Monday, 30 November 2020

Books & Stuff (NS, No 8) - Reading in Nov 2020

Finished Reading

Susanna Clarke, Piranesi

A very good book: a beautiful book.  A book about isolation and being at peace with that: it’s perhaps fitting that I read it on the eve of 2nd Lockdown.  I liked it.  

A lot of fans of Jonthan Strange and Mr Norrell – who've been looking forward to this book for years - will be disappointed that it’s not set in their 'verse.  I think, from the hints about the subject matter that have emerged from time-to-time, that there was some expectation that it would be set on Strange’s Faerie Roads.  That's certainly what I expected.  It's refreshing to get something different.  If anything, it reminds me of books by David Mitchell: and that’s not a bad thing. 

I’d deliberately avoided reading any reviews or anything that might have given a synopsis; and I’m glad.  Not that I like to read reviews anyway (at least for fiction).  I’m not terribly interested in what other people think, preferring to form my own opinion on something as subjective as fiction.  Professional reviews are bad enough, but Goodreads is the worse.  I use it as a useful tool, but the reviews!  When they’re not just gushing fans, they’re people churning out half-remembered and never-fully-understood concepts from High School: talk of ‘poor characterisation’ and ‘crass diction’, etc. 

HP Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

A young scholar becomes obsessed with an ancestor who practiced the Dark Arts.  A newly-discovered portrait shows an uncanny likeness between the two.  What could possibly go wrong?

Despite everything about Lovecraft, it must be admitted that he writes well.  Although the reader has a pretty good idea of what's going on from the very beginning, tension is held as the protagonist gradually uncovers the dreadful truth.

Simon Harris, The Other Norfolk Admirals: MyngsNarbrough and Shovell

It took me a while to get into this (a couple of months on these round-ups!), but having done so, it was very interesting.  

It could have done with a stronger editorial hand, which surprised me as it was published by the excellent Helion & Co.  But though it's a strong piece, it doesn't pretend to be an academic work and, as a labour of love by an enthusiast a lot can be fogiven.

Bayt al Azif: A Magazine for Cthulhu Mythos Roleplaying Games, Issue 2 (Aug 2019)

Another thing (along with the Norfolk Admirals) which has been languishing by my bedside for months.  I decided to finish it off on finding out that Issue 3 is now out (in pdf  at least).  

I keep half-promising to do proper reviews of these: for now, I'll just say that if anyone is interested in Mythos Roleplaying they are must-reads.

Quintin Barry, From Solebay to the Texel: The Third Anglo-Dutch War, 1672-1674

A very good summary of the naval side of the Anglo-Dutch Wars - despite the title, almost the first half of the (short) book deals with the first two (which is fair enough, they can't be taken in isolation).

Purely narrative: don't come to it expecting any analysis.

Currently Reading

Fritz Leiber, Swords in the Mist

A collection of some of the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories, which are quickly becoming favorites of mine.


  1. Piranesi is on my 'to read' son read it as soon as it came out and raved about it. Big fan of the Lankhmar books too... I'm always wart of revisiting books that I first read years ago in case they don't hold up but these are still a good read.

  2. Always loved fritz leiber.

    The other stuff looks interesting.


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