Tag Archives: Insanity

Kotzwinkle, William: Doctor Rat (1976)

Doctor Rat gives voice to the horrors of the laboratory as seen from the eyes of the lab-animals. Driven insane by the experiments performed on him, many of them without anaesthesia, Dr. Rat encourages the other animals to do their best to be supportive of the torture they experience.

“He’s sensitive chap and it was his exquisite sensitivity that caused him to dream up the item that’s become the latest rage here at the lab: the fabulous removal of the eggs from a female rat’s body—to the tail, to the ear, to the stomach. And for the past twenty-three days, he’s been grafting them to their eyeballs!”

In 2014 one of the Nobel Prizes handed out was for showing why our brain is a GPS system. Two of those who won that prize were May-Britt and Edvard Moser.

In this video, the Moser’s look like nice people. They cuddle the rats and talk about creating lesions on their brains. As far as labs go, this lab is far from the worst. However, this video does illustrate the human position as apex predators.

One argument for experiments like the ones in Dr. Rat or the ones in the labs at NTNU goes something like this “What about medical advancement and further knowledge about improving lives?” I don’t buy that argument at all even though I have benefited and benefit from animal and human experiments. There is no good argument for humans treating lab animals the way cats treat their victims.

I could not read Dr. Rat in one go. Some of the other stories I read can be as violent, but Kotzwinkle‘s writing dug his claws of horror and despair into my brain. In the end, there is a balancing event against the torturers (not only researchers) that in no way makes up for the terrible lives of these animals. Not that such treatment surprises, or even shocks, me. This is the way many humans treat other humans. After all, humans are both predator and prey in our genetic make-up.

“What are they doing to me, Doctor Rat?”

“Let me just check my notes… yes, here we are. You’ll be the tenth rat this week to have his brains sucked out by a pneumatic tube.”

While Dr. Rat is horror, it is also humour, humour of the darker kind, the kind I like. As satire, the story does its job of criticizing society’s proclivity towards violence.

Excellent story. Most definitively recommended.


Reviews:

Duncan, Dave: Paragon Lost (A Chronicle of the King’s Blades) (2002)

If you were a bodyguard, how far would you go to protect your charge? Would you allow yourself to be raped? How about teaching friendly nations how your own people fight? Could you live with watching the other side maim and kill others because you needed to get your charge to a certain place? To what extent would you be able to hide all of these abilities behind a cheerful, charming and helpful exterior? Hmmmm.

These were some of the more serious sides to the story of Paragon Lost. Perhaps it is a good thing magic made it geas-like for the Blades to use all of their abilities. Sometimes life might make it difficult to do what needs to be done in order to save the reputation of a nation or the secrets of a nation.

Once a Blade is bonded to their ward, with a sword through their heart, no less, they seem to become irresistible to their objects of interest. Beaumont would probably never have had any problems in that area. The guy is charming and intelligent – a dangerous combination. Oak resembles his chosen name. Solid, both of body and psyche. Arkell appears weak, almost invisible, but he is anything but. He is also the most learned of the trio.

All three have to make difficult choices on their way to pick up Princess Tasha with Lord Wassail. Wassail’s health is terrible. But Wassail has no higher wish than that to fulfill his monarch’s charges. The four of them have to make changes to plans, travel through extremely dangerous areas and try to leave those areas without being harmed.

There is humor, tension, despair and action in Paragon Lost. Dave Duncan takes us into his imagination and gives us a great romp. This is great entertainment, but not solely entertainment.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Paragon Lost can be found at Harper Collins


Translation:

German: Die Verlorene Klinge (Des Königs Klingen #4)


McManamon, Michael: Glory 1 (2013)

Glory

Glory is book one of a five book series. I see that number two is now out on the market.

We enter the world of Glory at the beginning of the Apocalypse. Let me tell you, Jackson was a surprise. He is the first person we meet who seems to be affected by what is striking people.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

By now, the words meant nothing to Jackson. He could only hear sounds coming out of the old man’s mouth. He didn’t know what they meant. The concept of language had left him moments ago.

He didn’t respond.

“Are you all right?” the man asked again. Slower this time.

Jackson continued to look at the old man, but still didn’t say anything.

