I fear my feelings about Skellig are going to disappoint you. I didn't love it. Now that could be because it came to me too late in life tDear Amber,
I fear my feelings about Skellig are going to disappoint you. I didn't love it. Now that could be because it came to me too late in life to truly adore the story of the strange owl/angel/man, or perhaps I am too damn jaded, or it could just be that I no longer seem able to completely enjoy something just for the sake of enjoyment. I don't like that about me, but there it is.
Don't get me wrong. I liked Skellig plenty. I liked it enough that I've recommended it to Te and Los, and Scoutie has already started reading it, and I blew through it at top speed, wanting to see how things played out.
There is much to admire in Almond's book. Michael, the protagonist, is a wonderful boy, a kind sensitive protagonist much like a little boy I know, and boys like that are underrepresented in literature (it seems to me). Mina, Michael's friend, is a fierce, uncompromising home schooled girl with a deep love of William Blake (kind of like an Amber I know) and an open, welcoming, searching view of all the potentials in the world. They are a delightful pair to spend time with, and their care of Skellig made me cheer for them.
Skellig him(it)self was another victory for Almond. Skellig could easily have been misused. Too much Skellig and the book would have been a fraction as good as it was. Too little Skellig and what would be the point. And if Almond had chosen to tell us everything about Skellig, to spoon feed us Skellig's "truth," I might have been moved to toss the book on the barbecue. But no, the amount of Skellig was perfect.
Yet I closed the book as an admirer rather than a lover. Why the distance? It was Almond's fence sitting when it came to the secular and the religious. His position lacked the subtlety of the rest of the novella, and each time the fence sitting appeared it pulled me out of the story.
The tension in the book between evolution and the existence of the supernatural was so forced that I couldn't concentrate on the characters or what they were doing; it felt a bit too much like the wife in the Murder of Gonzago. And I think this was a lost opportunity for Almond. The middle ground between science and the supernatural -- which is where I think most of the people I know personally would situate themselves -- doesn't get enough representation in our pop culture. The fight between the most credulous believers and the unbelievers gets all the play, but those folks somewhere in the middle are a bigger group by far (at least that's my guess) than the ones on the ends of the spectrum, and they are forced to listen to those who don't share their opinions all the time. Yet here, finally, they get a book looking at things from their perspective, but Almond strayed to far from just showing them the middle ground and entered the realm of lecturing on the middle ground. And that bummed me right out.
So I liked this book. I liked it very much. But I couldn't love it, Amber. I am sorry.
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 listeMy 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....more
• The main idea of iZombie vol. 1 Dead to the World is a thing of beauty if you're a horror fan (especially if you dig zombies). Gwen dies, wakes up undead and discovers that she has to feast on a brain a month or become a shambling mass of rotting flesh with an insatiable appetite. She is not just cute, she's hot (as David pointed out in his review, this is a wonderful change from the zombies we're used to seeing), and she has to navigate our everyday world while fighting and feeding her hunger. The premise is gangbusters!
• At the back of the book, we're treated to a gallery of Michael Allred's beautiful black & white pencils. Most of them are potential covers for future issues, and they reveal a real depth before the colours are added. It's really a shame that they chose to colour iZombie at all
• Revenants. If you are a horror fan and don't know what this is, you're not really a horror fan. I'm not sure where they are taking this yet, and I am not convinced I like Chris Roberson's take on the Revenant, but the fact that it is there at all impresses the hell out of me.
• Mummies rock.
• The plot went in too many directions for me -- which is a symptom of the crappiest part of this book (see below) -- but when the story stays with Gwen's survival and out of the Diner, it is worth reading. I hope the second volume does a better job of sticking to what's good, but I know that's too much to ask. Whatever, I liked it enough to keep going, even with its faults.
• There's some pseudo-nudity that bothered me a bit. If the story had been more adult oriented, if it hadn't felt like a monster prequel to Friends, if its tone had been more Sookie than undead-Veronica Mars, I would have cheered on the sexuality and looked forward to more, but iZombie was too cute for that, and as long as it stays too cute any nudity is too much nudity. It just doesn't fit.
• I hated -- and I mean HATED -- most of the supporting characters. Wereterrier-boy, Sandra Dee Ghost-girl, the Asian geeks, the Vampire chicks, the Corporation Monster Hunters -- they all sucked the life out of the story. When things were focused on Gwen, things were great. I loved her digging up and eating brains. I loved her having to cope with the memories of the brains she's eaten. I loved her learning what she really is from Amon. I loved her whenever she was on her own. But when she was surrounded by her pack of idiot friends, it was like being stuck in a supernatural Riverdale High.
• I was not impressed with Laura Allred's colours. In fact, I think her colouring work wrecked Michael Allred's pencils. Compare and contrast the black and white work in the back with the glossy, fully coloured panels of the graphic novel. The depth and texture is suddenly missing, and it makes the M. Allred's drawings look like cheap, low-budget TV animation. Granted, there are some bits that her colours can't ruin, but most of it was ruined for me.
