Monthly Archives: January 2016

Dr. Adder

Dr. Adder / K.W. Jeter

So. Doctor Adder is one of those classic books that nobody seems to have heard of. I know I hadn’t. I’d say that’s because it’s a definite “go for the extremes of content” style book but as it’s sf it doesn’t get the credit that stuff like American psycho does. I myself had only heard of it recently, and a friend who Is a huge fan of 60s-80s sf hadn’t heard of it either.

And despite its completion in 74 and publication in 84 Dr. Adder is still a 60s book.

It’s one of those books that took forever to publish because it was “ahead of its time”, initially because of the explicit content but lit crit types who call it “ahead of its time” now generally refer to how it prefigures what became cyberpunk.

Adder is contrasted with John Mox, televangelist extraordinaire and a sworn enemy of Adder, whose MoFos (moral forces) roam the streets in an attempt to “clean things up” while LA’s denizens entertain themselves by murdering Mox’s minions.

Plot summary

Allen Limmit is ready for bigger things. Approached by a representative by megacorp GPC with an offer he can’t refuse, Limmit heads to LA to sell the contents of a mysterious case to  counterculture icon Dr. Adder,  master of elective surgery.

Dr. Adder specializes in body modification of prostitutes. Using a drug that allows him to see into their unconscious minds, Adder can discover what extreme bodymod will most satisfy both the prostitute and their customer. Usually this involves amputation.

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The black jewels

Daughter of the blood / Anne Bishop

Daughter of the blood is the first book in the Black jewels series.

I don’t know where to start with this book. It’s tough to pick a point to get a handle on other than the reviewer who described it as “sensual” should feel terrible about using that word to describe this book’s world of nightmarish predatory sexuality.

Plot summary is below the cut this time. Content warning for a world of nightmarish predatory sexuality including extreme abuse.

Things also got a little more political than they normally do but part of that is as a live “human” I find the real-world parallels are important.

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The powder mage trilogy

Promise of blood / Brian McClellan

Promise of blood is the first installment of the Powder mage trilogy by Brian McClellan. It’s a series I have mixed feelings about even though I really enjoyed it.

The powder mage trilogy is, alongside The shadow campaigns, one of the most visible examples of what is currently being called “flintlock fantasy”. Fantasy novels based in the goings on of 18th and 19th century Europe have been around for a long time, but specifically military novels focusing on the era are a more recent phenomenon. That the subgenre got a name when authors started writing books “full of machismo”* probably says something about the types of fans who obsess over genre labels and/or the biases of publishers.

*I’m paraphrasing a blurb here

Plot summary

Field Marshal Tamas has just initiated a coup. After overthrowing the government of Adro he must attempt to hold the nation together in the face of an invasion by their neighbor and historical rival, Kez. He also must contend with the possibly fictional curse that befalls the one who murders a sovereign, supposedly invoking the return of the gods.

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Uzumaki / Junji Ito

It took me way too long to realize that as much as I might like the idea of horror I don’t really care for it much in practice. This is largely because many of the people I hung out with in college really liked horror movies. As a result, I watched a lot of horror movies. Even after college I still tried to convince myself that I liked the genre. It took longer than I’d like to admit for me to realize that I didn’t have to force myself to sit through media I didn’t enjoy because I thought that was what I was supposed to like.

I still like the genre in theory. It competes with science fiction for the “genre best suited for social commentary” award. It’s a genre where imagination is allowed to operate more freely than in other genres, where there are deeply entrenched tropes that tend to limit one to either following them or deconstructing them. Not to say that horror doesn’t have its own set of clichés (see the interesting but not exactly thought-provoking Cabin in the woods) but that in many cases there’s more room for experimentation. Theoretically this is also true of science fiction, fantasy, and graphic fiction in general but in practice the Golden Age problem shows up frequently.

I also like horror because on a fundamental basis it tends towards stories about people trying to survive in a universe that is at best wholly indifferent to them. There’s a sense that slasher films are like mystery novels in that they fundamentally serve to uphold social norms as those who are visibly or behaviorally different are murdered in creative ways (once again, see Cabin in the woods, as it serves a useful function as ur-text for the slasher genre). I’m more tempted to read them as an indictment of the way society as a whole punishes difference and enforces conformity and adherence to “appropriate” social norms (where being a visible minority or sexually active gets you killed first).

So in general I don’t really watch many horror movies. Living with someone with a low threshold for terror means I don’t have many opportunities anyways (not that I’d seek out opportunities at this point). I’ll check one out once or twice a year but in general Doctor Who is as scary as things get at home. I’ve also found that the more I’m exposed to real-life horrors the lower my tolerance is for fictional ones.

Which brings me to the actual subject of this post, Uzumaki. Originally published in 1998-1999, Uzumaki is the story of a small town plagued by spirals.

Plot summary

A small town in Japan experiences a series of strange events involving spirals. From snails to hair to smoke, spirals plague the town and its inhabitants. Kirie Goshima* and her boyfriend Shuichi Sato* appear, at least initially, to be the only people in town to realize that something very wrong is happening.

*Yes, purists I’m using the Anglicized name order. The English translation does it that way so I’m just reporting the names as presented in the book itself.

Continue reading Uzumaki