It has been so long anything with Captain Atom that I can't even remember his real name, and they helped me not a whit in this opening issue. No matter, they told us what we needed to know about him: 1. he's an ex-pilot; 2. he had a quantum accident during a mission he volunteered for that made him into Captain Atom; 3. he absorbs energy; 4. he can manipulate matter, organic or inorganic, at at least the atomic level, including himself; 5. he could on the verge of dissipating as he tries to bring his powers under control; 6. he's in some study under Dr. Megala -- a sort of Stephen Hawking for the DC universe; 7. his own safety means less than the safety of people he doesn't know; 8. So he's a hero.
I don't know what to expect and my memory's not helping me out, so I will just enjoy this without access to my suppressed biases.
Now for the technical side. Two things jumped out at me: 1. the colouring of Jose Villarrubia is beautiful stuff. 2. For some reason I love the "comuterised"dialogue boxes of Dr. Megala. They're unique and oddly endearing. There. I said it.
Captain Atom #2
Second issue in a row where Captain Atom's conflict is a problem that needs to be and can be fixed without engaging in battle. last time he absorbed the energy of a NYC volcano, and this time he goes into a kid's head (quite literally) to "attack" and eradicate the boy's brain tumour. That and the struggle to stay corporeal are the conflicts in the story. There are no big villains, no scenes of Captain Atom punching the shit out of people or attacking them with radioactive bolts, just a super-guy solving problems as peaceably as he can, which is more peaceably than anyone else I've seen. It will probably change (there is a mutated beast at the end of issues #1 & #2 that suggest there's a big traditional battle coming) but this intelligent use of his powers is refreshing while it lasts.
I aldo want to mention a wonderful moment, which is, perhaps, my favourite moment in a New 52 opening arc -- Captain Atom bombarded my communication. He is being discussed by his colleagues at the lab, and not in the friendliest of terms, but he is oblivious to them because his brain is tuned into all electronic communication that's floating through the air. It overwhelms him and he tries to process it all at once. The art supporting the moment is as perfect as the moment itself. Well worth a read just for this, I think.
Captain Atom #3
Captain Atom is starting to feel like a god. Nothing seems to be beyond him. He needn't eat or sleep, so he needn't stop saving lives, which takes him into the metaphysical questions only he, the Beyonder or Dr. Manhattan (and maybe a couple of others) need to ponder: Am I a God? Am I God? Does my presence disrupt God's plan?
These are excellent questions for a guy who can absorb a nuclear blast and who scares the hell out of the Justice League and Flash to try and answer for himself. The answers, though, aren't easy, and I can't see them becoming easier as this arc proceeds.
Captain Atom #4
Now the question is: Am I a weapon? The answer to this one is obvious, though, so Captain Atom must decide if he is willing to be a deterant in the "good ol' U.S. of A.'s" arsenal. It takes no time for him to make the choice, and once again, despite half the air force attacking him with missiles and bullets, he doesn't take the bellicose route. He transmutes the armaments into feathers, mooting their offensive capacity, proving his place as one of the coolest heroes around.
Meanwhile, the title itself feels like it is about to take a turn into 50s Sci-Fi cheesiness, which could be glorious if handled well. Bring on the mutated bio-goo of any shape and swelling size!
Captain Atom #5
Twice in this issue, Captain Atom engages in classic super-heroing: the first is in a dream and leads to the disintegration of Dr. Renata Carter, one of the scientists studying him (and the one who seems to be falling in love with him), so he chooses a less destructive path when he actually goes to help Renata, taking a decidely less super-heroey path in the end; the second is in reality, and the flesh mutation beast that has been growing at the end of each comic has eaten (devoured? absorbed?) the population of an entire town, and Captain Atom loses his temper, lashing out with his energy in a very super-heroey way, but it doesn't work the way he planned, and the fleshy mutation beast grows exponentially. Then it begins -- possibly -- to devour Captain Atom himself. The super-heroey stuff has backfired. Sweet!
I want more of the non-super-heroey stuff. It's refreshing beyond belief.
Captain Atom #6
Freddie Williams II's art is damn good, but it is Jose Villarrubia's colours that are the true star of this book. In fact, it is the colours that are pivotal to the books art. Villarrubia's colours, the bright pastel of Captain Atom contrasted with the more naturally coloured real world, are some of the best I have ever seen, which is fitting considering how radical the tale is.
Captain Atom is a tale about what's wrong with us, what's right with us, and offers a message concerning where we should be and how we could get there if we would only try. Captain Atom is the best hero book I've read in quite some time. Thanks for your awesome writing, JT Krul. Well done indeed.
Sure Batman & Superman are good, but those books detract from DC's other characters, who could be so much better than the headliners given half a chance -- and Krul proves that point right here in this book. I would love to see a world where Bats and Supes were rested indefinitely. Never going to happen, but it's something pleasant to dream about.
I am disgusted by this book. How dare Jeffrey Brown play fast and loose with Star Wars continuity?! Darth Vader was not a "single Dad" just trying t...more;)
I am disgusted by this book. How dare Jeffrey Brown play fast and loose with Star Wars continuity?! Darth Vader was not a "single Dad" just trying to be the best Dad he could be. He was the most vile, most villainous henchman of the Empire. He was responsible for multiple murders, took part in genocides, he was damn near irredeemable, and here Brown is trying to make us think he was somehow kind and playful, just a good Dad in a tough situation.