• I fucking hate Jughead and anything that reminds me of him! Have I mentioned that Gwen's friends are a pack of Riverdale rejects?...more
WARNING: This "review" (if you can call it that) contains some veiled but serious spoilers. Only read this review if you've read Kraken or aren't planWARNING: This "review" (if you can call it that) contains some veiled but serious spoilers. Only read this review if you've read Kraken or aren't planning to read it for some time.
Star Trekiteuthis: The Original Series Episode: TOS 061 - Spock's Brain Season 3 Ep. 1 Air Date: 09/20/1968 Stardate: 5431.4
The U.S.S. Architeuthis is on a routine mission in its preservative bottle when a riffling, ink stained, paper tiger beams into the National History Museum. Without a word, the tiger reorders the ink of its pages and everyone is rendered unconscious. It moves around the Museum until finally it comes to Miéville. Smiling an inky smile, it lays a hand on the author's head, as if it's found what it was looking for.
When Wati Kirk awakes, Miéville is gone from the Museum. Before the labour organizer can find out where his author has gone, Dane Parnell calls, demanding his presence immediately. Miéville's body lays on a diagnostic table, on full life support. Dane Parnell explains that his brain is gone ... miraculously removed with some technology that the Kraken Agent has never seen before. Every nerve was sealed and there was no blood lost. However, Parnell tells him if the author's brain isn't returned to his body within 24 hours, Miéville will die.
Wati Kirk orders the city's familiars to pursue the paper tiger. By following its lack, the Architeuthis arrives at the Sea's embassy in Varmin Way. When Wati Kirk and party shift inside, they find a soaked, underwater world inhabited by two villains: Grisamentum, who is comprised of ink and paper, and the Tattoo, a crime lord tattoed onto the back of a man named Paul. While Grisamentum is resurrected in the liquid body of ink, he doesn't fully understand the power of metaphor. Only the "Great Prophet" -- a.k.a. Billy Harrow -- has this knowledge, and he was left behind by ancient squid cultists (or bottle angels) who once lived on the planet.
Dane, having borrowed a device which will control Miéville's body without the aid of his brain, goes with the author to join Wati Kirk and his party. They find Grisamentum, the tiger who came into the Museum. They quickly realize that Gris doesn't have the skill or knowledge to have understood the operation on Miéville, and the Londonmancers tell them about the Great Prophet.
Finally, Wati Kirk finds Miéville's brain. The Tattoo has hooked it up to control his main thug, Goss and Subby. The brain is now revered by the thug as the "Controller," which the thug hopes will fulfill his (its? their?) murderous thirst for the next 10,000 years. After trying unsuccessfully to get Gris to repeat the operation on Miéville in reverse, Dane submits to the Great Prophet and gains the knowledge of metaphor needed to restore Miéville's brain and save both the author's life and all their existences.
Without his Controller, Goss and Subby succumb to the wrath of Paul who conquers his Tattoo. Wati Kirk suggests the familiars go on strike once more, and Grisamentum's attack on Miéville never-was.
This may come off a little mean, but I need to start by saying that you are a bit of a hack. But I don't mean that to be mean because tDear Charlaine,
This may come off a little mean, but I need to start by saying that you are a bit of a hack. But I don't mean that to be mean because the truth is I wouldn't want you to be anything other than the ass-kicking, pseudo-horror, pseudo-romance, pseudo-thriller hack that you are. You are my go-to guilty pleasure girl. I love hanging out with Sookie and her crew, and that's all down to you.
I just wanted you to know that Dead to the World is my favourite of the bunch. This had everything I love about Sookie and her world. Practically no Bill, lots of Eric (the hot Viking Sheriff of District Five), Weres, Witches, death, destruction, sex and tons of telepathic Sookie fun.
Did I say sex? Well, you hit the perfect balance between sex and action in this book, and I actually found some of the sex between Sookie and Eric to be arousing (not something I can say for your scenes between Sookie and Bill). And while I am on the subject of Vampire sex, Charlaine, thanks for eschewing the angsty, glittery, chaste, annoying Vampirism of Ms. Meyers. You celebrate Vampire naughtiness, then throw in some shape changing naughtiness for good measure, and that's so much more fun to read than the moody, whiny love triangle between a vapid girl, a pissy wolfboy and creepy "vegan" vamp.
So thanks for creating your bizarre, but believable world of everyday Supes who're challenging our prejudices by revealing that they've always been among us. Thanks for True Blood (both the fictional product and the HBO series), fangbangers (the coolest fictional term I've ever read in a pulpy novel), Fangtasia and the whole wacky population of Bon Temps.
I know your books are trashy, and I know some of them have pissed me off in the past, but Dead to the World is an exceptional piece of B-Lit trash. I am now a fan now matter how bad the rest of the books are. Sookie Stackhouse = Fun. I don't need anything more than that.
So thanks one last time, Charlaine Harris. I love your kooky mind.
There came a turn in the vampire oeuvre -- and that turn had much to do with the Anne Rice's vampire novels -- when the inherent eroticism of vampirisThere came a turn in the vampire oeuvre -- and that turn had much to do with the Anne Rice's vampire novels -- when the inherent eroticism of vampirism, which was one of many vampiric themes, shifted into a full scale fetishization of vampire sexuality.
