The SFFaudio Podcast #296 – The Mound by H.P. Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop; read by Jim Campanella (from Uvula Audio). This is an unabridged reading of the story (3 hours 18 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, John Feaster, and Jim Campanella.
Talked about on today’s show:
The least interesting part, the headless ghost that is sometimes is a woman, why isn’t this story better known, a bait and switch, an Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche written by H.P. Lovecraft, getting the girl, A Strange Manuscript Found In A Cthulhu Cylinder, Ms. Found In A Bottle, The Curse Of Yig, the unnamed ethnologist, Quetzalcoatl, slithering like a man, The Mountains Of Madness, The Horror In The Museum, the original version, the Bishops of Dunwich, aggressively biblical, strange lost societies, The Whisperer In Darkness, the underworld, Grey Owl, Grey Eagle, unabridged and (not unedited), a Cthulhu coin, a science fiction story, atomic power, materialize objects, body sculpting, Robert E. Howard, Zamacona, Cibola, a city of gold, inured to torture, a magnetic star metal, Xibalba (Mayan Hell), Mayans Incas Aztecs, The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, a forerunner to Brave New World, cannibalism, unicorn cattle, our world in their Hell, The Hound, sooo decadent, corpse hunters, a cartoon of evil, proto-emo-goths, are they interested in Zamacona, oooh he’s a savage!, morals are lost by boredom, civilization decays to barbarism, Red Nails by Robert E. Howard, The Red One by Jack London, disturbing culture, romances, disintegrating penises, lost worlds, he doesn’t do ghosts, all of the problems, headless and alive, convoluted, very Star Treky, a headless zombie, a secret history to this story, black flesh dissolving slime, The Festival, Indian skulls, the original headless ghost, headlessness is not a thing, The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, strange shaped skulls, conquistadors gotta conquista, they could completely destroy us, the Roman aqueducts, bad medicine, Chief Sitting Bull, “Yes, no, and you bet”, B.C.’s native languages, water in BC is “chuck”, ocean is “salt chuck”, trading languages, ghost hunters and treasure hunters, dowsing doodlebugs, these are not barrows, this is a butte, Tikal (Guatemala), Teotihuacan (Mexico), Star Wars, parking your X-Wings, strange carvings on sandstone, Jack London’s The Red One, 1918, Charles Fort, 1919, Cahokia, plowed under, a cursed Pizza Hut, chocolate, potatoes, tomatoes and syphilis, Woodhenge, totem-poles, why we always talk about Romans (because we have books written by them), the Incan writing system (knots), cuneiform, we’ve got to get more styluses.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1981, to a professor of Slavic languages, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, the “First Age”, Hyperborea, At The Mountains Of Madness, The Mound, high fantasy, monstrous survivals, “two-fisted mighty thewed”, meeting the monster, this is not Lovecraft anymore, “big speeches very evil”, the movie, HBO, the sword is a laser beam?, that thing from Krull?, like Skeletor but less impressive, D’Spayre (Marvel Comics), “I expected you to come in evening-wear”, “He’s not Hitler”, WWII, can you use evil to fight evil, Cuza, shades of grey, chancellorship, “are you with the forces of good?”, a pretty amazing book, the Adversary Cycle, The Tomb, the “Repairman Jack” cycle, Equalizer-style, ancient Hindu mythology, deeply interested in its subject, re-reads, “written with the energy and verve and economy of a pulp novel all the themes, and character and depth of a literary novel”, Protecting Project Pulp, yellow peril, “I’ve heard Lovecraft was good for sales”, Conan The Barbarian (1982), Thulsa Doom, red hair and olive skin, a mystery novel, making assumptions, is Glen a Templar?, “What’s in the box?”, Portugal, Spain, Wales, a little map, not a castle, not a keep, built backwards, go kill Hitler, The Salem’s Lot route, a mute Nosferatu, the seduction of Cuza, Glen is a morally ambiguous character, Magda is the main character, the resonance of the title, Rasalom, Hitler, Molosar, the SS dude (Kaempffer), Woermann, moving the date 1941 to 1942, in 1941 there really is no hope (as opposed to 1942), Twitter, which evil is worse?, Gabriel Byrne, Sir Ian McKellen, WWI, the Spanish Civil War, the Condor Legion, the German anti-fascist legion, “you collaborate with anti Wallachians?”, punch-ups, Germany back on its feet, dissension in the ranks, The Psychology Of Power, George W. Bush, Obama was reading Team Of Rivals, torturing folks but not prosecuting folks, John’s second book, The Beast Within by Edward Levy, The Shining by Stephen King, Dungeons & Dragons, Pnakotic Manuscripts, Cuza uses the manuscripts as a red herring, you