This series is flipping fantastic! I feel like it's been written just for me. It has everything in it that I love right now and want to be re...more4.5 stars
This series is flipping fantastic! I feel like it's been written just for me. It has everything in it that I love right now and want to be reading to escape from life and have a helluva good time. I blew right through this one in a day and a half, not realizing there won't be another Sam Thornton adventure until Summer(?) 2013. Boo. But these are well-crafted, crazy mash-up fantastical noir crime novels that need time to grow. I get it. You take all the time you need Mr. Holm, just keep them coming!
This time around we learn a lot more about Sam's life as a Collector of doomed souls, the rules involved and the wicked dangers. The world-building here is so fine. I could eat it up with a spoon. Lilith (yes, that Lilith) is becoming more of a character and I love her. Femme-fatale indeed. One of the addicting things about this series is that the stakes are always so astronomically, apocalyptically high. I can't get enough of the scenarios. I am totally buying what Holm is peddling. Listen to me, I'm raving like a fangirl. Is what I'm writing even making sense?
No matter. Look, this series isn't going to be for everyone. But it just might be for you. If you like crime stories with a noir bent, if you like road movies and buddy pictures, if you enjoy a well-meaning sarcastic narrator with a past who is as funny and clumsy as he is smart and tough then you just might love this. If the fantastical elements of angels, demons, heaven, hell and the Inter-World intrigue you, then I know you will love this. Give it a chance, you really have nothing to lose. But start with Book 1, Dead Harvest.
(view spoiler)[I have to add a few spoilers here that will help refresh my memory when Book 3 comes out. First of all, LOVE the concept of soul skimming. Demons jonesing to get just a small taste of human memories and experience life in God's grace. LOVE the concept that splitting a soul apart is the equivalent of splitting the atom -- bad, cataclysmic shit will happen. Earthquakes, floods, the end of times. Depends on how completely a soul is damaged. LOVE the concept of Collectors being 'shelved' - put into a vegetative body that is a long ways from death, where they will likely go mad before the person actually dies and releases them. LOVE the Inter-World and the Deliverants (who come to collect the collected souls). Can't wait to find out more about these beings who are neither demon nor angel and operate under their own set of rules. I want more! (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This was a blast -- a seamless mash-up of pulpy noir goodness set in a gritty urban landscape featuring soul Collectors and very bad ass mofo angels a...more This was a blast -- a seamless mash-up of pulpy noir goodness set in a gritty urban landscape featuring soul Collectors and very bad ass mofo angels and demons. Who would I recommend this book to? Fans of the movie The Prophecy most definitely. And to a lesser extent that movie Fallen starring Denzel Washinton and Elias Koteas (I love Elias Koteas).
And if you've ever been a fan of Supernatural's angel-demon-apocalypse epic story arc then this is most definitely the book for you. Even though Dead Harvest is laced with all the delicious tropes of detective noir fiction, I would find it hard to believe that the author hasn't also been influenced by the Winchester Family Business. The references to 'vessels' and 'meat-suits' and fallen angels, and 'free will' and souls and a war on earth between the hosts of heaven and the legions of hell... well, I know the writers of Supernatural didn't invent this mythology, but they've certainly put their own stamp on it in a way that it shone through the pages of this book with the brightness of a soul ripped from its mortal host.
That's another thing -- even the way the souls are harvested. I could not help but be reminded of this:
Not that you have to be a Supernatural fangirl like myself to enjoy this book. Not in the least. Soul collector Sam Thornton is a great character -- and while I had an easy time picturing him as Dean Winchester -- he's also cut from the mold of classic noir detectives. He's an anti-hero with a past. He's stopped consciously looking for redemption but somewhere deep inside he still hopes for it. Even though his line of work whittles away his humanity one job at a time, Sam still manages to hold on to some of who he used to be. He smokes, he drinks, he curses. He's not impervious to fear, or to making stupid mistakes. Or to still long to "do the right thing."
