Posts Tagged ‘Surreal’

Dead Love

April 4, 2012

Author: Linda Watanabe McFerrin

Title: Dead Love

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 304

Geographical Setting: Tokyo, Haiti, Amsterdam, Malaysia, Singapore

Time Period: Present

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: Okay, here goes: Eighteen year old dancer Erin Orison (our narrator), a gloomy – but incredibly hot – product of European boarding schools, is summoned to Tokyo by her (evil!) father, also the U.S. Ambassador to Japan (as well as an important cog in the Consortium, an international secret society intent on unleashing supernatural evil upon the world), to appear in a production scripted by a famed Japanese choreographer.  After being somewhat murdered by Ryu, her bodyguard come lover and Yakuza assassin, Erin awakens in a hospital morgue a not-quite zombie, the full transformation having been botched by an unknowing hospital intern.  Erin is now caught in between a human and zombie existence, possessing consciousness and self-will, albeit in a hazy, dream-like state.  Enter Clement, the puppet master behind all these doings.  Clement is a ghoul (a ghoul being an eternal yet formless being that inhabits, and feeds upon, recently deceased corpses) and has been stricken from afar for Erin since she was an infant.  What ensues is a hunt around the globe for Erin (and the microchip inside her body that would unveil the Consortium’s dastardly plans).

Subject Headings:  Zombies, Conspiracies, Supernatural, Dance, Voodoo, Vampires—Dutch, Yakuza, Ghouls, Tokyo, Haiti, Amsterdam, Malaysia, Singapore, Secret societies, Assassination, Manga, Nightclubs, Pursuit.

Appeal:  Dreamlike, surreal, psychedelic, atmospheric, dark, foreboding, otherworldly, melancholy, moody, mystical, nightmare, eccentric, complex, well-crafted, literary, aggressive, brooding, menacing, weary, gloomy, bleak, eerie, ominous, stylish.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Surreal, atmospheric, eerie.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Theories of International Politics and Zombies by Daniel W. Drezner

A professor of international politics, Drezner attempts to explain different theories on international political systems by supposing the various schools supposed reactions to the world being overrun by zombie hordes.  For instance, how would a realpolitik reaction to zombies differ from, say, a neoconservative one.  Could there be human-zombie alliances for political gain or security?  And would shock and awe be so shocking to the already dead?

The Epic of Kings: Hero Tales of Ancient Persia by Firdausi

This book is suggested by McFerrin in a footnote contained in Dead Love regarding the origins of ghouls.  These myths and legends from the ancient world include ghouls, demons, jinn, and many other supernatural rabble-rousers.

Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting by W. Scott Poole

From colonial times, monsters have always loomed large in American culture.  This compendium examines the various things that have scared our nation senseless over the course of generations.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service by Eiji Ōtsuka and Housui Yamazaki

Not only is one of Dead Love’s chapters presented in manga form, the prose does well in evoking the visual moodiness of some supernaturally concerned manga.  In this on-going horror series, a group of students at a Buddhist college, each of whom possesses a special “power”, go into business collecting corpses while acting out the last wishes of the dead.

Thirsty by M.T. Anderson

Chris’s only desire is to be a normal teenager: hang out with friends, pursue his high school crush, etc.. Chris also lives in a world where vampires are hunted down and killed like vermin.  Much like Erin, Chris has embarked on a slow, agonizing descent toward supernatural damnation, this time by way of vampirism.  Much like Clement, Chris has his own other-dimensional puppet-master in Chet the Celestial Being, a servant of a vampire lord.  This book is also hilarious.

Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link

This very highly acclaimed collection of bizarre and humorous short stories includes the likes of zombies, witches, ghosts, superheroes and a whole bevy of supernatural delights.

Name: Bill S.

In the presence of mine enemies

March 28, 2012

Author: Harry Turtledove

Title: In the Presence of Mine Enemies

Genre: Science Fiction (Alternative Histories)

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 454p.

