October is the month for things strange, eerie and spooky, and in our reads too, we tend to pick up the mysterious or something with monsters, ghouls, and vampires aplenty (or even a few). Last year I had compiled a short list of some of my favourite spooky/scary reads which also ended up including some that I planned to pick up (here). This year, looking through my shelves for strange or spooky reads, I instead noticed something else altogether, which was books that I had with characters actually named Strange. Two of these (a duology and a standalone) are fantasy reads, but one is certainly not but, still it is a mystery so fits with the season. So here goes.
The first of these is a fantasy duology by Laini Taylor, called I think Strange the Dreamer and consists of Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares. The story is about a foundling, Lazlo Strange who is sent to live at an abbey where an old monk tells him stories about a mysterious (and far away) land that fascinate him. But one day, as if by magic, the name of this city vanishes from his mind and of everyone else; all that remains is the word ‘Weep’. Lazlo grows up to become librarian at the Great Library of Zosma and remains absorbed in learning all he can about Weep. Then one day, Tizekane, warriors from Weep, led by the Godslayer come to Zosma to take back skilled men and women, to help their city recover from a tragedy that has affected them. In Weep we also meet a young girl, half human and half god Sarai, who with her ‘family’ has also been impacted by this tragedy. Both the books are beautiful and magical, the story drawing you in and plenty of surprises along the way.
Next is another fantasy read, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Set in an alternative, magical England, this is the story of two rival magicians Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. The latter is rich and reclusive, and lives in Yorkshire with a library of rare and wonderful books, and ends up even raising the dead. Then comes on the scene the charming and talkative Jonathan Strange who Mr Norrell takes on as a pupil. But their ideas of what magic in England should be turn out very different, while in the background is the Raven King, a mysterious figure belonging to both the world of the humans and the Faerie. This one has footnotes as well which I found good fun, though it is a doorstopper.
Next on my list is a good old mystery, Towards Zero. This one is part of Christie’s set of books featuring Superintendent Battle, in fact the last of the series (if one can call it that). The Strange in this book is Neville Strange, a former tennis ace who brings both his present wife Kay, and former wife Audrey, when invited for a visit by his former guardian’s wife Lady Tressilian, chatelaine at Gull’s Point. Being an Agatha Christie, there is naturally a death (more than one, in fact) and Battle must investigate. This is another where Christie explores human nature, and also the idea that all that happens does so for a reason.
These are the four from my shelves one’s I’ve read with characters named Strange. But there are quite a few others, all ‘strangely’ from comics.
Among these are Doctor Strange, who first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1963, who starts off as a surgeon who loses his ability to operate after an accident, but after encountering the Ancient One, recovers and becomes his student. He goes on to serve as sorcerer supreme, protecting the earth against magical and mystical threats (source: wikipedia here). Adam Strange on the other hand appears in DC Comics and first appeared before Doctor Strange, in 1958. He is an archaeologist who travels to other planets (wikipedia here). His story sounds to me a bit like The Princess of Mars/John Carter.
Next we have Hugo Strange, archvillain who is an adversary of Batman and one of the first recurring villains in the DC comics series. He first appeared in 1940 in a story in which he, a scientist, stole a concentrated lightning machine which helped his gang commit crimes (Wikipedia here). Finally we have Doc Strange from the Thrilling Comics in 1940. This Strange is also a scientist who develops a serum that gives him some extraordinary powers including the ability to fly and superhuman strength. In 2000, this Doc Strange was renamed Tom Strange (Wikipedia here).
So that’s the rather interesting list of Stranges that I’ve come across in fiction. Other than Neville Strange the tennis player and possibly Hugo Strange (though he does create some monsters in some stories), the others all have some extraordinary powers or magic. So even if not spooky, with the fantastical elements, these would all be pretty apt reads for the season.
Have you read any of these? Which ones and how did you like them? Any other characters named Strange that you’ve come across? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!
My October reads don’t include any of these books, by the way, but I do have some mysteries (including The Mysterious Affairs at Styles that turns 100 this month) and spooky-ish reads that I’ve been picking up. Reviews will appear when I get to them. I’ve only just about caught up with my September reads.
What spooky books have you been reading?