First Lines: The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains

The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains: A Tale of Travel and Darkness with Pictures of All Kinds, written by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Eddie Campbell, is a lovely edition of the story first published in the Stories anthology. As such, I read it before.

Two men, one small and one large, walk through Scotland towards the Black Mountains on the Misty Isle (which is also called the Winged Isle), to find a cave. A cave where gold is to be found, or so men say. They find the cave. And, perhaps, also truth.

We were a mile from the place when I said, “The island. You asked if it would be there. Surely, an island is there, or it is not there.”

Calum hesitated. He seemed to be weighing his words, and then he said, “The Misty Isle is not as other places. And the mist that surrounds it is not like other mists.”

We walked down a path worn by hundreds of years of sheep and deer and few enough men.

He said, “They also call it the Winged Isle. Some say it is because the island, if seen from above, would look like butterfly wings. And I do not know the truth of it.” Then, “‘And what is truth?’ said jesting Pilate.”

It is harder coming down than it is going up.

I thought about it. “Sometimes I think that truth is a place. In my mind, it is like a city: there can be a hundred roads, a thousand paths, that will all take you, eventually, to the same place. It does not matter where you come from. If you walk toward the truth, you will reach it, whatever path you take.”

Calum MacInnes looked down at me and said nothing. Then, “You are wrong. The truth is a cave in the black mountains. There is one way there, and one only, and that way is treacherous and hard, and if you choose the wrong path you will die alone, on the mountainside.”

Book read
Neil Gaiman — The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains (illustrated by Eddie Campbell)
First line
You ask me if I can forgive myself?

First Lines: The Deeper Meaning of Liff

Unlike that feeling you only can say what it is in French, there are things there aren’t any words for yet. John Lloyd and Douglas Adams’ The Deeper Meaning of Liff (the 1990 revised and expanded version of 1983’s The Meaning of Liff) matches some of those common experiences, feelings, situations and objects to some of the thousands of spare words that spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places.

Ever had to take a decision that’s very hard to take because so little depends on it (like which way to walk around a park)? There’s a word for that: deventer. That irritating man next to you at a concert, who thinks he’s the conductor? He’s a thrumster. A badly suppressed yawn? That’s a wawne. To indignantly deny something which is palpably true? To hoff. You get the point.

Book read
Douglas Adams & John Lloyd — The Deeper Meaning of Liff (A Dictionary of Things That There Aren’t Any Words for Yet)
First line
Aalst (v.): One who changes his name to be nearer to the front.

First Lines: Mr. Mercedes

Stephen King is a jerk. First, he gets you to care about a bunch of people waiting in line for a job fair, and then he goes and kills ‘em all by having a big gray Mercedes plow through them. The story resumes with the now-retired lead-police detective of the case receiving a letter from the Mercedes’ driver. This letter intended to nudge the Ret. Det. over the edge of his suicidal thoughts backfires: it pulls him from the black hole of retirement blues, and gives him purpose once again. From there on, we have a fast-paced page turner in our hands, with all the twists and turns you can expect from King.

Mr. Mercedes isn’t King’s best novel. Not by a long shot. But it’s fun. There are allusions to It ( You ever see that TV movie about the clown in the sewer?), Christine (By the time Hodges and Huntley arrived, five police cars were parked in the yard, two drawn up nose-to-nose behind the car’s back bumper, as if the cops expected the big gray sedan to start up by itself, like that old Plymouth in the horror movie, and make a run for it.) and Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box (a roadie wearing a Judas Coyne shirt), and occasional awesome lines like Jerome is good with computers, but Holly plays the keyboard like a Steinway. There’s enough to like, so I can easily overlook his sometimes clunky use of internet technology. I’ll just assume the story’s set in an alternate universe where people who use a quarter of their Mac’s powers install and use Firefox.

Book read
Stephen King — Mr. Mercedes
First line
Augie Odenkirk had a 1997 Datsun that still ran well in spite of high mileage, but gas was expensive, especially for a man with no job, and City Center was on the far side of town, so he decided to take the last bus of the night.

First Lines: The Straits of Galahesh & The Flames of Shadam Khoreh

There’s a (now slightly outdated) joke asking why George R.R. Martin doesn’t use Twitter.

Because he killed all 140 characters.

While I’m two seasons behind on my Game of Thrones-watching, I get the point. While Bradley P. Beaulieu’s The Staits of Galahesh and The Flames of Shadam Khoreh/cite>, the second and concluding volumes of The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy, doesn’t (brutally) kill off main characters at quite the same rate, the supporting cast isn’t quite that lucky.

They fall to bloody pulps from their airships. Their airships get blown up. They get ritually disemboweled and sacrificed in a pagan ceremony trying to unravel the threads of the things yet to be. They get decapitated. Executed. Their hearts get eaten. They willingly sacrifice themselves to save the world. Or they just end up as another casualty of war.

And then there’s the intrigue, plotting, planning, scheming, betrayal, and double crossing. Plus the elemental magic and general mysticism.

My main observation after reading the first volume was that its plot was too convoluted. I can’t quite say that that has changed. The plot of the final books are just as dense. But it seemed to me that the cast got slimmed down, which made these two volumes a lot easier to digest. A fine wrapping up of the series. I’ll probably dive into something else before delving into Beaulieu’s short story collection.

Book read
Bradley P. Beaulieu — The Straits of Galahesh (Book Two of the The Lays of Anuskaya)
First line
In the southern gallery of the capital’s sprawling kasir, Hakan ül Ayeçe, the Kamarisi of Yrstanla, stood at a marble balcony.
Book read
Bradley P. Beaulieu — The Flames of Shadam Khoreh (The Concluding Volume of the The Lays of Anuskaya)
First line
At first light, deep within the massive Palotza Radiskoye, Styophan Andrashayev sat in a chair near the largest bed he’d ever slept in while his wife busied herself around the room, preparing them both for the coronation.

So Much for Peace and Tranquillity

Last week I had two relocations.

First, I moved from Leeuwarden, where I’d been living for the past nine months or so, back to Amersfoort, where I’d been living for the thirteen years before that. Don’t worry, my Most Awesome Missus, the Kid and the cats came along as well.

Secondly, I started working on a new project at work, which necessitated my fourth workplace-reshuffling (or so) of the year. It also meant that I had to leave my team behind. To ease some of their pain—as well as to get an idea out of my head that had been percolating there for well over a year—I created a nifty soundboard * so they needn’t miss my presence that much.

It’s on Github and extendable, for which I’m taking requests.

* It works best in a modern browser. It’s known to be buggy in the stock Android browser (the one that says “Internet”). I’m working on that. Eventually.