I'll tell you what this is: it is an insult to all the victims of Alderaan; it is an insult to all those enslaved to the evil, galactic Empire; it is an insult to the heroes of the Rebellion; it is an insult to that great hero of the New Republic herself, Princess Leia. Shame on you, Jeffrey Brown. Shame on you for giving a false, human face to this terrible Sith Lord.
p.s. I'm cheating on media blackout day. Don't tell anyone. (less)
I was going to give this five stars, then I thought, "It's too much fun for five stars," so I clicked on four stars, then I thought, "Fuck that! Five...moreI was going to give this five stars, then I thought, "It's too much fun for five stars," so I clicked on four stars, then I thought, "Fuck that! Five it is." And so it came to be.
New Novella --
I have been tossing around an idea I have about the shift in novella writing from a thing unto itself into a portion of "larger" works (I first started talking about it here), and it seems to me that John Scalzi's quite marvelous Redshirts is just such a work.
I would split it into two novellas: Redshirts itself, and the three Codas. Redshirts is, after all, a mere 200-ish pages that read very quickly. Its length is similar to many of the classic novellas (many of which, like Heart of Darkness are densely packed into their slim editions); it gets going, gets its story told and gets out.
The Codas, then, make up the second novella. Though they work as narrative additions to Redshirts proper, they also work on their own, stringing together three short stories (a novella in short stories?) that make one cohesive unit, and I think they could be read as one piece minus Redshirts and be quite excellent in their own right. Moreover, they offer up first, second and third person perspectives, respectively, binding themselves together as one unit with a mechanical throughline that weaves together the narrative threads into a piece.
You may not consider it two novellas, but the idea works for me in my brain, and next time I read this book I am going to read the Codas all by themselves to see how they work.
Fun & Funny--
Novella talk aside, this is one enteraining piece of fiction. It hits that special place in my liver where my Trekkie love rests, it hits that special place in my hypothalimus where my Firefly love rests, it hits that very special place in my testicles where BSG rests, it hits that special place in my joints where Deep Space Nine rests, etc., etc.. Scalzi knows all the pressure points (and of course he would being the nerd that he is and having worked on Stargate too), and he pokes at those points with joyful abandon. I haven't had so much fun reading in a year.
Fuck yeah! Anyone who is interested in Baudrillard or Eco or spends their time seeing the removes in everything they perceive with enjoy their time down the wormhole or ten.
A Yeti in the Jeffries' Tubes. Seriously fun.
I know I am missing some things I wanted to say when I finished reading last night, but those can wait until the next time I read Redshirts. It is sure to come. (less)
What an opening sequence! Batman is in Arkham Asyloum putting down an escape of most of his Rogues Gallery, thinking about the answers to the question: "What is Gotham?" A sequence that highlights Snyder's greatest strength -- the embracing of symbolism in thought squares.
The battle rages until Batman's nemesis joins the fray, then the story is all about his allies. Three of the Robins, Commissioner Gordon, Barbara and others. The art is simply drawn (and faces seem too closely related from one character to another for me), but they are gorgeously coloured, so when the second act bores us with speechifying and the third act bores us with Se7en copy-catting we're still distracted enough by the visuals to go merrily along. Finally there is the inevitable cliffhanger, and all my mid-tale boredom evaporated.
First issues of "reboots" are notoriously difficult, but I think Scott Snyder did well to strike a balance between the old and the new. Bring on #2, says I.
Batman #2 --
Our introduction to the assassin who does the job for the Court of Owls -- Talon -- is a beautiful thing. It's hypnotic storytelling that heightens tension and threat, causing me serious edge of the easy chair suspense, but when Snyder adds the weaving of Nightwing (my favourite member of the Bat-Family) to the tapestry of his tale, I am all in.
Is it possible? Will the Court of Owls and Talon become my favourite Batman / Nightwing villains? If things continue the way they are headed then the answer must be yes.
Batman #3 --
We often talk about "world-building" when we talk about speculative fiction, generally praising a piece or an author that builds believable worlds. And when we praise these authors the praise is often high praise, but for me there is a higher form of "world building," which deserves even higher praise -- myth building.
George Lucas' stories aren't great -- at least for me -- because they build a believable Galaxy; his movies are great because they build an effective mythology within that Galaxy. So in this third issue of the Court of Owls, when I realized that Scott Snyder wasn't bothering to build the world (let's face it, the world of Gotham is built) but was, instead, building mythology, giving birth to the myths of Batman, I had a mindgasm.
The Court of Owls feels like it has always been. It doesn't feel like the creation of Snyder and Capullo (the artist). It feels like it has been around since the earliest days of Batman, as if the Court has always been in the shadows of Gotham, dictating the happenings of Bruce's world, a myth on the periphery of Batman's history. But it hasn't. It is new. It is the creation of these creators, and this Court is one spooky fucking bunch. They are as creepy as anything or anyone that Batman has ever faced. I want the Court to continue forever.
Batman #4 --
Explanation. Exposition. Nightwing. A nice lull before the big, big action with Dick around as Bruce's conscience, and a further deepening of the mythology of Gotham and the Wayne family make this a talky but compelling issue. I am unsure about the art of Capullo, however. When he's drawing Talon and the Court I am mesmerized, but everything else lacks for me, so much so that I find myself resisting immersion into Snyder's Gotham. Such a drag.
Batman #5 --
The Bat Signal burns for a week while Batman wanders the labyrinth of the Court of Owls. He wanders and drinks the water from their fountain and slowly battles madness, and we're brought along with him as the pages go from vertical to horizontal to upside down, and we're treated to symbolism and foreshadowing and call backs and genuine creepiness -- then blood and bursting light bulbs and sadness. And this time Capullo's art, especially in the Gallery of Mad Portraits, is conjuring some chilling magic.
Batman #6 --
Batman is beaten ...
... Then Capullo channels Dark Knight-era's Frank Miller and Snyder's Batman becomes savage, escaping the labyrinth ... How? You'll have to read it yourself to see.