I don't say this to criticize totally what vampire tales have become. I remain a fan of Lestat, Louis and Armand, and I certainly dig Sookie's Bill and Eric (the less said about Bella's Edward the better), but the fetishization of vampire sexuality has become a reductive cliche in vampire literature, and each new manifestation of vampire fiction seems to carry with it an increasing hypersexuality to the detriment of other potential vampire themes, so I've found myself less and less excited by vampire tales with each incarnation.
So reading Barbara Hambly's Those Who Hunt the Night has positively rejuvenated my interest in vampire fiction, reminding me that there is much that remains unexplored and underexplored in fiction about this most human form of undead.
Hambly discards the fetishization; in fact, what sexuality there is in Those Who Hunt the Night is either between her human protagonists, Lydia and Asher, or is merely the bare minimum required by a vampire for hunting (who are, according to one of the number, basically asexual). Sexuality is incidental. And I think Hambly wants it to remain that way because the theme that most concerns her is predation.
She is concerned with the ethics of hunting to live, of killing to preserve life. She offers one complex vampire, the eminently likable Don Simon Ysidro, and a series of violent archetypes, from a violent and angry master vampire, Dr. Grippen, to a damned and guilt-ridden ex-priest, Brother Anthony. These vampires, and all the others we get a taste of, inhabit some position along an ethical continuum that runs from debilitating remorse to a pragmatic sublimation of remorse to no remorse at all. But Hambly takes things a step further and places some of her humans along the continuum too. The most important is Asher, the philologist/spy/private investigator coerced by Ysidro into hunting down a dangerous killer of London's vampires. Even Asher is forced, by his connection with and aiding of the vampires, to face his own predation and the motives he has used to justify or rationalize the actions in his past.
Hambly's thoughts on predation could have gone further, I suppose, but anything more would have been beyond the characters and their Edwardian milieu, and Hambly is a good enough writer to know that she must be true to her characters and their setting, no matter what else she is trying to achieve.
There are better vampire books than Those Who Hunt the Night, and from everything I've been hearing there are better Barbara Hambly books than Those Who Hunt the Night, but as a bit of a vampire geek, I am full of appreciation for her attempt to remind us that vampires are predators who feed on us -- as folklore has always warned us. In our fantasy worlds, vampires are on top of the food chain. And it sure sucks to be food, doesn't it?...more
One of my favourite manifestations of the children's book is the turning of classic stories -- either short stories or fables -- into picture books. TOne of my favourite manifestations of the children's book is the turning of classic stories -- either short stories or fables -- into picture books. The marriage of artists to established stories is often inspired and/or illuminating (play on words fully intended since these books truly are modern illuminations of classic works).
François Roca's illustrations for H.G. Wells' The Magic Shop don't unlock anything new in the story, but they do a wonderful job of capturing the moods of Wells' story.
The mood of imagined danger -- particularly when it comes to the safety of one's children -- has always permeated the minds of paranoid urban dwellers from Victorian London to modern day New York and all other cities in between. And this perceived danger is at the heart of the tale.
A father and son stumble upon the Magic Shop in the middle of London, and a Magician with lop-sided ears carries them innocently through a magical world of fun-house mirrors, glass balls, animated tin/lead soldiers, enchanted toy swords and decks of cards full of powerful manifestations.
There really is nothing to be afraid of, but when Gip drops his father's finger and takes up the Magician's, the father is suddenly overwhelmed by fear for the safety of his son, a fear that is motivated by jealousy because someone other than himself has captured his boy's attention.
It is an amazing insight into the depth of our fear for our children, which is often and increasingly unrealistic. Certainly there are those few out there who are dangerous to our children, but we seem to be insulating our children more and more, so that even those who would never hurt our children are being shut out and held at bay. This need to protect is at the core of what it is to be a parent, but perhaps we take things too far. We love our children as ferociously as we do tenderly, and even perceived dangers, when there is really no danger at all, fill us with fear and loathing and a need to act (or react) violently. But Wells might have been suggesting, all those years ago, that this need to protect -- or rather our tendency to overprotect -- shuts something off between our children and ourselves.
There is no violence in The Magic Shop because there was no danger other than a son finding something to love that is all his, but there is a sadness when the book comes to a close. The father, you see, wants to kiss his son when they climb in the hansom cab and start their journey home, but he is stopped from engaging in this asexual intimacy by what society makes of his gender and his gender's engagement with intimacy. And so his son, the boy who has just lost interest in him for the first time, who has just found his first interest beyond his parent, is pushed one step further away rather than drawn closer by an embrace or a kiss that could have acted as a simple validation of the boy's inevitable independence.
Their distance is complete and the magic of the city, the truest black magic of all of our cities, the alienation of being surrounded by people, ensures that their relationship will never be the same. And that, my friends, is the saddest thing of all.
François Roca's final panel captures this sad moment beautifully. The father stands outside the cracked door of his son's room, peeking in to catch the son playing with the magical tin/lead soldiers he brought back from the shop (he claims he does this to see if they really do come alive). But the son is nowhere to be seen. Only the soldiers in their military ranks are in that room, standing still and steadfast, while the father holds himself at remove, spying, hiding behind a barrier he himself imposes, wishing he could return to the world of his child, but shutting himself off as he has been trained to do.
