Category Archives: Books

Lists: Literary Geek

I received this note because NathanW thinks I am a literary geek.

1) What author do you own the most books by?
William Gibson if you don’t include Comics/Graphic Novels | Warren Ellis if you do

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
Choke

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

No, this is an informal questionnaire.
4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Spider Jerusalem, it’s a bromance.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
Hmmm…. This is another of those, if you count Comics deal…

Starship Troopers if it’s just Novels

The Transmetropolitain series if you include Comics
6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?

Adventures with Hal?

7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
The show that Smells. AWFUL!

8) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
A World made by hand.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
Choke by Chuck Palinuick

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
Warren Ellis

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
Autumn

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
Monster Island

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
N/A

14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
The Show that Smells

15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Paul of Dune

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
Can’t say any of them have been obscure.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Russians

18) Roth or Updike?
Updike

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Sedaris

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer
Chaucer, but I haven’t read him.

21) Austen or Eliot?
Austen

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
This past six months.

23) What is your favorite novel?
Hard to choose.

24) Play?
As you like it.

25) Poem?
Files.  By me.

26) Essay?
The Singapore one by William Gibson

27) Short story?
Petra by Greg BEar.

28) Work of nonfiction?
No Black,s Irish Dogs, the Johnny Rotten Biography.

29) Who is your favorite writer?
Warren Ellis & Chuck Paliniuck

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Orson Scott Card

31) What is your desert island book?
Emergency Survival Guide of some sort.

32) And… what are you reading right now?

A Wild Cards novel, forget the name (they are all kinda trashy) just finished Blood Crazy and Paul of Dune

Review: Zombie Frank Herbert might do a better job

Anyone who has read a review on my site before will be familiar with my “Stars” rating system; I will forgo this system initially to provide for you a reaction shot of me; while I read this:

oh-god-its-looking-at-us

This may look like I might have been enjoying myself; but you are reading my expression incorrectly.  I am about to poke my eyes out with “The Horns”.  This was to prevent the blood that gathered behind them from exploding from my sockets in a hematic squirt.

Paul of Dune

Frank Herbert’s son attempts to fill in some of the Plot of Dune, with predictably hilarious results.

Did I say Hilarious? I meant unreadable.

My rating: 0.5 stars
1/2

It took me months to trod through this drek.  I’m not a fan of Space Opera at all; this book simply cements my poor opinion of the Genre.  Thanks to Mini Book Expo for the chance to read this one; I will forgo resiting my instincts on these books in the future, Scion of Herbert be DAMNED!

Review: "Bloody Crazy" does not rhyme with Satan

Blood Crazy

Nick Aten ambles over the bloody remains of a boy evicerated by his own mother to eat a burger and shoot the shit with a friend. The next day his younger brother is dead and the adults have taken up the hobby of killing everyone under the age of 20, all adults everywhere. Now Nick has to get away from it all and slip his parents as they hunt him across england.

Blood Crazy is a recounting by Nick Aten of the year that Adult humanity stopped caring for the youth and instead began turning the bodies of the young into massive necropolises and temples of death across the countryside.

Anywhere there were young people, the adults would gather and destroy them.

Nick spends a whole year on the run from place to place; finding his way from callow youth to something else.

Simon Clark does a fantastic job of making the story fast paced enough to keep you reading and 300 pages in I realized I’d read the majority of it in one go. Bravo I strongly recommend Blood Crazy!

My rating: 4.5 stars
****1/2

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I read this one quickly, I usally only read in small drips and have spent MONTHS not reading a DUNE novel, but I gave this book a minute while I was in disposed and could not stop reading it.  It’s not high literature; and once again we have a post-apocalyptic hero that can’t walk 20 yards without tripping over yet anothere willing woman who needs him to make love to her and plant his seed.  I wish that I was exaggerating this point.

The “cause” of the adults going crazy is explained; it’s a bit weak.  I don’t think it detracts from the book at all, but the explaination is weak.

