“Phases of Gravity” by Dan Simmons (Subterranean Press, 2012)

Phases of Gravity
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The great Subterranean Press continues with its limited edition releases of Dan Simmons’ work, with his early bestseller, Phases of Gravity, originally published in 1989.  In Simmons’ classic style that has gone on to create many a fan and reader, as well as win multiple awards, Phases of Gravity seems to be a simple, straightforward story on the surface, but as the reader plunges deeper into its depths, it becomes something much larger and meaningful.

Phases of Gravity is a change from what fans might be used to with Simmons, as it features little of the horrific or science fictional, but is the story about what a man does when he has achieved the greatest pinnacle; how he lives his now very ordinary-seeming life.  Richard Baedecker has done what very few people on this planet have done: walked upon the surface of the room.  A former astronaut, Baedecker is now traveling around, wondering what to do with his life now that he has done what so few have.  He has a failed marriage and a son that hates him.  The book takes him to an unusual location in Poona, India, where he meets the beautiful and unique Maggie Brown who will help him in his personal quest to find his “places of power,” the locations that have had meaning to him in his past, and make him realize the importance of what he has.

Originally written on January 24, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub (Subterranean Press, 2012)

Ballard of Ballard and Sandrine
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In this new and short release from bestselling author Peter Straub, it’s a story that seems ordinary and tame at first, as the reader gets introduced and interested in two unique characters, but eventually becomes dark and scary and despairing.  By the end of the 96 pages of The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine, it is quite a different tale that the reader may want to hide away somewhere.

The story of these two lovers, Ballard and Sandrine, takes place over a period of 25 years, as the reader learns of their relationship at different points in time from chapter to chapter, which takes place in the same setting: a trip by riverboat down the exotic Amazon.  While there is a large gap in age between the main characters — they apparently fell in love when Ballard, in his twenties, saw Sandrine, when she was fifteen, for the first time — they are besotted with each other and get up to lots of fun on these boat trips.  But then the dark side begins to creep in, with a story of blood and murder.

Overall, the story is somewhat disappointing, as Straub plays a little too much on the “exotic” nature of the Amazon and the natives, while the horror aspects of the story come as kind of surprise.  A longer novella or even novel might’ve allowed for more development in these areas, nevertheless The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine is an interesting experiment in what Straub was trying to do.

Originally written on December 18, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.