Murmur reviews short stories
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Author:  Murmur [ Mon Aug 07, 2017 2:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

I listened to a Sherlock Holmes radio play today. It's from March 11, 1946. It's called The Living Doll. It was an entertaining show. However, this was, by far, the dumbest solution to a mystery I have read/heard for a Sherlock Holmes story.

The dumbness is as follows.

1. Three suitors, named Tanner, King, and Pound, are pursuing a woman. Each wants to marry her.
2. She has a daughter, and she refuses to marry so she can devote her time to her daughter.
3. One of the men wants to murder the daughter, so that the woman will be available to marry. He wants to use black magic. A crone is employed to help him with this.
4. The magic fails, and the would-be murderer attempts to kill the crone.
5. Holmes reaches the crone's home while she is being throttled, and interrupts the murder. The murderer escapes. While she is still alive, she opens a secret hiding place in her home. It was covered by a loose brick. She removes it and inside are gold sovereigns, pennies, and sixpence. She pulls out a sixpence and shows it to Holmes. She moans and dies.
6. The word "sovereign" means king. But it's worth a pound. So a sovereign is related to the last names of two of the suitors.
7. However, the crone held a sixpence. The common name for sixpence is "tanner". Thus, she was indicating that Tanner was the murderer, and he was.

Oh, come on! How lame is that!

Author:  teachwithoutlimits [ Sat Aug 12, 2017 4:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

I remember that great story written by Leo Tolstoy "What Men Live By." This is really very nice. I was still 2nd year high school at that time.

Author:  Murmur [ Sun Aug 13, 2017 5:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

Best Ghost Stories of J.S. LeFanu

I read the story Squire Toby's Will many years ago. It is a jewel in English literature. It's a creepy story and incredibly well written. So, I decided to read some more from LeFanu. This book has a few good stories. Sadly, a substantial portion of the book is a bore and fairly dense. The most notable stories in the book are:

1. Squire Toby's Will. Already mentioned.
2. Carmilla. This story is the literary predecessor of Dracula. It's clear that Stoker borrowed some pieces from Carmilla. I'm pretty sure that this was made into some radio plays. Carmilla was made into more than one movie. The movie that was the most faithful to the source material is the soft core porn movie The Vampire Lovers. The story Carmilla has some lesbian-ish aspects, so the fact that The Vampire Lovers is erotic isn't so outlandish.
3. Green Tea. A creepy red eyed critter bothers a guy. This was made into some radio plays.

Squire Toby's Will should be made into a movie. If you intend to read Squire Toby's Will, don't view the spoiler below.

Squire Toby's Will is considered one of the most well written stories in the English language. I agree with that. I was amazed at how English words were used to evoke dread, in particular the part about following the shadows created by candle light.

Recommendation: Sadly, I must say skip it. However, read Squire Toby's Will, Carmilla, and Green Tea. Find them on gutenberg or some free site.

Author:  Murmur [ Sun Aug 13, 2017 6:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

Beyond the Stars
A Planet Too Far
A Space Opera Anthology

This is a very good collection of sci fi stories. Most sci fi stories have male protagonists, especially older stories. These stories have a noticeable female orientation. Female protagonists in this book are common. Women with authority are common. About half of the authors in this book are women, and each author has a brief interview with the editor at the end of each story.

Each story is its own universe. The authors do a good job in the creation of their respective universes.

Some stories are:

1. The Mergans. It's a story about a hideous culture that is supremely oppressive, and the destruction of that culture.
2. Services Rendered. This story is like the prequel to another story of a motley crew of spacers who go on space adventures. Actually, I think that's exactly what it is.
3. Spike in a Rail. An adventure aboard a space station. Sort of like a mystery.

Recommendation: Read it if you like sci fi.

Author:  Murmur [ Mon Aug 21, 2017 4:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

The Cyberiad
by Stanislaw Lem

I haven't finished this book yet. I've read half of it so far. I want to write a review of it now while a lot of it is fresh in my mind.

