***WARNING: I feel the need to swear in this review, so if you are not up for a few expletives, please move on. Nothing to see here. If you don't mind***WARNING: I feel the need to swear in this review, so if you are not up for a few expletives, please move on. Nothing to see here. If you don't mind the sweariness, though ... "Willkommen!" ***
Me: So A Man Lies Dreaming is a giant fucking jackboot to the genitals. You: What the hell do you mean by that? Me: Besides the quite literal kicks to the balls and vulvas? You: What? Me: Seriously. This book is a cornucopia of genital punishment. Knives, boots, hands, knees, other genitals! If you can imagine a way one's genitals could be harmed, there is a good chance it is here in this book, but beyond the physical, literal jackboots to the genitals, the book itself is just a big metaphorical jackboot to the reader's genitals. You: Ummm ... Me: But here's the thing, though, it is fucking impressive. The kicking Lavie Tidhar gives us is seriously brave. It's powerful. If you can stomach it, what he's doing turns out to be rather impressive. You: What does he do? Me: The impossible. You (dubiously): Uh huh Me: No. Seriously. He makes a protagonist -- a "pseudo-hero" -- out of the most unlikely historical figure, throws him into a pulpy, detective noir, and doesn't even try to temper this fuckhead's nastiness, but still manages, somehow, to make you care about him. Well, maybe not you, but me. He made me care about him, and that was the biggest jackboot to the genitals of all. You: Who? What historical figure? Me (waving the question off): But he doesn't stop there. He delivers two insanely graphic BDSM sex scenes, and you can practically smell the piss and shit and naughty fluids. And this is all just in the noir part of the story. You: There's more? Me: Fuck yeah. There is a serial killer out killing prostitutes in London, carving an infamous symbol into their chests and killing to express his love for another and a world that never was. There's an assassination plot. There are terror groups. There is a whole literary and cinematic backdrop that feels just like ours but is the slightest touch askew. You: I -- Me: -- But that's not all. There's this other tale, probably the main tale, of the Man Lying Dreaming. And his story, well that's the tragic one, that's the key to this whole thing, and you would love that story, and that story tells us so much about the other stories, and it is the story that makes this whole thing about imagination and about how we have only the most tenuous grasp on reality, in the way we tell ourselves the stories of everything. You: I don't think I could even get to that story. This doesn't sound like the book for me. Me: I think it is a book for everyone. You: Mmm ... No. Not for me. Me: You don't look too happy with me. You: Not really. No. Me: I shouldn't have told you about this, should I? You: No. Probably not. Me: Um ... sorry? You (shaking head): Too late. I think I gotta go. Me (watching you walk away / under breath): You're missing out ......more
Granted, I listened to this rather than reading it, and I struggled to stay focused to the words read by Patrick Tull (whom I usually thoroughly enjoyGranted, I listened to this rather than reading it, and I struggled to stay focused to the words read by Patrick Tull (whom I usually thoroughly enjoy), but having never read The Sign of Four and loving most Sherlock Holmes stories, I was shocked by how bored I was with this novella.
I can think of two things that interested me: Holmes' focus on and jonesing for a cocaine hit and ... nope, I guess it was just one thing. Everything else was weak to me, but weakest of all was Watson taking centre stage with his love for Mary.
I prefer Watson well and truly in the background. I care very little for him as a character, and even less so in this case because his love and pursuit of Mary made me so damn uncomfortable. I suppose it is a time and context sort of thing, but the paternal behaviour of Watson towards Mary made me cringe.
But outside of cocaine and sexism, I cared very little for what was going on. I may go back to this again someday, when I am in the right headspace, and my opinion could change very easily. For now, though, I am completely disappointed.
This gets two stars only because I can't bring myself to single star a Holmes' tale. ...more
I have managed over all these years -- even after reading The Gunslinger long ago and abandoning the series through apathy -- to avoid any actual knowI have managed over all these years -- even after reading The Gunslinger long ago and abandoning the series through apathy -- to avoid any actual knowledge of the rest of The Dark Tower series. It's kind of an impressive achievement considering how much I know about all the other Stephen King novels I've never read.
I did it, though, because I always knew I was going to make my way back to this book. My great friend Rick has been wanting me to read this series since it first came out, and like many of the things people I love have wanted me to do that take much longer for me to do than they would like, I do eventually get there. And here I am, having recently finished The Gunslinger for the second time, and having finally taken the next step towards The Dark Tower.
This was nothing like I thought it would be. But sitting on my review for a week, I am still not sure if that is a good thing, a bad thing or just a thing.
