction to alcohol and drugs that were prescribed to her. She also struggled with her weight. All of this would lead to her untimely death before the age of 50.

There are other details that were interesting to learn about. One thing that really stood out for me was her friendship with Ralph Ellison. I never knew how close they were, and Franklin seems to suggest that the two’s friendship may have fed into their work. It makes me want to reread his book, Invisible Man (not to be confused with HG Wells the Invisible Man). Another thing worth noting is that there were moments in Jackson’s life where she expressed some homophobic ideas. Franklin says she is a product of her time, but it is disappointing nonetheless. I also find it hard to sympathize with someone who comes from wealth. At the same time, Jackson’s story is humanizing because it shows how even people of a higher class have their own struggles. Besides, Jackson wasn’t rich her entire life even if her parents were well off. They still struggled, and that was very much apparent throughout Jackson’s life.

No one is perfect, and that is especially true for Jackson. Nevertheless, I’m still left mesmerized by Jackson as a person and as a writer. This was a fantastic book as I’ve made abundantly clear. There are plenty of biographies I have loved reading, but few add as much to the conversation as Franklin’s work. What’s more, rarely does the person being discussed feel quite as significant as Jackson does. Part of that is Jackson herself, but it’s also a biproduct of Franklin’s hard work. 5/5 stars

The Halloween Movie Tag where I talk briefly about Jackson’s adaptions, among others.
Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery full short film adaption (1969)
Trailer for the largely praised, the Haunting, based on the Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.
The trailer for the 2018 TV adaption (loosely adapted).

Everything My Mother Taught Me by Alice Hoffman ★★★★☆

Special thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Original Stories for providing me with a an electronic advanced copy (E-ARC) of this book for a fair and honest review.

Image result for everything my mother taught me alice hoffman cover

Read 12/17/19 – 12/19/19

This is a short story that follows a young girl with a negligent and abusive (mentally and physically) mother. We follow her as she struggles to cope with having to live with the atrocious human she has for a mother. This makes for a rich family drama that I love to read. It is all about the characters, their motivations, and their struggles. As a story, I think it works well. Hoffman takes the time to get us invested in the characters so that we care what is going on. Then she uses that in the climax of the story as the mother-daughter dynamic reaches its limit.

The only problem I had with the story was with the pacing. More specifically, the ending felt rushed. We spent so much time getting to the point where we were. Then Hoffman rushes to reach some type of resolution. As I read, I remember wondering if there was going to even be a conclusion or if the story was just the messed-up mother-daughter situation. Then comes the abrupt ending. This probably would have been resolved by taking more time to draw out the ending. Sure, it makes for a fast paced end, but it needs to meld with everything that preceded it.

All in all, it was a really good story, and I appreciate the opportunity to review it! 4/5 stars

The God Delusion: 10 Years Later

This book had a profound effect on me. I don’t want to pretend it is the singular reason I became an atheist; that was a series of things that had morphed my beliefs as I entered young adulthood. What this novel did was open my eyes to the world of nonbelievers of which I lacked any real knowledge of.

I recall meeting two people in high school once who told me nonchalantly that they were atheist. Of course, they seemed so nice and so normal. I was so confused. I asked why? They had no good reason, so I went on believing. Perhaps, had they actually put thought into what the believe, I would have stopped believing sooner. Sadly, I didn’t. It took a long time for me to appreciate the level of uncertainty and debate around the concept of a god. This novel was a pivotal part of that revelation.

On Goodreads, I rated this 4/5 stars, but I decided not to feature that here because I read it so long ago. I thought this was a good opportunity to share my thoughts on religion and Dawkins as a whole.

The novel worked for me: someone curious about religion, what they believe, and pretty much on the edge of disbelief. I had become a very liberal christian. Public school mixed with the literature I read in school (and on my own) had really began to challenge my perception of morality. More specifically, I was struggling with the idea of evil and the nature of beings influencing their actions. For example, is Grendel (of Beowolf) an evil monster or simply a creature who was doing what he was born to do. His incompatibility with the surrounding village was clear, but that doesn’t mean he should be punished for all eternity. Ideally, he (it?), like a wild animal, ought to have the chance to live on his own, in a way that won’t conflict with the lives of humans.

When I was finally faced with the notion that religion is not the default (in fact, it is an outrageous notion if we think about it) I fell victim to an emotional swapping of sides. It took a great deal of time for me to settle on my final, agnostic atheist position (a disbelief acknowledging ones inability to know) with a gnostic atheism towards specific gods with outright falsifiable claims attributed to them.

That took a long time. I even went through a period of deism (a greater disconnected higher power), and a period of asshole atheism. I am sure there are some who would say I am still that. However, I no longer go out of my way just to get people riled up about religion (usually). That said, I don’t think it’s not my responsibility to “respect” a religion or a religious practice. I am not a member of said religion, so don’t expect me to acknowledge it. That is to say, people get offended by the mere notion that I don’t believe it. If speak ill of their god or religious figures, they take it as a personal attack. I’ll respect your right to practice your religion however you see fit, but understand, me blaspheming Jehovah or Allah is no more immoral than me blaspheming Zeus.

In any case, when I discuss the topic of belief with people, I’ve come to appreciate the problem of religion lies less on theism itself, but rather a lack skepticism and logical way of thinking. It is also easier to address minor things like how someone approaches a problem rather than trying to undermine a fundamental belief. If a person can abide by logical reasoning in everyday life, recognizing their religion is held to a separate, lower, standard, then I am all for it. In practice, I have don’t have much faith in most people to be able to do such a thing. That said, there are some. I know of one scientist, communicator, and skeptic Dr. Pamela Gay is one such person. Even if it is a failed endeavor, the approach is still more likely to do at least a bit of good, if not what I would consider the ideal result.

That is where I think this book fails. It relies so heavily on the emotional side of the debate. Granted, there are some valid points, but atrocities of religion is not evidence against a creator (maybe an all good creator). I would recommend the Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan to most people in search of informative ways of thinking. The ideas and principles of that book should lead you to the same, or similar, conclusion. What’s more, it is a measured approach to pseudoscience and religion.

The last thing I want touch on are the problems with this author. Dawkins is an excellent scientist, but his atheism pushes on racism. There is a difference in attacking the institution than the people themselves. He is also a misogynistic asshole. Perhaps that influenced my own atheistic asshole phase. Overall though, take this work with a grain of salt. Sure, most of what he says is fair, so far as I can remember, but it isn’t the best way of convincing anyone who hasn’t already taken themselves part of the way. Nor does it promote a good approach to handling religion either.

In Defense of Science: a Response to Pseudoscience in the Health Industry

A couple years ago, I started to read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen. I was aware of his first book, the Omnivore’s Dilemma and somewhat intrigued, but I never got around to reading it. When this came out, I decided to read it because I was hoping for a good science based description of our diet. In the end I only made it through a few chapters before I decided to DNF it. I still had plenty to say on it because the book is founded in fundamentally bad science that people often fall victim when thinking about their nutrition. I came across my review of the book on goodreads, and I thought it would work as a good thing to talk about in a blog discussion.

As I said, I did not finish this book. He was saying some things I found concerning, but I wanted to hear him out because I thought he might get more into the science as the book progressed. Afterall, his suggestions aren’t inherently bad; it’s the logic he used to get there that fails. Here are his basic principles with my own description of why it is actually a good thing to strive for.

Unfortunately, he eventually gets to his point, and it is a concerning one at that. It all comes down to the age old traditionalist argument. In his mind, our problems started when we wandered away from the traditional methods of food gathering. This argument isn’t new, but it is very flawed. I don’t disagree that such a diet will be mostly good for you. As it turns out, it provides a large variety of nutrients that we need while limiting excess of nutrients that are harmful in high amounts. It’s the underlying way of thinking that is flawed; he asserts that one must eat traditionally to achieve the right balance of nutrients.

In truth, you can eat processed and sugary foods. However, you have to recognize how to balance it and how it easily it is to over do it with these types of food. They are not bad because they are not natural; the harm is the pattern that we have in consuming it. That is what the science says, but Pollen tries to muddy the waters by painting the current science as flawed, inconsistent, and forever changing. He incorrectly tries to portray the efforts of industry and pseudoscience fades as science because these things come and go.

