George Guidall, the narrator, has the perfect voice for The Gunslinger. He has the gravel of too many cigarettes and too much bourbonTwo Good Things--
George Guidall, the narrator, has the perfect voice for The Gunslinger. He has the gravel of too many cigarettes and too much bourbon. But along with the roughness of his vocal cords is an ability to feel the text and convey that feeling, making the story of such unrepentantly awful characters something I wanted to hear even though I can't give a shit about them.
Stephen King's fantasy epic, set in something resembling our world, contains the kind of sprawling, insane mythology that every game master wishes they could conjure, and it makes all kinds of terrifying sense. Unless it is all one giant schizophrenic break, in which case it is even more terrifying and makes even more sense.
One Not-So Good Thing--
The good vs. evil shit is getting so tired, and this book punched it into my ears with fists of ham. I remember thinking there were some shades of grey in this story, but mostly it is all black with no white, yet there is an underlying sense of biblical morality that makes it clear that the black is black, that the evil is evil. Snore. ...more
Maybe I am wrong here, but I have a hard time thinking of other authors who can turn seemingly simple ideas into complex ideas with a burst of imagination that makes the simple idea seem unique and rare -- all without the alienating pretentiousness of the author who knows s/he is great. This ability makes Banks one of the most inviting writers I know, and I savour everything he has written over and over again.
If fact, as I write this, I realize that in the past decade he and China Mieville (perhaps the pretentious one of which I spoke?) are the only two authors I have spent any significant time rereading. The former to visit an old friend, the latter to savour language and be dazzled. I admire, Mieville, but it is definitely Banks I prefer to spend time with.
This time listening to The Player of Games was pure joy. It didn't matter that I knew the outcome of Jernau Morat Gurgeh's great Azad tournament, that I knew the deal with the drone, Mawhrin-Skel, that I knew the ending was going to leave me a little flat. This time I was able to luxuriate in Gurgeh's journey, focusing on the little things rather than the big picture of the plot, letting his sensuality in the games guide me, letting his desire for the perfect game move me like it hasn't before, letting his flaws deepen his attractiveness rather than being fooled into judging him. This time I was able to admire Mawhrin-Skel's arrogance, Special Circumstances manipulation and the Culture's quite brilliant defeat of a dangerous future foe. This time I was able to recognize Gurgeh's warning to the reader that the ending of a great game -- of Azad and The Player of Games -- must be anti-climactic. I recognized it, accepted it, and let the flat ending ease me out of the emotional high I hadn't realized I had been swept up in.
Like Gurgeh missed Azad, I miss Iain M. Banks, and I am going to miss him and The Player of Games until I open another book of his and meet with him again. Even when I run out of new words from Banks, it is nice to know that all his old words get better with each reading. I will never run out of Banks tales to read. And that is comforting. ...more
Poison Study was a pleasant surprise, presenting us with a sort of fantasy-communism in the nation of Ixia, leFire Study is a serious disappointment.
Poison Study was a pleasant surprise, presenting us with a sort of fantasy-communism in the nation of Ixia, led by a (view spoiler)[sort of fantasy-trans gendered, (hide spoiler)] benevolent dictator. It was unique and made me want to read more. Magic Study was only slightly less interesting. It moved from the fascinating world of Ixia, to the less well drawn but more familiar terrain of Sitia, a nation of magic and the perpetual enemy of Ixia. Once there, it was fun to see the heroine, Yelena, learn the depth of her magic, and it kept me wanting to read more.
Fire Study has put a halt to my interest. It is bad. Really, really bad.
Many of the fantasy elements -- particularly the magical elements -- which were interesting in the first two books have become silly (with some of the most ham-fisted heaven -purgatory - hell allusions I have ever seen). The progressiveness I imagined surrounding the books gender inclusiveness has been undermined. The world building, which looked so promising with the Ixian nation, has become unconvincing. And Yelena, as heroine, is entirely unbelievable now. She is too powerful, has too much influence, is not interesting in the least.