This is one of the best books I have ever read. It's a humorous sci fi book. It's a collection of short stories, all within the same universe. The protagonists are a duo of "constructors" named Trurl and Klapaucius. Most of the denizens of the universe are robotic, including the protagonists. Trurl and Klapaucius are extraordinarily inventive and are capable of building machines that can perform god-like feats.

The stories were written around 1965 in Polish, and translated around 1974 in English. This is a curious thing to me, because the stories very heavily rely on combinations of English words. I'll just use wikipedia's favorite word to label them: portmanteus. For example, there's a machine called a "femfatalatron". That's a combination of the phrase "femme fatale" and adding the suffix "tron" to make it sound like a machine. There's a device called a "dracometer" for detecting dragons. Some royalty have the names Atrocitus, Excelsius, and Altruizia. So, how was this done in Polish? It seems to me that the Polish language must have an equal capacity for portmanteus and word play as English.

A lot of the logic in the book is Wonderlandian. Unfortunately, I can't remember any examples to provide in this post.

One of my favorite pairs of sentences (paraphrased) in the book is:
Klapaucius was in a spaceship, and he was flying past a planet. He saw someone waving at him so he stopped.

Recommendation: If you like sci fi, read it.

Author:  Murmur [ Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

I have read The Cyberiad twice now. It's a spectacular book, to put it simply. This English translation of the book is a jewel of brilliant art. I wonder if the original Polish is as good.

Here are a few snippets from the book.

1. Scene. Trurl and Klapaucius have to devise a foe for a king to hunt. It has to be an especially powerful foe because the king has fought a bunch of other mechanical creatures built by other constructors, and they all failed, and he executed or tortured these other constructors. Here we see Trurl and Klapaucius testing and experimenting with their algorithms for their mechanical monster.

So they rolled up their sleeves and sat down to experiment -- by simulation, that is mathematically and all on paper. And the mathematical models of King Krool and the beast did such fierce battle across the equation-covered table, that the constructors' pencils kept snapping. Furious, the beast writhed and wriggled its iterated integrals beneath the King's polynomial blows, collapsed into an infinite series of indeterminate terms, then got back up by raising itself to the nth power, but the King so belabored it with differentials and partial derivatives that its Fourier coefficients all canceled out (see Riemann's Lemma), and in the ensuing confusion the constructors completely lost sight of both King and beast. So they took a break, stretched their legs, had a swig from the Leyden jug to bolster their strength, then went back to work and tried it again from the beginning, this time unleashing their entire arsenal of tensor matrices and grand canonical ensembles, attacking the problem with such fervor that the very paper began to smoke. The King rushed forward with all his cruel coordinates and mean values, stumbled into a dark forest of roots and logarithms, had to backtrack, then encountered the beast on a field of irrational numbers (F1) and smote it so grievously that it fell two decimal places and lost an epsilon, but the beast slid around an asymptote and hid in an n-dimensional orthogonal phase space, underwent expansion and came out, fuming factorially, and fell upon the King and hurt him passing sore. But the King, nothing daunted, put on his Markov chain mail and all his impervious parameters, took his increment delta-k to infinity and dealt the beast a truly Boolean blow, sent it reeling through an x-axis and several brackets --- but the beast, prepared for this, lowered its horns and -- wham!! -- the pencils flew like mad through transcendental functions and double eigentransformations, and when at last the beast closed in and the King was down and out for the count, the constructors jumped up, danced a jig, laughed and sang as they tore all their papers to shreds, much to the amazement of the spies perched in the chandelier -- perched in vain, for they were uninitiated into the niceties of higher mathematics and consequently had no idea why Trurl and Klapaucius were now shouting, over and over, "Hurrah! Victory!!"

2. Scene. Trurl and Klapaucius captured King Krool with their beast. It had the shape and appearance of three police officers and arrested the king. They had to go in front of the ministers to explain how they defeated the king. Previously, they used a Postmaster General robot to deliver a letter to the ministers.