Batman #7 --
The arc comes to an end that is the beginning of something much bigger, and Nightwing, our little Richard Grayson, is at the heart of it all. Just as Damian Wayne was born to be an assassin, we now discover that Dick was groomed from childhood to be the arm of the Court of Owls, and that ends up being full of spooky. It's a kick ass sequence, the moment we discover all this, and this seven issue arc stands as one of my all time favourite Batman tales. I don't want it to end, and gloriously, it isn't over yet.
"Suspend your disbelief," said the little voice inside my head.
When I listened to that little voice I was able to enjoy The Ultimate Game, and there...more"Suspend your disbelief," said the little voice inside my head.
When I listened to that little voice I was able to enjoy The Ultimate Game, and there are elements of this book that truly deserve to be enjoyed. Unfortunately, that little voice wasn't always loud enough to make me suspend my disbelief, and the sound of that voice couldn't drown out the dissonance. Those moments couldn't be overlooked or enjoyed (not, at least, by me).
3 Things That Deserve to be Enjoyed --
The Cliffhanger-- I didn't look into what this book was about before I started reading it, so the cliffhanger at the end of the book, the set up for the sequel, was somewhat unexpected, although I could tell quite early on that another book or two had to be coming if Sean Austin was going to make his story approach completeness. It was good enough that I want to read the sequel.
Two Brothers -- I quite liked Reggie and Jeremy, despite the fact that I bought very little that came out of their mouths. They didn't act their ages, for instance. Still, my like for them existed, and it came down to their love for each other, their loyalty, and the way their emotions rang true. I believed the way they felt about each other and how that translated into the actions they were forced to take, so I cared what happened to them (which is probably the key to the cliffhanger and my desire to see where this story is going).
Echo-7 -- Badass super transformer, Echo-7, is a pretty convincing front-man villain (I suspect someone else is in Echo-7's driver's seat ). He cloaks, he transforms, he tortures, he swallows people whole, he does impersonations, he thinks, he ejects still living boys from his body in plastic bags, he has an army of taser-bots, and he wants to rule the world (perhaps). But wow do you need to roll with his presence (suspend, suspend, suspend) because if you don't you may as well read something else.
Things That Are Hard to Enjoy --
The Militarism -- All boys like guns and violence and military lingo and knives and military philosophies -- and that's okay. More than okay, actually (at least that's what it felt like this book was trying to sell me). It's just fine to fill a book with violence, apparently, and sell that violence to boys ... cause, hey, the US is a peaceful place, the most militarized peaceful place in Earth's history, and militarism's a good thing, a thing that keeps us safe, not something that endangers us, not something we should ever worry about, at least not as much as we should worry about sex and hormones.
The "Token" Girl -- Claire's gamer handle is "Claw," and she's as beautiful as a super-model, and she makes Reggie feel funny in his stomach and then in his heart. Reggie's fourteen. When I was fourteen there was another funny feeling that went along with the stomach and the heart, and that could be found, quite uncontrollably, in my pants. Nothing stirred for Reggie, however. Never even crossed his mind. Couple Reggie's hormonal impossibility with his puppiest of loves, and the fourteen year old he was supposed to be felt about eleven. There was no suspending disbelief here, and it was more frustrating still because Claire was actually an appealing character. She was wasted. Big time.
Violence vs. Hormones -- Couple the glorification of violence for young adults with the chastity of the piece, and the result was an unrealism I was came to despise. The willing ignorance of parents when it comes to their children's hormones, hormones that they once had, makes me despair.
(view spoiler)[Why Wasn't This Whole Thing A Total Recall Scenario? -- If all the gamers had awoken in AAARealityGames hooked up to virtual reality displays or something, and everything they'd experienced had been a BETA test of a new game, this book would have been terrific. But they didn't, and The Ultimate Game was only good. It's a shame. I was hoping for better. (hide spoiler)]*
The Cliffhanger -- I know I said this was one of the things to like about the book, but it has to reside here as well. Sean Austin set up expectations, he teased and hinted at something more, and he failed to deliver. Had he taken more care to avoid the tease, the ending would have been much more satisfying. But I still want to read what's next, so the cliffhanger can't be all bad. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
My first reread of The City The City was an experience as convoluted as the grosstopography of Beszel and Ul Qoma. A chapter read, four chapters liste...moreMy first reread of The City The City was an experience as convoluted as the grosstopography of Beszel and Ul Qoma. A chapter read, four chapters listened to; three chapters read, two chapters listened to; and on. Teaching this book in a town in a different province than the town I live in, across a straight, over a bridge (my adopted country's longest, the adopted country that plays such an important role in the piece, which is itself a nation sandwiched between nations in our always); a soccer game was played with four teams and two balls, simultaneously filling the same grosstopography, unseeing each other, unseeing the other game, but there was I in net, in perpetual Breach, defending one goal from two teams, and my fellows from Breach were busy removing those who Breached during play. And I found myself loving the mystery of the book then thinking it was too weak then loving it all over again when the twist I'd forgotten reminded me of Miéville's genius and why the mystery really does work. And I found myself loving and loving and loving the alterity of the spaces that Tyador and Corwi and Dhatt navigated with their unseeing, unhearing, unknowing senses as they were forced to see and hear and know. The City and the City is a masterpiece. One hundred years from now this book, and others of Miéville's ouevre will be canon. He's the first writer I've discovered, and long before others had, that I can say that about. And one of the few of the future canon with whom I am contemporary. I am lucky to be reading him now, in his pomp, the way little boys were lucky to see Wayne Gretzky play hockey live. I will never see Miéville's like again.(less)
There’s no denying David David Katzman (DDK) is a talented writer. He’s no hack. He’s no dilettante fuckin...moreI hate this book, but that is a good thing.*
There’s no denying David David Katzman (DDK) is a talented writer. He’s no hack. He’s no dilettante fucking around because he thinks he has a good idea that “just needs to be published.” He’s the real deal. A writer’s writer. A writer with teeth and muscle. A writer with the ability to incite. And that’s what he did to me with A Greater Monster.