Roca's art didn't add anything new to The Magic Shop -- that is true -- but he captured what is in The Magic Shop with the precision and insight that excellent artists always seem to manage....more
Destiny: Around page two hundred I wondered whether Lukyanenko was going to throw us a Perdido Street Station style curveball and make The Night WatchDestiny: Around page two hundred I wondered whether Lukyanenko was going to throw us a Perdido Street Station style curveball and make The Night Watch about something other than a triple header search for an unsanctioned vampire, her young Other hostage, and the uber-powerful Warlock/Witch responsible for the great black Vortex hovering over the head of a nice, pretty little general practitioner (can you tell I've been reading too many mysteries and watching too much film noir lately? Sorry).
But nope. It wrapped itself up quite nicely and satisfyingly. Our hero Anton Gorodetsky, a Wizard working for the Night Watch (the "good" guys) who is unsure of his powers, delivers an underdog victory against the forces of the Day Watch (the "bad" guys) and their bad ass leader, Zabulon. Anton manages to maintain the all important balance between good and evil (this struggle for balance is one of my favourite parts The Night Watch, by the way), to save the boy, to save Doctor Svetlana and her untapped power (she is a seriously good ass wizard + she has a great name), and to rise in the estimation of his colleagues, despite being tricked into questioning the decisions of his boss, the toughest s.o.b. in Moscow, Boris Ignatievich.
Then it ends. And that's when I turned the page to discover that The Night Watch is really a compilation of three novellas. One down, two to go. Hope they're all as good as the first.
Among His Own Kind: The second novella opens a few months later, and a serial killer named Maxim -- one of the Light -- has escaped detection over the course of his life, and he is busy slaying those of the Dark. He senses their evil, channels his good through a wooden toy dagger, and wipes out the souls of the Dark Ones with righteous fervor.
The Night and Day Watches are then scrambling to put an end to Maxim's reign of terror as it threatens to tip the balance. Lukyanenko keeps us guessing who's really to blame, how Maxim's killings fit into the great chess game that is the Treaty, and the action drives on to yet another satisfying conclusion, but what this second tale is really about is the exploration of the concepts of good and evil from an Eastern European perspective. Neither good nor evil, you see, is about actions. Both the Light and the Dark engage in some pretty questionable behaviour -- murders, killings, betrayals, rule breaking, involuntary sacrifice -- but it is not these actions that make the difference between the Light and Dark in Lukyanenko's Russia; it is the choice between the individual and the group.
The Dark Ones are evil because they believe in the individual. Their greatest selling point for new Others trying to find their way is their belief in absolute freedom. They can and do have happy loving families. They can love, grieve and care regardless of their selfishness, but they are evil because they care about themselves first and foremost.
The Light Ones are good because they believe in the group. They believe in a greater good, and their individual needs and freedoms are second to the needs of everyone else (theoretically). And Lukyanenko, with all this talk about good and evil, makes sure we never lose sight of the balance between the two forces, which is necessary for peace. It's fascinating stuff, wrapped up and well concealed in an exciting urban fantasy. I can't help loving it.
All for My Own Kind: And then it becomes a love story and my love for the book slips into mere appreciation. Although I feel more for Anton in the third episode of The Night Watch and I am impressed by the further muddying of the ethical waters (the boundaries between the actions of the Light Magicians and Dark Magicians are practically non-existent), the final tale was too rushed to succeed.
This part of the story could and should have been a novel all to itself. It is not long enough, and is, therefore, too rushed. I needed more time with Anton as he struggled with the direction of the Light, more time with Gesar and Olga (especially more about her background) and Svetlana to understand the decisions they were making and to develop some sustained suspense, more history of the Light's social experiments (Russian Revolution, Nazi Germany and others), more investment in the peripheral characters so that I cared for something beyond Anton and his philosophical struggles, and much much more of Zabulon and the Dark Ones.
It's a bit of a let down after the genuine entertainment of the first two parts, but not such a let down that I will stop reading Lukyanenko. Still, a couple of days ago I was planning to plow straight into The Day Watch, but now I think I'll wait until I have a long flight ahead of me. I bet it will make the perfect airplane book....more
WARNING: If you're a Spurs fan you can sod off. If you are simply someone who knows nothing about football and Arsenal the analogy that follows will lWARNING: If you're a Spurs fan you can sod off. If you are simply someone who knows nothing about football and Arsenal the analogy that follows will likely be meaningless, but you're invited to read on anyway.
Have you ever seen Emmanuel Eboué play football? He's a wonder to behold.
He is a right back turned right midfielder turned right back turned utility man. He has a reputation for diving, but he's constantly fouled by opposition players. His finishing is for shit, but he still scores the occasional goal, and he gets himself into scoring position on a fairly consistent basis. He is crap in the air but is surprisingly effective at throwing off his opposition when they're going for a ball. He tackles well, tracks back constantly, but gets himself out of position because he pushes too far forward. Little he does makes sense, yet he's effective, and when Arsenal need a spark he is there to provide it. He is hated by the opposition, whomever they may be, loathed by referees, loved by his teammates and a little bit of both by his Gunner fans (he was booed off the pitch two seasons ago and has since become a folk hero). He's like a Jackson Pollack canvas on the football pitch, and I can't help digging him.