It is a sad decline for a book series I was thrilled to have discovered with my daughter, a series that was once full of promise but ended up lying to us. Such a shame, but I shouldn't be surprised because when a character appears in the second book named, "Moon Man," the third book is bound to blow goats. I should have known better. ...more
• Gone Girl is a solid thriller, maybe even better than solid because Gillian Flynn is a cracking author with serious chops, and she kept me guessing • Gone Girl is a solid thriller, maybe even better than solid because Gillian Flynn is a cracking author with serious chops, and she kept me guessing until the final act.
• The way Gone Girl delivers a picture of how easy it is -- and how likely it is -- for a victim of abuse to remain with the abuser is astonishing in its subtle excellence. Some may look at the extremity of this situation and pass by it thinking, "Oh ... it's rare, an aberration" but it isn't an aberration. It is all too frequent. And the frequency of staying is gender blind.
• Flynn's balancing act between Nick and Amy, making us side with one, then the other, then neither, then one, then the other, and making both attractive and repulsive in turns is probably Gone Girl's greatest strength.
•Gone Girl's post film adaptation meme explosion of female empowerment is fucking frightening. Much the way Fight Club's meme explosion of male empowerment is fucking frightening.
•The supporting cast in Gone Girl is just as convincing as its dual protagonist/antagonists. From Boney to Go, from Tanner to Gilpin, I believed in them, and they all carried depths that surprised me.
•The perspectives of Nick and Amy were handled wonderfully, and Flynn really pulled off making them distinct voices, and one of them had multiple distinct voices. It was an impressive feat.
•Having listened to this on audio, I must say it is the first case of multiple narrators that I found fully satisfying. Both Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne made their characters come alive, and their takes on the supporting cast when in contact with Amy or Nick were just close enough to each other while being clearly from their own character's perspectives to be utterly convincing.
•I don't know how others feel about the ending, that open ended, up to us cliff jump, but I loved it; I know exactly what comes next in my head, and I think Flynn rocks for leaving that up to us....more
That a book and its characters could be worth reading when their stories were originally conceived as a way to sell dolls that already existed as concThat a book and its characters could be worth reading when their stories were originally conceived as a way to sell dolls that already existed as concepts, that a corporate crafted method of scamming money from little girls at Toys R Us would be something I would eventually find myself sharing with my youngest daughter, that anything good could come of such cynicism are things I am probably going to struggle with for a long time, but here I am after reading Kelly Thompson's 2015 IDW reboot of Jem and the Holograms #1 for the second time to admit that perhaps where an idea comes from isn't nearly as important as what is done with it once it exists.
I've not watched the old Jem cartoon, so I don't have any preconceived notions of what Jem and the Holograms should be, so I come to this Thompson/Campbell version of Jem absolutely fresh and without Jem specific baggage (and I have already claimed my ideological baggage, so ...).
What I come away with from Jem and the Holograms: Showtime is a warm feeling for its creators, its characters and its tale. I can't help liking a story where the women outnumber the men by a large margin; I can't help liking a story where friendship is at its heart; I can't help liking a story where love knows no gender boundaries or sexuality boundaries without any anxiety, shame or judgment coming from the creators; I can't help liking a story where exuberance abounds; I can't help liking a story with such pinks and purples. So I do ... I like this story. Very much.
But for all the things there is to like, for all the things I do like, I can't help feeling that it is all too slight for my tastes. My mind isn't hungering for anything violent or dark (although Dark Jem is on the horizon for me), I am not looking for anything more complicated when it comes to the plot, but I do want something more when it comes to thematic oomph! I want more than pleasant despite how pleasant pleasant can be.
Fingers crossed I'll get that oomph! in Jem and the Holograms #2....more
Deviant: The shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original "Psycho" is written more like a novel than an act of reportage. The reporting is still there, but Schechter is quite adept at hiding the reportage under a sneaky tale-telling voice, that sucks his readers in to the horror he's conveying and makes us want to reach the mysterious revelation even if we already know the outcome.
Ed Gein, is the prototypical American serial killer. He was the inspiration for Robert Bloch's now immortal character Norman Bates, and most horror movies owe some debt to the crimes of Ed Gein. His mother's farm house -- where he lived, killed and crafted after her death -- was a charnel house of horrors, filled with the victims of his killings, his collection of body snatching bits and pieces, and all of his human leatherworking.