He incited rage and loathing, but that is a good thing.
He was a Cathead playing with me like the proverbial mouse (or a dog who refuses to masturbate) before killing me and eating me. His font games and wordplay were sadistic. His incessant twisting of homonyms and homophones was unbearable. Torturous is not an understatement. I wanted nothing more than for this book to end. I needed to be free of the trail of gunpowder he’d lit like a nasty, hallucinogenic Bugs Bunny. But all that’s good too.
It’s a good thing because there’s an audience out there begging for A Greater Monster – needing A Greater Monster. I may not be part of that audience, but they exist. I even know a few of them. And they will read this book on my recommendation and be incited to raptures and ecstasies, and they will rank it amongst their favourites ever. DDK is a voice for those of the urban subterrain; he is the voice of the edges and cracks and perforations of asphalt and post-industrial cubicles. People need DDK writing for them and to them and at them.
And he deserves to be read. Not just his brilliantly funny Death by Zamboni but this ugly, perverse, fomenting treatise of hyperreality called A Greater Monster. All DDK’s works deserve to be read.
I want him to be read. I want you to read him, whatever your feelings might be when you’re through. Read him. Love him. Hate him. Read this. Love this. Hate this. But don’t walk away from this book untouched, unaffected. Love A Greater Monster or hate A Greater Monster or love and hate A Greater Monster, but don’t put it down with an indifferent shrug. If you do that, the failure is yours. This book is extreme, so too should be your response, whichever direction it takes.
I hate this book. Almost as much as I love DDK. So when I get around to offering an upper level course in Bizarro fiction, this book will be the first on the required reading list. I hate this book, but I don’t have to like it to recognize its merit.
*it has always been my policy to rate books based on how I feel about them rather than their "merit."
Reading (or in the case of Star Wars The Han Solo Trilogy rereading) Star Wars books, with all their cheesie craptasticness is a great reminder of jus...moreReading (or in the case of Star Wars The Han Solo Trilogy rereading) Star Wars books, with all their cheesie craptasticness is a great reminder of just how bad George Lucas' universe is.
It is all contradictions and stock characters and pretty lights and bad plots and predictability and self-referential bullshit and unspeakable dialogue and sci-fantastic worlds. And that's exactly why we love them so much -- or at least why I do -- because they are drivel.
So when A.C. Crispin, who is obviously a fan of Han Solo, has her hero leading smugglers in an attack on an Imperial Fleet come to destroy Nar Shaddaa, it doesn't matter that it further damages his original trilogy character development (the worst damage was done by Lucas, after all, so the Creator himself set the precedent). And when Han comes up with the master plan that will help defeat the fleet (an ex-lover whose illusions would put David Copperfield to shame), and when Han is used by Jabba and Jiliac the Hutts to bribe the Admiral of the fleet, and when Han barely escapes from Boba Fett long before his Empire encounter with the bounty hunter (and makes him a mortal enemy by stealing his Mandalorian wrist darts), and when Han falls in love with the Millenium Falcon in about as banal a way as I can imagine, and when Han meets and befriends Lando Calrissian on the spot, who turns out to be a man who loves responsibility long before he becomes responsible for Cloud City, and when Han peaks out of a closet at a Darth Vader murder, it doesn't matter because its just as contradictory and silly as all Star Wars tales. And it's just as fun.
So I admit it ... I really, really liked The Hutt Gambit because I am a nostalgic git with no taste. But I'm okay with that.(less)
I know, I know, our fragmented culture is turning enough of our kids into ADHD pill poppers, but once in a while certain stories and characters need to be free to shift and shift and shift again. Frankie Pickle is one of those characters.
What I loved about The Closet of Doom was that Frankie bounced around from his Indiana Jones homage to super-hero love to disgusting room-alanche to lessons in hygiene to sandwich monsters in one coherent story that lived in the imagination of a little boy that I loved to love.
But The Pine Run 3000 lost that bouncy, spastic charm. There's a little bit of imagination going on, but not enough. There's really only one focus, which is the Pine Run car race -- and yes there are a couple of nice lessons and a mildly suprising yet satisfying finish -- but it's not enough to keep my love burning for Frankie.
I like him, though, and I liked this book. It was good. It just wasn't great, and I really wanted it to be great. I hope The Mathematical Menace embraces Frankie's wide-ranging spirit once again. That would rekindle my love. (less)
I know. You're looking at those five stars and thinking, "What the #$%@!" And I completely understand. It would appear I have gone mental. So here's t...moreI know. You're looking at those five stars and thinking, "What the #$%@!" And I completely understand. It would appear I have gone mental. So here's the breakdown of why the five stars. Just so we're all clear.
★: The nostalgia factor is overwhelming for me with this one. I was a little too young to watch these movies in the theatre, but they were massive when I was a little kid and the apes were everywhere. We've sort of rewritten film history a bit to believe that Star Wars started the summer blockbuster and merchandising explosion, but I had a Dr. Zaius doll and remember one of my friends having a Planet of the Apes t-shirt. I even played Battle for the Planet of the Apes with my friend Duane (the same one Thomas and I chatted about in the comment thread) after our all day summer tv marathon. So when I saw this at the local used book store and passed over my shekels, it had already earned that first star simply based on my childhood flashbacks.