can’t destroy knowledge, when Jesse was less sophisticated, somebody’s got to be the publisher that published Mein Kampff, Dianetics, maybe you’re not as committed to the cause?, letting the adults slide, the Hitler Youth was mandatory, excuses might have been deadly, The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall, school children were terrifying, Nineteen-Eighty Four, informing on mommy and daddy, The Cultural Revolution, Die Brucke (aka The Bridge), Volkssturm, MG-42, April 27th, 1945, Doctor Who, Beau Geste, Magneto (Marvel Comics), J. Michael Straczynski, J.R.R. Tolkien, the Vorlons and the Shadows, Chaos and Order, put these old gods to bed, maybe I can finally die, appeasement, Glaeken returns, The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan is a retelling of Dracula and Salem’s Lot, more gloopy gloppy blood, John Carpenter’s The Thing, this book has zombies, traditional zombies, the rats, the muddy boots, the fingers, the reversal, Molosar sounds like a mid-dark age wizard or Romanian lord, Rasalom sounds like a Doctor Who character or Absalom, Mordred, Woermann -> War Man, Kempffer -> fighter, Magda -> Mary Magdalene, Cuza -> count, Glen -> valley, Glaeken -> Glaaki (Ramsey Campbell), the Fungi From Yuggoth sonnet cycle, The Courtyard, Neonomicon by Allan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Aklo,
It was the city I had known before;
The ancient, leprous town where mongrel throngs
Chant to strange gods, and beat unhallowed gongs
In crypts beneath foul alleys near the shore.
The rotting, fish-eyed houses leered at me
From where they leaned, drunk and half-animate,
As edging through the filth I passed the gate
To the black courtyard where the man would be.
The dark walls closed me in, and loud I cursed
That ever I had come to such a den,
When suddenly a score of windows burst
Into wild light, and swarmed with dancing men:
Mad, soundless revels of the dragging dead –
And not a corpse had either hands or head!
the headless corpse, “leave my house”, shaping Cuza, we get tricked, there’s something you’ve both overlooked, “Draculian harmonics”, old Slavonic, he can’t be both ignorant and knowledgeable, psychological warfare, Molasar is so much smarter, Cuza is super-manipulative, double bluff, the Dracula mystique, Molasar has to be telepathic, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Woermann mentions having seen a pirated version of Nosferatu, Molasar was aware of Cuza’s previous visits, he’s had a lot of time to think, bad dreams, he’s not interested in crumbs, the Popes forgot about it, the battery for the enchantment of the keep, the evil events begin on April 30th (Walpurgisnacht), the birds as a barometer of evil, no sequel possible, a blue winged bid with a beak full of straw, Moroi, Highlander, Highlander II (the worst movie ever made), “that’s the quickening McLeod”, a Spanish Egyptian with a Scottish accent, where did Highlander come from?, magic swords drinking power, a katana for cutting wasabi, 1980s movies came out of nowhere (seemingly), Elric (Michael Moorcock), Highlander: The Series, The Red One by Jack London, collecting heads, headless soldiers are unthinking soldiers, puppets of dark sorcery, vampires have the power to heal?, True Blood, did Cuza get the illness as a part of Molasar’s long game?
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / zombies / detectives / urban fantasy / humor / wizards / thieving lawn gnomes /
There’s something fishy going on in the Unnatural Quarter. Bodies are floating face-down, the plumbing is backing up, and something smells rotten – even to a zombie detective like Dan Shamble. Diving into the slimy underbelly of a diabolical plot, Dan comes face-to-tentacles with an amphibious villain named Ah’Chulhu (to which the usual response is “Gesundheit!”). With his snap-happy gang of gator-guys – former pets flushed down the toilet – Ah’Chulhu wreaks havoc beneath the streets. While feuding weather wizards kick up storms and a gang of thieving lawn gnomes continues their reign of terror, Dan Shamble is running out of time – before the whole stinking city goes down the drain.
The cases don’t solve themselves so Dan ‘Shamble’ is back with a whole new set of cases to solve in the unnatural quarter. Many familiar faces make appearances as in previous novels but this can be read on it’s own with no prior knowledge of the series. If you can’t tell from the cover and premise, this is a supernatural humor novel with a diverse cast of supernatural creatures, chock full of puns that could even make your crazy uncle groan. If that sounds like something fun to you or you’ve enjoyed previous novels in this series – you will like this novel. If that doesn’t sound great to you or you’re on the fence….you’ll probably hate this book because it doesn’t take itself seriously at all.
