Friday, October 21, 2011

Giveaway Results: Dracula in Love, by Karen Essex

And the winner of the Dracula in Love giveaway is...

Kristy Nicole!

Congratulations!  And than you everyone for participating.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Review: The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H. G. Wells

Title:  The Island of Doctor Moreau
Author:  H. G. Wells
Genre:  Science Fiction
Rating: 3.75 out of 5

The Island of Doctor Moreau is truly a multi-genre tale.  It combines elements of Science Fiction and Horror.  It also acts as an allegory, mirroring aspects of society.  Beneath it all is one of Wells' favorite themes:  the horrible things that can come about by reckless meddling in science that should be left alone.

The Island of Doctor Moreau is written in the form of a journal of one Edward Prendick.  Through a series of unfortunate events, Prendick befriends some malcontents on a small merchant vessel and debarks to a mysterious island inhabited by horrible beasts.

These beasts are half animal and half human, and Prendick is immediately thrown into a struggle for his life as he fights against the master of the beasts, Doctor Moreau.  Throughout the novel, as the line between civility and savagery is blurred, Prendick is forced to rethink his preconceptions about good and evil, right and wrong.

This book was very fun to read, and really made me think about the undertones and themes that hide under the surface of the pages.  Doctor Moreau was written less than forty years after Darwin's On the Origins of Species.  Throughout the novel, Wells examines the qualities that separate humans from animals, and eventually comes to the conclusion that we may not be as different as the experts think.  Wells suggests that human and bestial qualities rest under the surface of all life, and only the shell of our flesh separates the species.  Moreau shows Prendick that it is quite easy to turn beasts into men, and we come to learn that it is even easier for men to act like vicious beasts.

The major problem that I have with this book is that it is so improbable.  Yes, I realize that I walk a thin line when I say things like that in reviews, as I write a blog abut fantasy and science fiction.  However, to me, a work of science fiction only works when the science feels like fact.  Wells asks us to believe that turning a beast into a man is as easy as plastic surgery, but this reader remains unconvinced.  The entire premise makes the book feel more like a long metaphor than an actual science fiction novel that one expects when thinking of the author's other works.

In the end, I really enjoyed The Island of Doctor Moreau.  Aside from a few preachy segments in which Wells' message comes through too clear, the novel was a fun ride through a haunted house of grotesque beasts and even more nefarious men.

3.75 out of 5 man bear pigs.

This review is a part of Dueling Monsters 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Excerpt and Giveaway - Dracula in Love, by Karen Essex

Today, I would like to share an excerpt from Dracula in Love, a Victorian horror romance, written by Karen Essex.  You might remember this one from when I interviewed Essex during Dracula Week.

At this point in the novel, Mina Harker wakes find herself in an insane asylum while Doctors Seward and Van Helsinger prepare to perform experiments on her...

"I was in a somnolent state, in which the line between reality and hallucination was easily blurred, my mind alternating between the sweet sensations of my imagination and the faint sounds in the room – the tinkling glass and metal as Seward and Von Helsinger prepared for the procedure, words muttered between them in German, and the low, ambient hum of the asylum’s inmates.

All of a sudden, I felt a shift in the room, as if someone had made a surprise entrance, but through hazy eyes, I saw that the door was still closed. Von Helsinger’s alarmed voice barked exclamatory words to Seward in German, and Seward responded with a strange cry. I wanted to slip back into my reverie, but then something crashed to the floor, as if one of the doctors had dropped a thing made of glass. I opened my eyes again and in my dreamy state, I thought I saw a thick mist seeping through the shuttered window. Confused, wondering if this was part of a dream, I blinked my eyes and looked again. The two doctors – eyes wide with astonishment – stood frozen, watching the vapor as it swirled before them, growing in luminescence and intensity. Before our eyes, the numinous particles began to sculp into a form, and I thought that perhaps an angel ad come to save me.

