Welcome

Welcome to the Taylor’s University Book Club! We are a community passionate about books and most anything that is remotely affiliated to the written word. We enjoy discussing our favourite books, recommending new genres to each other and debating the merits of book-to-movie adaptions. Our members read a diverse range of books and you can usually find someone who shares your love for obscure genres!

Recommendation: Sweetlings by Lucy Taylor

sweetlings_full

In Sweetlings, the author depicts a world of survivors struggling to find some semblance of normal within their deplorable reality. Mir has recently lost her mother and younger brother, and is dealing with her increasingly unstable father who has an unsettling fascination with the creatures emerging from the depths of the ocean. Set in a post-apocalyptic world in which nearly half of the world was submerged by oceans, Mir spends her days in her seaside home waiting for the next supply truck to roll around.

An excerpt from Tor.com,

The night before my mother walked into the New Sea carrying my six-week-old brother, I heard her and Papi arguing. Even with the wind screaming past our tiny squatter’s house on the cliff, the rage in her voice slashed through the thin wall.

“It’s not right! I’d rather smother the boy in his sleep than do this!”

“But you must,” Papi said. His voice was firm and deliberate, the way he sounded telling me to take a dose of foxglove to ward off Blister Rot or refusing Mama’s entreaties to leave this lonely, wind-battered place and take our chances inland. Kind, but unyielding. “The child is suffering. See how he struggles to breathe. I’d carry him into the water myself, but my legs are too weak…and I won’t ask Mir to do it.”

“Then don’t ask it of me!”

“It’s not in our hands, don’t you see? We’ve got to accept what this new world is becoming, not torment ourselves with what we’d like it to be.”

She battles against the desire to leave her home and her family – to move inward, away from the sea – but her sense of duty to her father binds her. Things come to a head when the expected supply truck does not arrive and Mir goes off in search of it with her friend Jersey, which leads to a series of events that reveal her long-hidden secret.

This story depicts a bleak reality; with an arresting protagonist and the world-building, it is a recommended read for fans of horror and post-apoctalyptic narratives.

 

 

Recommendation: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

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Excerpt: From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying. He turned twenty during this time, but this special watershed — becoming an adult — meant nothing. Taking his own life seemed the most natural solution, and even now he couldn’t say why he hadn’t taken this final step. Crossing that threshold between life and death would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is a quietly wondrous exploration of self-actualization and social acceptance in our quizzically-structured human world. The protagonist is a mellow, “colorless” being as the title suggests, who transforms into an individual who cements his center and who he believes he is. As a reader, you may find that you cannot help but empathize with him, for there is a quality of self-doubt about him that speaks familiarly to the human psyche.

The author’s writing is a gentle rapture as always, with deceptively simple language that belies a deeper philosophy worth ruminating. Although the plot does not tie all of its loose ends, it manages to sufficiently quench any broader disparities and come full circle. A definite read for fans of the author and his style, but do pick up for the transcendental ethos and vividly unforgettable characters.


Submitted by Kari H.

Recommendation: eyes I dare not meet in dreams by Sunny Moraine

eyesidarenotmeet_full
illustrated by Yuki Shimizu

eyes i dare not meet in dreams is a short piece of fiction that takes its time in establishing the world it is set in, where dead girls emerge from their not-so-final resting places and make their way to civilised society. Understandably, not everyone has a positive reaction to the phenomenon.

An excerpt from Tor.com,

The dead girls climbed into the light in junkyards, in vacant lots, in the jumble of shit behind ancient disreputable institutions one might kindly call antique stores. The dead girls climbed out in ravines and ditches and on lonely beaches and in dry riverbeds. Wet riverbeds. The dead girls climbed out into feet and fathoms of water. The dead girls climbed into the air but they also clawed their way out of long-deposited sediment and new mud, like zombies and vampires tearing their way out of graves. The dead girls swam, swam as far as they needed to, and broke the surface like broken doll mermaids.

This is how the story goes. But the story also goes that no one was present at the time, in the first days, so no one is entirely sure how the story got to be there at all. Or at least how it got to be something everyone accepts as truth, which they do.

Moraine clinches the unsettling feeling that builds with each subsequent descriptor of the dead girls and their relentless, unyielding efforts to get to their intended destination. At one point, the author showcases an attempt by the media to interview them but ultimately unable to procure a response from any of the dead girls.

A closer analysis of this piece proposes that the author drew inspiration from the trope of female characters being ‘refrigerated’ or killed in order to advance the character development of a male protagonist; one of the dead girls is also referenced as emerging from a refrigerator. It is quite an interesting theory as the sheer throng of dead girls could be interpreted as possibly reflecting the actual number of actual female figures killed off.