Geographical Setting: Berlin*

Time Period: Present-day (-ish)*

*In the Presence of My Enemies is a work of fictional alternate history wherein Germany has won the 2nd and 3rd World Wars (the 3rd resulting in the nuclear destruction of all significant American cities, and a new capital in Omaha, in case you were wondering about the home team) and has exterminated (to their satisfaction, at least—think slave labor) the world’s population of Slavs, Jews, Blacks, and a plethora of other racial, ethnic, and nationalist groups.  They are cozy with the Japanese Empire.

Series (If applicable): Not yet.

Plot Summary:  A small community of Jews, loosely allied by family and friendship, struggle to raise families, work, continue the Jewish faith, and survive clandestinely in “present day” Berlin as good “Germans” alongside their unknowing, yet legitimately Aryan, German friends and colleagues.  Adding to their many daily trials, the Reich has been hurled into a new and uncertain direction toward “reform” that leaves the Empire, and especially Berlin, in a heightened state of political and national unrest, boldness, and uncertainty, by the appointment of a progressive new Fuhrer and the political emergence of an enigmatic Party rabble-rouser (think Gorbachev and Yeltsin!).

Subject Headings: Nazi Party (Germany), Jews—German, World War 2, 21st century, Jewish families, Middle class families, Secrets, Secret identity, Identity (Psychology), Political upheaval, Political demonstration, Secret police, Police state, Fascism, Adolf Hitler, Revenge, Genetics, Germany—Politics and government, Genocide, Adultery.

Appeal: plot-driven, dark, surreal, steady, bleak, candid, claustrophobic, foreboding, melancholy, menacing atmosphere, paranoid, suspenseful, detailed, authentic, imaginative, intense, tense/anxious, multiple plot lines, thought-provoking, political, urban, concise, straightforward, ominous.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: plot-driven, dark, thought-provoking.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

While the suggestion of reading this book might seem as appealing to a reader as stabbing themselves in the eye with a fork, it does merit consideration as Turtledove’s Nazi Empire is wholly dependent on it as both their Constitution and their Bible.  While the plot line of radical reformists calling for adherence to the more democratic-minded first edition of Mein Kampf in order to extend freedoms, liberties, and self-determination to the citizens and conquered nations of the Reich is clever and ironic, the real shivers happen as it becomes clear that Hitler has achieved God-like infallibility and reverence in Turtledove’s nightmare world.

What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany by Eric A. Johnson

Can genocide become an everyday facet of society? Apparently so, the author would argue.  Over 3,000 Germans of the era (Jews and non-Jews, victims and perpetrators) took part in the research for this book.  The conclusion: the average German lived not in fear of the Gestapo or anything else for most of Hitler’s reign, but existed rather comfortably and prosperous.  The estimated 1/3 of Germany that knew of what was happening in the concentration camps, chose to ignore what was going on in their backyards, as well as those citizens that knew of the extermination through rumor.  By the time of Turtledove’s Reich, the extermination of millions (billions?) of people around the globe is viewed simply as historical fact and a privilege of the victors.  This book is a well-deserved kidney punch to German ambiguity and nostalgia when it comes to the pre-War years, as well as to those who think a movement like the Nazis could never threaten the globe again.

Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany by Marion A. Kaplan

This book attempts to answer the age-old question of why the Jews didn’t leave Nazi Germany en masse.  The author uses interviews, diaries, letters, and other first person accounts to portray a Jewish population as confused as they were frightened as the Nazis slowly stole freedom and property until they were trapped in a hostile country, completely deprived and isolated.  This book puts the machinations of genocide into motion with enough momentum to be a fully realized institution for the Jewish families in “Presence”, who know fully well any disclosure of their true identities would result in immediate execution.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Legendary and iconic sci-fi author Dick gives his version of a world in which the Germans and Japanese won the 2nd World War.  Almost a companion piece to In the Presence of Mine Enemies in depicting the goings-on on the other side of the globe, Dick portrays a 1960’s United States that is German-Japanese occupied and has reinstated slavery.  What few Jews who survived live hidden under the cloak of assumed identities.  Sound familiar?