And there in lies his mistake. First, science has not changed as much as he would like to assert because the thing he wants to paint as science just is’t. Science is hard. It is complex, and it is easy for it to become mixed with fake science. Science has been fairly consistent with its instructions through the years: eat a varied and balanced diet, avoiding over doing it in any one area. That’s why his style will probably work; it is mostly the same as the science.

The problem is he relies on bad arguments and bad science as a means to try and undermine the actual science as a whole. I must, as a scientist and skeptic, take issue with it.

I want to take a moment to discuss health science because I recognize people who agree with Pollen aren’t going to just change their mind because I assert it. I am not a nutrition scientist. Although, I am skilled in the method of science and skepticism. I try to understand the science and reliable sources that discuss it. This means investigating science journals and the experts who work in the field (actual scientists not “nutritionist” or other buzz words); as with any field of science, you don’t have to be an expert in it to interpret what the experts are actually saying.

I took issue with what he was calling science and the way he was trying to instruct the reader to distrust it. That is the first red flag because this is a common techniques in the realm of pseudoscience. Naturally, I became skeptical of what he was saying. However, I was trying to hold an open mind and even decided to investigate the papers he cited to compare his assessment with what the paper said. It was the conversation on fats that led me to DNF the book.

There is a new idea that fats are wrongly labeled as bad, and it is proposed by Gary Taubes, in a revolutionary (cue sarcasm) new book. According to him, there are no good calories or bad calories. This is something I’ve heard of before. Specifically, I had read about Gary Taubes less than a week before I saw him mentioned here on Science Based Medicine, a site of medical experts dedicated to addressing pseudoscience in medicine and health. In the article on Taubes, SBM describes his argument and the basic science that contradicts it.

This is not intended to be a walk through of the science of health. Science Based Medicine offers a tone of nutrition based resources (here is another breakdown of nutrition and “clean eating”), each with direct references to the science to back it up. Instead, I want to promote a good resource for science based health information to help people understand how to make productive changes to their diet.

The Bill Hodges Trilogy, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (#Kingathon 2019)

Introduction (9/23/19)

With Spookathon fast approaching, I am inspired to do a quick test run. I have yet to read Stephen King’s Bill Hodges mystery series and was thinking, why don’t I do a readathon for his birthday? When is that, oh the 21st, I really should have known that. That means this week I’m going to read the entire trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch). That wasn’t my intent when I had this idea, but hey, what the hell? I have had a pretty good turn around rate with recent books, so I figure I wouldn’t be losing too much reading time if I get it out in a weeks time. I also kinda want to give horror a break for hot minute before the spookathon.

I am giving myself until the end of Monday next week to finish, just in time for horror (and maybe the Outsider, the horror mystery follow up to this series). With ~14hr books, my average speed will take about 30hrs. That should be enough if I listen every morning and evening, still leaving time to read a bit of Gather Together in My Name.

Update (9/26/19)

The Trilogy is done in record time (yay!), and I am turning this into a full on readathon and try to read as much Stephen King as possible! (See update at the end)

Update: Finish Mr. Mercedes (Book 1) (9/24/19) ★★★★☆

This personal readathon is coming along great! A day in I am done with book one and nearly half way through book 2 (Finders Keepers). Mr. Mercedes was a perfectly fine book that gives exactly what you would expect. A mystery thriller written in the writing style of Stephen King. King, for me at least, is naturally entertaining. This book isn’t exceptional, but it was a solid build up and progression. I’d give it 3.75/5 stars.

The story was compelling and effective at what it wanted to do but nothing exceptional. One problem with King’s works is most of his villains are caricatures without any depth. They are monsters through and through. I can tell King tried to give Mr. Mercedes, a mass murder and psycho, some backstory, but it wasn’t very redeeming. He was messed up from the get go making his life the way it was. There was a romance included, and that felt rushed or unearned. It was necessary to give the story emotional weight. A great example of what a romance can do is seen in 11/22/63, but this is not even close to that work.

If I hadn’t committed to this #kingathon, I probably wouldn’t be continuing the series. However, I am enjoying book 2. It is as enjoyable as the last and probably more. The structure is different. I’m halfway in and Hodges has barely even appeared. Instead, we get to see the history of crime told along side a present day story that quickly shows itself to be tied to the crime of the past. 25% of the book is spent walking us through the crime, a killing of an author by a disgruntled fan. This is an interesting exploration of the author-fan relationship, but again, this feels like a rehash of a better previous work (e.g. Misery). The more I read King, the more I should notice overarching themes. Although, they shouldn’t feel like cardboard cut outs of previous plot lines. To be clear, this isn’t a terrible book. I am glad I am reading it. I like the structure of this book more than the last, and I am primed to rate it 4 stars instead of 3.5. Of course, this is subject to change.

Lastly, I want to touch on how fast I am getting through these books. I am more comfortable with King, so I have experimented with faster speeds. I can tolerate 1.7 speed even as I grade (tedious grading that requires minimal thought). I think this really bodes well for my spookathon coming up in a couple weeks. I may even go so far as to read the spin of book, The Outsider, before the week is out.

Update: Finish Finders Keepers (Book 2) (8/25/19) ★★★★☆

Yet again, I am glad I chose to do this challenge. I have a better appreciation for how much I can handle and how fast I can listen to audiobooks and still enjoy them. It is hard to justify listening too fast. I listen to podcasts at accelerated speeds, but some of these are news that I want to here but it is more out of obligation than pure enjoyment. Listening fast forward can be a great way to save time, but when I’m re-listening to things like Harry Potter or 11/22/63, its because I want to savor every last detail of the text and the narration. I know I can’t be getting as much listening faster. At the same time, it is nice being able to enjoy these books and have time for another! 7 days was the plan. Instead, I’m 70% through book three, and I’ll probably end in less than 3 days. What’s more, this challenge and decision to speed read led me to reading books I never had any real interest in. There are so many great books I need to read and a lot of older books by King as well. I figured this would be a good chance to try it out. I am glad I did.

Finders Keepers was a solid novel. Despite its similarities to King’s other works, I enjoyed it more than the first novel. One key difference is the focal point isn’t Hodges. Hodges just isn’t that interesting in my opinion. I have no interest in an ex cop story line. The premise alone is what turned me off to this series, but let it be known, this series is much more than that. It spans the first novel and continues as a side plot throughout the series. Still, King knows how to be mostly original. He takes his ideas and reforms it. I found myself with characters I liked more and stakes that felt more emotionally significant . A tragic killing in the first book shocks us, but I felt little because the pain was mostly focused on Hodges point of view. That is no longer the case. This is a Mystery but not like the first. This is a story of a crime and an innocent boy caught in the middle with Hodges tacked on to make it fit into the trilogy. 4/4 Stars, maybe 4.25.

This story is also the one that sees Holly Gibney, a major character of The Outsider (I believe), a main character in the Hodges gang. I am intrigued because, like i said, I am not a fan of Hodges himself. I am especially intrigued because with the third installment, End of Watch (of which I am nearly finished), we finally enter the world of the science fiction/supernatural of Stephen King. I love this stuff. As a story, it is a continuation of book one and less of a stand alone like book two. It reminds me of our one dimensional villain. Even so, King makes it work, and we find our-self in a truly impossible situation. A situation I think would be next to impossible to solve or fix. Unfortunately, I think they will. I feel this series suffers from a bit of predictability. King shocked me once, twice, three times. Each time, I was surprised to learn these were all fake outs. Moments framed to be more severe then they were. It makes for a great excitement, but these can only work for so long before you become predictable. I mean, I finally care about your characters and what happens to them. Why not do something seriously lasting? (Possible spoiler: With the title of this novel, End of Watch, and a new series featuring Holly, I sort of expect Hodges to die in this one)

Update: Finish End of Watch (Book 3) (9/26/19) ★★★☆☆

I hate to say it, but my opinion went down with the ending. It wasn’t that it was particularly bad. I just kind of stopped caring. Shocks and sad moments were present, but the fact that I thought the ending was pretty much what I expect made it sort of anticlimactic. Long story short, what happens when a villain gets supernatural powers. You can blame it on my speed reading if you like, but it all felt rushed. The super powered villain felt like a plot device to achieve a certain “crime” that may be thematically appropriate but not necessarily a natural progression of where this concept will take you. Like Captain Marvel in the Avengers, you can’t let this character break the story line you want, so you have to shape the narrative to make it work even if it isn’t completely natural. I really thought this would be a solid 4, but it is more like a 3.25/5 stars.

