Astonishing beauty lies in the eye of the predator: The Devourers by Indra Das / Belleza increíble yace en los ojos de un depredador: The Devourers de Indra Das

Note: The Spanish translation following this post is by Daniela Toulemonde. 

Having read several of Indra Das’s short stories (reviewed here), I ordered his first novel, The Devourers, as soon as I could find the North American edition from Del Rey Books. It arrived when I was in the last leg of my WIP’s second draft, so I sat it on my desk and admired the cover, illustrated by Chris Panatier, for three weeks before I so much as read the title page.

Devourers

Sorry for the sloppy photo of The Devourers cover. Hats off to artist and illustrator Chris Panatier for capturing the novel’s wonder and beauty.  

When I finally started the first chapter I was afraid I had such high expectations I would be disappointed and absolutely unfair to the author. I was not disappointed. I was overwhelmed by Das’s shape shifters, the beautiful writing and the creatively imagined Indian landscapes from the 17th century to today. This one is going to win prizes, people. I promise you that.

Here’s a little taste of Das’s writing.

When the sun rested at noon we passed a group of resting dervishes under the greened shade of a chinar tree, turbaned heads bobbing in a drugged stupor from drinking bhang, and I wondered whether I, too, had been drugged into a trance days long. I felt fevered, whether from the strangeness of these days or simply from catching a cold I couldn’t say. The holy men basked in winter light falling through the leaves, their reddened eyes rolling to watch us pass them by, their fingers soiled from crushing the buds and leaves they put into their potions. I wanted to ask them: Can you see this bone-white man walking beside me, dressed in pelts and hauling fardels? Can you see the thing he can become? Have you spied it at night, galloping across the land? Gévaudan peered at them with hungry eyes, and the air sang with silence.

The Devourers begins as a buddy story, and our protagonist, a history professor named Alok Mukherjee, is a bit Vyasa, a bit Watson, a bit Clarice Starling. His casually met counterpart identifies himself as half werewolf in their first encounter and puts Alok into a trance where he has visions of even stranger characters in a story that the half werewolf tells him. The history professor is hooked and compelled to discover more about this strange man, and so was I. Continue reading

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The first Ray Bradbury Day is today!

I hereby proclaim today, August 22nd 2016, to be the first Ray Bradbury Day, which shall be celebrated every year as a tribute to this great American writer and also to the idea, dramatized in Fahrenheit 451, that books and stories are important. There are many reasons to celebrate writing of all kinds, but, at the heart of it, the importance of books rests on the fact that they record and bear witness to human civilization, especially the imagined worlds that exceed our reality. No book can ever really be destroyed so long as we cherish and remember the stories within.

A piece of the first chapter in Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente is my choice for presentation this year. It’s one of my favorite books and beautifully written.

For more on what inspired this exercise and how you can join in, check out my post here. We’re using #RayDay on Twitter. If you decide to celebrate Ray Bradbury Day, please send me a link to your presentation.

Review: “Pockets” by Amal El-Mohtar–nominated for World Fantasy Award / Reseña: “Pockets” de Amal El-Mohtar– nominado al Premio Mundial de Fantasía

Note: This is the second review of a nominee for the 2016 World Fantasy Awards. You can see my review of Alyssa Wong’s nominated story “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” here. (Wong’s story also won the Nebula Award this year.) The Spanish translation following this post is by Daniela Toulemonde.

Nominated for the World Fantasy Award for short fiction published in 2015, Amal El-Mohtar’s story “Pockets” is indeed very short. Unfortunately the story’s substance is also very thin. Now, before you dear readers skewer me for this opinion, let me concede that I may not be the best reader for El-Mohtar’s work. I’ve enjoyed several of her earlier stories, but I admit that her recent Nebula-nominated story “Madeleine” also did not completely satisfy my taste in fantasy short stories.

“Pockets” is primarily communicated through dialogue among three characters, and this is not the story’s problem. El-Mohtar is incredibly gifted at writing dialogue that is well-paced and illustrative of scenes without excessive stage direction. The story focuses on the exchange between three women who are trying to understand the reason why multiple odd things are somehow materializing in one woman’s pockets. It is sweet and very thoughtful. And that’s it. It’s got no umpf. Continue reading

Let’s remember Ray Bradbury and celebrate our favorite books on August 22nd

I have always wanted to find a fitting tribute for Ray Bradbury to express how much I loved his writing and how grateful I was to have discovered him when I was a young reader. I wish I had come up with a tribute while he was living, but nothing is perfect and it’s never too late to celebrate greatness so I am going to make my tribute on his birthday–August 22nd–and I invite you to join me.

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Until Bradbury’s death in 2012 he entertained and enthralled us during his long career with novels like Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes, collections like The Martian Chronicles, and dozens and dozens of short stories. Before I had read any of these works–I must have been around 7 years old–I remember seeing the film Fahrenheit 451 on TV. I didn’t understand much of the movie, but I was really intrigued by the ending where everyone was memorizing books and reciting them, in a camp in the woods.

A few years later, when I read the book, this idea about the fundamental importance of reading deeply impressed me. For the first time in my life, I felt it was not only okay for me to do it, but it was actually important. Bradbury opened a door for me that changed my life, and I know I wasn’t the only one.

So here’s my idea. Let’s celebrate “Ray Bradbury Day” (#RayDay) on August 22nd by memorizing a short excerpt from any book you cherish. Record your excerpt on audio or video and share it with your friends in any way that makes sense to you. Here’s an example.

If you clicked on that last link you saw me recite a little from Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s not a climactic scene, but for all we associate with Bradbury — Martians, space, the future, horror — that novel is a testament to Bradbury’s ability to convey love for messy human beings through tender and thoughtful writing. Who better to celebrate and how better to celebrate the importance of the written word — an issue close to Bradbury’s heart — than taking cherished written words, preserving them in our minds and sharing them with others.