This book does the oppostite of “Graceling” when it comes to travel, the travel portions are either mad dashes from blood-crazed adults or treks across wastelands that are leading urgently to somewhere; not detracting from the pace or the action.  It was a relief when a character found a safe place to sleep;  I cared that they got to sleep comfortably.

Nick Aten; the main character is somewhat stereotypical lead character.  He’s smart, but not an intellectual, strong, but not too tough.  Cocky but not cock-sure… I could go on.  He’s not so generic as to be an everyman, but he’s no stand-out.

The “Bully” character which serves as the human plot point for most of the story has a back story that I think that Simon Clark almost maliciously leaves off, going so far as to cut the character off when he attempts to vocalize his perceived injustice with Nick.   I was most frustrted with this; Tug Slatter is a bully and a thug, but he is certainly more than that and we are NOT given more than a glance at whatever motivates him and his misanthropy.

All in all; I will recommend this one to fans of Post-Apocalyptic survival novels.  It was a good quick read and worth picking up.

Review: The Book that Stinks

The Show that Smells

The Show That Smells is the most SHOCKING story ever shown on the silver screen! It’s also the tale of Jimmie, a country music singer dying of tuberculosis, and Carrie, his wife, who tries to save him by selling her soul to a devil who designs HAUTE COUTURE CLOTHING! Elsa is a powerful Parisian dress designer, and a vampire. She wants to make Carrie look beautiful, smell beautiful – AND THEN SHE WANTS TO EAT HER! Will Carrie survive as her slave? Will Jimmie be cured? Starring a host of Hollywood’s brightest stars, including Coco Chanel, Lon Chaney and the Carter Family, The Show That Smells is a thrilling tale of HILLBILLIES, HIGH FASHION, AND HORROR!

My rating: 1.0 stars
*

Bad Book. Bad Book. Bad Book. Horrible Tropes.  Bad Book. Bad Book. Stunt Typography. Bad Book. Bad Book. Bad Book. Vampires are all Homosexual Baby Killers.  Bad Book. Bad Book. Bad Book. Graphic and Morbid Rape Scenes.

There isn’t much of a plot to this screed, so I won’t waste any time with discussing characters or plot.  There are 6 actual characters and about 15 speaking roles in this made-for-Limbaugh Vampire novella.  It all devolves into a kind of stunt-book, with words strewn among typography tricks and over-used AMICLEVER section mastheads meant to evoke a maze of mirrors.  The Vampires are monsters and as they themselves state, they are gay, because everyone who is evil is gay, right?

My satire detector is broken again I guess, but the heavy “We kill babies and have forced butt secks” section was more than enough for me, as was the pointlessly brief climax.  Avoid this book and any derivative Jack Chick tracts it may spawn or else be forced to envision a melty-faced Lon Chaney standing behind a crying (pantsless) man saying “HAW HAW HAW” as he violates him with a perfume bottle.

Review: World Made by Hand

World Made by Hand

Robert Earle lives in Union Grove, a little piece of America touched by history, good fortune and the malaise of the collapse of modern society. After the Oil disappears and the age of Globalism is over the people make a living by digging out bits of the Modern world to rebuild a semblance of Post-Civil war America.

Robert Earle was a corporate executive with two kids and a family. He lived the high life, flying across the country 3 or four times a month, first class of course. After the Oil dried up and the Modern world collapsed in Nuclear Fire, Plague and ennui Robert was left alone in union Grove, his wife and daughter dead, his son long gone into the wilderness. When a group of strangers come to town led by a man as equally worldly as he is religiously ardent; Robert is caught up in the rapid changes that only new blood can bring.

My rating: 5.0 stars
*****

Before I being my review; I’d very much like to ask James Howard Kunstler to please sell the rights to this novel as a movie as soon as possible.  A novel about a post-apocalyptic world that doesn’t simply descend into cheap nihilism is as refreshing as a cool breeze in summer and it has been a long hot summer this year.

I will have to admit that at points I had to restrain myself from siomply giving up and throwing in with some of the characters from the novel, they are a likeable and entrancing group.  Brother Jobe and his New Faithers are a composite group that I have described to others as “Industrious Mormons who Drink and Fight Like Sailors”  which I think is the most apt description.  They arrive in Union Grove like shadows but bombastically “take over” helping revitalize a town caught in the doldrums of a slow death, mourning the lost world.

