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Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Objects of Worship" by Claude Lalumiere (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)


Official Claude Lalumiere Website
Order "Objects of Worship" as tpb HERE
Order "Objects of Worship" in digital format HERE
Read Sample Story "Spiderkid" at Reflection's Edge
Read Sample Story "Njabo" at Expanded Horizons

INTRODUCTION: ChiZine Publications is a recently established small press that published two novels that I enjoyed very much and that made my list of "Remarkable Small Press Releases I Read in 2009", namely Filaria(FBC Rv) by Brent Hayward and The Choir Boats(FBC Rv) by Daniel Rabuzzi.

I keep monitoring their releases and I check out everything that seems of the least interest to me, so when the sample online stories from
Claude Lalumiere's debut collection "Objects of Worship", Spiderkid and Njabo, turned out to be quite appealing I decided to try out the whole book.

Twelve superb and sometimes quite disturbing stories later and I have to say that ChiZine delivered another winner and Mr. Lalumiere is a name to be watched in the sff space.

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: "Objects of Worship" is a collection of 12 stories of which two are new and ten have been previously published. There is a superb preface by James Morrow that I would strongly recommend reading *after* you read the book since that way you will appreciate it even more, while at the end, the author discusses the genesis of each story.

Also adding tremendous value, there are the original interior illustrations by
Rupert Bottenberg that precede each story and reflect its subject. I showcase here the illustration for one of my top, top stories of the collection, "The Sea, at Bari". The book stands at about 275 pages.


OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS:
While the main themes of the collection are the worship of unconventional "gods" and strange but powerful flavors of eroticism, each story stands very well on its own; several of them are linked to the author's home of Montreal, but we get a fair share of post-apocalyptic or even secondary-world stories. I will present a story by story take including the first several lines ( or in two cases the first "relevant lines").


The Object of Worship

The god settles on the table. Rose tears a piece from her toast, slathers a heap of cream cheese on the ear-sized morsel, and lays it next to the god. It consumes the tribute
.

The first story and the one that names the collection starts the novel with a bang introducing a world in which gods are "real", physical and everywhere, demand worship while giving life and children, men are missing, and two young women live together in harmony with their house "god" until an "atheist" woman enters their life. A very powerful ending crowns a story that establishes the tone of the collection. (A+)

The Ethical Treatment of Meat
Raymond and George had never thought much about religion. They’d tried going to services at their local church shortly after adopting the child—it seemed like the right thing to do—but the preacher said children weren’t allowed. No animals of any kind. Only people.

The first of two stories set in a zombie dominated world, where humans are "meat animals" kept for their brains on which the zombies feed and for their body parts that are used as furniture and decoration. Raymond and George seem your next door gay couple, though of course as with all the "people" here, they are not human. Just disturbing and weird, the story was on the edge of my tolerance for such and *is definitely* not for everyone. (A)

Hochelaga and Sons

...Because I can’t become intangible and walk through it. Because I can’t teleport at will. Because I can’t even punch holes in it with my bare fists.

A superhero story with a twist; when a Montreal native of Jewish origins is captured and used as lab-experiment by the Nazis, he somehow gets superpowers and later becomes Hochelaga the superhero of Montreal. However of his twin sons Gordon (the narrator) and Bernard, only the later inherits his father's abilities just to refuse to use them because they are "treyf", unclean. However when the Hegemony of Hate declares war against humanity and sends powerful "super-terrorists" against the superheroes, Bernard faces a big dilemma since his faith talks also about "Pikuach Nefesh", the duty to save lives...
This story is both action filled and philosophical and another highlight of the collection (A+)

The Sea, at Bari

In Bari, the pizza marinara was more delicious than in Rome.


After the above tranquil opening line, we are introduced to the world of Mario a Canadian of Italian origins whose fifth birthday spent with his grandparents in Bari transformed his life. On his 30th birthday he goes back to try and get back what he had lost then. This story is one of my three top favorites in a superb collection and an A++.

The Darkness at the Heart of the World

As the boy Coro emerges from the Godpool, he sees the tears on his mother’s face.


This story starts conventionally with a boy who has a bad leg that the healing waters of the Godpool cannot cure. He sees the mighty flying angels that battle the demons every night and he wants to become one of them and soar in the sky; of course reality turns out quite differently...
This story was one of my least favorite because it did not balance well and I thought it less well formed than the rest (B).

Spiderkid
All the spiders in my apartment are araneomorphs, the most common type of spider. The second most common suborder consists of mygalomorphs—hairy, often large species, such as tarantulas. Mesothelae, the oldest suborder of spiders still extant, are quite rare; of the estimated hundred thousand or so species of spiders, fewer than one hundred belong to this primitive family, and they’re found almost exclusively in Asia. I’ve only ever seen pictures.

One of the two stories available online, go and read it!. Weird, disturbing and very good (A).

Njàbò

Njàbò, my only child, my daughter, walks with me. She is as old as the forest, while I was born but three and a half decades ago.

The second story that's available online and one of my three top stories of the collection, again, go and read it! (A++)

A Place Where Nothing Ever Happens

The first time Kyle received one of those phone calls, he was getting ready for a date.


This is another story that could have been better with a more balanced approach. Lucifer makes a deal with a phone company and allows all denizens of Hell to call their loved ones. Kyle gets a gorgeous and intelligent girlfriend; the two story-lines just do not mesh well and the final twist is visible from a mile (A-).

A Visit to the Optometrist

When a pigeon chewed out Basil Fesper’s right eye while he was taking a nap in his lawn chair, he finally admitted that it was time to make an appointment with the optometrist.

The second and better zombie story; still disturbing but less so than the first, it involves the same characters from the first except that now the married couple next door to Raymond and George are protagonists. A tie-in also with the "Darkness" story above, I liked this one more than "The Ethical Treatment of Meat" but that one has an indubitable power of its own, however shocking it was (A).

Roman Predator’s Chimeric Odyssey

Already, dusk encroaches on daylight, and Luna, lushly green, hangs in the sky, its fullness announcing the hunt.


Another of the stories that did not mesh well for me; werewolves and other animal/human combination in a post apocalyptic world and a mysterious alien which I did not truly get (B).

Destroyer of Worlds

...There was a deliberateness, a weight, to her gait. She was walking to her death.

The third top favorite and A++ story for me, this one is related to a comic series that somehow becomes "real" in the Multiverse; very powerful.

This Is the Ice Age
Distorted cars litter the bridge, quantum ice fractalling outward from their engines, from the circuits of their dashboards. The ice has burst from their chassis, creating random new configurations of ice, technology, and anatomy.


A post-apocalyptic story when all electronic powered devices turned to ice and killed lots of people, follows two teen survivors in Montreal, while the "geek" brother of the boy starts a cult; this story is extremely powerful almost to the end but then it peters out in an unconvincing ending which takes away a little from it (A+).

All in all "Objects of Worship" (A+) is a great collection and I strongly recommend it for every lover of literate speculative fiction.

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