Never in his wildest dreams though, would he have imagined himself smack dab in an otherworldly conspiracy between angels and demons to kick-start a war on earth to bring on the apocalypse.
You think either side wants a war? When last it happened one-third our number fell -- and all because a son of fire refused to kneel before a son of clay. You couldn't begin to understand the world of shit that would rain down upon us...
While this book is largely a plot-driven, action piece, it also contains some great dialogue that had me snickering a few times:
Just because you're thinking about stabbing somebody doesn't mean you have to be a dick about it.
"Is he - I mean, do you have to go..." she stammered. "Is he in hell?" I laughed. "Near enough - he's in Staten Island."
This is an Angry Robot book. If you've never heard of these guys, check them out. They are publishing some wickedly fine shit. I've become so enamored of their catalogue that I've given them their very own goodreads shelf. High praise indeed.
Hope you check this one out. If you do, be sure to let me know what you think! Unless you hate it. Those thoughts you can keep to yourself. I won't mind. (less)
I can gobble the Miriam Black books down as if they were piping hot, greasy cheeseburgers with a triple chocolate shake on the side. Yum! Yea...more3.5 stars
I can gobble the Miriam Black books down as if they were piping hot, greasy cheeseburgers with a triple chocolate shake on the side. Yum! Yeah, you really have to suspend disbelief, there might even be a few dubious plot holes, but goddamn, as a dark heroine with a grim gift Miriam kicks ass. She's a viper, a scrapper, a take-no-prisoners and no bullshit kind of gal, morally dubious, who is just beginning to figure out what the right thing to do is.
In this second installment, Miriam's visions get her tangled up in something much more sinister and unholy than she could ever imagine. Shacked up with Louis from Book 1 in a trailer park, Miriam feels trapped and suffocated. Her feet are getting itchy and she wants to hit the road again, to resume the shiftless (and violent) life she was living before she and Louis met.
As a favor to Louis, Miriam visits a private school for wayward girls to determine whether the hypochondriac English teacher is really dying from cancer. While on this errand Miriam learns that one of the students is going to die a horrible torturous death six years from now at the hands of a masked man with a sparrow tattoo. Miriam's inadvertent discovery puts her onto the trail of a serial killer, placing her own life in serious peril. With her usual potty mouth, rude inappropriate humor, and feisty fighting skills, Miriam makes several return visits to the private school, and with each visit uncovers more girls who will meet bloody, untimely deaths unless she can figure out a way to stop it, squarely spitting in Fate's eye once more.
I really warmed up to Miriam in this sequel. We get to see more of her vulnerable side, and get to learn more about her past, her relationship to her mother, and the tragic events that bestowed her precognitive curse on her in the first place. As a character, Louis is much more fleshed out this time too. He's still a little bit of a "big teddy bear with the heart of gold" stereotype, but he's starting to find his voice, and his motivations are starting to ring true.
I will definitely be keeping my eye out for more Miriam Black adventures. This is another Angry Robot book. Check them out. They are awesome.
Really 3.5 stars but since I enjoyed parts of it so much, I'm rounding up. What? A girl's allowed to feel generous every once in awhile. This book is...more Really 3.5 stars but since I enjoyed parts of it so much, I'm rounding up. What? A girl's allowed to feel generous every once in awhile. This book is not without its flaws, but goddamn, it has a gritty, modern noir sensibility that I just fell in love with.
Miriam Black is a damaged -- you could even argue deranged -- anti-heroine who isn't a very nice person. She's pretty fucked up actually, and she's just as likely to rob you as she is to spit in your eye. She fills her days (and nights) with booze and sex with strange men. She's a champion of letting the expletives fly. Miriam has enough personal demons and closet skeletons to fill a soccer stadium. And they hunt her. They torment her. And no matter how much she runs, or how far, they are always just at her heels nipping away. While her jagged edges and self-destructive tendencies might not make her very warm and sympathetic, I still found her to be extremely dynamic and interesting. Her choices mattered to me and I became very invested in how her story was going to end.