You can tell Kevin J. Anderson probably had fun writing this novel. He puts a lot of tongue-in-cheek commentary about book writing, publishing, and the nature of best sellers in here (more than previous novels). He goes to great lengths to set up a scene for things happening just to slip a one liner in there.
As for the audio side of things, Phil Gigante continues to shine in this series. The cartoony nature of the characters lets him use a wide range of voices. He really handles the comedic nature of the novel well and puts a good amount of inflection in his tone.
Posted by Tom Schreck
By Rob Mosca; Narrated by Bernard Setaro Clark
Publisher: ListenUp Audiobooks
Publication Date: June 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 3 minutes
Themes: / horror / drunk monkeys / psychotic clowns / zombies / Texas /
Welcome to Unity, Texas. Population: Bizarre. The only thing protecting the residents of Unity from a stream of nightmares is Laredo Beaumont, the town’s hard-drinking, ass-kicking sheriff, and Cicero, his knife-wielding chimpanzee deputy. It’s a thankless job that leaves Laredo drained and nearly broken. The only solace he can find is in the arms of his beloved Sally Mae, a ghostly soiled dove from a phantom bordello where only the most daring of men would think to step foot.
We’ve all heard that old saying about book cover judgments. Perhaps now it’s time we block out blurb-based reckonings. Rob Mosca’s High Midnight is bursting with criminally psychotic clowns, zombies with a twist, spectral prostitutes, and strange creatures. But it’s also a prime example of good, at times strong writing.
I’m uncertain into which genre High Midnight ought slide. More than likely, it’s a sub-subgenre. Something like Gritty Redneck Bizarro. In the beginning, the weird hyperbolic writing style and content is intriguing. When combined with crisp and skilled writing, you feel anxious and excited. Like a passenger on a hijacked locomotive, you feel your heart speed up to mirror the rushing landscape and you begin wondering where you’re going, and what will happen when you get there. But as the story progresses, we climax, reaching a point at which we can go no faster, further, or weirder, and everything beyond becomes a repetitive flatlining disappointment due to the lack of contrast.
I liked how Mosca would introduce a character, and then immediately leap back in time to show a slivered piece of the character’s history. This allows for a streamlining of exposition without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail. But this approach comes with a price. The story’s momentum becomes the engine, the driving force behind the storytelling. When this occurs, character submits to situation, preventing reader from forging strong bonds with character. Before we know it, and no matter how good the writing, the story is the situation acting upon character, rather than the characters reacting to situation. The result is uninteresting characters. And it’s difficult to create tension when I don’t give a damn if someone lives, dies, laughs, or cries. Situation will always grab our attention, but it is forever characters that maintain it.
High Midnight gets high marks for the audiobook. Bernard Setaro Clark is a name to remember. Clark narrates the audiobook, and captures the story’s voice. Whether it’s a clown’s ghastly giggle, drawling redneck sheriff, or explicit ghostly fornication, Clark delivers a tremendous reading. If you’re going to give this a read, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
Follow this link for a list of our latest arrivals. Note that not all books listed are discussed in the podcast.
Talked about on today’s show: Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson, “minotaurpunk”; the Thirty Years War; 1634 by David Weber and Eric Flint; The New Food by Stephen Leacock; LEGOs!; “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”; we love narrator Jonathan Davis; Runcible spoon and vorpel sword; intentionality of names in Philip K. Dick’s work; place names in Sussex and Middle Earth; class structure from Plato to Huxley; Beyond Lies the Wub, Philip K. Dick’s first published short story; Screamers film based on Dick’s Second Variety; Jenny would like to be a rutabaga; American Gods and rereading books; The Status Civilization and Mindswap by Robert Sheckley; Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy; Metro 2033 became a video game; Aristotelian unity of time, place, and action in post-apocalyptic genre; non-Western tropes take us off the beaten path; The Queen of Air and Darkness by T.H. White; tattoos make urban fantasy; prevalence of science fiction and fantasy in YA; the rule of three in fiction and humor; books about books; Sex Criminals comic by Matt Fraction; the Comics Squee podcast discussed it; the singular strengths of the comics medium; The Prestige; mirroring in fiction; The Prisoner of Zenda; Lovecraft writing Houdini; Pinkerton and Blackwater; Second Hand by Rajan Khanna featured in Lightspeed podcast; Felix Gilman’s The Half-Made World; Robert Bloch’s Hellbound Train; Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country; space operas are repurposed westerns; westerns don’t feature enough women; Star Trek; westerns on Mars; The Audiobookaneers blog might drive us out of business; Jenny looks to the future of bleakness and paranoia; Best of all Possible Worlds by Karen Lord; Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross, reviewed by Jesse.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / Horror / Zombies / Terrorists / Covert Intelligence /
For years the Department of Military Sciences has fought to stop terrorists from using radical bioweapons—designer plagues, weaponized pathogens, genetically modified viruses, and even the zombie plague that first brought Ledger into the DMS. These terrible weapons have been locked away in the world’s most secure facility. Until now. Joe Ledger and Echo Team are scrambled when a highly elite team of killers breaks the unbreakable security and steals the world’s most dangerous weapons. Within days there are outbreaks of mass slaughter and murderous insanity across the American heartland. Can Joe Ledger stop a brilliant and devious master criminal from turning the Land of the Free into a land of the dead?