Roland, the Last Gunslinger, took us places I wouldn't have imagined (keep in mind, though, that I have a hard time getting through King, and I acknowledge that greater understanding of his writing and mind would probably have tipped me off), both in space and emotion.
I found myself genuinely surprised by the opening, uncomfortably shocked by the levels of (era-accurate) casual racism, and driven onward, as I usually am, by King's plotting. His plot twists, however, only surprised me when they weren't quite as twisty as I thought they would be; that doesn't mean I didn't like them, but it was that feeling of fulfillment rather than surprise (and considering he opened up with a surprise, I would have loved the surprise to carry on), and fulfillment of expectations only goes so far with me.
I know I have spoken about my Stephen King theory in the thimbleful of Stephen King reviews I've written around here -- the three act theory of Stephen King -- and I feel like I've simply reached the end of the first act of The Dark Tower. If that's the case, I have reached the end of the part of this series I am going to love (which is the primary reason for my three stars instead of five ... it is in anticipation of a huge let down). I always love the first act of a Stephen King story, then disappointing myself with the descending quality of the second act before either giving up or forcing myself through to the end only to be disgusted by another let down by an author I have spent my life wanting to love.
So that's where I am, at that moment of trepidation. Should I continue, I wonder? Maybe no, but I will anyway. Rick wants me too.
The ending of Fifteen Dogs was a no win for author and readers alike; well, some of the readers lost, and I came down on the losing side.
The problemThe ending of Fifteen Dogs was a no win for author and readers alike; well, some of the readers lost, and I came down on the losing side.
The problem (if one can call it that) is built right into the premise. Apollo and Hermes make a bet (and this is no spoiler since it opens the book) that, having granted human intelligence to fifteen dogs in a Toronto vet hospital, not a single one of the fifteen dogs will die happy. Apollo is on the side of unhappiness; Hermes is on the side of happiness. One of them wins and one of them loses, and whomever you are as a reader, whichever side you agree with, when the opposition wins you are bound to be disappointed. That was me. I was on the wrong side.
But the journey to get there was amazing, and the philosophical questions about animal nature, human nature, the nature of memory, language, empathy, the nature of dominance, sexuality, rape, violence, love, hate, the nature of our sensory engagement with the world, the nature of poetry, and the importance of death to life are all worth the trip, even if the pay off may leave you cold.
Dunno when I'll get back to this, but I intend to read it again someday. Maybe soon. Maybe not. ...more
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
There was much talk about the gender flip when Goddess Thor replaced Odinson (which was to be expected), and much of the initial talk came from Thor fThere was much talk about the gender flip when Goddess Thor replaced Odinson (which was to be expected), and much of the initial talk came from Thor fans (mostly men) who were critical of the change. Then that talk was answered by the opposition camp (mostly women) who were critical of the criticism.
I have been a Marvel Thor fan since I was a teenager. I have the entire run of Walt Simonson bagged and boarded and filed for posterity, and I have a future tattoo of a Simonson Thor all picked out. My daughter loves Lady Sif (and hates Jane Foster because Jane gets in the way of Sif's love), and her twin brother has won awards for his God of Thunder cosplay at local conventions. We are a Thor family, so I couldn't help be interested in the debate.
I personally loved the idea as soon as I heard it was happening because I'd had my own idea for years that every character that Thor truly loved -- Sif, Jane, Baldur, Freyja, maybe even Steve -- were worthy of Mjolnir, and that any of them in a time of dire need could lift the hammer. My heart and brain were prepared for the change, therefore, and I had no problem seeing someone else wield Mjolnir, especially knowing it was coming from the very capable mind of Jason Aaron.
Surprise, surprise, though ... my twelve year old twins had other ideas.
I was fully expecting them to be on board and excited like I was, but neither of them were, which made me pause and want to take another, deeper look at why it is that some folks (those mostly men again) were so upset by the Thor shakeup.
I started by talking to my daughter. For Bronte it was annoyance at the gimmickieness of the whole thing. You see, Bronte already loves Asgard’s heroines. Her favourite, favourite, favourite Marvel Superhero is the Lady Sif (her very first comic was during the Sif arc of Journey Into Mystery), and Valkyrie was the next Asgardian she came to love, so she was annoyed that the creators must have thought that the only way to get girls to read Thor comics was to make Thor female rather than to start telling tales that foregrounded the amazing women that already exist in the Marvel Universe and give them their own titles.
She, it turns out, wants the already existing women of Marvel to achieve the level of respect they deserve and to, in her words, “Not ride the coattails of the boys!”