[ calamity kills ]

Calamity Kills

i screamed at my reflection

and ate my pain,

one fine midnight:

“if atlas could shoulder the world,

then you can let them all step on yours;

you are unallowed the privilege of suffering,

so take it and stomach it.”

if only i lent a valiant ear.

if only i was martyred well.

i am sick with sorrow and anguish,

and the rot, the morality

has made my lungs filthful;

so what good is a noose,

what good is a vow,

when Melpomene cannot usurp my painted Thalia,

when elder-sludge violates the space between my eyes;

I will patch the world with my flesh––

 

{ i wouldn’t have it any other way. }


Written by contributor Kari H. (visit her blog at http://aoirie.wordpress.com/ for more works!)

Recommendation: Come See the Living Dryad by Theodora Goss

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illustrated by Allen Williams

Set in the present-day and supplemented by reconstructions of the past, a woman investigates the unsolved murder of an ancestor in the nineteenth century. The author of this short story unravels the story in a seamless way that builds the character’s development as she uncovers new information that potentially sheds light onto the circumstances of the death of her great-great grandmother, who was afflicted with a disease that led to physical deformities when untreated.

An excerpt from Tor.com,

I can hear them whispering.

I cannot see them, not yet. And when the curtain is pulled back, what will I see? Faces, pale and almost indistinguishable in the gaslight. My shows are only at night, for that, he tells me, makes them more impressive.

But I know my audience. Clerks heading home from their offices, tired after a day of crouching over a ledger, wanting to see a miracle. Serious young ladies who would never condescend to the spectacles of Battersea Park, but this is different—a scientific lecture. A tutor shushing his charges, boys who will one day go to university—until they see me, and then they shush of their own accord. They recognize me from their lessons in the classics and wonder, how is it possible? Gentlemen in top hats, headed afterward to more risqué entertainments. An old woman in black who peers at me through her pince-nez, disbelieving. She must have seen an advertisement and become curious—is it real? Or a hoax, like the Genuine Mermaid?

I am improbable, am I not?

Almost, but not quite, impossible.

And when the curtain is pulled back and they see me, sitting on my pedestal, arms raised, branches swaying, they will gasp. As they always do.

As Daphne, the protagonist, digs deeper into her great-great grandmother’s history, she gains a deeper insight into life as a person inflicted with their shared disease in the past. History represents different things to each person, but in the context of Daphne in relation to her great-great grandmother, it represents a way of gaining closure and accepting the past.

This story is recommended for readers who enjoy introspective narration and light murder mysteries.

mirrors and theurgy by Nadia

Mirrors and Theurgy

some eyes made for a poor adventure.

his did. perhaps. certainty? maybe—

no scrap of an argentine promise, none but the screw-and-bolt carcass of

a cimmerian centipede—
laid in the worst shade of death.

.

x }
who said eyes were divine in the heat of love
again?

.

they played a game of mirror, mirror

each time proximity proved

beyond an opiate eidolon (guzzling fire in the water—

heroisms, metagraphic hooks- –
storebought sleights to make up for nihil.
.
( how’d they. how’d they
turn to blooming tether in the noir-factor

anyway

.

I took your naught for a nectar
( by some sorcerous error; a chant in murky sugars-deep- –
why’d the lull of your wasteland
key itself in?

and now
now   can’t you see that
all I want is mirrors—

for my falsehood sun.


Written by Nadia Sim
(originally featured on her writing blog at http://soulgrade.wordpress.com/)

Theme of the Month: History

June---History

We’ve reached the six-month mark of 2017, and how fast the time flies! While it may be summer holidays elsewhere in the world, the Taylor’s Book Club are buckling down to settle our coursework for the remainder of the semester. ‘History’ is the theme of the month, and we all know the past catches up to us eventually! Why not share a story about a past event? It may even provide clarity to you in the present. As always, past themed prompts remain open for submission throughout the year!

  1. Write a story based on your past history with a person who eventually became your best friend.
  2. Pick your favourite historical movie / television show and imagine what your life  would be like if you lived in that time period.
  3. You are a time traveller tasked with protecting the integrity of monumental historical events. A rogue colleague has hijacked a wormhole and trapped you in a particular time period – where and when are you, and what will you do next?
  4. If you could re-write your personal history, what details would you omit or add in order to achieve your ideal history?

Detailed below are the guidelines to be adhered to when submitting via the website’s Contact/Submissions tab:

  • All manners of written submissions (prose, poetry, short stories, opinion pieces, etc.) are welcome in response to prompts — unless otherwise specified in any given prompt.
  • Poetry submissions should not exceed 150 lines in length.
  • Submissions of short stories should fall in a designated range of 1,500 – 3,000 words.
  • Aside from the above-stated content, all written entries of other sorts should not exceed 1,500 words.

