Sunday, March 20, 2016

Review: mini-reviews of The Man Who Spoke Snakish and The Ballad of Black Tom

This is the English translation of a book that was a big hit in its native Estonia, about a world where snakes have taught humans Snakish, the language of animals.  The story is set in the medieval period where people are leaving the forest to live in villages and the main character is the last man who can speak Snakish.  The author heavily satires village life and Christian beliefs, but to be fair he does much the same to the Pagan characters as well.  Despite that, it's surprising dark at times.  It's well written and engaging, but where it fails for me is that I think the author had the opportunity to make some meaningful statements on social and cultural change, but concentrates instead on satire and drama.

Rating: 7.5/10.

This is another of the novellas that started putting out last year.  It's a retelling and deconstruction of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Horror at Red Hook".  I haven't read the original story, but from looking it up online some of the same characters appear, but the important new one is one Charles Thomas Tester, a young black man who deals with sorcerers, elder gods, and racism in 1920's New York.  Halfway through the narrative switches to the cop, Malone, and while it makes sense for plot reasons, I didn't find his character quite as engaging.  Otherwise, the story was very good.

Rating: 8/10.

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