http://stantlitore.com. Novelist and avid reader. “In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.” - C. S. Lewis
This is what my own series is all about.
Valley of the Dead
Permuted Press - 260 pages
The Premise: Those horrific scenes of hell, those torments of the damned, that Dante Alighieri described in the Inferno? They were inspired by zombies. Dante walked through a quite literal hell of a zombie-infested valley in eastern Europe during the years of his exile. This is the story of that walk.
Why You Need to Read it: Because this novel is equal parts nightmarish and profound. Kim Paffenroth retells a number of episodes in the Inferno, and paints a stark picture not only of the nightmare of the living dead but of the nightmares human beings can be to each other. The most terrible torments, as in the original poem, are those that the damned inflict upon themselves. There is a woman telling her story as the zombie virus slowly kills her in her dead house, vomiting up blood with her words; there are men and women who revel in the pain of others; and most of all, there is Dante and his traveling companions, struggling for hope and struggling to make meaning of the pain and suffering they witness as they travel through a rotting world. The book is smart and visceral, and Paffenroth balances insights about the human condition alongside zombie horror with the calm, unflinching grace of St. Francis of Assisi walking among the dead and dying on a Crusader battlefield. Very worth a read -- it's one of the few novels of zombie horror that both gave me pause for thought and still gives me terrible dreams.
Favorite Quote: “'No,' Dante said sadly, 'no one ever has to do anything.'”
Arwen Elys Dayton
47North - 443 pages
The Premise: The Pyramids were built by visitors from space, and remnants of their technology lies buried beneath the desert. Now their descendants must save their dying world by traveling to modern day Earth to recover the lost technology of their ancestors. Sounds cliche and horribly overwrought? Give this one moment, and read on.
Why You Need to Read it: Because Arwen Elys Dayton has done the impossible -- taken the most over-used story and told it not only fresh, but with moments of wonder that startle the heart. There is a scene where a woman from a desert world sees the Pacific for the first time; there is a scene where a man raised among an alien race to hate his fellow humans sees a woman's body for the first time; there is a scene where a woman from a medically advanced species cures an African village of Ebola with a touch. There is some of the feel and scope of old space opera here, but throughout it all runs a tremendous compassion and ability to see the small moments of love in otherwise ordinary people and ordinary occasions. This is an easy read with panache and moments of unexpected grandeur. Highly recommended.
Favorite Quote: “Think of how lucky we are. We can experience art and love and beauty. We are infinite, just as those things are infinite.”
A little perspective.
In the year 748 AD, if you wanted to read a book, an honest-to-God book, with words in it and maybe a story … you had to be one of the fifty literate people within 500 miles.
Then you had to trade something or sell something to get the book (which probably took some illiterate monks up to 2 years to copy for you). A sizable tract of land might do, or a prized war-horse, or possibly your second daughter. Then you would have: a book. One book.
It is the year 2013 AD. You have Wikipedia. You have Google. You have streaming TV and movies with low-cost memberships. If you’re into ebooks, you can buy a kindle for $79, spend an hour loading it up with 100 free classics of great literature, and you have your own library, a little larger than a wallet. If you’re not into ebooks, you can probably get a good story to read for a few dollars at your local used bookstore. Or, for free, you can visit the public library and be surrounded by more books than the total number of people that your ancestors in 748 AD saw in their entire lives.
That ought to be awe-inspiring.
Really step back and consider that for a moment.
You can afford … unlimited stories. Even if you’re broke and can’t afford FOOD, you can afford unlimited stories. You are the only generation in human history that can make such a boast.
Take a moment and think about just how incomparably wealthy and lucky and blessed that makes you.
Your ancestor of 748 AD might have been willing to sell one of his family into slavery in order to purchase the smallest literary crumb from your table.
You ought to be awed.
No matter what tragedies are besieging your life, whether financial, medical, or other … this is something to be awed about. This is something worth sitting back for a moment and thinking, “Wow.”
I am thankful to be alive and literate in such a time. We have a lot to deal with in this century, and it’s damned scary. But this…our free or low-cost access to unlimited stories…this is our biggest Wow.
Originally posted at http://stantlitore.com/2013/03/31/a-little-perspective/