Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Book of Lies: Liber CCCXXXIII (1912)

Author: Frater Perdurabo (Aleister Crowley)  |  Page Count: 200

'The more necessary anything appears to my mind, the more certain it is that I only assert a limitation.'

To give it its full title, 'The Book of Lies: Which is also Falsely Called BREAKS. The Wanderings or Falsifications of the One Thought of Frater Perdurabo, which Thought is itself Untrue. Liber CCCXXXIII', is perhaps the most accessible of Crowley's published works. The deeper, hidden meanings relating to his magickal philosophies are there to be deciphered and will, no doubt, be recognisable to members of the A∴A∴ and O.T.O., but there's enough disclosure in the footnote commentaries (added later but included in most current editions) to explain certain things to the uninitiated, to enable even a complete newcomer to follow many of the Qabalistic threads and understand that structure is as important as content.

It's a fascinating read even if you've no intention of taking the study further. He was aware of his reputation—at times he even orchestrated and encouraged it—but what may surprise people is how sharp a sense of humour the ‘Great Beast’ had. The title is an indication, but there are numerous instances within the book.

Also of note is Crowley's ability to use words as succinctly and beautifully as the poets did. There’s no doubt he was well-read in philosophy and theosophy, etc, but he also shows an impressive disposition for poetry. There's some awful rhyme included throughout, but its clearly intentional. I believe that had he wished it, had his life taken a different path, he could've excelled in a different kind of art.

If you do want to connect more dots it's necessary to have a copy of The Book of the Law (Liber AL vel Legis) (1904) nearby, but know that doing so may raise more questions for the inquisitive mind than it provides answers.

5 epigrammatic forms out of 5

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Satoshi Kon's OPUS (2014)

Author: Satoshi Kon  |  Illustrator: Satoshi Kon  |  Page Count: 384

"It's like I was flying forever... but then somehow ran out of forever."

OPUS focuses on a stressed-out writer/artist named Chikara Nagai. His current project is a serialised manga titled Resonance. It's nearing its end but Nagai’s having trouble with some of the characters, they don’t want to go where he needs them to be in order to advance the story. It’s a common problem for fiction writers of lengthy works: the characters either get written into a corner or take on a life of their own and become problematic. In Satoshi Kon’s hands that notion exploded into a wild, spiralling metafiction wherein the pressured creator ends up closer to his creation than he ever thought possible.

It begins with pages from the Resonance manga, meaning our first exposure is both an (almost) ending and a beginning. There are even adverts for previous Resonance volumes, helping to sustain the illusion that it’s a real product. It has its own unique story with purposeful clichés working in tandem with originality, but it's the larger story that'll draw you in a lot more.

There’s no doubt that Satoshi would've used his own experiences within the profession as a basis for the work. Some of the events in Nagai’s life have even been documented as happening in Satoshi's, so it‘s fair to assume that it’s at least partially autobiographical in nature. Most of the best stories are.

NOTE: You ought to know before deciding whether or not to pick up the collection that it’s not finished and it never will be. Sadly, Satoshi Kon passed away in 2010 leaving the anime/manga world a less colourful place. The 2014 Dark Horse edition contains all of Volumes I and II written in 1995-96 but not previously translated into English. Volume I is filled with mind-bending action. Volume II continues in the same vein but also goes to some very dark places.

The DH edition also has a never-before-seen chapter that in some ways eases the ‘no ending’ situation. I like to think that Kon would be pleased it was discovered and included; you'll understand why I say that if you read it.

5 P-MODEL albums out of 5

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Children of Dune (1976)

Author: Frank Herbert  |  Page Count: 426

'When you believe something is right or wrong, true or false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments.  Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.'
-The Open-Ended Proof from The Panoplia Prophetica

More than twenty years have passed since Duke Leto Atreides of Caladan first set foot on the arid landscape of Arrakis. Much has changed in that short time. The descendants of Leto are now children of Dune.