Robert Earle is one of the many single men in town, acting as the local carpenter and somtime lover to his best friend’s wife.  He lives his life fishing, woodworking and playing in the local musical group.  He tolerates the Former Bikers who have taken up as scrap merchants and archeologists, has an amicalable relationship with the local Laird, a plantation owner and is respected in the town.  When a young man is murdered and it falls to the loca Laird to adjudicate, Robert finds himself thrust into more than one situation that requires him to be more than just upright and moral.  A sometimes hero and sometimes confidant, Robert is a strong lead character.  If I was to make any complaint, Robert (like many a post-apocalyptic hero before him) is an amzing man who cannot step through the day without being set upon by love crazed women; such is his sheer physical prowess.  By the time he had bed his second woman, I was already tired of the concept.  This stands as my only complaint about the novel and should be set aside as a personal complaint and no real black mark on the book itself.

Mr. Knustler has taken great pains to give some obvious archtypes voice without heavioy playing the statements; the denizens of the trailer park are rough red-staters who would claim that just punishment for their crimes was oppression (even as they are oppressing themselves and their clan), the government is staffed by people who look to others to solve their problems (but are quick to use force to prove a point), Religious fervor has replaced community in places and it is up to the common folk to solve their own problems regardless of how insurmountable they seem.

“World Made By Hand” was rewarding to read and I STRONGLY recommend it to fans of political fiction, dramatic fiction and post-apocalyptic faire.  In a world where the sudden report of a radio tuned to static is an alien and foreign thing, Mr. Kunstler has crafted a believable and utterly fascinating novel that bears repeated reading.

Review: Adopted Son

Adopted Son

A subtle invasion of earth has left a legacy of the alien among us.

Were it not for the lack of flow, this might have been a great novel, instead it is a chore and a boring one at that (with it’s serious over-reliance on technical details). I cannot recommend this book to anyone but the most dedicated Bureaucrat or Genetics Fanatic who needs good bedtime fodder. This is a great concept marred by poor execution, perhaps an editor will come along and re-arrange this work into a cogent novel.

My rating: 2.0 stars
**

Dominic Peloso may have a history of writing detailed reports and scholarly papers. At least One would hope he does. TinyGhosts is indicative of the style of writing that faces the reader; clever and clipped, I warn you of this now.

I also warn you that this is a fairly negative review of what is truly good material.

I could not read Adopted Son for more than 20-30 minutes at a time. The “Chapters” are short and choppy, but far from “to the point.” Scenes are told in sections, jumping in time over and over. It was jarring at first and then simply annoying. I skipped ahead, hoping that the “chopped military report” style would taper into traditional narrative, only to put the book down and gently weep for my future.

I can’t tell you anything about this book to make it more interesting that the concept, which is GREAT! The concept is that Aliens have germinated their seed in the genetic structure of people across the globe and scientists are rushing to understand the implications of it, while alien children grow up among us. It’s fairly awesome as a concept, but the execution was horrifyingly bad. Add to this that the author claims to have written this before 2001, he had 5 years to edit it and make it palatable to the general public. Alas, he has not.

Review: Graceling

Graceling

Gracelings are people gifted with abilities far above what anyone could call a talent. Katsa is gifted with the ability to run faster, strike harder and kill anyone better than anyone who has ever lived.

Graceling is the author Kristen Cashore’s first novel. It recounts the story of Katsa; a gifted killer in the employ of a King. Far beyond the norm for a girl; Katsa can run for hours, see in the dark and kill wild lions with her bare hands. She is dispatched to maim or terrify those that displease King Randa, to whom she owes total loyalty and fealty. Her secret rebellion against this world is discovered by another gifted fighter and Katsa joins him on a quest to learn the secret behind a royal kidnapping.