And I couldn't get Eboué out of my head when I was reading A Dirty Job by Chris Moore. There are few books that are so all over the place. It spans almost a decade; some years are covered in detail, others are covered in two paragraphs, and some days take up a third of the book -- time is nearly meaningless. Shit (both literal and figurative) comes out of nowhere on a regular basis (costumed-two-foot-bone-weapon toting-soul-beasts anyone?), sex smacks us upside the loins, full out comedy displaces horror only to be displaced by action only to be displaced by love only to be displaced by sacrifice. Spirituality plays alongside hedonism. Poo jokes abound while red-glowing-soul-vessels burn their need, and Death Merchants "sell" their collected souls to their ineluctably correct patrons.
It is bizarre, even pseudo-bizarro, wacky, stupid, sexy, sickening, entertaining and oddly compelling. More than a bit like a Saturday afternoon watching Emmanuel Eboué baffle and beguile in Arsenal red & white.
For the first third of Club Dead, my same old complaint about Sookie Stackhouse was widening and deepening, and I thought it was finally going to takeFor the first third of Club Dead, my same old complaint about Sookie Stackhouse was widening and deepening, and I thought it was finally going to take its toll on my enjoyment of Charlaine Harris’ books. Even now, even after Harris won me back and entertained the hell out of me, I am still not sure how I feel about Sookie’s behaviour, and I fear for my long term enjoyment of the series.
You see, Sookie is a hypocrite of gargantuan proportions.
From Dead Until Dark to Club Dead, Sookie has made out or more with Sam Merlotte (her boss and a Shape Shifter), Eric (the gorgeous Scandinavian Vampire), and Alcide (the big, burly, manly Werewolf). She’s had sexual contact with all of them, rationalized her behaviour in her head, and kept it secret from Bill -- the Vampire she is supposed to love. And fair enough. I don’t really have a problem with that.
But I do have a problem with her self-righteousness. She’s offended when Bill notices a girl’s bum, she’s offended when she merely thinks Bill has “betrayed,” and she is instantly willing to hold his behaviour up to a standard that she herself does not practice.
Even worse, if Bill keeps a secret from her, she considers it a betrayal that actually has her contemplating “sharpening stakes” to make him pay for his transgression, but when she keeps a secret from him...well, that’s no big deal at all.
And when Bill actually does something that is a big deal, say like raping her in the trunk of a car during a feeding frenzy stupor, Sookie blows it off as though nothing has happened at all (a reaction that really isn't sitting well with me at all).
Sookie’s self-righteousness doesn't only manifest over love and sex, however; it manifests over small things, moments that don’t matter. For instance, Pam, a particularly cold Vampire that Sookie actually considers a friend, fails to say thanks for some True Blood Sookie gave her to drink. Her manners appall Sookie, and little miss indignant gleefully expresses her disgust at the Vampire’s lack of couth. Yet the night before, Pam sent Bubba (an undead and practically brain dead Elvis) to save Sookie from a werewolf attack, and never did Sookie utter a word of thanks.
Here’s the thing that bothers me: if this is how Harris sees the world, if she thinks that Sookie is as righteous as Sookie seems to think she is, if she actually doesn’t perceive the hypocrisy and stupidity of the woman she’s made the hero of her stories, then Sookie’s insufferability goes beyond my ability to forgive. If, on the other hand, Harris is fully aware of Sookie’s insufferability, and she has chosen this as a character trait to make Sookie a consciously flawed protagonist, then the choice is a good one and Harris is successful.
But I can't tell which it is.
At times, I think it’s the former and not the latter. If it were the latter, I would expect to see other characters calling her on her behaviour. But the only character who comes close, Eric, can only muster a raised eyebrow and an instant increase in his desire for the feisty, southern, telepathic, waitressing belle.
Still, it could be the latter rather than the former because every once in a while Sookie will flirt with condemning herself for her behaviour just before she rationalizes away her decisions, which she always does.
If it wasn’t for Anna Paquin’s transformative performance of Sookie in the HBO TV series, I don’t know that I could have even gotten this far in the Sookie books. Now that I am finished Club Dead, though, I find that I am still glad I have.
Despite my feelings about Sookie, this third book of the series is the best. Charlaine Harris, for all her authorial faults, infuses her stories with a conversational ease that makes them fun.
Sookie may be a pain in my ass, but she is a pain in my ass that I can almost believe exists. I dig her quirkiness and all the crazy but believable situations Harris puts her in. And therein lies Harris’ real talent: I buy her urban fantasy world, and if I could live in any urban fantasy world it would be hers.
So I guess I’m moving on to book four the next time I need a book to read while I am doing dishes. Yes. I am an official knob. ...more
I was born and raised Roman Catholic, so despite my atheism I have demons ingrained in my consciousness.
I'm talking about literal demons here. DemonsI was born and raised Roman Catholic, so despite my atheism I have demons ingrained in my consciousness.