1945: A Novel by Robert Conroy

This is another WW2 based alternate history.  The twist here is that instead of surrendering after the dropping of the atomic bombs, military extremists assume control of the nation, vowing never to surrender.  The ensuing U.S. invasion of the home island unleashes death and carnage in apocalyptic proportion.  This is all the more disturbing given the fact that in reality the Emperor being deposed in a coup by hardline generals vowing to fight to the last man, woman, and child was a very real possibility, narrowly escaped.

Into the Storm: Destroyermen, Book One by Taylor Anderson.

Again, WW2 is the stepping off point for this first book in an on-going series.  In the heat of battle the bloodies and battered destroyer USS Walker seeks escape from faster, deadlier Japanese boats by heading directly into a massive, otherworldly looking squall.  As the storm subsides, the Captain and colorful crew notice that while geographically things look familiar, everything else in the parallel Earth they find themselves trapped in is very, very different.  In no time at all, Walker is tossed into the middle of a genocidal (and carnivorous) war begun by the Grik (human sized vicious, but mindless, lizards) against the Lemurians (human sized noble and peace-loving lemurs).  As this New Earth is technologically somewhere in the 18th century, the allegiance, modern armament, and know-how of Walker and its crew may prove decisive to the fate of this world.

Name: Bill S.

A Choir of Ill Children

October 24, 2011

Author: Tom Piccirilli

Title: A Choir of Ill Children

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 238

Geographical Setting: Fictional Southern town of Kingdom Come

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: In the backwater Southern swamp town of Kingdom Come, Thomas lives in a run-down mansion with his three brothers — conjoined triplets joined at the forehead who share a single brain, feared as freaks by the rest of the town. Thomas cares for the triplets and runs his family’s mill; his father and grandfather were the town bigwigs, but the town is now so desolate that the family’s standing means little. Kingdom Come is populated by a bizarre cast of characters including “granny witches” who live by the swamp and ward against evil spirits, a preacher prone to speaking in tongues and sudden public nudity, a religious cult, and various other creeps and lowlifes; as the story opens, Thomas is also hosting two documentary filmmakers trying to make a movie about the freakish triplets. As a young girl mysteriously appears in the swamp, the town is besieged by storms, an unknown person begins abusing all the town’s dogs, and the preacher warns that “the carnival is coming,” Thomas must lead his people against the dark forces that seem to be attacking the town.

Subject Headings: Southern Gothic fiction; Horror fiction; Conjoined twins; Small towns; Superstition; Swamps

Appeal: atmospheric, bizarre, character centered, dark, disturbing, edgy, episodic, grotesque, lyrical, moody, mysterious, relaxed pace, sexually explicit, surreal, uneasy, violent

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: bizarre, disturbing, uneasyaQQ

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

• One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal by Alice Domurat Dreger [Examines case studies of conjoined twins; argues that they should not necessarily be separated, because their sense of identity is bound up in being conjoined; this is true of the conjoined twins in Piccirilli’s book]

• American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction by Allan Lloyd-Smith [Lit-crit text providing an introduction to the Gothic genre tradition that Piccirilli riffs on in Choir]

• Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture by Anthony Wilson [Overview of the importance of the swamp to Southern culture throughout history and in the present day; the swamp and its significance is a major component of Piccirilli’s novel]

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

• Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor [Southern Gothic; dark tone, character-centered, bizarre, disturbing; O’Connor influenced Choir]

• Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates [Literary horror; grotesque, atmospheric, dark]

• Softspoken by Lucius Shepard [Horror; contemporary take on Southern Gothic; bizarre family living in run-down mansion; dark, violent]

Name: Brian W.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

August 1, 2011

Author: Haruki Murakami

Title: Kafka on the Shore

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2002 (Original Publishing) 2005 (English Version)

Number of Pages: 407

Geographical Setting: Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku, Japan

Time Period: Late 20th century (1990-2000)