First, they had to determine what would check the King, catch him flatfooted, so to speak. To this end, they created by nonlinear transmutation a police subset within the beast, since everyone knows that resisting or interfering with an officer who is making an arrest lege artis is a cosmic offense and utterly unthinkable. So much for the psychology of it -- except that the Postmaster General was utilized here on similar grounds: an official of lower rank might not have made it past the guards, the letter then would not have been delivered, and the constructors would have very literally lost their heads. Moreover, the Postmaster mannequin had been given means to bribe the guards, should that have proved necessary. Every eventuality had been anticipated and provided for. Now as far as the algorithms went: they had only to find the proper domain of beasts, closed, bounded and bonded, with plenty of laws both associative and distributive in operation, throw in a constable constant or two, some graphs of graft, squadratic equations and crime waves -- and the thing took over from there, once activated by the expedient of writing a document-program (behind the curtain with the bells) in castor oil ink, rendering it thereby sufficiently hard to swallow to serve as a red-tape generator.

3. Scene. Prince Ferrix is disguised as a human (a "paleface") to woo Princess Crystal, a robot that is enamored with humans. The trader he speaks of is an advisor from his kingdom that is helping him woo Princess Crystal. The speaker is Prince Ferrix and he's talking to Princess Crystal.

"Your Highness, my name is Myamlak and I crave nought else but to couple with you in a manner that is liquid, pulpy, doughy and spongy, in accordance with the customs of my people. I purposely permitted myself to be captured by the pirate, and requested him to sell me to this portly trader, as I knew the latter was headed for your kingdom. And I am exceeding grateful to his laminated person for conveying me hither, for I am as full of love for you as a swamp is full of scum."

4. Scene. Torturers are torturing a whimpering guy. Trurl holds a laser pistol on them and demands that they stop. He demands an explanation for the torture. The lead torturer explains it to Trurl, starting from "the beginning". The speaker is the lead torturer.

There are legends, as you know, that speak of a race of paleface, who concocted robotkind out of a test tube, though anyone with a grain of sense knows this to be a foul lie . . . For in the Beginning there was naught but Formless Darkness, and in the Darkness, Magneticity, which moved the atoms, and whirling atom struck atom, and Current was thus created, and the First Light . . . from which the stars were kindled, and then the planets cooled, and in their cores the breath of Sacred Statisticality gave rise to microscopic Protomechanoans, which begat Proteromechanoids, which begat the Primitive Mechanisms. These could not yet calculate, nor scarcely put two and two together, but thanks to Evolution and Natural Subtraction they soon multiplied and produced Omnistats, which gave birth to the Servostat, the Missing Clink, and from it came our progenitor, Automatus Sapiens . . .

5. I mentioned in my previous post about someone on a planet waving at somebody. Here's the actual text, which sounds much better than what I wrote.

Collecting his fee, plus an honorary degree and an engraved loving cup, Klapaucius blasted off to rejoin his friend. On the way, he noticed a planet and someone waving to him frantically. Thinking it might be Trurl in some sort of trouble, he landed.

Author:  Murmur [ Sat Feb 02, 2019 10:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

Murmur wrote:
Great Irish Tales of Horror ... 0760703795

Years ago, I read this book. Sadly, I was very disappointed. Most of the stories were a bore.

However, one of the stories stood out. That is, The Miraculous Revenge by George Bernard Shaw. It's an ingenious story. It's more like a humor story than a horror story, but it involves death, so it got put into a collection of horror stories.

Here is a link to read The Miraculous Revenge.

Recommendation: Don't bother with the book. Just read The Miraculous Revenge at the link.

I found this book in one of my boxes of books. I decided to give this book another try. Well, happily, I can say that I was wrong in my original review. Some of the stories are really good. Not just The Miraculous Revenge. The Samhain Feis, A House Possessed, and Fly Away Finger, Fly Away Thumb, for example, are all great.

Author:  Murmur [ Sun Sep 22, 2019 3:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

Lost Scriptures
by Bart D Ehrman ... testament/

This book contains numerous books that didn't make it into the New Testament. The Apocrypha. This book wouldn't typically be called a collection of short stories, but that's basically what it is. I'm including this book in this thread, simply because it literally is a collection of short stories, and I enjoy it. I'm not finished reading it yet.