I'm talking about literal demons here. Demons with tails and horns and leathery wings, demons of sublime beauty and terrible mien, demons that torment and corrupt. It doesn't matter that I no longer believe in the concepts of good and evil; it doesn't matter that demons are fiction; they are so deeply programmed into me that there is no escaping their intimate hold on portions of my imagination.
So considering my preconceptions of demons, which are predictably Western European, my time spent with Detective Inspector Chen was never likely to be trouble free. I don’t know exactly what trouble I was expecting, but I was surprised to discover that the trouble, if it can be called trouble, came from Liz Williams’ demons feeling shame.
Demons, the way I’ve always imagined them, feel no shame. Indeed, they are shameless creatures of villainy, cruelty, nastiness. They terrorize, torture and punish, delighting in their heartlessness. Clearly my conception of demons is the conception on the walls and ceilings of churches or the popular culture of Christianity.
Thus when Zhu Irzh or Inari showed signs of shame, or when Inari’s brother Tso was motivated by shame, I reacted with annoyance and even tossed the book aside with a snort. But I knew that my reaction was purely emotional, and I found myself considering the idea of demons and shame for most of the day; it didn’t take long for me to see what Williams was doing – and even to absorb it into my personal mythology of demons.
After all, demons being intimately acquainted with shame makes perfect sense.
Those humans who go to Hell, after all, go to Hell to feel shame. No matter their crime, no matter if Hell is eternal or transitory, no matter their punishment, they go to Hell to learn or feel shame. And it doesn’t matter what religion’s Hell one’s talking about. If there is a Hell, it is a place for shame.
Now, if this is a truism of Hell, something we can all agree upon, then demon characters must be able to feel shame. If a demon is to exploit the shame of a human or cause shame in a human, they must be able to understand shame in all its forms, and the only way to do that is to know shame personally.
My brain got that, and I went straight back to reading Snake Agent, but my gut still reacted every time a Demon felt shame, and I fear that my gut got in the way of my fully enjoying of Liz Williams’ creativity, which is one of the reasons I look so forward to The Demon and the City. Once I have had time to fully integrate shame in the world of Singapore Three into my gut, I am sure that I will be able to better appreciate the implausible, surreal, stickily humid Hell Noir landscapes that Detective Inspector Chen and his partner Seneschal Zhu Irzh inhabit.
And if it improves as much as I think it will, this series should become my must read, must buy, must share piece of pulpy goodness.
Previously written: I was surprised by how much I liked this book, and I have much to say about shame in demons, but that will have to wait for another day, maybe even for the next book. I will be going on with this series, though, and soon. It is definitely good enough for that. ...more
It is because while The City and The City is both of those things, it is also -- and more powerfully -- a love letter to his fans and an act of oeuvre snobbery of the first order.
What Miéville has done is to build a story upon his favourite themes, and to require that his audience is familiar with other occurrences of these themes in his work to fully appreciate what he's done (perhaps inadvertently, but there it is). The unseen and the uncity occur throughout his work in varying forms, but they come together in The City and The City with an intensity and concreteness that he has only flirted with before.
Saul Garamond (King Rat), Silas Fennec (The Scar), Toro & Spiral Jacobs (Iron Council), The Weaver (Perdido Street Station), are all characters that move unseen. Each have their own reasons for moving unseen and their own methods for achieving it, but all of them move in and through the spaces that others cannot see or fail to see or choose not to see. And all of the motives and reasons for unseeing these characters culminate in the Beszel/Ul Qoma /Breach unseeing that Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Besz Extreme Crime Squad moves through in his search for the killer of a young American archaeologist.
But the murder mystery, and even the potential conspiracies that swirl around the murder, are nowhere near as important as the way these two cities crosshatch and overlay and grosstopic, and the way people from the mundane to the Breach move through and around and in and outside all the permutations of these places in one place.
And that concept of cities being more than what we are willing to see is the other piece of Miéville's narcissitically intertextual puzzle. In The City & The City it is two cities in the same space with a possible third city in the cracks. In Un-Lun-Dun it is an ab-city for every city. And in Reports Of Certain Events In London, Varmin Way is a rogue street that hides and moves and won't let itself be found, and Miéville himself is the care taker of the files that speak of the streets existence.
And even when Miéville's cities are behaving like cities should, their presence is so powerful, like Armada and New Crobuzon, that they are almost entities in their own right.
The City and The City is the culmination of just over ten years of China Miéville's already impressive career, but it won't receive the love it deserves, at least not for now. Once David Fincher or some other visionary director decides to put it on film, however, it may well become Miéville's most respected work. Too bad Orson Welles wasn't still alive. The City and The City would be right up his dissensi....more
i. Shit. This is going into pause for now, until my copy turns up somewhere. It's probably in one of the many laundry baskets. Or somewhere. Rrrrrr. Ni. Shit. This is going into pause for now, until my copy turns up somewhere. It's probably in one of the many laundry baskets. Or somewhere. Rrrrrr. Now I have to choose another fun book from my shelves.
ii. So nearly two years ago I lost that copy, and it did eventually turn up in the shed, having soaked up water from a tiny leak. It was swollen to three times its size and overrun by fungus. But I brought it in the house, my very own Vandermeer, spore-laden tome, and I put it on the ledge beside the dehumidifier, started drying it out, and promptly forgot all about it.