Then I went to my son. For Milos, the problem had to do with the loss of Thor “him”self. Milos imagines himself as Thor nearly every day and still, at twelve, pretends he’s Thor, running around the house in helmet and cape with Mjolnir in hand saving the realms. His blonde hair (turning brown slowly these days, much to his chagrin) is down to his shoulders and has only been cut (well… trimmed rather than cut) once a year for his whole life – all of this because of Thor. So he saw Lady Thor as an undermining of all he loved. Not only was Thor suddenly personally unworthy of his hammer, but someone else was worthy, and Milos felt like he couldn’t play her because she was, well, a her. The change hurt him, then the hurt became anger because he wondered why they couldn’t just make a new hero who was a girl and leave Thor alone.
I was surprised. I figured my own opinion would be theirs (not at all self-absorbed, am I?). But it wasn’t, and they were pissed in a place where I was excited. And neither of them fill the stereotype of what one might imagine the opponents of Lady Thor to be. Milos comes closer, certainly, but he lives in a home of strong women, and he is not a basement dwelling square, and all his best friends are girls, and he loves damn near every Marvel Superheroine there is.
But here’s the kicker. Once the two of them read Goddess of Thunder, one of them decided it was awesome and the other had their opinion that it sucked deepened. I imagine you’ve guessed it, but it is Bronte who hates it more and Milos who has decided Lady Thor is “badass cool!”
Bronte just can’t see the point. Lady Thor is just Thor (and by the time she finished Goddess of Thunder, she knew exactly who Lady Thor is), and Lady Sif barely gets any time at all, and besides, Bronte would just rather read stories about the awesome ladies that have always been there.
Milos, however, is super stoked because it’s not like Thor is gone. He has relinquished the name Thor and become Odinson (certainly nonsensical if you are a believer in Norse Religion, but fitting in the Marvel Universe), and even though he’s lost Mjolnir, he still has Jarnbjorn and a sweet new Uru arm. So there is a new-old Thor out there for him to play, and now that he knows who Lady Thor is and is able to put into the context of the overarching tale, he’s just fine.
You just never know why people are going to fear change or even hate change once it has happened, but something about this moment tells me we need to listen to peoples stories rather than shutting them up and shutting them down. And that goes for everyone.
For me, I love Thor, the Goddess of Thunder. She makes sense. It enriches her, the character who is now Thor, and it enriches Odinson, and I am a sucker for the enriching of stories and characters I love. I should get the next 5 issues soon. Can’t wait to give them a go...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
I could be out of touch here, and maybe I am, but I am having serious problems with this critically acclaimed iteration of Jem and the Holograms whenI could be out of touch here, and maybe I am, but I am having serious problems with this critically acclaimed iteration of Jem and the Holograms when it comes to believing in the ages / maturity of Jerrica and her sisters.
I have an eight year old daughter, a thirteen year old daughter, and I spend much of my time around 18-20-something women, and there are times in Jem and the Holograms when any of the characters could be any of those ages. The most consistently mature is Jerrica, but even she slips into bizarrely childlike behaviour from time to time.
The ages / maturity just don't ring true to me. Even Scoutie, my eight year old, is more mature than some of the characters some of the time, and all the other women I am around on a regular basis make Jerrica and her sisters seem inconsistently written at best or utterly vapid at worst. And this is a huge shame because it distracts from many of the things for which Kelly Thompson deserves praise. The focus on young women doing it on their own (-ish), the fact that a compelling story is being told almost without violence, creativity and the arts as a pursuit being praised rather than denigrated, male characters in supporting roles (yet remaining interesting and worthwhile), themes of love and trust and self-respect and body positivity all getting some time on stage -- these are stories worth telling and they are mostly being told well -- except for the odd immaturity that seems to take hold of the characters from time to time.
The age vs. maturity issue really does hinder my enjoyment. Most of the time I think it is the inconsistent art that is to blame (too many different artists disrupt the story's flow), but sometimes it is in Thompson's writing too. Jem and the Holograms and their enemies, the Misfits, can go from reasonably bothered to spoiled bratty in the space of a panel, and it undermines my desire to pull for them. But you know what ... I know this comic isn't for me. I know I'm not the target audience, and my littlest girl loves it, so who am I to be mean about Jem and the Holograms? I am the wrong person to be judging. But as long as Scoutie is reading these, I will be too, and I fear my struggle with the maturity of the bands will continue.
Oh well, It's definitely worth a read or two, especially if you are an eight year old who loves to play piano and loves to cosplay Jem....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