Best wishes,The Taylor’s Book Club

Book Review: Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber

Lankhmar

One of my very favourite books, by one of my very favorite writers, starring two of the most delightful characters in the history of fantastic literature.” – Neil Gaiman

I came across Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar while browsing through a random MPH bookstore. Having read a lot of fantasy novels since young, I was keenly intrigued by its brief description – a sword and sorcery fantasy of the highest order, harkening back to the early periods of the genre’s birth. After reading many contemporary fantasy series, I started taking notice of the influences that inspired my favorite authors to write in the first place – the original fantasy authors, pioneers of the genre, master writers. Fritz Leiber is one of them.

What separates Fritz Leiber from the other master writers is his characters. Instead of one, he has two main characters – Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. One a barbarian, the other a thief; they each have contrasting personalities that complimented the other – creating an iconic duo. They first met each other in Lankhmar (hence the title), and immediately felt a kinship between themselves, solitary souls in a chaotic world. In a world where gods and monsters, wizards and demons exist, they went on many adventures together, often working as mercenaries or thieves. Their misadventures range from fighting with elder gods, running errands for their whimsical sorcerer-masters or unlucky chance encounters with unknown elements. Every chapter is a separate story, a single adventure, unlike most fantasy series nowadays; yet each chapter is bursting with originality and wit, showcasing the synergy between our two antiheroes and the otherworldly nature of Fritz Leiber’s world.

Contemporary fantasy novels focus on character development as the plot progresses, but Lankhmar is different. Instead both our protagonists are presented fully matured, with their own ideals and morals, and we are only bystanders witnessing their misadventures one by one. Each story reveals more of their personalities, their tendencies, such that we could almost predict their next move, save for the otherworldly settings under which they were in – the world of Lankhmar. Mysterious and unpredictable, Fritz Leiber kept us on our toes as he introduced new characters, interesting plotlines (that holds up to contemporary stories) and an entirely new world filled with unique races, languages and history comparable to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

Fritz Leiber can be considered one of the founding fathers of sword and sorcery fantasy, alongside Robert E. Howard and many others. Unlike epic fantasy, his is a more down-to-earth approach, where the characters are not tied to the fate of the world or such; instead they tolled and struggled through life, little gems shining through on the strength of their substance. The fantasy sub-genre spawned a generation of authors, games and other content, continuing to influence fantasy-related content to this day, and Fritz Leiber is a major contributor.


Written by Lim Shen, President of TBC

Recommendation: Sanctuary by Allen Steele

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illustrated by Gregory Manchess

Written in the form of logbook extracts, the story follows the experiences of the passengers onboard the Exodus Project Starship (EPSS) Lindbergh as colonists on a new world. The author utilises the perspectives of different crew members of the starship, primarily the Commanding Officer (CO), the Chief Engineer, a senior scientist, and a shuttle pilot. Through each subsequent entry, the author balances the initial triumph experienced by the crew and the increasing uneasiness when they encounter a mysterious phenomenon of which they are entirely unfamiliar with and unprepared for.

An excerpt from Tor.com,

10.26.2266 rel/0929 ST/le894/G. [Giovanni] Patini, shuttle pilot

Second survey mission to TC-e scrubbed. Orville control systems not responding to preflight checks. Mechanical difficulty of unknown nature.

Santos-Dumont has scrubbed its second sortie as well. Same reason: Wilbur unable to launch. Spoke to Jake [Moore, Wilbur shuttle pilot]; says the same thing happened to him during preflight checks. Cockpit comp screens went dark, manual controls refused to budge.

Weird.

[Log entries 895–911 lost.]

                                                                       

10.27.2266 rel/1136 ST/le912/Y. Greer, CO

Tonya and Aaron [Willig, Lindbergh astrobiologist] inform me that TC-e’s native civilization may be more advanced than previously believed. This could spell trouble.

Until now, it’s been thought that the inhabitants are at a pretechnological stage of development, with perhaps no more than an agrarian culture. This was the opinion of our science team after studying the coastal settlements on TC-e’s major continents while waiting for technicians on both ships to ascertain the causes for the shuttle breakdowns and effect repairs (ref. Doc. LR2713). However, further telescopic observations confirm the existence of large ocean-going sailcraft, with some appearing to be two- or three-mast catamarans. This is evidence that the “Cetans” (as Tonya calls them) have learned to harness wind power and build seafaring vessels. It is therefore possible that the Cetans may be engaged in fishing and trade, perhaps even at global distances.

The presence of a native civilisation also poses a potential threat to the passengers of the Lindbergh. Their initial assumptions were dismissive but upon stumbling onto the phenomenon that threatens their lives, they realise that their early assumptions may be unfounded.

This short story is highly recommended for fans of the sci-fi genre, and films such as Prometheus or The Martian.