A few weeks ago I needed a new shower book, and what better than a book already thoroughly water damaged, so I grabbed the book and started reading. I made it through 5 pages in the shower, but when I tossed it through the shower curtain and got ready to wash myself, my hands were covered in black spore. I went straight out and bought a new copy, which I should have done the year before.
Now that I am finished, think I will burn my old mossy copy. Not because I hate the book, but because I think a nice little blast of Fuego would be a fitting end to my wounded copy. Make of that what you will.
As for the story itself, Grave Peril is the best of the first three books. No question. Storm Front was very much a first novel, enticing, weak in parts, but fun enough to carry on. I remember enjoying Fool Moon, but I discovered that beyond a memory of loup-garouds, it was utterly forgettable. But Grave Peril elevated the Dresden books in both the consequences for Harry, and my personal enjoyment.
Harry loses and gains in this book, and not in simplistic ways. When he loses something he also keeps it, making the losing more tragic (I'm thinking the loss of Susan's love here). When he gains something, such as victory over Bianca and Kravos, he loses much more and starts a supernatural war to boot. Even in little moments, the bits of action or seemingly minor plot twists, the gains and losses have these double edges, like Amorrachius, the righteous blade of Michael, God's Chicago Knight.
Better still, Butcher manages to do cool shit with ghosts and everything else from the Nevernever, shit that actually surprised me. Barbed wire ghost torture? Crazy cool. Intentional death and ghostly manifestations? What?! A beautiful, made woman whose pharmaceutical for sanity is sex with a Vampire? Yep, that's what I said. It is all just cool.
So to sum up: cool, cool, cool. For a fun read, Grave Peril can't be beat. ...more
Jim Butcher achieves something that no other authors of urban fantasy have done (at least not the ones I've read); he expresses how wonderful it is toJim Butcher achieves something that no other authors of urban fantasy have done (at least not the ones I've read); he expresses how wonderful it is to be producing magic in a world like ours.
I don't expect characters to be jazzed about their magic skills in a classic fantasy world, where magic is like bowling and everyone knows about it, most people have dabbled, but only a few can bowl anywhere near a perfect score.
Nor do I expect wizards to remain wide-eyed about their skills if they find themselves separated from Muggles for long periods, so that they are surrounded by magic and their only influence is magic. After all, knowing how to throw a slider loses its coolness when you're one of a pitching staff where everyone's got a slider and something more.
But in an urban fantasy setting, where the magical world is our world with magic in it -- a world with zombies and Coke, or vampires and Dancing with the Stars, or demons and Battlestar Galactica -- the protagonists can't always be seeing their talents as curses or handicaps or illnesses. Some character somewhere has got to like what they're able to do.
Enter Chicago wizard Harry Dresden.
Here's what he thinks about his skills: "The potion had worked. I was inside. I had to suppress an urge to break into a soft-shoe routine. Sometimes being able to use magic was so cool. I almost stopped hurting for a few seconds, from sheer enjoyment of the special effects. I would have to remember to tell Bob how much I liked the way this potion worked."
Now that's more like it. That's enthusiasm. That's joy. That's a man who knows that supernatural talent is about the best thing you can have in a modern city. And that's a recognition that being able to do magic is just plain cool.
This enthusiasm (dare I call it passion, as Harry does?) is at the core of Harry Dresden, and it is the best reason (amongst many others) for me to keep reading The Dresden Files.
I know guys like Harry. They are the computer geeks who spend their days programming wonders and come home to play video games, or the math geeks who spend their days dreaming up lofty theorems then come home and play speed chess. Harry's talent happens to be magic, but by grounding his skills in the lovable body of an everyday geek (albeit a badass geek), the kind of geek we all know and understand, Butcher makes everything about his Chicago -- the city, the people (especially Harry) and the magic -- as accessibly realistic as an urban fantasy-noir can be.
Furthermore, as an inveterate Indiana Jones fan, the constant references, intentional or otherwise, to Raiders of the Lost Ark are enough to keep me happy even when Harry Dresden miraculously pulls off his self-proclaimed mission against ridiculous odds that are compounded by bloodloss and bruising and beatings that would put a normal person in the hospital, which is, of course, another reference to Indiana Jones, making me love Dresden even more.
This is only the second book of The Dresden Files, so I don't want to go too far in my praise -- I am expecting better stories to come -- but as fantasy-noir entertainments go, Fool Moon is top notch. It is exciting, action packed and pulpy with just the right amount of cheek.
The Dresden Files is the perfect series if you need a break from the cerebral, but don't want to immerse yourself in drivel.
