Sunday, November 14, 2010

On The Nightstand: The Mostly eBook Edition

A pretty eclectic batch of books on the nightstand right now, and for the first time the majority of them are ebooks. It took me a while to embrace the whole idea of reading on an electronic device, but since I picked up an iPad in order to play with some of the new comic book reading apps, it was only a matter of time before I found myself downloading books onto it as well. What can I say? I'm a book junkie.

And while I have a number of complaints about ebooks -- careless formatting, a ridiculous number of typos in some books -- my main issue has been the limited number of titles available, even from the more widely adopted Kindle store. Most of these issues will work themselves out over time, but in the meantime, I've been reading a few things that ARE available that I never got around to reading in print editions...

First up, RIVERWORLD by Philip Jose Farmer. Never got around to reading it, though I was a big fan of sweeping Science Fiction epics that dealt with metaphysical questions when I was a kid (DUNE being one of my favorite books, after all). And as a Doc Savage junkie, I've read all of Farmer's new Doc books put out by Bantam. I liked those, but never read any of his own work. RIVERWORLD (a new edition that includes the first novels in the RIVERWORLD series) hits a lot of notes that I like and asks some big questions about religion and the afterlife, wrapping them all up in an interesting Sci-Fi package. I enjoyed this one a great deal, though the prose would probably be considered a little wooden by current standards. And I'll probably pick up the other books in the series once I'm caught up with some of my other reading.

And as an Anglophile, I'm surprised I've never read John Wyndham's THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS (which is better known as the basis for the classic film, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED). I've read several Wyndham novels over the years, including the classic DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, and loved the admittedly dated, low-key, but always entertaining feel of them. They're terrifying without hitting you over the head with blood and guts. His books are hard to find over here, and I've never gotten around to ordering a copy of this from the UK, but now it's available (along with DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS) as an ebook in the States. There's an unfortunate recurring typo in this edition (no doubt from a faulty conversion of a printed copy into digital text), but it's a good old-fashioned gripping read despite the annoyance the muddled text.

I've got another 20 or 30 ebooks sitting on my iPad waiting to be read, including Mark Gatiss' Lucifer Box novels and a stack of Arthur Machen books I've always wanted to read but could never find (Machen influenced both Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard so how could I NOT want to read him), but I wanted to mention one of the actual printed books that's on my nightstand, the new collection of Manly Wade Wellman's John the Balladeer stories, WHO FEARS THE DEVIL.

The John the Balladeer stories are legendary in Horror writing circles, but nearly impossible to find. I'd been hearing about these stories for years before I came across a reprint edition of some of them in a used bookstore here in Saratoga. I snatched it up and tore through the stories as soon as I got home, and there's a reason why they're legendary. I'm not sure I've read anything like them before, and in a funny way, they're very similar to my Fade stories. I've tried to hunt down the other John stories that weren't reprinted in that collection, but without much success. Luckily, there's a new collection of them from Planet Stories. I can't honestly say that the mix of backwoods magic and folklore is going to be for everyone, but these stories really take my breath away. Well worth checking out, even if they don't set your mind on fire the way they do for me.

One last thing, I know most people come to this blog to check out glimpses of artwork and news on new projects, so I hope you don't mind indulging me yapping about what I'm reading. Long before I was ever interested in writing or drawing comics, I was a book junkie, so I like to talk about books. I've posted these On The Nightstand pieces pretty sporadically, but I'm going to try and do one every Sunday, schedule permitting, and I'd encourage you all to talk about what's on your own nightstand in the comments section. Consider it a kind of Book Junkies Anonymous, but with more coffee.

And I'd be very curious to hear how many of you are reading books or comics on an electronic device. One of the possibilities for my personal graphic novel project will be to publish it electronically (at least at first), so I'm interested in what people think about the experience of reading on the computer, iPad, Kindle, or whatever device you're reading on.

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