This book is awesome. If you like myth stories / religious text like me, then this is a must read. I have read half of the book so far and I love it.

Here are a few of the books within Lost Scriptures.

1. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas

This might be my favorite book so far. Jesus is a Damien / Anthony Fremont ("you're a very bad man!" played by Bill Mumy) type character. He causes misery, fear, and sorrow in Bethlehem. He murdered two children and a prospective tutor. He eventually resurrected the people he murdered. He also healed people that he didn't initially injure first, so, ultimately, his miracles in Bethlehem were a net positive. However, the emotional impact on the people of Bethlehem is a huge net negative, in the fact that he caused so much misery, fear, and sorrow. Afterall, people were afraid of offending him, and the parents of those murdered children were miserable at least for a little while.

2. The Coptic Gospel of Thomas

Jesus is quoted throughout this gospel. His quotes are nutty New Agey silliness that is inherently contradictory and nonsensical. Here are some examples.

a. Jesus said, "The old man in days will not hesitate to ask a small child seven days old about the place in life, and he will live. For many who are first will become last, and they will become the same."

b. Jesus said, "Blessed is the lion which becomes man when consumed by man; and cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, and the lion becomes man."

c. Jesus said, "Where there are three gods, they are gods. Where there are two or one, I am with him."

3. The Apocalypse of Peter

This seems to be the predecessor of Dante's The Divine Comedy. Specifically, the Inferno part. Peter liked to say that people were burning. Lots of burning and fire and kindling. Hanging by tongues and whatnot. Different places in the afterlife were occupied by people who committed certain crimes. Women who tempted men to fornication were in a pit, for example. Elsewhere were murderers. So, this obviously resembles Dante's Inferno.

4. The Proto-Gospel of James

This is the story of Mary, before she became pregnant, during that period, and after Jesus was born. Part of this gospel reads like a science fiction story. The author sees a bunch of people who were seemingly frozen in time. Birds hung in the sky, for example. People were eating, with their hands close to their mouths, but not moving.

Mary gave birth to Jesus, and two midwives didn't believe it. Salome, one of the women, said that she must "insert her finger and examine her condition". She did this and her hand caught flame and fell away from her.

5. The Gospel of Peter

Jesus's cross speaks as a response to a question from a voice from Heaven.

6. The Acts of Thomas

This is the story of Judas Thomas, the twin brother of Jesus, who was bought as a slave and taken to India.

Some highlights:

a. Thomas talked to a princess and her new husband. After this talk, neither wanted to have sex with the other because they both now loved The Lord. They wanted to live without sin in the sight of the Lord. The king, after hearing them say that, wanted to execute Thomas.

b. A king wanted Thomas to build a palace. Thomas said he'd do it. The king said he'll send money to Thomas while the king is away. So, the king left the area for a while. Thomas gave away all of the money that the king sent to him to poor people. After a while (weeks / months / years?), the king returned, and Thomas said that he built the palace for the king in Heaven. The text says "Upon hearing this the king hit his face with his hands, shaking his head for a long time." Of course, the king wanted to execute Thomas.

c. A man committed an evil act. He ate the Eucharist from Thomas, after which, his hands withered. The Eucharist punished him. It turns out that he murdered a woman that he was in love with. He wanted the woman and him to be together, sexless, in love with the Lord, like what I wrote earlier. The woman wanted sex. So he slew her with a sword. Thomas raised her from the dead, and she described what goes on in Hell.

EDIT: I had the wrong name for Bill Mumy's character.

Author:  Robert Tulip [ Sun Sep 22, 2019 11:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

:o :cry: :? :P :roll: :hmm: Amazing!!

Author:  Murmur [ Mon Sep 23, 2019 9:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

Robert Tulip wrote:
:o :cry: :? :P :roll: :hmm: Amazing!!

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic.