Total Score for the Trilogy is 3.67/5. It is far from my favorite, but it is a fun and engaging read with a few great moments.

#kingathon 2019 Update

I’ve completed three books completed in less than three days. This #Kingathon is going better than I expected. I am going to keep reading through next Monday for a full 7 day stretch. I’ll read Outsider, but I am sure I have more than enough time. I am going to take a break from the Hodges “Universe” and switch over to another mystery by King, Dolores Claiborne. Then Outsiders, and if I am lucky another book or two before Monday night. I am officially calling King’s birthday week the week of the #Kingathon (Stephen King Readathon). Granted, I am off by a week, but I got the idea late. I am also just one person, so who cares! #Kingathon 2019 will hopefully become a yearly thing. It will give me an excuse and chance to dig through King’s backlog (I have so many on my shelf I haven’t read, and more still to buy) without taking up too much of my normal reading time that I could spend on new authors throughout the year.

The Devil and the Deep, by Ellen Datlow – ★★★★☆

Start 8/8/2019

I was hesitant to begin this anthology because as much as I love horror, I don’t have a particular fascination with the Sea/Ocean. I never was very fond of pirate stories or myths of the Kraken. Nevertheless, The Devil and the Deep won the Bram Stoker Award for best anthology last year, so I wanted to give it a shot. Like the Time Traveler’s Almanac, I won’t be reading this consecutively. Instead, I will listen to stories as I see fit. I will try to fit it in between other novels and not focus to0 much on finishing this quickly. There is a benefit to having short and concise stories to go to from time to time. I still want to take the time to discuss the story. It is much shorter than TTA, so I will do my best to go in depth(ish) for each story.

There aren’t a lot of reviews for this book, but I am going to go off the reviews I could find to help guide me through the stories. My discussions for each story are listed below or can be accessed via the Table of Contents.

Update 8/11/2019

I’ve made it through more than I expected this quickly (9/15 stories). There have been several disappointments in here, but there have also been a couple great ones with several okay ones thrown in. I am not ready to recommend this just yet. That said, I have been intentionally saving several of the supposed best stories for last. So far, the horror has been lacking, at least in the way I was hoping for, but most of the stories achieve a decent enough tone to fit partly into the horror genre.

Update 8/13/2019

I’ve read 11/15 stories, so I have nearly completed this anthology. I think I have a good idea of the over quality. The current average rating is ~4/5 stars. That doesn’t seem bad, yet there are so many disappointments in here. Then again, there are some good to great stories too. What’s more, I’ve intentionally saved what are likely to be the best for last, so chances are it will be ~4.5 stars when all is said and done (I hope). All in all, these are good stories, but they are better classified as weird, fantasy, and science fiction with horror elements tossed in at times.

Finished 9/4/2019

When all is said and done, this book comes away with an average score of 4.2/5 stars. I am disappointed that it didn’t rate higher because there are some great books in here, but in the end, the lows drag it down. This book really challenges what it means to be horror. Some of my ratings maybe biased by my own definition (one that inspires dread and/or terror). I just left Dragon Con where I watched a panel discuss this very topic, and they made a point about ambiguity in horror and how it can be effective. I can think of a lot of terrifying film monsters made less scary by understanding them (e.g. the Babadook, the ghosts in Murder House). This makes me want to reanalyze a few of the more ambiguous stories.

I don’t mind ambiguity, but I still expect some grounding in what I am reading. I also have to deal with the fact that sometimes I don’t register when listening to audiobooks. I noticed that for the Haunt, and I stopped and returned to it later. That helped. The same may be true for a few others in this anthology. All in all, I don’t think it is a bad buy, even if you just read some of these. If you are a fan of ocean/sea stories, then definitely this is for you. If you are a horror fan looking for pure horror, maybe avoid this, but if you want abstract horror then check it out.

Table of Contents

  1. Deadwater — Simon Bestwick ★★★☆☆
  2. Fodder’s Jig — Lee Thomas ★★★★★
  3. The Curious Allure of the Sea — Christopher Golden ★★★★★
  4. The Tryal Attract — Terry Dowling ★★★★
  5. The Whalers Song — Ray Cluley ★★★☆☆
  6. A Ship of the South Wind — Bradley Denton ★★★☆☆
  7. What My Mother Left Me — Alyssa Wong ★★★★★
  8. Broken Record — Stephen Graham Jones ★★★☆☆
  9. Saudade — Steve Rasnic Tem ★★★★★
  10. A Moment Before Breaking — A.C.Wise ★★★★
  11. Sister, Dearest Sister, Let Me Show to You the Sea — Seanan McGuire ★★★★★
  12. The Deep Sea Swell — John Langan ★★★★
  13. He Sings of Salt and Wormwood — Brian Hodge ★★★★
  14. Shit Happens — Michael Marshall Smith ★★★★★
  15. Haunt — Siobhan Carroll ★★★★

Story Reviews

01 – Deadwater — Simon Bestwick ★★★☆☆

Read 8/9/2019

This is not a strong start. Needless to say, I am glad I didn’t take the editors guidance on where to begin. The YouTuber seemed to like it, but I can’t say I did. Part of me wonders if I just wasn’t giving it enough attention. Perhaps I just didn’t appreciate it enough. Unfortunately, from where I’m sitting it feels like a story with a slow start that abruptly jumps to a climactic conclusion without sufficient build up. The problem was I didn’t understand why I should care about what’s happening or the characters involved. I get the gist. Bad things were done. Revenge or justice is going to be had, but all that is lost on me because the author did a poor job setting it up. It doesn’t matter if the concept is good (it isn’t that exceptional), you have to get us invested in the characters and make us care about what’s happening. 3/5 stars.

02 – Fodder’s Jig — Lee Thomas ★★★★★

In Buffy’s Once More With feeling, characters are forced to dance uncontrollably, with dire consequences. This is similar to what we see in Fodder’s Jig.

Read 8/11/2019

I loved this story. Some people may want to start this without knowing the premise, but I I don’t think knowing takes away here. The author uses suspense over surprise, and that may be why it excels so much. Right away, we are introduced to what is going on. We don’t really understand why or what, but we don’t need to. The fact that it’s happening and that he author is highlighting it, tells us something is up. Then, we leave it for the time being to return to the normal world.

This story alternates between the days/weeks/months leading up to the event and some point after the event. It might be intentional on the authors part or it might be an effect of listening rather than seeing it on paper, but these transitions were hard to spot at first. Moving back and forth not realizing whats happening. However, I quickly catch on.

This story is built on a great premise (highlight to read: Cthulhu infects people with a dance that entrances them and draws them to the ocean), but what makes it so great is that it revolves around good characters. A man of no particular wealth or stature becomes involved with a wealthy married man. Things progress and the two fall victim to the strange occurrences taking place.

I did not expect to love this as much as I did. The premise was never that interesting to me as a topic, but I know plenty of people who would disagree. Even if you don’t, its a great story. The most horrific thing about this is the suspense. Knowing it or something is coming but not truly understanding it. 5/5 stars.

03 – The Curious Allure of the Sea — Christopher Golden ★★★★★

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The sea steals the souls of many. The Curious Allure of the Sea explores why so many people are drawn to such a dangerous entity that never stops.

Read 8/9/2019

Now this, I liked. From the start, the author makes it clear who the main character is and gives us a reason to be invested in them. Her father is dead. She gets a couple of tattoos to remember him by, one being his name and date of death, and another being a symbol of an item on his ship. You see, her father died at sea and there was no body to be found. Some time later, things begin to get weird. The symbol she got a tattoo of is acting strange.