My rating: 4.5 stars
****1/2

For a first novel, this is certainly an excellent first impression; I shared the first chapter with my Daughter as I read it and she was so intrigued that she demanded that I read it to her in its entirety when I was finished with my review.  Graceling is exciting in places, contemplative in others and gorgeous in others.

The “Graced” inhabit a world that loves and fears them; save those that live free on an island kingdom removed from the politics of the mainland.  They are vetted and employed by kings and queens for their skills and live (for the most part) at the whim of others.  I couldn’t help but find a number of parallels between Graceling and 1602 (by Neil Gaiman) where the “Graced” are simple analogs to the Mutant heroes that populate comics (X-Men for example) but set in a Fantasy world. This is not a critical point however; it makes the characters somewhat familiar, not off-putting.

As for the characters themselves, we have the Mysterious Stranger/Love Interest, The Punk Nerd/Best Friend, The Older Man/Trainer, The Mother Analogue, the Overbearing Father and even the “wise ass little sister”.  Again; these are familiar archtypes that I encourage you to discover in the story for yourself, especially the spurned suitor.  Being a Young-Adult novel, complex characterizations aren’t what one would expect.

In the quiet moments, when the characters are just existing and no plot movement is going on we are treated to characters as people instead of archetypes and the author gives us people to sympathize with rather than thin action/adventure caricatures. The Quiet moments inevitably happen during some period of travel, which are as numerous as those in the Lord of the Rings; one could imagine the characters passing a pair of hairy-footed little people and having them curse under their breath “horses, why didn’t we think of horses?”

However; all of the characters save Po and Raffi seem to be dim, waiting on the Graced girl to do their thinking for them, Oll who is the spymaster for a King always seems to be one step behind Katsa.  Katsa may be a skilled fighter, but Raffi (and others) all remarked that she was not the most perceptive of people; but she has built a grand enterprise around her.  This uneven storytelling was off putting at points. Right there on page 183 Po calls out (in so many words) that the council proves that Katsa is much more intelligent than she gives herself credit for, which only enforces my concern with the storytelling regarding Katsa’s character.  We’re constantly given these adolescent characters who are not sure of themselves, but able to draw to themselves these crowds of followers.  Can’t we have a confident character who is also a protagonist?  The self-assured are usually villains and supporting characters, can’t we have a self-assured hero who is legitimate?

It is an old world we are given, with people of fantastic gifts who have become a part of every day life.  The extraordinary made tame if not banal.  Which, I suppose is what would happen; given the circumstances of the story.  People of great ability but limited means used as tools to an end; not quite slavery but not freedom either.  Po represents the departure from that form; his circumstances being exceptional in the world we are presented with.

As for the actual story?  By the later chapters I found myself willing the Author to forgo the very things that made the narriative so compelling, skip the traveling parts I would will the words to just vanish. It’s a well-paced, engaging piece of fantasy.  The characters, while thin at points, are still strong enough to make you want to follow them on.  I sussed the majority of the story early on (it’s a young adult fantasy, how complex do you want it to be) but I wasn’t bored, which is a great accomplishment.  I don’t need a surprise twist to enhance a story, I just need a strong narrative and characters that I enjoy spending my time on.  Graceling provides us with a semi-familiar fantasy setting with a rounded history and believable world that one could easily have loved as a teenager and thought back fondly on as an adult.

This is a review for mini book expo if you a Canadian blogger intereseted in reviewing books on your blog, please do not hesitate to visit.

Are you a Splitter a Risen or Just Abiding in Sodom?

My first mini book expo book has arrived; “Therefore Repent!”  Jim Munroe‘s Graphic Novel about a post-Rapture Chicago and two new arrivals “The Raven” and “The Mummy.” George W. Bush is on a tour of the “Loyal” Red States with “Mr. Christ” in tow and the newly faithful are engaged in a protracted battle to win the favor of the God who left them behind.

It was interesting to see a world post-Rapture world from another point of view. It contrasts well with “The Chrysalids” and “Left Behind” where in both cases the focus was on the Faithful and The Newly Faithful as the protagonists, facing and evil world; “Therefore Repent!” is led by the meandering Gen-X’ers and lacksidasial hippies or spiritualists who had long given up on a Christian paradise.