Yet somehow Schechter's Deviant filled me with pity and sorrow rather than horror and revulsion.
Of all the serial killers I have read about, Ed Gein seems the most deserving of pity, and Schechter's Deviant deepened my feelings. What made him do what he did seems so clear, so much a fault of outside forces or forces beyond his control -- abuse, isolation, mental illness, gender dysphoria, religious fervour, neglect -- that I couldn't and can't muster anger at Gein for his crimes. Listening to Deviant (as I listened rather than read this book), I couldn't help wondering at how many points Gein's crimes could have been avoided by even a modicum of intervention.
When the last chapter finished pouring into my ears, I found myself thinking again of Stephen Crane's Blue Hotel, and the idea that we are all guilty. All of us. And that Gein, and his even nastier brethren, are simply the manifestations of all our sins. ...more
I come away from The Last Days of New Paris feeling like I've felt after coming away from Vladimir Nabokov or Thomas Pynchon -- mentally drained, slightly humbled and scratching my head. But while that feeling often sends me down rabbit holes of study or instills a fervour to go back and give the writing a second or third or fifteenth shot to increase my understanding, The Last Days of New Paris simply makes me want to close the cover, slip it into my Mieville bookshelf and leave it be.
I never thought I would say that about a Mieville book, but here I am.
The Last Days of New Paris isn't a bad book, and in some ways (the narrative, the embrace of its conceit, its creativity) it is quite brilliant, and I imagine it is even more brilliant than I can possibly know because I know absolutely nothing about Surrealism as a movement and practice. Yet for all the brilliance I can see and all the brilliance I imagine is there, I didn't enjoy my experience as much as I've enjoyed everything else of Mieville's I have read. Which is everything.
I feel the failure is mine rather than his. ...more
I am wemistikoshiw, so I don't and won't pretend to understand what it is to be Oji-Cree -- nor any other nation for that matter. I pass no judgment oI am wemistikoshiw, so I don't and won't pretend to understand what it is to be Oji-Cree -- nor any other nation for that matter. I pass no judgment on their beliefs, their lives, their experiences, their ways, but I do feel the great of weight personal disgust and guilt all wemistikoshiw should feel for the genocide of their peoples and cultures our ancestors began, which we carry on every day.
I've been the lover of a Cree woman, a woman I still love and always will, but I have no illusions that my love for her makes me any less wemistikoshiw, any less culpable for what has been done to the proud nations she sprang from. The most I can ever hope to attain is empathy, an incomplete understanding, and a heart willing to hear Indigenous stories coupled with a resolve to do what I can when I can.
As Boyden spoke through Niska and Xavier and Elijah, and as the voices of Niska and Xavier made Boyden fade away, I began to hear whispers of "let me tell you this wemistikoshiw" and "have you thought of this wemistikoshiw" and "don't ignore this wemistikoshiw" because what I was being told, what the whispers were speaking of, were things too important to be ignored.
Yes there is a terrifying and even sometimes thrilling tale of trench warfare in World War I in the foreground of Three Day Road, but there is so much more being told to us. It is telling us about the end of a way of life. I may think it was a beautiful way of life, others may think it was backwards, still others may think it was "heathen," but what really matters is that it was a way; it was valuable; it deserved better. It is a story of how that way was ended, of the ways colonization tore down, took away, raped, brainwashed, manipulated, murdered or slowly eroded through attrition. It is the effects and affects of colonization and how there is no post-colonial period for Indigenous North Americans. There is only colonization. Niska and Xavier are whispering these things to the wemistikoshiw because we need to hear them and do more than hear them. We need to take them into our everyday lives. To look in the mirror at our own wemistikoshiw visages and see all of those whispers written there.
