This is a fun story about a world that is held together loosely, but if I tell you how it is put together, I’ll ruin the story for you. I think that you will want to read this one.
The characters are interesting. There is the wizened weatherman-teacher and the young know-it-all student who gets herself in trouble though her obsessive curiosity. The story is told though the perspective of the weatherman whose job it is to watch and keep track of the ships (clouds?) that pass though the sky and warn the town when bad storms are approaching.
I think what I like most is that the world seems fully realized in just a few pages. The short story form, my favorite form, does not allow for much rambling. Every detail must count for something or space is wasted and Sanford does not waste space. Each passage builds on the previous creating a wonderful landscape and sympathetic characters.
The mystery that unravels here is the mystery of the universe. While the weatherman is obsessed at warning others to take shelter unlike his sister who died in a ship’s storm, his student find the answers in the ground beneath his house.
I hope that you check out John Sanford’s website (very cool) and enter his contest. It should be going for another week or so, just to read this great story. The bonus being that if you win, you win a free subscription in Interzone Magazine.
You can also read more about the contest at Adventures in Reading: Interzone Contest, where I learned about it.
Sanford, Jason. “The Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain.” Interzone. Issue 217. p. 14 - 21
Benny is a father. He is trying to do the best that he can by his wife and his baby boy. The local plant closed and Benny has been forced into a low paying job in a 24 hour convenience store. However, Benny is trying to better himself by taking classes at the local community college. He is holding down a fulltime job, a full course load, and seeing to his family. Benny is a hard working individual.
Benny only wants what is best for his family, but because of his schedule, he is rarely home to help out at home. The story opens with a superbly written fight between Benny and his wife that ends in her saying, “Just go to work. I’ll take care of it. Just go to work and try to be the man of the family for once.”
Those words haunt Benny throughout his shift at the store. He can’t get them out of his head. He knows that he has not been home much, but he has taken steps to see that he will be home one more day each week. He has gone from a full time to four days a week, which his employer was more than happy to accommodate. At this point in the story, Benny finds out that his shady boss took away this family’s health benefits and classified him as part-time with out his knowledge.
Meanwhile, Benny’s wife has taken their son to the emergency room because he has been sick for a week and is now burning up and has stopped moving, but because they don’t have health insurance the emergency room will not admit them without seeing one of Benny’s check stubs incase they need to garnish his wages to pay for the visit.
At the same moment that Benny’s wife calls to ask him to come down to the hospital with a stub, Benny’s is being robbed at gun point. Here is where the story takes a nasty swerve into the realm of the unreal. Benny runs after his robber with a gun. See, Benny is worried that his scummy boss will fire him for letting the robber get a way.
Benny and the robber meet up in a dark alley. They both fire. They both wake up in the store. And from here the story becomes a strange odyssey that you will just have to read and enjoy your self.
The most enjoyable parts of the novel for me were the sections told from Benny’s wife perspective while in the emergency room. These scenes are fully realized and full of economic emotion. Those with money and health insurance are rushed in and seen first while those without waited in the lobby, in some slowly bleeding out where they sat. This situation seems to mirror current conditions in The United States of America, my beloved country. I think that it is time for a change! Obama 2008! Vote 2008!
Anyway, Low Man is a good read full of surprises. I hope to see more from Vargo in the future.
Vargo, T.J. Low Man. Poway, CA: Leucrota Press, 2008
I much prefer to read and review short stories. Short stories are the focus of The Soulless Machine Review, but I do review novels. Again, novels take time for me to read.
Here is what I’m up to right now:
1. I’m reading Low Man by T.J. Vargo. It is a whorl-wind of darkness that I’m half way through. It is about a man who is down on his luck and has seemingly been sucked into a Dante-like Inferno of doom.
2. I just got a copy of In the Midst Of by C.M. Barons in the mail today. It looks really good.
3. I’m in a book club at work that is reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman.
4. I just turned my Thesis of short stories in to my committee. I’m nervous. I’ll defend it October 22, 2008.
5. My wife and I bought Spore. It is a big time suck, but I love every minute of it.
So, I’ve got my hands full right now. But, if you have stuff that you would like me to look at, please drop me an email and I’ll be happy to entertain it.
Okay, enough of that. It is time to make pork chops for dinner!
David Foster Wallace was found dead last night at his home in Claremont. He was 46.
His wife told Claremont police that the novelist and humorist who wrote 'Infinite Jest' hanged himself Friday night. He was 46.