Plot Summary: This surreal narrative intertwines the stories of 15-year-old, runaway Kafka Tamura and middle-aged, eccentric Satoru Nakata, both who are inexorably drawn by fate to the city of Takamatsu. Kafa (under the direction of his inner advisor, Crow) runs from his father’s home, and his father’s curse, vowing to become “the world’s toughest 15-year-old”. Kafa soon finds himself working at a small private library in Takamatsu under the the affable, androgynous Oshima and the quiet, mysterious Miss Saeki. Nakata uses his ability to speak to cats to track down a missing kitten only to find himself challenged by the deranged Johnnie Walker. As these two narratives begin to draw together and intersect, the world begins to shift and twist in strange ways. The two protagonists search for the other half of themselves which they have left behind. This story bends the traditions and tropes of the “usual” story and freely juggles the intellectual and the sensual. The narrative progresses at a slow and deliberate pace, yet still sets the story with suspense. Kafka of the Shore is one of the pinnacle works of magical realism.

Subject Headings: Japan, magical realism, music, prophecy, spirituality, supernatural, art, poetry, Oedipus.

Appeal: surreal: complex, philosophical, relaxed pace, thought-provoking, contemplative, referential, imaginative, dual-narrative, well-crafted, densely written, deeply complex, mystical, mysterious, explicit, extremely vivid, haunting.

3 terms that best describe this book: surreal, intellectual, poetic

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

A Long Rainy Season: Haiku and Tanka edited by Leza Lowitz, Miyuki Aoyama and Akemi Tomioka ([the book makes reference to tanka and related poetry])

Supernatural and Mysterious Japan: Spirits, Hauntings and Paranormal Phenomena by Catrien Ross

(Japan, ghosts, supernatural, hauntings)

The Eichmann Trial: Jewish Encounters by Deborah E. Lipstadt ([The Eichmann trial becomes a theme that haunts Kafka throughout his journey])

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (magical realism, coming of age, surreal, deep, philosophical)

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles ([Referenced in the book] tragedy, curse, fate, love, death)

The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights by Richard Burton (translated) ([This is one of the books that engrosses Kafka in the story])

Pride of Baghdad

June 21, 2010

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Author: Brian K. Vaughan;  Art by Niko Henrichon

Title: Pride of Baghdad

Genre: Graphic Novel (Adventure)

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 136

Geographical Setting: Baghdad, Iraq

Time Period: 2003

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

During a bombing raid in Iraq in 2003, four lions escape from the Baghdad Zoo after it is destroyed.  Now that their wish to be free has been granted, the pride must navigate the ruined streets of the city, searching for food and shelter, things that were previously taken for granted.  As they continue their journey, it becomes apparent that the real meaning of freedom is perhaps not as concrete as the lions once imagined.

In this graphic novel that was inspired by a true event, the voices of Brian K. Vaughan’s pride are enhanced by the art of Niko Henrichon.  Using primarily oranges and greens, Henrichon presents the streets of Baghdad as both a bombed out ruin and a wild jungle.  Throughout the city, the lions encounter a horse stampede, bombs and tanks, as well as an angry bear taking refuge in a once opulent mansion.

The personalities of the lions and other creatures are heightened by the art and their dialogue is matched by their expressions and mannerisms.  The backgrounds also add to the overall feel of the story, giving a dreamlike touch to the proceedings.  A two page spread of two lions gazing at the sunset from a building rooftop is both a breathtaking and surreal sight.

Subject Headings:

Lions; Animal liberation; Independence (Personal quality); Freedom; Captive wild animals; Iraq War, 2003; Survival; Iraq – History – 2003; Graphic novels; Comic books, strips, etc.

Appeal:

thoughtful, sorrowful, emotional, cerebral, turbulent, philosophical, ironic, provocative, intense, visceral, surreal, lush, visually stimulating, elegant, bittersweet

3 terms that best describe this book: Bittersweet; Profound; Powerful

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction

1)      Shooting War by Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman

Anti-corporate blogger Jimmy Burns travels to Iraq to become a war correspondent who tell it like it is after he captures a terrorist bombing and posts it online.  He soon discovers that he may not be equipped to handle the realities of the situation in Iraq.