Code Zero, a Joe Ledger novel from Jonathan Maberry, is the exciting direct sequel to Patient Zero.
This is the worthy sequel to Patient Zero.
At one point, Rudy Sanchez says that “this has done something fundamental to the American people.”
I’ll tell you this. It did something fundamental to me.
It was exciting, suspenseful, terrifying, and haunted me in my dreams and at random moments in my day.
And it was satisfying. Very satisfying.
I’m not sure Maberry can top this. Though I’m already looking forward to his next attempt to try.
It’s been six years since Joe Ledger was secretly recruited by the government to lead a combat team for the DMS, a taskforce created to deal with problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. That story was told in Patient Zero. This was where we met a group of terrorists who had developed a bio-weapon that turned people into zombies.
Every year since then, like clockwork, Joe and Echo Team have returned to battle a variety of seemingly supernatural foes, all developed by villains who are somehow going to make boatloads of cash off of the terror.
The action-packed stories are full of evil super-villains, noble heroes, smart mouthed quips, a smattering of philosophy about “good guys and bad guys” and heart. Lots of heart. All this is told at a roller coaster pace that barely allows you to breathe until you get to the end.
I love them.
In many ways, this book is similar to the rest of the series. Mother Night, a villain you love to hate, is a super-genius anarchist who’s strewing chaos throughout the country over Labor Day weekend. She’s got the DMS’s computer tied up in knots and old evils that were defeated in previous books are now popping their heads up all over the country. Losses are high and the odds are very much against Ledger and his team. We know Joe will win. It’s watching it happen that makes it fun.
It is superior to the other books, I think, because the pacing is more measured and there is more character development. I also enjoyed the flashbacks into the DMS’s years before Joe joined them.
But in one very important way Code Zero was very different for me.
I felt a level of anxiety that was all out of proportion. Maberry is an expert at ratcheting up the stakes until you just can’t see how anyone decent is going to survive the maelstrom. I was used to that. But somehow this felt different. I got a bit jumpy. I couldn’t quit thinking about the horrific chaos during the day when I had to put the book down. Maberry has his finger on the pulse of the evil that Americans today know all too well … that lurks below the conscious level of our lives … violent chaos that can strike without a moment’s notice. Shootings at Fort Hood, restaurants, schools, and more have changed the mood of our country and made Mother Night’s chaos resonate more deeply than usual.
Along the way, he looks at why people choose good or evil. Code Zero is full of people choosing to save the world or burn it down. In most of the cases, the motivation comes down to something that Maberry does not name, but which I will make bold to label: love. We want to know we matter, that we make a difference, that someone “knows” us. Not for our accomplishments but simply because our “selves” matter.
Mother Night gives it a different name, and she may not tidily fall into this definition but, let’s face it, she’s super-villain crazy. I believe that her ultimate fate bears me out. It shows most in Maberry’s final scenario at the end of the book as the answer to Rudy’s statement that the chaos “has done something fundamental to the American people.
Truly this is a great book, especially for the shoot-em-up genre. It is also probably one that can be read as a stand alone without reading the others that came before.
I listened to the audiobook read by Ray Porter who was superb, as usual, at portraying Joe and every other character along the way. In this book Porter dialed his urgent, driving, delivery down some and thank goodness for that. The action was intense enough without being shoved over the edge of the cliff by a continually urgent tone. Porter also was more nuanced and thoughtful in his reading than I recall in previous Joe Ledger books. If this sounds odd when considering our heroes are fighting off zombies, it actually worked to make me consider the full horror being faced. Once again, kudos to Ray Porter. He’s the reason I always choose audio for the Joe Ledger books.
Posted by Julie D.