Today's finds

I got a few books today from the 50 cent rack on the sidewalk outside of a local bookstore. There were more I wanted to get, but I figured I have enough to keep me going for a while. I spotted an Ace Double and got excited for a moment, but was disappointed that it was a couple western novels instead of sci-fi ones. I was about to give it a shot, but there were too many other things that caught my eye.

Here's what I got:
  • Jandar of Callisto by Lin Carter (1972) - As I typed that name, I remembered it from that Conan book I didn't really like. There are some cool flying ships and futuristic buildings on the cover, though, so it shouldn't be as mundane as Conan was.
  • The Peace-Makers by Curtis W. Casewit (1968) - The cover says "A young scientist is the last barrier between a madman's weapon and the end of the world."
  • Microcosmic God edited by Sam Moskowitz (1965) - This is an anthology of "Modern Masterpieces of Science Fiction", but it's not so modern. I love the old stuff.
  • The Stars Are Too High by Agnew H. Bahnson, JR. (1959) - This is about a machine built for world domination. Awesome.
  • The Sun Grows Cold by Howard Berk (1971) - Mario Puzo called it, "The most chilling thriller since The Andromeda Strain". I haven't read The Andromeda Strain or The Godfather". I've seen the movie version the latter, and I liked it. I guess that really isn't helpful to me. The title reminds me of the movie Sunshine.
I still have other books I haven't read in my book pile, so I don't know when I'll read these. Some probably soon, others maybe later, but there will probably be forthcoming reviews of these.


The Closed Circle by Barney Parrish (1976)


In sixth grade, I had a teacher who hated me because I played Dungeons and Dragons, which meant that I worshiped Satan. In seventh grade, a kid wanted to beat me up for the very same reason. In eleventh grade I got called to the office and was accused of being in a Satanic cult because somebody had drawn an anarchy sign on something I had. And in twelfth grade, people got pissed off at me because I told a pregnant girl that it was really stupid to believe that Satanists were going to kill her baby and turn it into baby-wax candles if she didn't get it immediately baptized, as her backwoods preacher had lead her to believe.

Satan has long been one of my favorite fictional characters. I'm a big fan of monsters, and Satan is like King Monster. Evil incarnate. He's not nearly as cool as Cthulhu, but he does have one thing going for him that no Lovecraft monster has: people are freaking terrified of him. In real life. Not only are they afraid of the Devil himself, they're afraid of his followers that supposedly walk among us, secretly performing rituals, casting spells, sacrificing things, and rolling special evil dice that have 20 sides. Like the cults that worship Cthulhu, though, these cults just don't exist. There aren't any secret groups dedicated to worshipping Satan, meeting in basements lit with black candles, drinking blood, and killing things. Nobody who believes in the Christian Devil wants anything to do with him. Real "Satanists" aren't scary at all, and they usually stop calling themselves that around the same time they stop shopping at Hot Topic.

The fear of Satan and his followers has lead to their inclusion in countless books, stories, and movies. Sometimes the stories are great, like The Exorcist, but sometimes they're not so great, like The Closed Circle. The book was published by Playboy Press, which lead me to believe that it was either erotica or good literature, which is what they're known for, but it turned out to be surprisingly low grade. I'm glad I only paid 30 cents for it.

The Closed Circle is a Satanic cult that consists of a bunch of rich people. They're like a reverse Charles Manson cult, in which rich celebrities kill poor runaways instead of the other way around. They even mention Manson in one of their rituals. The group is able to remain a secret until a woman begins to have visions of them. She also gets really horny, which is why she is committed to a mental hospital. The doctors are just like the doctors in real life, except that they immediately start seriously considering whether something paranormal is happening. Fortunately, they get a faith healer to help her. A real faith healer.

As an avid reader of speculative fiction, I'm used to suspending disbelief. Really, if I can accept the Satan stuff and the psychic stuff in this book, I should be able to accept the rest. After all, the book doesn't take place in the real world, it takes place in the magical world of The Closed Circle. That might be the problem, though. For a story like this to be effective, it should take place in a world as close to ours as possible, but as the unrealistic elements pile up the story moves further and further away from the real world. By the end of the book, The Closed Circle is no longer scary, they're just another set of characters in a phony world.

Despite its flaws, The Closed Circle is not boring. There's plenty of action, and it's well paced. It doesn't really work as a horror story, but it's alright for a supernatural suspense story. It probably would have worked better in a different format, like a cartoon or comic book. Overall, it's really not a terrible book, it's just not good.

Buy this book.