Archive for July, 2007

The Last Apprentice: The Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

Posted in Fantasy, Horror on July 29, 2007 by Ishrath Farhana

Brrr. There is a reason this cd comes with the warning: Not to be listened to after dark. Chilling and nail biting as Joseph Delaney is, the performance by the haunting and urgent baritone of Christopher Evan Welch sends goosebumps up and down the spine. Find an excerpt as well as an audio clip here. The cover illustration by Patrick Arrasmith is excellent.

Being the seventh son of a seventh son means that Thomas Ward can hear the ghasts of hanged men up on a hill near his home. He can sense and see things that would frighten  the stoutest of hearts. It seems logical then that, at 12, Thomas  “…was going to learn how to protect farms and villages from things that go bump in the night. Dealing with ghouls, boggarts, and all manner of wicked beasties would be all in a day’s work. That’s what the Spook did, and I was going to be his apprentice.”

Unfortunately, Alice, a pretty girl with pointy shoes persuades Thomas to feed some sticky cakes to a witch trapped underground by the spook. Now Thomas must go head to head with a particularly nasty witch and her kin before lives are lost. There are plenty of nasty ends, bitten off fingers, and baby eating witches here to frighten off the weak.


The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates

Posted in Fiction on July 28, 2007 by Ishrath Farhana

It begins with man committing suicide by plunging over Niagara Falls the morning after his wedding night. His wife, Ariah, spends seven days in the mist waiting for the falls to disgorge his body. Local attorney Dirk Burnaby is transfixed by this “Widow Bride of The Falls” and he pursues her.

Marrying Dirk once again brings Ariah to Niagara Falls to begin a new marriage and a new life. As the years pass, Ariah and Dirk create a seemingly perfect existence for their family. But the tragedy that began their life together shadows them, eventually eroding their happiness. Later, Dirk’s obsession is the legal representation for the first Love Canal victims, and his dogged pursuit of it ruffles the feathers of powerful men, who then murder him by throwing him in the Falls.

In the end, it is Dirk and Ariah’s three children who are forced to deal with their parents’ legacy of dark secrets, unresolved emotions, and cruel truths. Chandler, Royall, and Juliet Burnaby each seek their answers in a different way. What they discover not only helps them come to terms with their loss, but their mother as well.

As a story, this one tends to meander excruciatingly in parts.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Posted in Asimov, SF, Short Stories on July 28, 2007 by Ishrath Farhana

He is credited with coining the word “robotics”.  This is the first ever volume of robot stories that Asimov wrote. For SF afficionados, Asimov’s formulation of the Three Laws of Robotics is practically canon.  The Three Laws, famously, are

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

And now this well-loved volume is available in audio format.  My contention with this cd was the cover, which misleadingly uses Will Smith in the lead role of a movie which is a spin-off loosely based on one of Asimov’s robot stories. In fact, I thought I was picking up the audio version of the movie. The original dustjacket illustration is presented here on the left, and on the right is the cover on the paperback edition. 

The stories themselves were vaguely familiar. The problem was that I had read many other robot stories in Asimov’s collections and several anthologies, and I seemed to remember different endings to some stories. In some cases, I was sure that other stories were supposed to be included here, which weren’t.

Spelling with Flickr

Posted in Uncategorized on July 14, 2007 by Ishrath Farhana

Thanks for the link, Lotus.


Little White Lies

Posted in Mental Illness, Psychological Thriller on July 12, 2007 by Ishrath Farhana

David March finds a dead bird on  the porch, and the broken body of the swallow is hte first omen. Beth March’s quiet, unexceptional and conventional life descends into a  from their joint nightmare when David drives his car full speed into a truck and is killed instantly. She finds that he has taken out all his funds from  their bank account, besides remortgaging their house, and was in  the process of seemingly eloping with someone on the day of his accident. From her solicitor, to her neighbors, to her friends, no one seems to be telling her the truth, no one can be trusted. As Beth tries to unravel the events that led to David’s death, she finds that it is her next door neighbor Julia, suffering from Münchhausen’s syndrome by proxy is behind the dead birds, the threatening notes, the involvement with and blackmail of David, and the novel thunders away to a climax.  

This is British author Elizabeth McGregor’s debut novel, and was serialized on the BBC Drama series.  

When We Were Gods

Posted in Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra, Historical/Biographical, Julius Ceasar, Marcus Antonius, Roman Empire on July 3, 2007 by Ishrath Farhana

For the past three days, Colin Falconer’s epic narration of Cleopatra’s life has engrossed and enchanted me. It is an oft-speculated and oft-recounted tale, but Falconer weaves history with very real character portraits which give drama and tension to the story.

The book takes one back to the days of the Roman Empire at the height of its power and imperial conquests, when none dared to stand against the vast legions of Rome. Yet this was the time when Egypt was reborn with the ascension of Cleopatra VII with the death of her father Ptolemy IV, the Piper, the Bastard. These different worlds are destined to clash in a climactic struggle.

The image that everyone has of her as a harlot and a rebel is unjust when compared to the rich tapestry that Falconer weaves of this woman with great intellect, cunning, and loyalty. The young queen with an ugly family history, she lives in a snake pit surrounded by enemies ready to strike at any time. Whether it is her sister or her brothers, Cleopatra must compete not only for the throne, but also for survival.

Amid the intrigues of the court, the reader watches her grow into her famous role. Alone in a world of deception, she proves to be made of steel. She assumes the throne immediately after her father’s death, defying the tradition of women consorts and male rulers. She further defies tradition by becoming the Queen of Egypt instead of the king’s consort.

She learns to manipulate the masses of Lower Egypt by “becoming” the goddess Isis. Her transformations, although artificial, sweep the reader away with a colorful visions of divinity reincarnated.

Her political policies also begin to fully develop when, with the help of a Sicilian merchant, she smuggles herself into Roman-occupied Egypt. Her goal is to seduce Caesar into reinstating her birthright. She gets more then what she bargains for when she finds herself falling in love with this much older man. When she gives birth to the son and heir for Caesar, she dreams not only of the preservation of Egypt, but the beginning of a dynasty that will be the ruler of both Egypt and Rome.

With Caesar’s assasination, her future is once again in turmoil, and she casts her lot with Marc Antony, the dissolute general of Caesar’s legions, and lives out history to its inevitable tragic end.