P.S. At this point in the series I completely hate Murphy. I know that is heresy for fans of The Dresden Files; I know she is beloved and has a history with Harry that grows and deepens, but right now I can't stand her. At this point (and I really do hope this changes in future books), she is pig-headed, abusive, closed minded, inflexible, self-righteous, and just plain mean. She is the one element of Fool Moon that I genuinely disliked. Too bad Harry didn't hook up with Tera....more
I imagine that some people will complain that Butcher's Storm Front is misogynist, and I can see where they're coming from -- to a point. There is a bI imagine that some people will complain that Butcher's Storm Front is misogynist, and I can see where they're coming from -- to a point. There is a bad Vampiress who runs a brothel, there are a couple of prostitutes, a sexually abused woman, a sexy journalist, and a tough, rough-cut female cop. I can see these characters striking a nerve with some women, thereby stripping any enjoyment of the book for them.
And fair enough.
But these characters are classic archetypes in the fictions Jim Butcher is bringing together, and his Magic Noir wouldn't work fully without them.
If one pays too close attention to the "chauvinism" of Harry Dresden, one can miss impressively fun stuff that is going on elsewhere in the tale.
Not only does Butcher come at magic from a fascinating direction, not only does Butcher capture the Noir feel of old dime store novels, not only does Butcher create an entertaining treat, which amounts to a really fun read, but Butcher manages to deal with Black and White Magic, Dark and Light forces, without simplifying motives and ethics to a simple and unrealistic battle between good and evil. By my count the word "evil" only appears in Storm Front once. This book has a bad ass wizard blowing people's hearts out of their bodies, summoning demons and addicting the denizens of Chicago to a new "magic drug"; it also has a Mob boss and a Vampiress in charge of the town's organized crime; yet, none of these characters are tossed into the rotten "evil" barrel.
They are just folks with anger issues, greed issues, power issues, bloodlust issues, etc. And to maintain such an ethical stance over the course of a novel, albeit a pulpy, fantasy/detective novel, is impressive.
Beyond that, Storm Front and Harry Dresden are ideas I wish I had thought of first. What a cool spin on some classic forms of fiction....more
One of my favourite lines in film is from Bull Durham. Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) asks Millie how the sex was with Ebby Calvin LaLoosh (Tim Robbins)One of my favourite lines in film is from Bull Durham. Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) asks Millie how the sex was with Ebby Calvin LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), and Millie says, "He kind of fucks like he throws, sorta all over the place." And that is EXACTLY how Neil Gaiman writes.
He has mad creative talent. There is no denying it. But too often that talent is uncontrolled, chaotic and even bafflingly silly. The Doll's House, written back when he was just becoming Neil Gaiman (and probably had editors forcing his work to be more restrained, which is a scary thought), is packed full of brilliant stuff.
The “cereal” convention that turns out to be a convention of serial killers is wicked genius. The cast of characters who make up one of the titular Doll Houses -- Ken and Barbie, the Spider Women, flamboyant Hal, Sandman's missing Fiddler's Green (a landscape of mountains and rivers and foothills turned man), and Rose, the Vortex of Dream -- is fascinating and rich. And then there's Rose's brother, the foster boy imprisoned in a basement dungeon for seven years only to be liberated by the nightmare Corinthian; it is a truly chilling scenario (and deserved much more of Gaiman’s time). But that's not all ... there's also a brief journey through time to visit an immortal man who rejects death, so he meets Morpheus in a pub that stands on the same spot every hundred years. In all of these we see Gaiman’s imaginative brilliance. But it is way too much. So much that nothing spooky remains and Gaiman's ability to horrify dissipates with every clever and half-developed new idea he throws at us.
Any one of these ideas would have been enough to sustain a seven chapter comic book arc. Perhaps Gaiman could have used two of the ideas in tandem without things getting out of control, but all of them together is as wild as a mascot dropping, Nuke LaLoosh fastball.
Every time I read Gaiman, I hope I am going to love what I am reading, and there are parts I adore (in The Doll’s House those things are Dream’s little family war with Desire, the Collectors and “Men of Good Fortune”), but I always close the cove r frustrated.
Control, control, you must learn control!
Oops, I think I just referenced too many movies. Sorry, but I was reading Gaiman, after all ;) I couldn’t help myself. ...more
After loving the Sandman comics and getting a few good laughs out of Good Omens, I decided to finally give Neil Gaiman's prose (solo that is) a fair sAfter loving the Sandman comics and getting a few good laughs out of Good Omens, I decided to finally give Neil Gaiman's prose (solo that is) a fair shake. It was 2003, and I knew that American Gods had recently won the Hugo, so I decided to make it my choice.
I vaguely remember enjoying the experience, but I distinctly remember thinking it was an orgy of ideas where none received the attention I craved or they deserved. The idea of the Old Gods doing battle with the New Gods across the United States was a good one, but I thought I'd seen it done with more subtlety -- albeit in a different form -- in Thomas King's Green Grass Running Water. I also remember liking Shadow, the Balder character, and since he was the protagonist, it went a long way to mitigating some of my disappointment.
A student of mine saw me reading American Gods in the hallway before class, and he recommended Perdido Street Station to me unreservedly. I bought it a week later, read the Prologue, became immediately skeptical and tossed it aside. Eight-ish years later, however, Perdido Street Station is one of my favourite books of all time, and I can't help but feel some affection for American Gods simply for the role it played in bringing me to Miéville and renewing my interest in speculative fiction.