I loved this story because the author did such an amazing job creating a disturbing and creepy atmosphere. I was finally feeling a bit of dread, and it was coupled with the majesty of the sea. When things begin to reach their climax, the main character panics unsure what to do. The sea called to her father, and now the sea calls to her. Is that what she wants? She doesn’t think so, but in the end, she returns to the sea regretting her decision.

That is the most I can say without spoiling it. I loved the story. It is all about the allure of the sea, as the title suggests. Even when the main character thinks she doesn’t want it, she quickly comes to regret it because, as disturbing as it is, the sea is where her father is. I don’t know if that makes sense, but know this. The story was fantastic. I loved it. 5/5 stars.

Update 8/11/2019

I think this story benefited from me reading it before Fodder’s Jig. Both share this basic idea that something around the sea calls people to it and we cannot resist. The Curious Allure of the Sea is great, but I can’t help but think fresh off of Fodder’s Jig, one may have a bit of let down.

04 – The Tryal Attract — Terry Dowling ★★★★

Read 8/10/2019

This was a strange story that was mostly effective. It revolves around this skull of a dead man that supposedly has some strange things about it. The story had a good tone that set up this atmosphere around this skull. Everything had the making of a good story, but in the end, there isn’t much here. Anticlimactic is probably the best way to describe it. 3.5/5 stars rounding up.

05 – The Whalers Song — Ray Cluley ★★★☆☆

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A depiction of whale hunting, as it relates to The Whalers Song.

Read 8/10/2019

This story did not work for me. It follows a group of whale hunters, exploring what life is like for them. There was nothing particularly interesting about the life, nor did the author create much of an ominous tone you’d expect from a horror story. The ending alluded to some hidden level of mystery about the whale songs. Maybe if the author had leaned more into that this story wouldn’t have been so disappointing. There just wasn’t anything to really love about this mediocre story. As a story, it’s fine I suppose just not an interesting topic or type of story telling (to me). 3/5 stars

06 – A Ship of the South Wind — Bradley Denton ★★★☆☆

Image result for kiksuya westworld
In A Ship of the South Wind, A native american boy and his father deal with racists in the wild west. Here is an image from Westworld, of a native american character featured in the story.

Read 8/9/2019

As far as I can tell, there are two main reasons that you would choose to read this anthology. You either have a love for horror or a love for the sea/ocean. To say this story brings either of these to the table is laughable. This is a perfectly fine story that is essentially an old western told from the perspective of two native Americans who come across a couple racists white people. If I am being generous, we can attribute horror to the racism of the story, but there isn’t much horror beyond that. I think about bigotry in horror stories like that of Stephen King, where racism could easily be a theme of the story, but there is more to make it horror themed; he uses the hate to show just how horrible it is. This story doesn’t seem to provide a lot of commentary or self reflection on the racism. So, why then is this story here? Why is an old western (that happens to have a minor character who used to be a captain of the sea) in a horror anthology of the ocean? It just doesn’t belong. The story itself is perfectly fine, but in the context of this anthology it is severely lacking. 3.5/5 stars rounding down.

07 – What My Mother Left Me — Alyssa Wong ★★

Read 8/16/2019

What My Mother Left Me feels like everything I would expect from what this anthology advertises. It is a mix of creepy, disturbing, and down right scary moments coupled with a weird ocean centered premise. The story starts with our main character grieving her mothers recent passing and her break up with her overly controlling boyfriend. She does that by getting away with her friend, to her old town or something connected to her family (I am not entirely sure).

This story works on multiple levels. The tone from the start is on point. I can’t help but think about the recent success of Hereditary or the Haunting of Hill House which centers around family drama. At the core, this is about family drama. From the start with her mothers death, to soon after when we learn about signs of mental (and physical) abuse of her mother by her father. Then the similarities of her father to her current boyfriend whose only goal is to control.

In the end, this becomes a story about independence and freedom. The sea is the freedom. Life on land is just a trap. That, and men can’t stand a woman who isn’t theirs to control. I like what Wong does here. It is ambitious and mostly effective. It is definitely worth reading, but I don’t think its highs are as high as some of the others in this anthology. 4.5/5 stars, rounding down.

08 – Broken Record — Stephen Graham Jones ★★★☆☆

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In Broken Record, a man is stranded on an island like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Needless to say, Jones takes the theme to a much darker place.

Read 8/8/2019

I don’t get it, or maybe I do. I can’t say I love the feeling of not knowing whether the story intended to leave you questioning or if I just dumbly missed something. A man is stranded on an island surrounded by the ocean. I believe this is about his slowly losing his mind, deliriously imagining he has exactly what he wants. That is to say, he has a list of items that he asked for in some contest he did as a kid. One of those things where you say what you would bring with you to an abandoned island. I am 99% sure it is him slowly dying. Still, I don’t quite get it, nor can I say I am very happy with it.

It is creepy. I will give it that. Fairly soon into the story the narrator read the thoughts of the man in the most unnerving and casual way possible. There was something off from the get go. That is why I have to believe it is a story about a man dying and losing his mind. The problem is he survived for 10-20 days (or was that in his head?), and is that possible without food? Without water? He had water, unless he didn’t. I honestly am left wondering what was real and what wasn’t. It is too much. There needs to be some basic foundation for the story to be grounded in, and this does not have that. I enjoyed the style just not the content. 3.5 stars, rounding down.

09 – Saudade — Steve Rasnic Tem

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An image of the creature featured in Spring (2014) about a women who seeks the comfort of a man, but she isn’t exactly what she seems, very similar to Saudade.

Read 8/11/2019

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I would give it a light to medium level of “horror”. It’s about a man whose children send him on a dating cruise to spark a new relationship after several years of being a single man. While there, he meets an odd Brazilian woman. The tone of the story is very depressing, and that definitely lends itself to being a more effective horror story. It reminds me of the 2014 film, Spring which wasn’t very heavy in the horror. It featured a similarly exotic woman who is some kind of Lovecraftian monster. That’s basically whats happening here.

Overall, it was a great story, maybe not strictly horror, but its a great weird and out there story. 4.5/5 stars, rounding up.

10 – A Moment Before Breaking — A.C.Wise ★★★★

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Lovecraftian monsters like the one you see here are featured in, A Moment Before Breaking.

Read 8/8/2019

This is the first story I read. That is a big task to ask of the story. It is responsible to get me interested. Perhaps I should trust the editors judgment in the order, but either way I didn’t. The story begins (and is told) from the perspective of a young immigrant girl on a ship. I get the impression it is set in the past, but I later learn it is modern day (or near to it). I tend to prefer it that way. As the first story, I was skeptical coming in. I am happy to say it was pretty quick at gaining my interest. I became intrigued at what was going on. A sea “monster” or creature posses the young girl and she and it are one. This isn’t the exorcist. It is more of a collaborative relationship (either willingly on the monsters part or not it is unclear).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, but I don’t know if it was exactly as horrific as I would like. It was much more dark fantasy. I suppose that is a special classification of Horror, but not exactly what I am looking for. Perhaps I am being unfair. It isn’t a bad story. It is creepy and disturbing. I debated giving it 4.5 half stars, but if I am being honest, I will be sorely disappointed if this is the best this horror anthology has to offer. It is a solid read, but I want better. 4.5/5 stars rounding down.

11 – Sister, Dearest Sister, Let Me Show to You the Sea — Seanan McGuire ★★★★★

In Sister, Dearest Sister, a deal with the devil of the sea must be made if our protagonist has any hope at survival in what is undeniably a twisted tale of the Little Mermaid .

Read 8/16/2019

This story was great. I intentionally saved it to listen to it with my sister because I knew it was a story that revolved around a sibling relationship. Needless to say, this story takes sibling river to a new level. The story starts with the older sibling submerged in water, dazed and confused. She realizes shes submerged unable to breathe or move. As the waves recede, she learns shes in a tide pool, able to breathe for now, the tide is rising. Her sister stands watching, explaining how she has drugged her sister. She wants her to die, and apparently as terrifyingly as possible.

I’m sure anyone with siblings can understand why a sibling may have a little animosity toward their kin, but the level of hatred our main antagonist has is dark and deliciously horrific. The story then becomes one of survival. Will she escape? Can she escape? All of these question rise and fall with the tide. It is very effective. I mentioned before in What My Mother Left Me, about how family drama makes for the best kind of horror drama.