Author:  Robert Tulip [ Mon Sep 23, 2019 3:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

Murmur wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
:o :cry: :? :P :roll: :hmm: Amazing!!

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic.

Hi Murmur, no, I am not being sarcastic. I think the ridiculousness of those stories speaks for itself. I never watched any of the Omen movies, but comparing Jesus to the Antichrist figure of Damien illustrates how wacky the infancy gospel of Thomas must be.

This material illustrates that all early Christian writings were channelled along the lines of Edgar Cayce, by people imagining what a Messiah would have done if he had existed. The genre is a combination of speculative astral channeling and medieval romance. The story you mention of the midwife whose hand burnt off when she touched the vagina of the BVM is a great example. Hard to see how that one missed getting canonical status (sarcasm).

Bart Ehrmann is a profoundly ambiguous writer. I have some of his books, but the only one I have read was his political screed justifying his simple faith in Lord Jesus, toeing the orthodox line of the theology guild. His other material such as this book which you have so ably reviewed provides great illustration of how fertile, febrile and diverse was the imagination that invented Jesus Christ.

Author:  Frankstien [ Fri Mar 06, 2020 9:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

I really find the Russian writers of the Golden Age fascinating.

After reading two of Ivan Turgenev novels (Fathers and Sons and A House of Gentlefolk) I read a short story he wrote called Clara Militch. Turgenev really catches unpredictable human behavior so well. Currently I'm reading White Nights and The Eternal Husband (short novel) by Dostoevsky and War and Peace by Tolstoy--all excellent.

Clara Militch

Author:  Murmur [ Mon Jun 22, 2020 10:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

The Voice in the Night
by William Hope Hodgson

This is a pretty short horror story. It's great fun to read, like his other stuff.

I noticed, pretty fast, that this story almost seems like a combination of two of his other stories. The Derelict is one of them, and I don't remember the name of the other. The other short story in question was about some sailors who fled their ship, and rowed to an island with swaying trees. The island was super scary so they didn't stay long. So, The Voice in the Night has elements of both of these short stories.

It also has become very apparent that Hodgson really liked writing stories about ships and sailing and the ocean. Boy howdy, did he ever like that stuff.

You can read the entirety of the story here:

The movie Matango is an adaptation of TVITN. I haven't seen the movie yet.

Author:  Murmur [ Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

Galileo's Children: Tales of Science Vs. Superstition

I first learned about this book from Skeptic Magazine. Skeptic Magazine is a very much pro-science magazine, and this book of short stories is a collection of stories of science-minded people struggling against religious-minded people. Overall, the book was ok, but not great.

I remember very little of the book, since I read it so long ago. Here is some of what I remember.

1. The Way of Cross and Dragon
by George RR Martin

You can read the entirety of the story here. ... nd-dragon/

This is the story of Judas Iscariot. In this story, he's a way cool, upstanding guy. His history was wiped out and now people remember only cruel lies about him.

2. Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream
by James Alan Gardner

This story really caught my attention. Some religious text said, in an ambiguous manner, that humans have serpents in their heart and blood. And so, because it was religious text, people believed it uncritically.

This really struck me as exactly what goes on with real life religious text. The one that comes to mind right away is the Koran saying that salt water and fresh water don't mix. Some devout Muslims feel like they must believe it, even though it's demonstrably false.

So, some guy eventually looked at human blood under a microscope and discovered no snakes. Unfortunately, it was discovered that other people actually do have strands in their blood, which was then declared to be the snakes in question.

You can read the entirety of the story here.

Recommendation: I wasn't particularly entertained by this book, so I can't recommend it.

Author:  Murmur [ Mon Jun 29, 2020 12:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Murmur reviews short stories

A Tropical Horror
by William Hope Hodgson

Another story by Hodgson. This story is good, but not spectacular. Both The Derelict and The Voice in the Night are better. This one is about a sea monster and how a ship's crew deal with that monster.

You can read the whole thing here:

Recommendation: If you like horror, you probably won't regret reading it. It's pretty short.

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