+★: There are things to be said, positive things, about movie-tie-ins. I know the prevailing wisdom is that they are the trashiest of the trashy, and that may very well be true, but there are two things about them I love. First, as a longtime screenwriter, I appreciate the cinematic quality that can't be avoided. These sorts of books are almost always based on a screenplay for the film (occassionally, though, they'll be based on a treatment), so the pace, the action, the dialogue is driven by the movie, and while I would rather read the actual screenplay, a movie-tie-in is an enjoyable (though diminished) alternative. Second, directors can change the work of screenwriters however they want, so it's nice to see a different take on a screenwriter's work and feel a little closer (even if this is illusory) to what their work was all about.
+★: Sometimes, as in this case where the movie was pretty pathetic, a movie-tie-in can be better than its on-screen counterpart. The film was saddled with poor effects (even the ape costumes had become less impressive, with so many apes needed to fill Ape City only the costumes of the stars were well done), poor performances, and an excruciating pace. But the books has effects imagined by me, performances imagined by me and a pace that was as fast as I wanted to make it. I can see now, having read the book, why this particular script would have been given the greenlight. It could have been good. Really.
-★: That being said, the big battle between the Mutants and the Apes went on way too long, even here in the book.
+★: And since I mentioned them already: nuclear fallout Mutants! Again, much cooler here than on-screen.
+★★: Last but certainly not least is the author David Gerrold (one of the great Hackosaurids). He cracked me up, and this exchange between Mutant leader Mr. Kolp and his "love interest" Mutant Alma contains his best insertion into the story (I know it's long, but I think it is worth repeating in its entirety)
"Do you know what that is?"
"Of course, Mr. Kolp. it's our nuclear missile."
Kolp went up to it and stroked its shaft. "It's operational. Did you know that?" He gestured to her, and she approached timidly. He kept stroking the shaft of the missile as he reached out and took her hand. Her heart skipped a beat.
"Come closer, Alma," he whispered. She did so. "Touch it," he commanded. She extended her other hand and pressed her fingertips against the cold metal surface, then her whole palm. She began stroking the weapon in time with Kolp. The smooth steel felt so clean and strong.
"If the impossible should happen, Alma," Kolp said. "If we're defeated by the apes, I will not surrender to animals. He squeezed her hand and held it tighter. "Neither will my soldiers. If retreat seems necessary, I shall send you a coded radio signal. Fifteen minutes after you receive it, you will range this missile on Ape City and activate it."
Alma breathed throatily, "Yes, Mr. Kolp, I will. I can do it from the main control console. What will the signal be?"
Kolp looked at her carefully. "Alpha and Omega," he said slowly.
Alma repeated, "Alpha and Omega."
He nodded. "You're a good girl, Alma."
She looked at him adoringly.
And at last he noticed her. "And a pretty one too."
They were still stroking the missile. Their hands moved together across its steel skin. neither seemed to notice it any more, though. Kolp leaved forward, closer and closer, and kissed her. She kissed him back. Deeply. She stepped closer and slid her arms around his wide frame. "Alpha and Omega," she breathed. "I will be your tool."
Then and only then did Kolp take his slowly moving hand off his weapon. He pulled Alma close against him and kissed her again. And again.
It seriously called it "his weapon." Not "the weapon" but "his weapon." That has to be one of the silliest uses of a phallic symbol I've ever read. Just awesome!
So there you go. Is it crappy? Kind of, but crappy in all the ways I wanted it to be, and it was so much darn fun that I think I am going to start hunting down movie-tie-ins to all the movies I loved as a kid. Come to think of it, I think I have a copy of the original Battlestar Galactica tie-in lying around. That's moving to the top of my pile right now. ... There!
Start raiding your used book stores for trash like this, my friends. You won't regret it.
I'm in the midst of a rich vein of luck when it comes to books lately. Everything has been a joy to read -- even the hopeless and depressing books I’v...moreI'm in the midst of a rich vein of luck when it comes to books lately. Everything has been a joy to read -- even the hopeless and depressing books I’ve been reading -- and late last night, with the kids all in bed and Erika on nights at the hospital, I started to read one of my rare “first reads” wins in earnest, only to stay up until Kiss and Tell was finished, which took me into the wee wee hours before sunrise.
Raw, courageous, honest, funny, tormented and true, MariNaomi’s graphic memoir is pure joy.
MariNaomi is a woman who lives in the life she’s got. She wears her life like tattered old jeans, lovingly repairing the holes with multi-coloured patches that offer a Levi Strauss tapestry of experience, making the jeans far more valuable than any crisp, unworn pair could ever be.
I have a confession: I am in love with MariNaomi. I wish I’d had a chance to know her when we were teenagers, but we were separated by 1,618 km. I wish I’d had the chance to snort coke with her, or make love to her, or hold her head while she puked up too much alcohol, or experiment with open relationships with, or bring her flowers, or write her poetry, or have her write poetry to me, or kiss her anywhere or anywhen she wanted. Kiss and Tell made me want to be part of her life and experience so badly that I nearly cried when it was over. And I wanted more. I still want more. I want MariNaomi to give me another glimpse, a glimpse of her years from 23-37. Please, please, please, MariNaomi. I’ll make you a mix tape. I promise.
I have another wish, impossible like all my other wishes, but I wish that I’d had this graphic novel as a teenage boy. It would have shed so much light for me on the world of the girls I loved and lusted after. I think, somehow, that Kiss and Tell would have taken the sting out of breakups and unrequited love and all the painful trials and errors; it could have made me a Zen teenager, enjoying without regret or bitterness or self-loathing my time brushing up against the girls of my life, and it would have made it so much easier to brush up against the boys I kept away too.