Like, What My Mother Left Me, Sister Dearest Sister changes directions part way through, morphing from a chilling horror story into a weird dark ocean fantasy. Without spoiling it too much, the story becomes like a twisted Little Mermaid, where, like Arial, our protagonist is desperate to return to land. To do so, she has to make a deal with the monsters of the sea, but everything comes with a cost.

I loved this story. It is one of my favorites. 5/5 Stars.

12 – The Deep Sea Swell — John Langan ★★★★

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Lost souls haunt the small island featured in The Deep Sea Swell.

Read 8/12/2019 (unsure if this is the exact date)

We find ourselves on a small island with a couple visiting friends. The ferry ride over introduces us to our main characters, and with it we learn about some of their sea related fears. It also acts as clear foreshadowing of whats to come. You see, a large region of the nearby sea used to be above water, back before glacier melting. Whether the existing villages made it out is unclear. Needless to say, it appears to be a breeding grounds for hauntings.

I’m trying to be consistent in my rating scheme, but as I read more stories, it keeps getting more difficult. This story ticked all the right boxes. It was creepy, had horror elements, and revolved around the ocean. Still, I find myself distracted as I jump between the Devil and the Deep and Datlow’s other anthology, Fearful Symmetries. This story never quite reaches the level of dread that is consistently achieved in those stories. This story s consistent with “A Moment Before Breaking” and “He Sings of Salt and Wormwood,” not a bad story, but not everything I wish it was. 4.5/5 stars rounding down.

13 – He Sings of Salt and Wormwood — Brian Hodge ★★★★

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An image of a scuba diver, like our main character in He Sings of Salt and Wormwood, who finds something that unsettles him.

Read 8/9/2019

This was a well told story. For a large chunk of it I didn’t get a horror vibe. However, it eventually came. For this one I feel as if I need to clarify, the build up was good. It wasn’t the constant dread I hope for. Although, it was still effective. We enter the mind of this surfer/diver, enveloped by this world where one has an intimate relationship with the sea. That doesn’t make it a bad story. It was a great story. I feel as though I am trapping myself, judging each story by the horrors it besets upon me, and it just isn’t that simple. We get the groundwork for an effective conclusion that was full of dread and confusion. In doing so, we once again appreciate the power and mystery of the sea. It works for what it is, but if I am being honest, it doesn’t deliver everything I want from a horror story. 4.5 stars, rounding down.

14 – Shit Happens — Michael Marshall Smith ★★★★★

A large portion of, Shit Happens, takes place in the room where it happens.

Read 8/15/2019, and again 8/16/2019

I absolutely loved this story. I think a large part of that was the surprise, so I’m not going to spoil the main reveal which is built up to for a large portion of the story. The story begins by introducing us to our protagonist. We learn he has a work conference he has to go to, and it is being held on a cruise ship this year (yay). Except, he has no interest at feigning interest in the lives of  people he barley knows, nor does he have any interest in telling the entire company that the long awaited project he is responsible for still is not completed. On the bright side, its a chance for him to get drunk on the company dime. A large portion of the story is dedicated to setting up the story and helping us connect and relate to our protagonist.

Soon, our protagonist is on the ship, and enjoying happy hour as he gets progressively drunk. As is natural, this inevitably leads him to the bathroom to relieve himself. While there, he hears load, grotesque and disturbing noises from a man in the stall. It turns out he has a bad case of the shits. Our protagonist can’t believe how horrendous the smell is; all he wants to do is finish and leave. Except, the decency within him forces him to ask the man if hes okay. As the story progresses, you can’t help but wonder where its going.

I thought the reveal was well done and surprising. I can understand why Datlow would put this so late in the anthology; this collection highlights the variety of monstrosities that can be thought up within the sea (even if I don’t care for all of them). What’s more, many of these stories have had questionable ties to horror, and part of me wonders if this is going to be an entirely mundane story. You’ll have to read it to find out if that is the case, but I assure you no matter what it is, its worth reading. This story is brilliantly charming and funny while also disturbing and grotesque–everything I could want from a horror story.

Lastly, you may read this and find the theme here isn’t all that original, but this story still stands out for two reasons. First, the writing is captivating and enjoyable. Two, the lack in originality around the theme is compensated by an original take on this type of story. There could have been so much more to this nearly 1hr long short story. The narrative we got could easily be a novel unto itself (I wish it was!), but it also drops off at what some people might call a cliff hanger. I don’t see it that way. This isn’t the story we usually associate with this type of theme. It is more of a prequel to the traditional type of narrative we get here. In that, it is tremendously effective. 5/5 stars, and maybe my favorite story.

15 – Haunt — Siobhan Carroll ★★★★

An artwork of a haunted ship.

Started reading 8/20/2019 (going to start over)

I started listening to this but ultimately stopped because I was in a car and falling asleep. I will have to listen to this when I’m being active. My first impressions aren’t great. For starters, this is probably my least favorite narrator (or this version of his narration). To be fair, I think this set in 18th century, and I am not a big fan of Victorian styled writing. I looked up the author, and she is an expert in British literature during this time. It makes sense that this story would have that type of style to it. Which means you should take this review with a grain of salt since it isn’t my cup of tea.

Read 9/4/2019

I am glad I postponed this story. It is not nearly as bad as I originally thought. What it is is different than the last few stories I have read. The style and setting are not my favorite, but with the right mindset, I was able to give it a better assessment.

This story is exactly what I would expect from the marketing blurb for this book: the story of a haunted ship (more or less). The author did a good job setting the story, even if it isn’t my preferred setting. The story itself is slow. I am sure we can all imagine a fast paced horror story upon a haunted ship, but the true horror of the story mirrors the horror of reality. Imagine being stranded in the middle of the sea and left to die. If it weren’t for a few sequences in this book, I might question whether the haunting was even real. That is because it is about the deterioration of hope and the loss of ones ability to control a situation. It is about being forced to know what is to come and having to reckon with that. Then, when all is said and done, it is all destined to happen again. 4/5 stars.

The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells – ★★★★★

The Muderbot Diaries.png

Introductory thoughts 8/4/2019

This isn’t a book. It’s a series of Novellas, but after reading the premise (and praise,  winner of Hugo, Nebula, Lucas, and Philip K. Dick Awards) I had to give it a try. I’ll read at least the first two, but there are 4 total. Apparently a full-length novel is debuting next year, but the 4th novella concludes this series. I will read these for now and count them as one novel. I have already started this, I’m ~1/2 through the first book, but I did not know much going in. All I knew was that it is about a robot, apparently labeled “Murderbot.” You can imagine what I might have expected going in.

The four novellas clock in at just over 14hrs of audiobook, to give you an idea of the length. It works as novel in four parts, but also as stand alone books (but probably best to read them in order).

All Systems Red (#1) – ★★★★★ – (Started 8/4/2019)

Image result for all systems red review

Like I said, I am about half way though. I feel pretty confident this is going to get a 5/5, The story is fun, cute, and compelling. It is very much about the robot. We are reading from its perspective. We understand it like no one else around it. Without spoiling it, it isn’t what I was expecting (at least not yet), but I honestly don’t know where it is going. What I do know is that I am eager to find out, and that is good story telling!

Finished 8/5/2019

This story went an entirely different direction than I expected, and I loved it. It is about a robot assigned to a team of surveyors on a mostly abandoned planet to study it. However, we learn from the start is that the robot has hacked its governor module (AKA the laws that keep it obedient). What unfolds from their is a fun and exciting ride in a world very different from our own. The author does a spectacular job weaving in world building elements naturally into this story, told from the robots perspective. It is short and easy to read. Highly recommended 5/5 Stars

Artificial Condition (#2) – ★★★★★ – (Started 8/5/2019)

Image result for artificial condition

I have started the next novella but haven’t made it too far. The story picks up right where the last one left off. The first story is largely about setting a precedent. It informs the reader on the robots intentions and motivations. Now, we see the Murderbot off trying to survive. The story appears very different in structure from the last, which I can appreciate. The author continues with the great world building painting a picture of an advanced yet painfully similar (corporate) world that feels all too real and possible. So far, this is another amazing story.