He looked down at the fingers touching him. He could make out the white hair on the knuckles. Grabbed him. Squeezed him. He didn’t know why this old man was touching him, but he did know that he didn’t like it. He felt anger well up inside of him.

He looked up again at the old man. The old man was smiling his skewed smile, trying to make light of the situation and find out what was wrong. To Jackson, his face caused his anger to turn to rage.

The old man. Smiling. Looking. Staring.

Jackson roared.

Then he took his knife, grasped it tightly and stabbed it into the old man’s throat. The old man’s eyes opened wide with surprise. He tried to grab at the knife as Jackson pulled it away. Blood spurted from the wound and covered the table.

It’s bizarre. People seem to turn in the space of a few minutes. All comprehension of the meaning of words or other people’s actions seems to evaporate. Anger is the prevailing emotion they are left with. Without thought of pain, hunger or consequence they just attack. In that sense they are like zombies. Otherwise they are totally different. Alien infection or some kind of engineered disease were my first thoughts.

The prologue is tense. The whole novel is intense. McMananon writes incredibly well drawing the reader into his world and keeping us there.

What we get after the prologue is easy to imagine. A total collapse of society as we know it occurs. Those who are left “normal” discover they have to stick with each other. But sticking with some of the survivors might not be such a good option. Some of them are almost worse than the diseased in that they have “all of their faculties intact”. Good people remain good and not so good people remain pretty awful.

There is some explicit violence in Glory. Sexual violence is part of that violence. Thankfully, we also encounter samaritans. All of these actions were believable. The shock, anger, helplessness, courage, violence, friendship. All of them were perfectly believable. This is probably what would happen in this world if something like McManamon’s version of Apocalypse happened.

Would I recommend Glory to young adults. NO. Glory is just too dark. On the other hand, kids these days see a lot of violence and sex that I never did back when the dinosaurs lived. Maybe it is good for them to encounter it. I know the feelings portrayed by the sexual abuse victims were pretty much the way real life abuse victims experience them.

We were left with a cliff-hanger or maybe we were already falling off it. Shame on McMananon for sending us to the edge. Glory 1 is an excellent first novel and I very much encourage you to read it.


Carlon, Lee: The Dead God’s Shadow (The Bastard Cadre III) (2013)

The Dead God's Shadow1
Cover artist Lee Carlon

The Bastard Cadre serial just gets better and better. I think I am a sucker for the traditional Hero. I have to admit that I am a sucker for just about any type of character as long as they are well written.

One example of a well written character in The Dead God’s Shadow is the Death priest Avril has his gentle encounter with. Crazy or what? That is one dedicated priest. I don’t know if it is more fun to write about the “bad guys”, but in my head it must be. I cannot even say that the Death priest was a well-rounded character because he was utterly and completely boinkers. No more than some people out there, but still …

Obduron’s dad isn’t exactly a sweetheart either. I guess that in a world left as harsh as the one Avril lives in the term “survival of the strongest” does not necessarily mean that the strong are going to be nice. Probably quite the opposite in fact. Maybe it comes from holding power for as long as Valan has.

You must know by now that The Bastard Cadre is a post-apocalyptic tale. The land is  decimated and people struggle to hold on to life. Desertification seems to be huge in the area Avril travels through. Avril is one tough dude. He is like the Energizer bunny – just keeps on going and going and going. He retains a certain kind of innocence about him in spite of the many opportunities to turn into a cynic. I think he is the kind of person I would like to be.

I keep on wondering about those gods. Who exactly are they? They aren’t immortal and they certainly do not agree on matters. In fact they war against each other using humans to fight many of their battles. Right there we can tell that they aren’t very nice nor do they care about people. I feel like throwing a hissy-fit demanding to know right now what the rest of the story is. But authors are cruel people who like to keep their fans waiting and it seems Lee Carlon is no exception to that rule.

The Dead God’s Shadow is definitely dark and so is the humor. There is something so refreshing about dark humor that cannot be found anywhere else. Carlon is subtle about his points as well. They sort of sneak up on you (well, me).


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 297 KB
  • Print Length: 146 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Clockwork Samurai; 1 edition (30 July 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU  S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E96LAMI

I was given a reviewer’s copy by Carlon. The only preferential treatment I am aware of giving is to read the novel ahead of others on my general to-read list.