“The Mummy” is revealed to be a spiritual person; whose own convictions are stronger than his own faith.  I think many an agnostic who grew up in the Church can see themselves in his character, someone who has examined their faith and come to terms with it.  While sympathetic “The Mummy” isn’t heroic, he is simply a vessel for the story and helps to guide us from point to point in the story.

“The Raven” is an enigma, a woman hidden from the world in a Raven Mask, hiding more than just her face.  I felt that her presence as protagonist was the strongest in the novel.  She is clearly running from her past; while traying to come to terms with something in it.  The Rapture appears only to have solidified that she is cursed in some way and that curse appears to have become unpredictable and dangerous.

Post-Rapture Chicago is populated by the people who have accepted that the Rapture has come and they have been left behind.  This is the most striking aspect of the world that we’ve been given.  There doesn’t appear to be any denial or suspicion of what has happened.  It has simply been accepted and the remains of humanity have moved on.  Even the media have simply accepted it into their news cycle.  Some of those who are left behind are trying to buy their way back “Splitter” and some are acting in the stead of Jesus “The Risen” but the majority have either given up or just moved on and accepted the new way.

Then the Dog talks and the dead keep rising.

It is clear that the world hasn’t just continued as normal; Angels are culling the west coast and Did I mention that Jesus is on tour with George Bush?

Now,  as a Graphic Novel I feel obliged to mention the Art.  I won’t linger on it.  Salgood Sam doesn’t present a stand out world of destroyed buildings and smoking craters.  Instead we are given a strong visual record of a normal world, populated with miracles and loss.  It’s like a hand-drawn history.  I valued the strong messages that were portrayed in the art of the characters that became more and more poignant as the story progressed.

All of that aside, I have read a very similar story before, I hesitate to list it by name but wonder if perhaps Mr. Munroe  was influenced by the same nietzcheian notions that led to it?  Nevertheless, this is an enterrtaining read and a strong graphic novel. “Therefore Repent!” is well presented, bound as a nice quality trade and distributed by Insomniac Press it is available from Jim Munroe’s website no media kings. I’d recommend it for fans of Post-Apocalyptic fiction, Gen-X prose and the religious aunt in the family.

Review: Wanted (the movie) Vs Wanted (the comic)

Disclaimer: I am a fan of comics, a serious fan of comics and overall a fan of the WANTED comic.  My opinions are going to be skewed and should not be taken as the sanction or prohibition of a sane reviewer.

EDIT: Check out a graphic representation of why The Comic is Superior

Let me first state three impressions I got from this film overall, the director loves slow motion, Glass breaks into little squares when people run through it and script consistency was not job #1 when the final shooting script was used.

For example, we are treated to a superhuman display of speed and agility by someone who were are initially led to believe is one of only two people with said magical skills in the movie.  However, later in the film it is revealed that this person is not one of the two.  While it is demonstrated that “Sloan” has some skills, only James McAvoy’s character is supposed to be in possesion of said magical killing abilities.  Why then in the twist do we find out that the character of the dead man is not whom we are told he is, thereby negating the “only two people” line from earlier?  Perhaps I misheard it?

Angelina Jolie can look as if she wants to eat children if she holds her head a certain way, in the first scene with Angelina Jolie she makes a kind of concerned/concentration face that lets me fully believe that she is a hardened comic villain.  It’s too bad the story strays so far from the comic, as her character is totally wasted. (literally)

I am aware that Mark Millar was enthusiastic about the film; but this is one of those situations where the creator and the fans might have to disagree.  “Wanted” the film is a great ation film, but the loss of the “evil” parts of Wesley’s training and the total loss of the wanton violence and wonder of the Super Villains makes the movie less entertaining than the book.  I like the movie, but loved the book.

I didn’t think “Wanted” was horrible, and enjoyed the action, but won’t recommend it over the book.    If you are in the mood for a hard action movie with a great deal of visual flair, by all means, check it out.  If you are a fan of the book, don’t go into it expecting too much.