I wish all first reads books could be like this. Wherever you are, MariNaomi, thank you for your life, your words, your perfect art. Thank you for sharing yourself with such fearlessness.
When Miloš turns 13 (maybe before. Time will tell) this book is his. I am sure Brontë will have raided my shelves long, long before that, though. (less)
And I've finally done it. I just finished reading The Sorrow King, and I fear it is the doobie-ous gateway to my new Prunty as heroin addiction.
I have to admit that The Sorrow King was a lot less bizarro than I had imagined it would be. Even with its semen monster and a zombie fellatio dream, The Sorrow King is more mainstream horror than bizarro madness. But that works. And works well. Those bizarro moments flavour the mainstream horror in ways that are horrible (rather than horrifying), spicing up a genre that often bores my tastebuds.
I wasn't a huge fan of the ending, but I seriously loved this book right up to the last chapter or two. I loved the shift in narrators; I loved that none of the characters were safe; I loved the way Prunty was able to maintain suspence and even surprise me once or twice; I loved the father and son bits between Steven and Connor; and I loved that Prunty remembered and could convey what it was like to be a horny teenage boy about to have sex. We need more of that in the books being written today. More of that would go a long way to removing the shame our society is piling on sexuality.
Back to the The Sorrow King, though. It is an excellent piece of horror fiction, and its cinematic qualities scream for a chance to find its way onto HBO or the big screen.
I don't know how you can be so prolific, Andersen, and still achieve the quality of The Sorrow King, but if the rest of your books are anywhere near as good as this one, I am going to be appreciate your speed and offer my vein up to you as my horror pusher.
In other news, this was the first novel length book I've read on an e-Reader. I can't see it becoming my main format -- ever -- but I like its convenience. I will read something that way again. (less)
I have great respect for those who write and publish their own work. It takes more guts than one might think. Some do it because they want to retain t...moreI have great respect for those who write and publish their own work. It takes more guts than one might think. Some do it because they want to retain total control of their work; some do it because no one will buy their work; and some do it because they know no other way. Whatever the reason, there is a level of bravery that goes into self-publishing that doesn’t go into popular publishing, and I admire those who give it a go.
David Burrows’s Legacy of the Eldric is better than most of the self-published books you’ll read. It has its strengths and weaknesses, like anything else, and it delivers a plot that will keep you going, along with a surprise or two. Here’s what I’m thinking about the first part of the Prophecy of Kings:
Weaknesses -- I hate complaining , but I have to.
Kaplyn & Vastra -- These are two of the most frustrating characters I’ve ever encountered in a Fantasy novel. I hated the former and never really bought the latter. Kaplyn is as arrogant, self-centered, hypocritical (we’re talking about a dishounrable cad who puts the woman he digs up for sexual molestation so he can find adventure) and outrageously moralistic as Jack on Lost, while Vastra is only convincingly evil in the last moments of the story, and his responses to his companions never really ring true.
And Speaking of Cliché -- There was just too much cliché going on in Legacy of the Eldric. There’s a city in the trees. There’s a sickly wizard who makes himself better with bitter herbal concoctions. There’s an icy glacier and a frozen dragon. There’s a big, sweet old gronk with quaint religious beliefs (a rather Viking-like barbarian). And the obligatory outlaw attack and tavern scene.
Prologue and Structure -- This was a problem too. The Prologue really needed redrafting. It could have done with a more impressionistic approach – like China Mieville takes in Perdido Street Station and Iron Council – than the straightforward happenings of Legacy of the Eldric. The prophecy, upon which the whole series is presumably based, is precisely given amidst vivid action, and it is perfectly repeated hundreds of years later, which defies belief.
And then there is the introduction of Lomar, the albino forest dweller. He drops into the story out of nowhere, and I couldn’t help thinking his introduction would have made much better Prologue than what we were given. In my perfect Legacy of the Eldric, the prophecy comes first with no action, and Lomar’s youth forms the introduction to our story. Then, when he finally joins the tale, we’re ready. We’ve been waiting for him. We know who he is, and we are happy to see him.
Strengths -- And there are some serious strengths.
The Conan Moments -- It’s one of the wonderful oddities of Legacy of the Eldric – a book aspiring to high Fantasy – that it spends so much time engaging in Conan-style adventures, yet it does, and those adventures end up being the most memorable moments in the book. Kaplyn’s adventure to uncover the Eldric amulet and sword, the final moments in the glacier, and even Lars’ wrestling matches call to mind the ass-whooping Cimmerian’s modus operandi. Strange, but it works.
Burrows’ Voice -- His voice is familiar even though it is new, but it is a familiarity of comfort. He is channelling some classic Fantasy authors, and he does well. The vocabulary is there. The settings are there. The camaraderie is there. Burrows knows what he is doing, and it is comforting, even when the plot or the characters try to get in the way.
Trajectory -- Burrows knows where he’s going with this, and it is easy to turn ourselves over to his expertise.
The Ending -- Read it and see.
I’m not going to lie – even with my appreciation of David Burrows as an author -- Legacy of the Eldric didn’t blow my mind, but it was a damn good read (and the ending was a refreshing twist that I would love to have written myself). For all my fellow Fantasy readers, I mean this: Legacy of the Eldric is a good read. Give it a whirl.(less)
I was feeling pretty sick and shitty this past week or so with a summer cold and the coming of the new semester, and Duke came by to talk. He regaled...moreI was feeling pretty sick and shitty this past week or so with a summer cold and the coming of the new semester, and Duke came by to talk. He regaled me with tales of Belgrade, and his time as a Montenegrin film star. We talked about screenwriting in L.A. -- a job we both did, though he was more successful than I in substanitive terms -- and I couldn't help being impressed by his credits, but mostly I was impressed by the way he absorbed the world he was moving through. That story about wandering the Paramount lot and trying to imagine those who'd come before is a fine example of his presence in those moments that matter, and its one of my favourites to hear him tell.