In a manner similar to how the ducal signet ring has passed to more than one successor in that time, so too has an important part of the story’s focus. While the planet is always the largest concern, it's arguably the characters that make any book worth reading, so we have the twins, now aged nine. They explore their origins while their aunt goes ever-deeper into the political and religious realm, for reasons that she keeps secret, scheming how best to make even the most desperate situation an advantageous link in the chain of practical eventualities.

Herbert’s presentation of the twins is amazing. Their heritage gifts them with certain talents and knowledge that belies their age, accentuating the almost magical bond that exists between a brother and sister born from the same womb only seconds apart. Each is able to instinctually know what the other is thinking, or, at the very least, make an informed judgement call on how their sibling would respond to any given situation, to anticipate reactions and even to allow for the unknown. When confronted with a problem, familial or otherwise, they've more than one perspective to draw on. When they debate it’s like one mind questioning itself, excising the incorrect assumptions to leave only the correct path. However, it's a situation filled with just as many dangers.

For a time the book is heavily-weighted towards the women. The Reverend Mother role of the old religion never really went away; like everything else it changed and adapted to fit the political climate.

Previously we had a voice from the ‘outer world’ bringing change. Now there’s a voice from Dune itself, a figure from the planet’s past known only as The Preacher, passing judgement on the present situation, on the religious beliefs of the Fremen, on the ecology and on the state of rule.

I've chosen to highlight only a small part to avoid spoilers, but there’s a lot more to be discovered. For example, most of us will know how easily the mind slips into romanticising what’s past after change has occurred; the effect that has on larger concerns can be immeasurable and remain unseen by the populace who are a integral part of it. Remember also that the ‘Children’ of the title is more than literal and can be applied in a broader sense to more than just the twins.

5 divergent motives out of 5

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Dreaming: Beyond the Shores of Night (1998)

Authors: Terry LaBan / Peter Hogan / Alisa Kwitney | Illustrators: Peter Snejbjerg / Steve Parkhouse / Michael Zulli  |  Page Count: 208

The likeliest hypothesis we’ve come up with is that we're dead.  Everything else seems too far-fetched.”

The first regular offshoot of The Sandman.  It lasted an impressive 60 issues, most of which have unfortunately never been reprinted.  Besides the one you’re reading about, the only other available TPB is Through the Gates of Horn and Ivory (1999), and there’s a single issue included in The Sandman Presents: Taller Tales (2003).  The rest are only obtainable by seeking out the original single issue publications and that’ll likely cost a lot more than they were originally worth.  I wish I could say that I have them already, but I don't.

Beyond the Shores of Night contains three stories all set in or around elements of the Dreaming.  Does it have any Sandman characters?  Yes.  It’s much too difficult to skirt around which ones exactly because they’re prominent in all three, so I'm just going to go ahead and say.  It’s what most people want to know, anyhow.  If you’re not one of those people, then please don’t read any further.

01. The Goldie Factor:
A three-part tale about Abel’s pet gargoyle, Goldie, whose origins have hitherto been shrouded in mystery.  All we'd been told previously is that, in an uncharacteristic gesture of niceness, Cain gave her to Abel while she was still an egg.  Even the little winged creature doesn't know where she came from.  But all that is about the change.  It’s not the most exciting adventure and some of it's clearly filler to get it across three issues, but the ending is memorable and it’s good to see the sad-faced gargoyle get something meaningful to do.

02. The Lost Boy:
A four-part story featuring a returning Sandman secondary character that I don’t have to name.  Yay.  Unfortunately the person speaks with an accent and is written to reflect that, meaning it’s as irritating to read as Abel’s dialogue was in the previous work.  Again, the story is longer than it ought to have been.

03. His Brother’s Keeper:
A one issue tale that’s much closer to the kind of storytelling found in the original Sandman series.  Perhaps the previous two stories were an attempt to get away from it—it is a separate title after all—but it doesn't change the fact that His Brother’s Keeper is by far the best of the three.  It begins as an unscheduled meeting in the House of Mystery and develops into something much darker.

Overall, it could be a lot better than it is, but revisiting the Dreaming, even in a lesser way, is still an enjoyable way to spend some waking time.

The book collects together The Dreaming, issues 1 - 8.

3 personal hells out of 5