Similarities:  graphic novel, Iraq, influence of war, turbulent

2)      War Fix by Steve Olexa and David Axe

Journalist David Axe tells of his experiences in Iraq and the addiction of being in the thick of the battle in this pseudo-autobiographical story.

Similarities:  graphic novel, Iraq, influence of war, intense

3)      We3 by Grant Morrison

Animals used as experimental weapons escape their creators and have trouble adapting to their new found freedom.  Intense, thought-provoking and emotionally charged, this graphic novel also packs a punch visually, depicting the horrors committed by both the experimenters and the animals themselves, sometimes subtly and often graphically.

Similarities:  graphic novel, animals in peril, meaning of freedom, bittersweet

Non-Fiction

1)      A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

A tale of survival amidst chaos.

Similarities:  graphic novel, profound and powerful, depicts stories of the struggle for survival

2)      Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence

The real life events that inspired Brian K. Vaughan to write Pride of Baghdad.

Similarities:  animals in peril, war in Iraq, influence of war

3)      From Baghdad with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Jay Kopelman and Melinda Roth

Focuses on the suffering of ordinary Iraqis during the war and how one marine tried to save a stray dog named Lava by sending him to the United States.

Similarities:  animals in peril, influence of war, Iraq and Iraqi culture

Name: Valerie Kyriakopoulos

Black Hole

April 14, 2010

Author: Charles Burns

Title: Black Hole

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 368

Geographical Setting: Suburban Seattle, Washington

Time Period: Mid-1970’s

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: The lives of teenagers in a Seattle suburb are shaken up when they start developing inexplicable mutations due to a mysterious sexually transmitted disease. Some develop easily concealable mutations and others are so hideously disfigured they choose to hide in the woods as outcasts.  The plot follows a boy, Keith, and a girl, Chris, who find themselves afflicted with the bug.  The book addresses themes of teen sexuality and alienation in a surreal, horror context.  Burns artwork is richly detailed and filled with disturbing imagery that evokes the bleak nature of these teen outcast’s lives.

Subject Headings: Genetic mutations, teenagers, Alienation, teen sexuality, plague, 1970’s,

Appeal: fast-paced, dramatic, vivid, character-centered, explicitly violent, sexually explicit, tragic, evocative, small-town, bleak, haunting, uneasy, accessible, engaging, dramatic,

3 terms that best describe this book: Dark, Grotesque, Surreal

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Blankets by Craig Thompson

A memoir of author Thompson’s childhood and teen years growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family. This book contains a similarly realistic depiction of struggles of teen life as Black Hole though less bleak and without supernatural and horror elements.

Mutants: on genetic variety and the human body by Armand Marie Leroi

An examination of the factors that create biological abnormalities and how these mutations have affected the individuals profiled within the book. Readers interested how mutation was used as metaphor in Black Hole may be interested in the real world causes of genetic mutation and the lives of those who live with the effects of it.

One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry

Cartoonist Barry wrote this autobiographical novel in graphic form to exorcise the “demons” of her childhood and teenage years. Readers who enjoyed the painful depiction of the inner lives of teens in Black Hole will find Barry’s recollections equally insightful.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

From Hell by Alan Moore

Readers who enjoy the horror aspects of Black Hole will be interested in this graphic novel that tells the story of the Jack the Ripper murder that gives readers a healthy dose of historical background into Victorian era London.

Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron by Dan Clowes

After viewing a mysterious and obscene film featuring his ex-girlfriend a man attempts to find its origins. This graphic novel features grotesque imagery and shares a similarly disturbing and surreal tone and with Black Hole.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Set in a dystopian Great Britain this novel follows a group of young teen clones who have been created for organ donation. This novel shares with Black Hole elements of horror, teen protagonists, themes of burgeoning sexuality and a mysterious biomedical undercurrent.