This month's reads pleased me.
THE BEARDLESS WARRIORS by Richard Matheson
If I am tracking everything correctly, this would complete my library of every Richard Matheson novel (except his collection of short stories). One of the things I love most about Matheson is his range of genres which he writes in. His catalogue contains horror, science fiction, thriller, romance, western, time travel, fantasy and even a novel or ghost erotica (yes, you read that correctly). This is a WWII novel following an eighteen-year-old, Hackermeyer, who finds himself rapidly changing in the fast-paced, bloody and frightening events which take place quickly after his enlistment. Within a week of combat he realizes he's becoming hardened and full of anger. He's surrounded by a cast of character which are developed well (and sometimes not at all--for one can be gone in an instant in war) over the traumatic and dangerous assaults they find themselves in. This book reminds me of a favorite novel of mine: Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers. It's the first book I can remember actually choosing for myself on a book report. The camaraderie and bond between soldiers was ever present in that read, along with the hilarious banter that comes with being in such a dark place as war. In Matheson's work I truly enjoyed a specific relationship between the main character and a general who plays a sort of father figure to the boy. It was those moments that helped carry the book along for me. At points, and maybe this is my own issue, it just seemed like something I'd read or seen before numerous times in a movie. World War II has a long list of content that's been made in attempts to bring the reality to life. But I thought Matheson's relationship between those two characters helped make it stand out. It's not my favorite Matheson read but it was still an enjoyable read. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves war fiction or history. But if it's your introduction to Matheson I would go a different route.
They were halfway across the plain when the sharp, whistling noises sounded overhead. Hackermeyer stopped and listened, wondering what it was. It sounded as if some unseen giant in the sky were blowing impatiently on his soup. (pg. 37)
"Discipline ain't the key," Cooley said as if reading Hackermeyer's mind. "And drilling ain't the key. Combat breakdowns ain't breakdowns of discipline or drilling. They're human breakdowns. Or human breakthroughs!" he said, pointing at Schumacher. "Some of the best soldiers are guys who've been nothing all their lives. When it counts is when they prove themselves. And, by God, you never know who it's going to be."
Hackermeyer stared at Cooley. It was as if the sergeant were addressing him personally. Was it possible that every lack and failure in life could be, somehow, compensated for in combat? Hackermeyer shivered with a sudden, strange excitement. (pg. 153)
"You think it helps?" asked Hackermeyer.
"Being an undertaker?"
"No, the Bible."
"Well, it surely does, Hackermeyer. It most surely does. I defy you to open up the book at random and fail to find a word of consolation."
"Here, try," said Fearfeather, holding out his Bible.
Hackermeyer took it and looked down at the cover.
"Go on," said Fearfeather. "See for yourself."
Hackermeyer opened the book and leafed through it.
"What does it say?" asked Fearfeather.
"And they committed whoredoms in Egypt," Hackermeyer read; "they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and--"
"Now, Hackermeyer," chided Fearfeather. "You know you picked that out on purpose." (pg. 158)
THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy
This is my first experience with Cormac McCarthy's writing. I've seen No Country for Old Men but never knew it was based on a book. I remember seeing the trailer for The Road years back and wanted to see it but never did. Anyway, now I finally get to read the book and see what's up with Cormac McCarthy. At first glance I was weary about his writing style because it's different than most. There aren't quotations for dialogue, with no chapter breaks and numerous paragraphs--one after another with varying sizes. The style grew on me and I actually enjoy the uniqueness of it. Besides that, the story was phenomenal. Of course, there are plenty of end of the world books (I wrote one in a way myself) but I can't help but be drawn in by such a story. But the special thing about this book is that it's not really the focus of the story. The father-son relationship takes the forefront. A man and his boy, traveling a road trying to find safety from all sorts of dangers. There aren't any zombies, infected people or biohazards creatures coming after them. It's a world covered in ash and people are the most terrifying thing you can come across. Throughout the pages I found myself on edge and never knowing what was going to happen next. Then there were the moments between the father and son that were simple, sweet and sometimes depressing. But what's conveyed is the difficulty of parenting in the reality of a world destroyed, yet still carrying the baggage from the world before. While it's heartbreaking at times, it's also heartwarming on plenty of other occasions. Even if end of the world type stories aren't your flavor, I think this one would be enjoyable to all.
They passed through the city at noon of the day following. He kept the pistol to hand on the folded tarp on top of the cart. He kept the boy close to his side. The city was mostly burned. No sign of life. Cars in the street caked with ash, everything covered with ash and dust. Fossil tracks in the dried sludge. A corpse in a doorway dried to leather. Grimacing at the day. He pulled the boy closer. Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.
You forget things, don't you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget. (pg. 12)
Yeah. He looked at the boy. You wont shoot, he said.
That's what you think.
You ain't got but two shells. Maybe just one. And they'll hear the shot.
Yes they will But you wont.
How do you figure that?
Because the bullet travels faster than sound. It will be in your brain before you can hear it. To hear it you will need a frontal lobed and things with names like colliculus and temporal gyrus and you wont have them anymore. They'll just be soup. (pg. 64)
They ate a cold supper of cornbread and beans and franks from a tin. The boy asked him how the tank had gone empty so soon but he said that it just had.
You said it would last for weeks.
But it's just been a few days.
I was wrong.
They ate in silence. After a while the boy said: I forgot to turn off the valve, didn't I?
It's not your fault. I should have checked.
The boy set his plate down on the tarp. He looked away.
It's not your fault. You have to turn off both valves. The threads were supposed to be sealed with teflon tape or it would leak and I didn't do it. It's my fault. I didn't tell you.
There wasn't any tape though, was there?
It's not you fault. (pg. 176-77)
THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU by H.G. Wells
The only other H.G. Wells book I've read is Tono-Bungay and I really enjoyed it. I came across it at a used book store and had never heard of it, a great find. I knew Wells had some other more well-known classics though. And this was my opportunity to see what it was all about. It did not disappoint. This story is about a sea voyager who comes to an island and subsequently gets stuck on it. He eventually finds out that things may not be what he thought they were on this island. Eventually he finds people and animals are being tested on, in immoral ways might I add. This leads him on an insane journey of trying to figure out what's happening, try to change things and ultimately attempt to get off the island. There are plenty of bumps along the road and fun characters to interact with. At the end is a nice surprise afterword by Brian Aldiss who I reviewed recently. He helps explain some of the metaphorical aspects dealing with the times of Well. Aspects of religion vs. science and the arrogance often found in both fields, and the results that are produced by each field. The story serves on multiple levels and for that, I think it's a great classic story that is still relevant for today.
I stared before me out at the green sea, frothing under a freshening breeze, and let these and other strange memories of the last few days chase each other through my mind. (pg. 54)
They were staggered at my assurance. An animal may be ferocious and cunning enough, but it takes a real man to tell a lie. (pg. 188)
Thanks for reading and if you take any of these recommendations I hope you enjoy the read! Also, I always say I'm going to write more on here but I actually do have some updates to write on. And I hope to do so soon. We shall see.