Finished 8/6/2019

This ended up being not completely different from the first. I can began to see how each story ties together. It is about the evolution of the Murderbot. I think we are seeing it reach a particular version of its self. The first part of this story is really interesting because it challenges a lot of expectations and tropes about how AI bots will work, what they will want, and what they will like to do. Of course, it continues the line of corrupt corporations usually being at fault which is too real not be believe even if it is a clear narrative from the author.

The story changes about half way where we see Murderbot have to integrate and act human (a modified human). It continues the interesting insight into the Murderbot’s mind and highlights the differences between them and us. Overall, this was another great story. Was it better or worse than the first? I don’t know. 5/5 stars.

Rogue Protocol (#3) – ★★★★★ – (Started 8/6/2019)

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I started the next one right after finishing the last. The author continues to pivot, changing the story each time. Even though what the Murderbot is trying to do is not that different, the story is. A big reason for this is that there appears to be a variety of AI robots that each act differently, and Murderbot has to adapt to each. So far, it continues to be an interesting trek through its life.

I think what I love most about these stories is that it pushes the idea that robots are more than just their code. Just as humans are more than our biology, robots can’t be judged based solely on their hardware and code. Sure, it is what drives us, but there is outside influence. Think nature vs nurture. These robots aren’t just what “nature” makes them. Their interactions/environments influence their personalities.

Finish 8/7/2019

Overall, I don’t think this was as good as the other two. I wouldn’t say it hurts the series, but there is only so much originality that can come from this. That said, I can still see our character growing. Nevertheless, the story felt a bit more convoluted. It may be the overarching narrative coming together, but I found it felt less focused than the first two. That said, I liked the ending. It felt like there were more stakes this go around than in the last two. For that reason, I’d bump it up half a star. 4.5/5 Stars (rounding up).

Exit Strategy (#4) – ★★★★★ – (Started 8/7/2019)

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I mentioned before that I could see the overarching narrative coming together. That is clearly happening now. We finally see Murderbot deciding and accepting the type of Bot it wants to be. This one is shorter than the last two. I am maybe a third into it and have less than 2.5hrs to go. I look forward to finishing it off and moving on to a new story. I love this novella structure. Sure, its more expensive, but the stories or concise and well contained. I feel like I’m speeding through this, a book a day. I highly recommend the Murderbot Diaries. Even if you only read the first or second in the series, there is plenty to love about this series. Final thoughts probably coming tomorrow.

Finished 8/8/2019

It is 7am. I finished this story an hour or so ago. I should be sleeping, but instead I am worried about finishing this stupid series. It is that good. As the story reaches its climax, things truly begin to build up. The biggest stakes of the series arise, and you don’t know what might happen. Even as the conflict revolves around secondary characters we haven’t seen since the first story, it is hard not to care what happens to them. We don’t care because these characters are just so well crafted. I have alluded to Murderbot’s underlying feelings and motivations, but now I am going to explicitly state it here. So mild spoilers, well, for the basic premise of the series. We care because Murderbot cares. We are so invested in it’s life, its success, its basic motivations that we want it to succeed in every way. Part of that is protecting its “clients”. I think bigger than that is the relationship it has with them, and the relationship that could develop if they have the chance.

This is a fantastic conclusion to a delightful saga. 5/5 stars.

Overall thoughts (8/8/2019)

This series challenges what it means to be an AI. It suggests a greater level of connectivity between computer AI and ourselves–where intelligence isn’t something to be feared. It is something that brings us together. All of that while creating a hell of a story and a character it is hard not to fall head-over-heels in love with. I think this might be my favorite story of the year. 5/5 stars.

The Time Traveler’s Almanac, edited by Ann and Jeff by Vandermeer – An Ongoing Review


Introductory thoughts 3/19/2019

I came across this anthology of short stories on time travel, and I really couldn’t help but decide to give it a shot. It is a huge anthology with 65 different short stories. I may never get through all of it, but as I read, I will give my thoughts on it and try to review the stories as a go. However, I won’t be giving a detailed account of every story. This will mark more as a way for me to track as I read and express my thoughts when necessary.

Each story is detailed below, and hyperlinked in the Table of Contents.

Update 7/30/19

I have continued to listen to the occasional story. Most of them are great. If you are interested in hearing any, let me know. I’ve read ~17hrs according to my podcast app. The total book is 40+hrs.

Table of Contents

Introduction  • essay by Rian Johnson

Part I: Experiments

  1. Top Ten Tips for Time Travelers • essay by Charles Yu
  2. Death Ship • (1953) • short story by Richard Matheson
  3. Ripples in the Dirac Sea • (1988) • short story by Geoffrey A. Landis
  4. Needle in a Timestack • (1983) • short story by Robert Silverberg
  5. Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea • [Hainish] • (1994) • novelette by Ursula K. Le Guin (variant of Another Story)
  6. Hwang’s Billion Brilliant Daughters • (2010) • short story by Alice Sola Kim
  7. How the Future Got Better • (2010) • short story by Eric Schaller
  8. Pale Roses • [Tales from the End of Time • 1] • (1974) • novelette by Michael Moorcock
  9. The Gernsback Continuum • (1981) • short story by William Gibson
  10. The Threads of Time • (2004) • short story by C. J. Cherryh (variant of Threads of Time 1978)
  11. Triceratops Summer • (2005) • short story by Michael Swanwick
  12. The Most Important Thing in the World • (2011) • novelette by Steve Bein
  13. Himself in Anachron • [The Instrumentality of Mankind] • (2013) • short story by Genevieve Linebarger and Cordwainer Smith
  14. The Time Machine (excerpt) • [H. G. Wells’ Time Machine Universe] • (2013) • short fiction by H. G. Wells
  15. Young Zaphod Plays It Safe • [Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] • (1986) • short story by Douglas Adams
  16. Time Travel in Theory and Practice • (2013) • essay by Stan Love

Part II: Reactionaries and Revolutionaries

  1. A Sound of Thunder • (1952) • short story by Ray Bradbury
  2. Vintage Season • (1946) • novelette by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore
  3. Thirty Seconds from Now • (2011) • short story by John Chu
  4. Forty, Counting Down • [Justin Kloster] • (1999) • novella by Harry Turtledove
  5. The Final Days • (1981) • short story by David Langford
  6. Fire Watch • [Time Travel] • (1982) • novelette by Connie Willis
  7. Noble Mold • [The Company Short Fiction] • (1997) • short story by Kage Baker
  8. Under Siege • (1985) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
  9. Where or When • (1991) • novelette by Steven Utley
  10. Time Gypsy • (1998) • novelette by Ellen Klages
  11. On the Watchtower at Plataea • (1988) • novelette by Garry Kilworth
  12. Alexia and Graham Bell • (1987) • short story by Rosaleen Love
  13. A Night on the Barbary Coast • [The Company Short Fiction] • (2003) • short story by Kage Baker
  14. This Tragic Glass • (2004) • novelette by Elizabeth Bear
  15. The Gulf of the Years • (2010) • short story by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud (trans. of La gouffre des années 1987)
  16. Enoch Soames: A Memory of the Eighteen-Nineties • (1916) • novelette by Max Beerbohm
  17. Trousseau: Fashion for Time Travelers • essay by Genevieve Valentine (variant of Trousseau: Fashion for Time Travellers 2013)

Part III: Mazes and Traps

  1. The Clock That Went Backward • (2013) • short story by Edward Page Mitchell (variant of The Clock That Went Backwards 1881)
  2. Yesterday Was Monday • (1941) • short story by Theodore Sturgeon
  3. Is There Anybody There? • (2000) • novelette by Kim Newman
  4. Fish Night • (2013) • short story by Joe R. Lansdale [as by Joe Lansdale]
  5. The Lost Pilgrim • (2004) • novelette by Gene Wolfe
  6. Palindromic • (1997) • short story by Peter Crowther
  7. Augusta Prima • (2011) • short story by Karin Tidbeck (trans. of Augusta Prima 2009)
  8. Life Trap • (1979) • short story by Barrington J. Bayley
  9. Lost Continent • (2008) • novelette by Greg Egan
  10. The Mouse Ran Down • (2012) • short story by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  11. The Great Clock • (1966) • short story by Langdon Jones
  12. Traveller’s Rest • (1965) • short story by David I. Masson
  13. Delhi • (2004) • short story by Vandana Singh
  14. Come-From-Aways • (2009) • short story by Tony Pi
  15. Terminós • (2005) • short story by Dean Francis Alfar
  16. The Weed of Time • (1970) • short story by Norman Spinrad
  17. The Waitabits • (1955) • novelette by Eric Frank Russell
  18. Music for Time Travelers • essay by Jason Heller (variant of Music for Time Travellers 2013)