I found out a whole bunch about his friends that I didn't know. He surprised me with how comfortable he was talking about things that many people would want to keep hidden forever, knowing full well that there was nothing for him to be ashamed of and acting accordingly (which sounds so easy to do but is actually quite difficult for so many of us). He put aside his ego and told things straight, letting his stories speak for themselves, shit stains and all, embracing his own downfalls as thirstily as a bottle of Cutty Sark on a night of blackout madness.
And he pissed me off too, but of course that was going to happen. Duke, the doctor, D.R. thinks pretty highly of himself at times, and I was sick and crabby (and I think just as highly of myself), so I listened and nodded, and thought, "C'mon, man. Don't be such a douchebag," but then he'd sense my eye rolling and take just the right turn again, pulling back, redirecting with something self-deprecating or philosophical or surgically incisive, and then I'd feel like a prick for getting pissy.
Then he left me with a mix disc he'd made for me, pointed me to a couple of cool interviews he'd given, kicked my ass, and headed out the door back from whence he came, making sure that I'd never forget my weekend with him, snot infused though it was.
He's available for you too. When you need to just hang out, when you need a little motivation, when you need to remember what you're writing for, you can give him a call in these pages, and he'll come hang out, give you his unique form of therapy (deeply Freudian though it is), and you too will come out of it better for the experience.
p.s. You are the real deal, Duke. Seriously. (less)
"How are you going to write this review, Brad?" "I dunno, Brad. This is going to be seriously tough." "You liked it, though. You liked it a lot, so just...more"How are you going to write this review, Brad?" "I dunno, Brad. This is going to be seriously tough." "You liked it, though. You liked it a lot, so just write what you feel." "I liked parts of it a lot, loved parts of it, but it is so fucking depressing." "Depressing is good!" "Depressing can be good, but it isn't entertaining. I can't see myself coming back to this book anytime soon." "Still, you loved the characters ..." "Yeah. The narrator was good, but I really loved the woman, and that whole bit about wanting the son of the man she killed to recognize her. Amazing stuff." (view spoiler)[
She says, "So he can see I'm just like everyone else, that I'm not some monster. So he could see that I was just like him ... before ..." "Before what?" "Before the police eventually find me and I'm not given the chance to make people realize that I'm just like them ..."
(hide spoiler)]"Right. So what's the problem. You loved this book." "I loved the writing. I loved the dialogue. But ..." "..." "What?!" "But what?" "I dunno. It all comes back to how depressing it is." "But it's supposed to be depressing. It's catalyzed by boredom; it's a meditation on how to really live and be alive; it's full of cruelty and kindness and feeling; it's life." "Yeah, and life sucks." "Life doesn't suck and you know it." "I know, but the way we live sucks. The way we don't live." "But this story, these two people, they lived in their own ways. They took paths of their own choosing, embraced them and lived them. Surely that's worth five stars." "It is. And so is the writing. But the way I feel now, afterwards, undermines that. I honour this book, but I can't love it." "You're an ass." "Just so." ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
It's been a while since I've been so infuriated by a read. I am pissed this morning after finishing Bitter Seeds because the book is so fucking uneven...moreIt's been a while since I've been so infuriated by a read. I am pissed this morning after finishing Bitter Seeds because the book is so fucking uneven. The highs are very high, but the lows tend to be abyssal. I considered giving it five stars at a couple of points, vowed to give it one star often, and finally decided that I had better split the difference.
Here goes for the Highs and Lows:
High #1 -- The conceit of Nazi engineered superheroes whose presence change the course of the war is a winner. I am loathe to say it is original because an 80s multi-verse timeline in Marvel's Fantastic Four played with that idea, but Tregillis does some original stuff with it, and when he has us hanging out with Dr. von Westarp's damaged children () the book is at its very best. It is, however, partnered by a low.
What we have here in Bitter Seeds is a whole schwack of the silliest kind of Nazis. We have Dr. von Westarp as the creepy, sadistic, human guinea pig using scientist; we have Reinhart as the an overbearing necrophiliac; we have Kammler as a leashed moron; we have Heike as a fragile, suicidal victim.
But then we have Klaus and Gretel, two Nazi Übers, who have real depth and back story. They should bring equilibrium ... except they don't because, you see, they are not "genuine Aryans," not real Nazis, they are Roma, marginalized within their own SS group and treated as other by both their race and their abilities.
Now I don't for a second want the gypsies to change, but some sort of expansion of Kammler or Heike, some sort of explanation for Reinhardt's behaviour (besides the obvious, "he's a Nazi") could have brought the necessary equilibrium. Some time spent defining why anyone else in Germany was the way the were, even Dr. von Westarp, could have pulled them away from caricature and made them antagonists worth spending narrative time with. It doesn't happen, and this missed opportunity is infuriating.
High #2 -- The British Warlocks. I loved the idea of supernatural science going toe to toe with supernatural magery. British Warlocks vs. Nazi supermen?! Sounds fucking cool doesn't it?
Low #2.0 -- But then the fucking Eidolons show up and we discover that the Warlocks have no magic; theirs is a linguistic capacity that allows them to "negotiate blood prices" for the service of the near-omnipotent Eidolons. Midi-chlorians anyone?!
