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The Library Vault Opens!

Banned books, recent releases, upcoming fiction - all the news that's fit to print, about print!.

By Denise Dumars     September 29, 2000


Banned Books Week runs through September 30, and during this week the American Library Association and the ACLU encourage you to read banned books. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the most frequently challenged title of 1999 was Harry Potter. Unfortunately, those who objected did so on the grounds of the book's plot, which deals with a kiddie school for witches and wizards, and not on the author's criminally cute use of compound words, which should be, at the very least, a misdemeanor. Famous genre titles that made the top 100 list of most frequently challenged books in the 1990s include Kurt Vonnegut's SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE; Stephen King's CARRIE, THE DEAD ZONE, and CHRISTINE; Margaret Atwood's THE HANDMAID'S TALE; Robert Cormier's FADE; Lois Lowry's THE GIVER; and Madeleine L'Engle's A WRINKLE IN TIME. Dare to think for yourself! Read a banned book.


Two interesting projects coming up take old books and make them new again. Philip Jose Farmer's groundbreaking RIVERWORLD series, in which everyone who ever lived on Earth between 9900 BCE and 2200 CE is reincarnated on a world with a planet-wide river, is going to the small screen if Alex Proyas has his way. Proyas says that elements of all the books in the series will make it into the TV series. This series definitely merits a second look or even a first if you've never read TO YOUR SCATTERED BODIES GO or the other Riverworld book. One thing is sure: on this TV series they'll never run out of compelling characters and, say, have to throw in 40 pugs or something to make it interesting.

Richard Gere has resurrected that hoary old cryptozoological tome THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES and plans to star in a film about the strange encounters recounted in this nonfiction book by John Keel. I've always liked this book, and was happy to see it come out in a new edition in the '90s. Perhaps the book's recent reintroduction sparked Gere's interest, or maybe the Dalai Lama recommended it to him.


THE YEAR'S BEST SF 5 might be a good item to raise eyebrows at the church social, as it contains a story by Michael Bishop about discovering an alien porno shop. In his story 'The Blue Planet,' Robert J. Sawyer postulates that Martians are responsible for the losses of our Mars probes (well, duh!), and don't let the folks who are after Salman Rushdie get a hold of 'Written in Blood' by Chris Lawson, which deals with the Quran and DNA. Is this the best of SF short fiction in the past year? Up to you. I have to go listen to some Cat Stevens records now.

For the film nerd on your shopping list check out THE FILMS OF JOHN CARPENTER by John Kenneth Muir, out from that fine academic publisher McFarland. The tome (at $48.50, it earns that title) covers Carpenter's career and has detailed descriptions of his films starting with DARK STAR through VAMPIRES. Xmas shopping season is almost here...hint, hint.

Probably the biggest novel news is this week's release of HUNGER AND THIRST, in two limited editions from Gauntlet Press. This is Richard Matheson's first novelyep, he wrote it 50 years ago. It's not a fantasy novel...but it may be a horror novel. Whatever it is, it's a great big ol' thing worthy of the sobriquet 'literary.' See my review next week.

A book I'm sure won't leave you cold is the new thriller from Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child called THE ICE LIMIT. These are the guys who brought back good old-fashioned monster stories with THE RELIC and RELIQUARY. This one's about a spooky meteorite in Antarctica, and Scully and Mulder don't even get to help out with it. We'll see if it lives up to their previous collaborative efforts.

Alice Hoffman has a new one out, and as perhaps our greatest American practitioner of magical realism her novel THE RIVER KING is highly anticipated. In this story, two different strata of society in a small town meet and confront the strange truth of the town's origins. Her witchy-poo book PRACTICAL MAGIC is also highly recommended, as is the somewhat-less successful film, in which Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock have very long hair and a few scenes with hottie Goran Visnjic.

'That's not the Squirrel King; it's the Mouse Maid!' If sentences like this warm the cockles of your fuzzy little heart, you'll want to read the new fantasy by Brian Jacques called LORD BROCKTREE. It's about a badger warrior or some damn thing; why read the NY TIMES bestseller FAITH OF THE FALLEN by Terry Goodkind when you can read aboutI don't knowthe kingdom of the gerbils? The quote above is a sentence I found at random upon opening one of Jacques' previous books set in Redwall, the magical land of rodentia; if someone knows how to excise it from my memory in a non-invasive manner please email me.

Andrew Vachss is known for his novels of harrowing journeys into the realm of child abuse where the innocent are defended by the vigilante-like character Burke. In his latest work, DEAD AND GONE, Burke travels into even scarier territory: a cold, wet, leprous haven for neo-Nazis, abortion clinic bombers, pedophiles and pornographers...a place so horrifying that once you've read about it, you'll never want to visit. I'm talking, of course, about the Pacific Northwest. But seriously, Vachss scares me too much because his monsters are all too real. Somebody, please throw me a Preston/Child novel!

Carol Thurston jumps on the Egyptophilia bandwagon with THE EYE OF HORUS, a mystery examining the repercussions of finding an ancient Egyptian evil so terrible that even George Dubya wouldn't finance a movie made about it. There are mummies and princesses and scary stuffoh my! If you just can't get enough of archeological mystery novels or if you're a raving Egypto-nut like me, you'll want to read this book (and check her data).

You know October is nearing when a member of the Rice clan has a new book out. This time it's Christopher Rice, the son of novelist Anne and poet Stan. In A DENSITY OF SOULS, we don't get supernatural stuff, just a lot of Southern Gothic setting, complete with murder, madness, suicide, and a young man's coming to terms with his homosexual urges. Now, what else would you expect from this bunch? Anne herself has a new book scheduled to come out, MERRICK, a book that promises to merge the Vampire Chronicles with the Lives of the Mayfair Witches. Oh, and I almost forgot Anne's sister Alice Borchardt and her werewolvesdarn!

And finally, this isn't really a genre book, but those of you over in the X-Files Fandomain will want to know that CONEY, a novel by David Duchovny's dad Amram Ducovny (yes, the old man changed the spelling of his last name) is just now out. It's about a teen in 1930s Coney Island who runs numbers for the carnies and has some typical coming-of-age issues to confront. Looks like a good literary novel with probably a couple of freaky things thrown in.

Incoming: Joe R. Lansdale returns as master of all genres; Kevin J. Anderson takes on those fun-loving Harkonnens; and Mick Garris proves that splatterpunk ain't dead.


Novelist and screenwriter Curt Siodmak passed away Sept. 2. Born in 1902, he is best known as the author of scripts for THE WOLF MAN, THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, and for his novel-turned-film DONOVAN'S BRAIN. His work was banned in Nazi Germany and, according to the DarkEcho newsletter, he based his misunderstood wolfman character on his own emotional experiences as a Jewish person living in Nazi Germany. And yes, he wrote the 'old gypsy poem' in the film. He was the oldest working member of the Writer's Guild. His memoir, WOLF MAN MAKER: Memoir of a Hollywood Writer, will be published by Scarecrow Press in November.


Should Denise stop making fun of fantasy fiction? If so, why? Send in your impassioned pleas and dare her to actually read a non-dark fantasy novel and review it. She'll take suggestions for review (new books only, please) and talk about them in future columns and/or do a full-length review on the 'winner.' Email her:


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