Part IV: Communiques

  1. What If • (1952) • short story by Isaac Asimov (variant of What If …)
  2. As Time Goes By • (1983) • short story by Tanith Lee
  3. At Dorado • (2002) • short story by Geoffrey A. Landis
  4. 3 RMS, Good View • (1990) • short story by Karen Haber
  5. Twenty-One, Counting Up • [Justin Kloster] • (1999) • novella by Harry Turtledove
  6. Loob • [Goster County] • (1979) • novelette by Bob Leman
  7. The House That Made the Sixteen Loops of Time • (2011) • short story by Tamsyn Muir
  8. Against the Lafayette Escadrille • (1972) • short story by Gene Wolfe
  9. Swing Time • (2007) • short story by Carrie Vaughn
  10. The Mask of the Rex • [Files of the Time Rangers] • (2002) • novelette by Richard Bowes
  11. Message in a Bottle • (2004) • short story by Nalo Hopkinson
  12. The Time Telephone • (2002) • short story by Adam Roberts
  13. Red Letter Day • (2010) • short story by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  14. Domine • (2007) • short story by Rjurik Davidson
  15. In the Tube • (1922) • short story by E. F. Benson
  16. Bad Timing • (1991) • short story by Molly Brown
  17. If Ever I Should Leave You • (1974) • short story by Pamela Sargent
  18. Palimpsest • (2009) • novella by Charles Stross

Story Overviews and Discussions

*I may give these a second try considering I don’t remember much about them.

Fish Night, Joe Lansdale, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

There was one titled “Fish Night” that was recently adapted into a short film on Netflix’s new anthology series Love Death and Robots. I love it because it was history of the earth type story. Out in the Arizona desert, where the sea once covered the terrain, ancient ocean life dominated the region. Much of the life is now extinct, but what if past life we’re ghosts like all the story’s of humans after life. It tells the story of ancient life haunting the desert nights. Not only was it artistically beautiful, it was a really fun story that peeked my interest. 5/5 stars. From Part 3.

Come-From-Aways, Tony Pi, Rating: ()

Read before August 2019

There was another story about history (human history boo). It was told by an expert in linguistics of a character, also a linguist, who comes across a man whose dialect doesn’t match the times. From this, she deciphers he is a traveler of the past. The story touches on the problem of time traveling into the future, becoming a piece of history and leaving those you know and love. 3.5/5 stars, rounding down. From Part 3.

The Weed of Time, Norman Spinrad (★★★★★) and Life Trap, Barrington, J. Bayley (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

Another Fascinating story, the Weed of Time, was about a plant that gave the individuals the sight of all time in their life from conception to death. I don’t want to spoil the story, but it was much more of a tale of caution. Imagine knowing what was going to happen but trapped unable to change anything. There was a similar story, Life Trap, about a temple of monks who sought truth found truth they wish they never had. Life, as the story put it, was a cycle of living dying and being reborn as your younger self. The terrifying reality of it all was that you’d have no knowledge and as such would be unable to do anything to change it. On the surface, they seem like the inverse, but the main idea of being trapped in a cycle is there. 4.5/5 stars rounding up (The Weed of Time) and 4.5/5 stars rounding down (Life Trap). From Part 3.

Red Letter Day, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

What could that possibly mean? “Red Letter Day.” Well that is the day your future self sends you a letter recollecting about your future. Think of it like a coming of age. At a certain point in your future you gain the right to write your younger self, around graduation of High School. In it, you can inform yourself on whether or not you are going on the right track. Naturally, I am sure you can think of a hundred problems with this, and of course, that is the premise of the story. I won’t ruin it any further than to say, it assumes the information of the future can change the past. As I have delved into a multiverse of time travel stories, I have grown sympathetic towards the idea that the past cannot be changed. Any attempts to change it make it the way you experience it in the first place. Nevertheless, that is not how this story handles it, but it still does it masterfully. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 5/5 stars. From Part 4.

The Time Telephone, Adam Roberts, (☆)

Read before August 2019

Again, another fun premise. This is a world where the information (telephones) can be sent to the past. It opens with a conversation between a mother and daughter, but it ventures off in an odd direction in the end. It felt like the mother and daughter were just to set up the premise, but I won’t go much deeper so as not to ruin the main plot. Just understand, there are limits to how far information can be sent back in time, and that should get your mind rolling as to the type of scenarios you might get from that. 3.5/5 stars, rounding up. From Part 1.

At Dorado, Geoffrey A. Landis, ()

Read before August 2019

This is a story about a world with a series of wormholes that act like intersections along a highway. Of course, there was more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it. It was a find story, nothing too exceptional. A wife or lover of a man, lives at one of these way stations (wormholes), and the man is a sort of traveler who has to go from station to station for work or something. 3.5/5 stars rounding down. From Part 4.

3 RMS, Good view, Karen Haber, (☆)

Read before August 2019

This is probably one of the better stories (but not the best of the best). It’s basically about the past (or future) being like a place to settle down/live/maybe vacation. You aren’t to alter the past, but you can live there. Think of it like working in the city but living in the suburbs. You choose a place and commute. Then it just deals with the realty of living in the past without altering it–inadvertently or for ethical reasons. 4/5 stars. From Part 4.

Twenty-One, Counting Up and Forty, Counting Down, Harry Turtledove, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

These are two separate stories, each in a different section of this anthology. I wouldn’t say this was the best story I’ve read by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a solid story told from two different perspectives (told as if older self interacts with younger self and from a younger self being contacted by the olders self). Sort of like the Red Letter Day, this is about a man from the future trying to change mistakes he thinks his younger self has made.

The problem is, the way he goes about doing it feels contrived. The author is so desperate to tell a particular type of story, that he insists this is the only way for the older self to get what he wants. Furthermore, he fails to recognize the problem isn’t his younger self, its that his older self not willing to acknowledge his own flaws.

It is a fun story. Overall, I can’t help but feel it is limited by convoluted choices by the author made for plot purposes rather than a natural progression of the story. I don’t want to spoil anymore of the story, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that there are some serious problems around consent that the author never really addresses. 5/5 stars for both stories. From Part 4.

Is There Anybody There?, Kim Newman, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

really really liked this story. It was one of my favorites. It was about a psychic from the past being contacted by an internet troll  from the future. At first you wonder if it is a spirit, but it turns out its not. I won’t ruin the story, but it is a very satisfying read. I say that as someone who is very much against the idea fof “psychics” because in the real life they’re frauds and hacks who harm people. 5/5 stars, and one of my favorites. From Part 3.

A Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

I write this as the Sound of Thunder is heard outside. Of course, the thunder of the story is not from any storm. This is a very good story about the implications of time travel. In particular, what would happen if you travel back 10s of millions of years? How fragile is the evolutionary tree that leads to us the other forms of life? A species isn’t defined by any one individual, but it raises the question, how important are they. This is fascinating story about time travel and biology. I wish it was more theoretical on the biology front, but it is still an amazing premise. It fills me with excitement wondering about the stories that could be told from this premise, or, perhaps more significant, the reality that is ingrained in this story. It is hard not to read this and ask fundamental question about the history of life on Earth and humans in particular. As a geologist and astrologist it is hard not to get lost in my imagination. Needless to say, this is highly recommended. 5/5 stars. From Part 2.

Lost Continent,” by, Greg Egan (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

This is a story is told of a refugee who escaped his time to a world that was supposed to be free of the dangers of his time, but what he found was far less accepting. It is basically a story that mirrors the story of migrants today. It was particularly poignant with recent decisions by the Trump administration. 3/5 stars. From Part 3.