Slowly the thing took shape. It was not an angel but a shimmering coat of silver fur, which gradually molded itself over great muscled haunches, its outer ends elongating into a bestial tail and head. My dream world collided with my reality as I watched the wolf dog I had seen in Whitby growl at Von Helsinger, backing him against a wall and baring his teeth at the incredulous doctor. Von Helsinger pressed himself against the wall, yelling something in German, and the beast lunged at him, pinning him with its thick paws. The treacherous canines were not an inch from Von Helsinger’s face. Seward tried to get the door, but the wolf dog turned around and, with preternatural speed, leapt on him from behind, sinking its teeth into the doctor’s back. Seward cried out in anguish as he pulled away, leaving some of his flesh in the animal’s mouth. Von Helsinger pushed Seward through the door, but before he could escape, the animal swiped at his face and neck, leaving sharp claw marks from check to throat. With a howl of agony, Von Helsinger grabbed his face and fell through the door after Seward, slamming it shut. I lay in bed paralyzed. The wolf dog jumped on the bed, straddling me, staring at me with its vivid indigo eyes. The last thing I remember seeing in that room was his huge incisors above my face, red and dripping with Seward’s blood." (pp 254-255 of the ARC)

Also, I am excited to tell you that the publisher, Doubleday, has offered a brand new paperback copy of the novel for Lions and Men to give away!  So here's the deal!

The giveaway will run from 10/06/2011 to 10/20/2011.  The winner will be drawn at random and will be announced on 10/21/2011.  US and Canada entrants only.  To enter and increase your chances of winning...

+1 entry:  Comment on this post and include your email address (required to enter)
+3 entries:  Become a follower, or tell me if you are a follower
+3 entries each:  Start following me on Twitter or on Goodreads, or tell me if you already do
+1 entry each:  Link to this post in a tweet, blog post, blog sidebar, Facebook, etc.  Be sure to include a link to your content in your comment.

Good luck everyone!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book Review: The Call of Cthulhu, by H. P. Lovecraft

Title:  The Call of Cthulhu
Author:  H. P. Lovecraft
Genre:  Horror
Rating: 4 out of 5

The Call of Cthulhu is one of H. P. Lovecraft's most popular works.  It features his most iconic creature of horror, and is the cornerstone of his entire mythos.  Let's uncover the terrifying madness contained within...

Cthulhu is written in the form of an old journal of a man named Francis Thurston.  After his great uncle's death, Francis discovers that he has come to inherit a body of work that attempts to piece together mysteries surrounding mass hysteria and violent cults.  Together with this information and his own investigation, Thurston describes the unspeakable horror that he uncovers.

The story is broken up into three parts.  Part One, The Horror In Clay, relates how Thurston's uncle investigates a period of a few weeks in which people began having horrific dreams of a slime-covered city rising out of the ocean.  Part Two, The Tale Of Inspector Lagrasse, is a second-hand tale of a police inspector's raid of a cult in the swamps around New Orleans.  The cultists worship a creature similar to the one seen by the troubled dreamers.  Part Three, The Madness From The Sea, is an interview with the widow of a man driven insane by what he saw while sailing on the ocean.

The Call of Cthulhu, like many other stories written by H. P. Lovecraft, works on the basis of plausible deniability. The story is told in such a way that the events that occur go unnoticed by the world.  A single character - in this case, Francis Thurston - stumbles upon cosmic mysteries of the universe before fading into obscurity.  The facts that might destroy the world if they got out are simply re-buried.  The world spins and humanity lives on unaware of the horrors that lurk under the surface.

That is what is so tragic about The Call of Cthulhu.  We, as the reader, are treated to the darkness within the world and then watch it slip through the cracks of common knowledge.  This dynamic adds ample tension to the story.  As Thurston stumbles upon each piece of the puzzle, it is both exciting and heartbreaking.

As a standalone tale, it is difficult to give this story an outstanding rating.  The characters aren't the most vivid, and not much happens until the very end of it.  However, I believe that the value of Lovecraft's work is much greater than the sum of its parts.  When considered as part of the whole, The Call of Cthulhu truly shines.  If you have any interest in Lovecraft, you would not be remiss to start here!

4 out of 5 tentacles!

This review is a part of Dueling Monsters 2011