Maxey, James: Bitterwood (2007)

Bitterwood
Cover art by James Maxey

Originally Bitterwood was meant to be a stand-alone novel. I guess sales must have been better than expected and therefore an invitation was extended to James Maxey to expand the tale with Dragonforge and Dragonseed. Due this expansion Maxey now has an edition of Bitterwood that brings the original story more in line with the two other novels. My review is based on the revised edition.

Bant Bitterwood’s mission in life is hunting dragons. Sent by the prophet Hezekiah he believes this is God’s will. Leaving the love of his life behind he sets out and 20 years pass in the turning of a page. While adored by many humans Bitterwood is despised and feared by the dragons who see him as the bad guy. Each story has two sides and we get to have a look at both of them in Maxey’s Bitterwood.

In this tale of action and fantasy set far into the future we see humans made into slaves and dragons more like ourselves than we might like to admit. Karma has bitten humans in their rear ends and shown them (if they only knew) that their meddling with genetics has consequences.

Early on we get to see remnants of previous technology on something that the dragons call the ghost lines. Here dragons fear for their lives for there is a very real danger of them being killed by what is within. Later on in Bitterwood we also come accross surprising pieces of technology. I think one of the reviews below reveals what that is but I shan’t.

Vendevorex (wizard dragon) is the most interesting character of the novel. Perhaps that is because his views correspond with my own in some respects. He is of the faction of dragons that believes that humans should be treated with some decency unlike his extremely feudal king Albekizan. Our own history of slavery and feudalism is reflected in this tale of dragon lords and human slaves. As our own stories tell us, rebellion is part of our past. But as with our history, the consequences of fighting the system can be devastating not only for the rebels.

Another character that I enjoyed a lot was Zanzeroth (tracker dragon). He is ambivalent when it comes to humans and their value. Age is catching up with him and he does not like it. Vanity is not only a human thing in this tale of dragons and humans.

Bitterwood is a good novel. It raises questions that ought to be raised and does so in a highly entertaining manner. Because of some of the reviews on the net I get the feeling my revised edition is quite different to the original. My recommendation is to get the revised edition of the novel.


Reviews:


  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Solaris; 1 edition (2 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184416487X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844164875
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 10.6 x 4 cm

Hudson, T.J.: The House (Charred Earth) (2012)

The House
Cover design by T.J. Hudson

Strange that not more people seem to have read this novella. The House is a tale that could just as well have been a horror tale if Hudson had twisted it slightly. All of the elements were there.

The dream of eternal life and power to rule the world have been wonderful recipes for all kinds of stories, in this case a science fiction post-apocalyptic tale. I personally do not get why people would want to live forever, nor rule the world. Imagine the boredom and insanity you would probably end up dwelling within. Maybe the yearning for this dream is a form of insanity.

I like this part of T.J. Hudson’s tale. There is certainly an exploration of the lengths some people are willing to go to in order to obtain their desires for more, more, more.

Through Char and Charlotte we get to follow the measures taken to achieve the dream of immortality and complete power and the counter-measures needed to prevent that insanity.

For some reason the reader is warned about The House being written in British English. Does one actually need that warning? I get violence and sex, but British English. Maybe the author is just taking the piss.


Clement, J.A.: The Other Nereia (On Dark Shores) (2012)

Cover artwork based on a photo by Jeffrey van Rossum
J.A. Clement is the author for the novel The Other Nereia. The Other Nereia is book no 2 of the On Dark Shores serial. I see an omnibus of books no. 1 and no. 2 has been released.

I enjoyed The Other Nereia as much as I enjoyed The Lady. Clement kept her minor-tone throughout the novel. Flowing authors make my reading experience about as enjoyable as sinking under water. There is just something about feeling the water close over my head that makes my head so happy it wants to stay there forever. See what you did to me Ms. Clement.

In trying to run away Nereia woke a feeling of community in Scarlock that had been missing for quite a while. Mr. Copeland senses this and it stirs his paranoia and insanity even more. Poor Blakey (yes, I feel sorry for him and his mom) is left trying to make things less awful for the population. Poor Nereia is left with very few choices in what to do. Novel two is a terribly wonderful novel.

Having read as many books as I have, I still find myself caring for the characters and being able to dive into worlds created in another person’s mind. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.