Low #2.1 -- But it got even lower for me where the Eidolans were concerned. The narrative response to England's deals with the Eidolans was to give us Will Beauclerk, sort of the head Warlock working for Milkweed, whose guilt over dealing with the Eidolans leads him to morphine addiction and eventually madness. He feels the terrible pain and gravity of what he "must" do to keep England safe. Slaughtering innocents, making human sacrifices, becomes justified -- or at least rationalized -- in the narrative because there is someone of conscience engaged in the perpetration, which in conjunction with the two-dimensional Nazi caricatures, winds up solidifying the simplistic notion that any Allied atrocity is good because the Nazis were unconscionably bad.
High #2.1 -- Yet the ending, (view spoiler)[Will's discovery of the baby isolation vaults at Milkweed headquarters -- wombs of non-language to spawn a new generation of Eidolan negotiators (hide spoiler)], was a killer moment, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, Tregillis will engage meaningfully in an examination of his England's tactics during his reimagined Second World War.
Low #2.2 -- I don't buy, however, that Tregillis will do anything of the sort in the The Coldest War. I expect Will's lone voice of conscience will continue to be the factor that negotiates audience acceptance of shitty British behaviour, while caricatured Soviets will be evil no matter what they do. A future low, perhaps, but a low that puts a major dent in my enjoyment of Bitter Seeds.
-- Gretel and Klaus and Will. I kept reading (listening) because of them. When Tregillis takes time with his characters, he can do some good things, and these three are the books greatest strengths.
Low #3 -- Raybould and Liv. All other poor characters aside, and there are plenty, Raybould Marsh (our protagonist, I suppose), his spouse and their "love" was one of the most ham-fisted relationships I've read. I never bought a moment of their love for one another. I never bought the way they met. I never bought their marriage. I never bought how it motivated Marsh. I never bought their split and reunion. I never the homoerotic triangle that developed between them and Will. I never any of it. Most of the time, it felt as though the publishers (or some outside mentoring source) told Tregillis to add a love story. And this was the best he could do. Well, his best wasn't just "just not good enough," it was destructive to most everything it surrounded.
Low #3.1 -- Raybould? What a fucking stupid name. But that's okay, stupid names aren't all that bad, but it puts me in mind of a personal low for me: the names of Brits and Germans in general. I am a huge football fan, so I know, inherently, the names of most footballers in Germany and England, and most of the supporting characters in this book have a corresponding footballer with their name. This is probably coincidence, but it is a coincidence that made me conscious of the narrator every time my mind pictured a modern footballer rather than a person of the proper period.
High #4 -- The pace was brisk and compelling ...
Low #4 -- ... But the book was way too short. The whole of World War II condensed to this relatively slim volume? A multivolume series could have been written about WWII, let alone his next foray into the Cold War. Bitter Seeds is not anywhere near enough -- it is far too slim -- and with a more languid pace and greater time spent with ALL his characters, many (if not all) of the lows of Tregillis' book could have become highs.
I will go on. I will read the The Coldest War because there were parts of this book I really loved. Its potential was great. I wanted to love it. But if the same highs and lows continue, I will stop splitting the difference and go the way of the lowest possible star rating. And those bits of love that make me want to continue will fester into their opposite. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
WARNING: This review contains language similar to the book it discusses, including a few f-words. Please don't read this if you do not want to see the...moreWARNING: This review contains language similar to the book it discusses, including a few f-words. Please don't read this if you do not want to see the words spelled out.
I’ve been playing around on the periphery of the bizarro for a while now, and though I haven’t fully committed to becoming an aficionado, I have come to expect and demand that the bizarro I’m reading contains some seriously fucked up shit. Shit that wouldn't just be "too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts," but would give said aunts coronaries or embolisms. But that fucked up shit needs to feel like a justifiable part of the story. It needs to be integral to what's happening and not just tacked on for the sake of being fucked up.
The Menstruating Mall, my second foray into the wacky mind of Carlton Mellick III, was a big disappointment. You'd expect that a title with such amazing coolness would deliver some crazy bizarro thrills. I went in hoping for the sloughing off of shoppers who'd helped to shape the Mall's endometrium. Or maybe the shoppers would be giant, living tampons used to absorb the flow of the Mall's menstruation. Or perhaps the Mall itself would be sentient, going through cycles of abdominal cramping (look out poor shoppers) and maybe even succumb to one of those rare psychotic PMS episodes. I expected lots of menstrual blood, something to do with fertility, and the Mall's halls as fallopian tubes.
But nope. For most of the book it is a mildly funny, sorta witty, rather mainstream attack on us zombified, consumerist folk and our "mundanity." A bunch of idiots are stuck in a mall; they can't get out, and one of them decides to start killing the others because they are too lame to live. They can see some sticky menstrual flow in the parking lot, menstruation from the titular mall, and it keeps them in the Mall’s uterus (although that reading is really pushing it). So for most of the book they wander from store to store, get to know one another, and share the things that they think make them unique prints on the tips of the world’s fingers.
Mellick III incorporates the scatalogical artwork of a friend -- one Food Fortunata (I imagine a mustacheod Twi'lek from Ryloth) -- but it feels like it is only there to remind us that the book is supposed to be Bizarro. (Don’t ask me why the sketches are all about feces; I’d have thought menstrual themed sketches would have been far more appropriate.)
On second thought, maybe the sketches are there to remind Carlton Mellick III, too. Unfortunately it takes until Act III for his reminder to kick in, and we are finally thrown a bizarro bone or two way too late. We get some really nasty sex, including a girl-on-boy anal rape that makes the latter fall in love with the former, a non-lethal Bat’leth impalement, and some hybrid life forms (human-demon, human-toaster, human-helicopter, etc.). It’s all too tacked on to be interesting or fitting, and all of my hopes for a truly insane foray into menstruation were dashed on the rocks of a fairly worthless piece of fiction.