*”The Clock that Went Backward,” by  Edward Page Mitchell (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

A guy and his friend come across this weird clock his aunt has. It can go into the past. From there, they do a bit of exploring. I enjoyed this. 3/5 stars. From Part 3.

How the Future Got Better,” by Eric Schaller (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

A family is able to watch the future unfold over the television (see themselves watching TV, slightly in the future). I didn’t quite get the point of this story. 3/5 stars. From Part 1.

The Threads of Time,” by C.J. Cherryh (★★★★☆)

Read before August 2019

Here, travelers can move forward in time, to distance reaches of the future. However, strict paradox laws prevent them from going backwards, and a select few agents are put in place to enforce that law. This is a good story with a good overall arc. Although, I don’t think it stood out too much. 3.5/5 stars rounding up. From Part 1.

Triceratops Summer,” by Michael Swanwick (★★★★★

Read before August 2019

An MIT student messes up an experiment leading to the escape of dinosaurs from the past into the present. This was a lot more calm then your classic Jurassic Park type of story. It was more about mild annoyance and appreciation of and for the creatures. It is a good story. 5/5 stars. From Part 1.

The Lost Pilgrim,” by Gene Wolfe (★★☆☆☆) 

Read before August 2019

A traveler is sent back to do something that he forgets. I remember this because I remember much I disliked it. It is confusing and not very enjoyable. It seemed unnecessarily convoluted. 2.5/5 stars rounding down. From Part 3.

*”The Great Clock,” by Langdon Jones (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

An old man takes care of an old clock related to time. I don’t remember any more details. 3/5 stars, but take it with a grain of salt. From Part 3.

*”Palindromic,” by Peter Crowther (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

There are aliens. This is another one I really remember nothing about. 3/5 stars, but take it with a grain of salt. From Part 3.

*”Against the Lafayette Escadrille,” by Gene Wolfe (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

Obviously, there is something to do with time travel. I am pretty sure I read this but don’t remember a thing. It is apparently in the Confederate eraRating: Meh (because I don’t remember anything) From Part 4.

The Final Days,” by David Langford (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

This is about a nominee for president who had amazing confidence and poise because they had the benefit of knowing they were going to win. 3/5 stars. From Part 2.

The Gulf of the Years,” by Georges-Oliver  Chateaureynaud (★★★★☆)

Read before August 2019

A man travels to see his mother, on the day she died, I think? Its a bit morbid. Rating: Good, 4/5 stars. From Part 2.

Death Ship, Richard Matheson, (★★★★)

Read 8/15/2019 (and earlier in the summer)

I realized early on that I had already read this story. It is the first story of the entire anthology, so it seems I listened to it before I imported it into my podcast and forgot. It is a great story to reread. It was particularly great because even as I remembered reading it, I forgot how the story played out in the end. We follow a ship with a small crew set to find life on other planets. They land on a distant planet and find a crashed ship. On it: themselves, dead from the crash.

I can see why the Vandermeers would choose to have this story first. It forces us to think about the implications of time travel, or rather, it forces us to think about how the hell it would work. We follow the crew members as they struggle to understand 1) what is happening and 2) how to avoid the atrocity they are witnessing. I am a big proponent of past-future interconnection. That is my made up way of saying, even if we could go back in time, anything we do to change it would end up being a part of the events that causes it (or at least had an effect that did not change it). There are plenty examples of this, and I am pretty sure I’ve touched on this already.

This is the reality these crew members have to deal with. At least, that is the real horror from where I am sitting. Nevertheless, they act as though they can change it, but this becomes sort of a Pascal’s wager. If they’re wrong, and you can’t change anything, you lose nothing for believing it because it’s a helpless situation regardless, but if they’re right, you have everything to gain from believing. There are plenty of problems with Pascal’s wager when it comes to God, but I won’t get into that here. My point is, this is the dilemma they face.

Personally, I think I would shutdown, convinced it is hopeless. They don’t do that here, and its a thrill to watch it unfold. To be clear, things will not always go the way you expect. Even having read the story, the author surprised me on multiple occasions convincing me one thing then another and then another. Where it actually lands was something I didn’t even see coming. That is great story telling. 5/5 stars. From Part 1.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North ★★★★★


Start 1/31/19

With the ending of one book, I am starting another. I have already explained my fixation with time travel, so maybe it is understandable why I would choose this as my next book. It was also nominated for a series of literary awards (e.g. Arthur C. Clarke Award).

Another reason that contributes to my decision to read this is that I became aware a couple years ago that I have a tendency to read more male authors than female (not including rereads of harry potter 😉 ). I would go on spending the next year only reading female authors to try counteract that bias. I ended up reading some of my all time favorite books (Kindred [another time travel story] and I know why the caged bird sings). I no longer restrict myself to that same rule. Although, I am acutely aware of this bias and try to overcome it. Let me be clear, this isn’t me saying equality demands I read both sexes equally. I do it because I might otherwise overlook an entire suite of potentially amazing books hitherto unknown to me.

I am about ~13% in, and I am enjoying it. It’s similar to ground hogs day. Another book I really enjoyed was Replay. It wasn’t an exception book, but it was a thrill to read. It told the story of a man who died, and woke up in his body ~25 years earlier. He gets to relive his life than he does it again. Another book this reminds me of is, Life after Death. I enjoyed that, but not as much. It was much more a story of a girl who lived through the world war (or one of them) who would die and start over, beginning to have vague recollections of her past life. I’m not a big fan of war stories, and I also love a book that leans in to the time travel. I think this book does that.
I came in expecting it to be a story of one life after the other. It’s not quite as direct in its storytelling which is interesting.

Update 3/6/2019

I am about 50% of the way through the book. I still feel the same way. It is a great book. It has a lot of similarities to other stories without being too derivative. Furthermore, it’s established clear rules and a clear end game. The overall structure has proven to be less linear than I expected, which is a pleasant surprise. I haven’t listened to it in a couple weeks. I just need to get back into it. So far, I would definitely recommend.

Update 3/11/2019

I’m 70% through the book, and writing that number makes it feel further along than I originally thought. The book is still amazing. The story has become very compelling, and it is a struggle to do work this Monday morning when I’d rather be listening to the book! I am very pleased with this book, not simply because I love time travel, but because it is wonderfully told and well thought out. When dealing with time travel, it require a clear understanding of the rules. Often, the story revolves around working toward the slow revelation of these rules. That is what makes this book so exciting. It is hard not to become immersed into the story. The story begins with an untraditional approach of telling the life story of the main character without divulging key plot points. That is to say, the story is not linear. However, it becomes more linear as we pivot from the origin of Harry August to the prevailing threat to him and his kind. The transition from one to the other is seamless, and it makes for a great story.

Update 3/12/2019

I’m 91% through the book. ~1hr to go, or 45 minutes with the 30% speed up I use. I’m sad to know it’s ending, but I’m eager to keep reading. It is so nice to be so easily engulfed by a good story following the atrocity that was “The Dry.” As I approach the end, I am nervous as to what might happen to the main character. I think I know, but the title suggest a certain finality which could prove catastrophic to his endeavors. Without spoiling it, the character is facing a certain force blind with ambition, unwilling to acknowledge the harm they are causing. If he fails, it could prove to be the end of the world. I love how the author is able to incorporate serious consequences, in some cases irreversible, even though we are dealing with a protagonist who seemingly starts his life brand new every time he dies. In some time travel stories, you can just undo everything and all is well. At which point, the story becomes void of any real consequences. This author sets clear rules for the story, and it makes for great suspense.

Update 3/12/2019

It is the end of the day, and I have finished the book. It was amazing. It is so sad to reach the end but also gratifying. This was a great book; it is by far the best one I have read this year. I highly recommend it (if that isn’t already obvious). The ending did not disappointed. The problem was pretty binary (the protagonist either win or you lose), so there wasn’t a lot of directions the author could go. Nevertheless, I felt like it was entirely possible that it could be either one. I won’t say what happens, even vaguely, on the off chance that someone is actually reading this post this in depth. I wouldn’t want to spoil it. I give it an easy 5/5 stars.