Three Day Road is rich with meaning, bursting into the mud like the largest shells Fritz could throw at the lines, and I doubt that the multiple readings I am sure to give this novel will ever allow me to tap into them all. And maybe, perhaps, this first reaction that I've written here is the best and most important meaning I will ever take away from Three Day Road -- maybe knowing that I am wemistikoshiw, knowing and recognizing that, is exactly what the story needed me to know. ...more
When a comic store discussion kicks up about Mike Grell's GreenArrow: The Longbow Hunters, there is an almost religious hush that settles on the speakWhen a comic store discussion kicks up about Mike Grell's GreenArrow: The Longbow Hunters, there is an almost religious hush that settles on the speakers as they stand around the stacks or lean against the glass display cases. There is a sort of mythic reverence these nerd acolytes try to pass on to the uninitiated, and having once been one of the latter, I myself was personally touched by the former.
Due to a peculiarity in me, however, I didn't take my copy home and devour it with a born-again religious fervour. I did take it home, that much is true, but as I am wont to do with most things other folks revere, I couldn't bring myself to start. Instead, The Longbow Hunters joined my bedside stack of things to read, then daunted me from that vantage. It took me years to finally pick it up and see what all that love was about.
I understand the reverence now even if I don't feel it myself.
The Longbow Hunters came out between DC's two granddaddy examples of comic book seriousness. Sandwiched between The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and The Killing Joke (1988), The Longbow Hunters features mature incarnations of Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance (stripped of her Black Canary persona), as they love one another, ponder parenthood (and the decision on this is particularly fascinating), come to accept their place as "super-heroes," and put their lives on the line for what they believe. Beyond their somewhat comfortable world, a sort of Jack-the-Ripper serial killer is slaughtering prostitutes, while a second bowman is taking out a series of seemingly unconnected, rich, powerful victims, and a plague of drug crime is polluting the streets the two love so much.
In the midst of all this gritty chaos is a favourite of all Green Arrow fans -- Shado. She is a Yakuza assassin, forced to kill a series of targets to regain her family's honour and pay off her blood debt, and her presence forces Green Arrow to consider his own ethics, and embrace the killing of foes. It is never clear if this acceptance of killing is due to a need for justice or a recognition of vengeance as a motivation, but both concepts are possible, and the lack of resolution is one of the story's great strengths.
The Longbow Hunters is a strong story. It is beautifully illustrated (brutally illustrated in some parts) intelligently conceived and plotted, and the dialogue mostly holds up for our contemporary audiences. It also goes some distance towards making Green Arrow a serious hero in the DC Universe, and it is a pivotal moment in what would be Green Arrow's finest years as a solo hero and a member of the Justice League.
Unfortunately, though, Green Arrow has never been and will never be as beloved as his fellow from Gotham City, so this comic will never have the readership the comics that include the BatFamily command. I think, ultimately, it is this underdog status that makes it such a religious experience for the nerdy followers of DC. If they know the The Longbow Hunters, if they've read it and appreciated it, if they can pass on their specialized knowledge to others, if they can proselytize their fervour for this high quality, nearly forgotten brother to the granddaddies, they can hold a tiny little niche of the comic book experience that makes them belong, makes them feel special, makes them safe in a world that they feel hates them. And that may just be The Longbow Hunters greatest accomplishment, maintaining a safe space within which to geek out.
I am glad I finally pulled it out of my stacks and gave it a read. It's not my favourite, but anything with Shado, especially Shado at her best, is a comic for me. ...more
This book was a slog. Steven Erikson is an impressive author, and all his skills are on full display in Deadhouse Gates, but it is not an easy read.
SThis book was a slog. Steven Erikson is an impressive author, and all his skills are on full display in Deadhouse Gates, but it is not an easy read.
Sounds like I am really taking it to Erikson, but the truth is Deadhouse Gates isn't meant to be an easy read, nor should it be. In fact, I imagine that the sloggy nature of the read was Erikson's design.
For a great, big, massively huge portion of the book -- essentially the entire book -- Erikson has us following one massive, nearly never ending, running battle. I've never seen anything quite like it, to be honest. I've seen plenty of that classic fantasy battle we're all familiar, some version of The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, that big battle that a small band of intrepid adventurers finds themselves in, the battle that either ends the conflict or comes very near ending it so long as some surprising, seemingly unrelated task is completed elsewhere. I have also seen plenty of those small, personal, highly bloody fights or assassinations, full of guts and blood and horror. Those sorts of moments are increasingly popular in fantasy. And then there are our ever familiar massacres, like the Red Wedding, that remind us of just how terrible and brutal fantasy world should be.
