Bizarre Book Club 14: Time Travelling Pimps, Not Kittens and Clockwork Girls

Welcome to a fresh batch of not-reviews (the word review is a bit scary, isn’t it? I prefer ‘Telling People About Stuff I’ve Read.’ Not quite as catchy though). Today’s pretentious book club picture (minus book, whoops!) is brought to you from A Canteen, Chelmsford’s groovy hipster cafe. If stone baked pizza, artsy bread or smoothies are your cup of tea then come on down (Disclaimer – they also have cups of tea).

Pentax Digital Camera

1. Time Pimp by Garrett Cook. This winner of the Wonderland Awards made me feel as though I was sitting on a tea cup ride at the local fair. That’s not a bad thing – sometimes on the same page I chuckled (the pimp’s assurances that he neither knows nor cares how time travel works is a recurring joke), felt disorientated and then disturbed.

Much like Dr Who coming from a race of Time Lords, apparently Time Pimps are born on a specific planet into the profession. The Pimp’s various adventures through time with his stable of surreal hoes – which includes a world after pandas have revealed an evil plan to destroy mankind – was a bit of an action packed bombardment for my tiny mind at times. I liked it though, it’s entertaining madness and if you can allow yourself to dribble down the sink with the brain melting words you’ll be just fine.

2. Kitten by G Arthur Brown. In the real world (or is it?) the kitten is not really a time-pimp-garrettkitten, it’s a deformed squirrel thing that coughs up stamps and belongs to a small boy. The not-kitten is killed by the boy’s mother (well, kind of. Just read it) and appears in an alternate reality on a Steel Planet as a real kitten. Aided by a fishy handed man, he goes on a quest for revenge.

This is a very silly book and one of my favourites. Every page was a joy and contained something I wish I’d written, from hitching a ride on a panda by pretending to be a fancy hat to the abrupt dismissal of anyone’s sad story with “we don’t have time for your crap.” I found it to be an easy, brain tickling read and I think you might too.

3. Clockwork Girl by Athena Villaverde. You get three for the price of one with this book as it contains three novellas. The first one, Caterpillar Girl, was way too goth kid for me, although if that’s your cup of tea then I recommend it. I liked the next two much more.

Clockwork Girl reminded me of a sweeter, sadder and less angry Metamorphosis (one of clockworkgirlthe characters is even called Gregor). A girl finds herself transformed into a clockwork toy and suffers at the hands of those she lives with, including her owner, a girl who tires of her when she grows up. Much like the Velveteen Rabbit she is thrown away, but always hopes to be reunited with her owner.

Beehive Girl is a sensuous tale of salsa dancing and honey, with the ultimate accolade being chosen to dance with the titular honey-combed character. However the bees inside her don’t like bad dancers and sting anyone who puts a foot wrong.

I’m not sure how Athena managed to write an entire novella about waiting to dance with somebody, but she did and it’s very pretty indeed. In fact all of the stories are simple but very sweet and pretty, and if you don’t mind the odd happy ending I definitely recommend it.

Bizarre Book Club 8: A handbook for weird writers, Sherlock v Lovecraft and Jane Austen plus sea monsters

Today’s book picture was taken in Calli-Orphic in Chelmsford, Essex.

Merry May to you all, if you’re a policeman remember not to go investigating missing girls on remote Scottish islands.Righty-ho, let’s have a look at what we’ve got.

This is exactly how I read the entire book
This is exactly how I read the entire book

1. Architectures of Possibility: After Innovative Writing by Lance Olsen. This book has been very helpful to me already and I haven’t even done any of the exercises. As well as these it has interviews with authors, analysis of ‘innovative’ novels and reading suggestions. The part of my brain which finished English Literature was very soothed by those. I won’t pretend I understood everything it told me but I’m sure you will.

2. The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas. A jolly jape through time travel, thought experiments and Victorian sideshows (briefly) all with a heroine I could relate to. The blurb on the back reads: “When Ariel Manto uncovers a copy of The End of Mr. Y in a second-hand bookshop, she can’t believe her eyes. She knows enough about its author, the outlandish Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas, to know that copies are exceedingly rare. And, some say, cursed.”

The characters spend a lot of time discussing physics and philosophy and, again, I can’t pretend I understood it all, but it taught me quite a bit and by the time things got weird I was hooked. It fed my imagination and my brain at the same time, like mind fish and chips. Or probably something fancier than that, like in a restaurant in London, or something.

3. Shadows Over Baker Street edited by Michael Reaves and John Pelan. This anthology of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraftian myth contains Neil Gaiman’s award winning A Study in Emerald which is, of course, very good. There are a couple of other good ones but I noticed Sherlock Holmes seemed a bit…tired or distracted in some of them, and the endings of a fair few seemed to trail off into a puff of seagulls. However this is only my opinion and I’m still glad I have this, which is why I included it in the list.

4. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H Winters. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. OK, so it’s a completely daft retelling of a regency love story mixed with giant crustaceans and tentacled monsters but it’s entertaining and quite funny.

I reckon you’ll have to find the original style of writing enjoyable enough as it’s far from a simple read, but I found the addition of man-eating fish improved things. I hope I’m not struck down by some literary God before getting the chance to see the BBC adaptation. For those interested here’s a blog post on how it was written.

So long, fare well, please avoid any wicker men. Bye!