By Claire Noland and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers September 14, 2008
This novel is combination of two of my favorite things, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and the Cthulhu Mythos. I know it sounds strange just to think about it; kind’a makes you want to scratch your eyes out. Well don’t do that, read the book and you’ll be an instant fan of Nick Mamatas.
This is a book for a true fan. To be able to really enjoy this novel a reader will have to have already read On The Road and at the very least Call of Cthulhu and At the Mountains of Madness. Mamatas is unapologetic in his use of both worlds, dipping into Beat mythology mixed with the mind bending horrors created by H.P. Lovecraft. If you are familiar with both, you should read this book for sure.
Jack Kerouac is the main character of this novel. He must relive the experiences of On The Road, except this time he must travel from the west back east to face down the mind numbing horrors that await him. On the way he will get help from all of his old buddies, including Neal, Al, and William. They will do battle with the grotesque beings that lurk just the other side of reality. Some will make the trip but few will survive.
One of the joys of this book is Mamatas’ writing. He has truly captured Kerouac’s writing style. I bet that even the most skilled literary critic would be hard pressed to tell the difference between Mamata’s Jack and the Jack of On The Road. The writing is pure Beat magic.
Again, this is one of my favorite books. If you’ve read it, let me know what you think in the comments.
Other reviews and stuff:
YouTube - Nick Mamatas: Move Under Ground
Nick Mamatas, Move Under Ground - The Green Man Review
Move Under Ground by Nick Mamatas - Bookslut
Mamatas, Nick. Move Under Ground. San Fransisco: Night Shade Books, 2004.
I try to ignore and avoid all memes, as they feel like chain letters for bloggers, guilt and all. However, I will make an exception for this one, it seems more like the chance for some harmless self-promotion.
Here are my top ten, part of the condition of accepting is to, in turn, bestow this award of blog excellence to 10 others:
Deep Thoughts With Blogagaard – He and I started our MFA at the same time. He finished a couple of years ago and now has a soon to be best selling book on the way in December, The Suicide Collectors. His blog has been fun to follow. It chronicles the struggle that a new author has in finding and securing a publicist and publisher.
Neil Gaiman’ Journal – What can I say other than this is one of my pleasure reads everyday. Not only is this blog about how he deals with the crazy rock star life style that a successful author can obtain, but also how to be a good father at the same time.
Knuckle Tattoos – It is what the title suggests, a blog dedicated to showcasing knuckle tattoos.
Adventures in Writing – This blog is really funny. You should check out his experience at this year’s comic-con.
9 to 5 Poet – The struggles of being a poet and having to hold down a fulltime job, and if that was not hard enough, being married to the ultra-needy Soulless Machine. She is also the brainchild of Attack of the Movie Watchers and Asphalt Sky.
SciFi Ranter Girl – This is best sight to visit if you want to know what kinds of SciFi are currently on TV and much much more. She is has a very unique view of SciFi that is always humorous and sometime beautifully sarcastic.
Ashcan Rantings – This is a blog that I wish had more frequent postings. It is both literary and obtuse. I find that I read almost every word that is written. The ideas are raw and exciting.
SciFiChick – Somehow she is very well connected. You should also check out her adventures at this year’s comic-con. What I really like about this blog is that she is a true fan. She mixes the personal with the reviews in a way that I like.
One Pretentious Bastard – An old college friend, Officer Gleason’s blog is angry and does not pull any punches. He also has a on and off again “Ask a Bastard” column that always makes me laugh.
Contrariwise: Literary Tattoos – This is one of my all time favorite blogs, and I just found it a few weeks ago. Every post is a picture of someone with a literary tattoo. Check it out.
And so, there you have it. Congratulations on making The Soulless Machine Review’s top ten list. There are many other great blogs out there, just check out my blog roll. They are all good!
I must, now, get back to editing. I want my thesis to be done. I’m completely sick of it.
THE SOULLESS MACHINE REVIEW August 2008
Lighting the Dark Side: Six Modern Tales by William R. Potter
+ BENT, NOT BROKEN
+ IN THE GRAY
+ PROMINENT COUPLE SLAIN
+ MAY 18, 2010
+ BLESSING OR CURSE?
+ SURVIVING THE FALL
From Guest Reviewer, Melissa Estlow:
TWILIGHT by Stephanie Meyer
From Attack of the Movie Watchers
Babylon A.D. (2008)
John Adams (2008): Part 3: Don’t Tread On Me
Step Up (2006)
Pineapple Express (2008)