But the Chain of Dogs, Coltaine's bloody march, is something else entirely. It is massacre after massacre after massacre; it is packed with personal brutalities; it is full of outrageous, overwhelming group brutalities; it is a battle joined by countless groups who either perish or leave or disappear; it contains heroism, selfishness, stupidity, politics, entitlement, attrition, disease, exhaustion, and death. So much death.
I think Erikson wanted us to feel what a battle, a true battle -- even if it was in a fantasy world -- is like. It is sort of the Western Front of fantasy battles. It is interminable. It is exhausting for the reader. We are meant to be uncomfortable, to wonder when this battle is going to end, to almost wish it would end so that we can move on to something less depressing.
Erikson wasn't content to tire out his readers, however. He wanted to offer us the promise of some culmination, some giant, wild payoff, some gift for making it through all that pain and blood and shit he poured down on us. So he offers the quest for the Deadhouse Gates, as a parallel to the Chain of Dogs, and then ... (view spoiler)[he says fuck you all, and delivers a denouement that really isn't. I want to get angry about the way he destroys the expectations he has created, but I can't because that disruption of expectations makes the Chain of Dogs even more hopeless, pointless, and devastating than it already was. (hide spoiler)]
Erikson does all this to make us feel things as fantasy readers we probably haven't before, and likely won't again. It is a tough read, you have to be dedicated, but holy shit was it worth it for me. I loved it despite the slog. No, let me fix that. I loved Deadhouse Gates because of the slog. ...more
The erotic aspects of Megan Hart's Dirty are strictly incidental. I hadn't expected that.
I'd gone on a hunt for something sexy and fun to listen to,The erotic aspects of Megan Hart's Dirty are strictly incidental. I hadn't expected that.
I'd gone on a hunt for something sexy and fun to listen to, something to arouse me, something to give me ideas for date nights or let me imagine the things I miss. I searched some lists, read some reviews, and Dirty sounded like it was for me. Turns out it was for me, but not in the way I had wanted.
When the smutty parts appeared, I appreciated the frankness of Hart's prose, I liked the use of clit and penis and vagina to describe the parts, I liked the matter-of-fact laying out of the sex and sexuality, but everything else going on in the book cast a shadow over the eroticism, making it hard for me to appreciate what I had come to the book for in the first place.
The story really isn't about sex. It is a few stories with Elle at the centre, and those stories, different though they are, are surrounded and dominated by the theme of guilt. There is abuse in Elle's past, there is abuse in the life of a young friend of Elle's, Gavin, there is unspoken and possibly underlying abuse in characters we barely see or only hear about, there are multiple abusers in the tale or at its periphery, there is death and anger and frustration, and all of these feelings -- especially when it comes to Elle's feelings -- are inextricably linked with her personal feelings of guilt. Some are founded, most are unfounded, but it is the way that Elle struggles with the guilt that drives the story, making Dirty a much more serious book than I had expected or wanted.
Yet I liked that story, that grown up, wrestling with demons tale. I found myself believing the relationship that develops between Elle and her new man, Dan. I believed their developing love, I could see how and why he would stay for her, why he would remain patient and supportive through all her attempts to drive him away, and I could see (mostly) why she would love Dan. But when the sex happened ... well, it was good, it was written in a way I like, but all of the pain and abuse that sat in the background made it unarousing.
Dirty has become a series of books, and I think I will continue on with the stories of Elle and Dan, but I can't see myself reading them to be aroused. The eroticism carries too much baggage. I am going to read on for the baggage rather than the titillation (unless, of course, the baggage has been emptied and the eroticism is about to begin in earnest. That will overthrow my expectations all over again. ). ...more
I'll keep this simple: if you read this exceptionally researched and beautifully written book and still think the United States is great or has ever bI'll keep this simple: if you read this exceptionally researched and beautifully written book and still think the United States is great or has ever been great, you need to take a long hard look in your mirror, then ask your god for forgiveness. ...more