This is a crime novel in that there is a lot of criminal acts taking place and a lot of vivid descriptions of violence and physical trauma. Miriam's is an unusual problem -- at the touch of skin-on-skin she can foresee the time and circumstances of a person's death. Such intimate foreknowledge is a heavy burden to bear, especially since Death and Fate cannot be foiled. The only control Miriam has over these situations is to maybe be there right at the moment of your destined demise to relieve you of your money and credit cards (you don't need them anymore, right?)
She's pretty much come to accept her powerlessness. It has made her cynical, entirely dysfunctional, and dangerous. Then she meets Louis -- a hapless, widowed truck driver who only has a month left to live. His death involves torture and would be considered gruesome even by mob standards -- and this is what Miriam knows: her name is the last word that falls from his lips. The mystery becomes how do we end up at this point, and despite knowing better, will Miriam be able to cheat Death this time? Will she even try?
While Louis is merely a character sketch, the other woman in this story -- Harriet -- is one of the creepiest, most memorable characters I've read in a while. Like the best noir classics, this book too is all about the damaged women and the choices they make. It is they who drive the story, and the men are just along for the ride.
This book concludes quite solidly but there is a sequel planned that I will definitely be checking out. Miriam is pretty intense and I really want to know where her story goes next.
If you're curious about the writing at all, here are some of my favorite turns of phrase:
The Barnegat Lighthouse has 217 steps. Each is an agony. Each a troubled birth, an expelled kidney stone, a black widow's bite. The steps are corrugated steel painted in flaking yellow. They wind in a tight spiral through a channel of black brick. It is like ascending the throat of some ancient creature.
"You want to make a change...so cosmic you're unwriting death and kicking fate square in the face, then you best be prepared to pay for it." -"With blood," Miriam says. -"With blood and bile and voided bowels."
Miriam stops walking. Clouds drift in front of the sun. Somewhere out over the water, a storm brews, and rain clatters against the tides....Lightning licks at the ocean way out there under the steel sky.
Imagine if Dr. Seuss got drunk off his ass one afternoon, did a few lines of coke, and decided to write a little somethin’ somethin’ for the grown-ups...moreImagine if Dr. Seuss got drunk off his ass one afternoon, did a few lines of coke, and decided to write a little somethin’ somethin’ for the grown-ups. Welcome to World House.
How do you refrain from recommending that everyone read a book, when in your heart of hearts you know that not everyone is going to love it? In fact, there will be those who will hate it … or worse … be left bored by it. It takes a stronger person than me. I can’t stop myself recommending The World House as loud and as sincerely as I can … because those who will like it are going to like it a lot.
Here’s what I know for sure: Guy Adams is a writer of awesome audacity and imagination, who has retained his sense of childlike wonder. He infuses this story with all the charm and spectacle found in the best fairy tales, writing the utterly impossible with such conviction it reads as entirely plausible. Not as someone’s dream or a far-off fantasy landscape on some distant moon … but as something in our midst, impacting our world, happening to someone that could be us.
There were moments I was reminded of being inside the The Dark Tower itself, or the Agincourt Hotel from The Talisman. Having made the comparison, The World House is not that serious or frightening; in fact, if you come to this novel expecting terror and dread then you really will be disappointed. While the premise has all the potential to go dark side, it remains throughout a swashbuckling tale of whimsy, delight, and outright foolishness – more Indiana Jones than Hellraiser -- or Cube -- definitely more Clue (see karen’s review here) than House of Leaves. The premise is addictive, and even though the horror fan in me can't help but be disappointed I didn’t get the wits scared out of me, I surely did appreciate the originality, the silliness and the nonstop action. For me it became an intoxicating winsome brew.
As karen points out, like Clue, The World House is “a book about a bunch of strangers trapped in a house, trying to solve a mystery”. Adams has assembled quite the diverse, ensemble cast. As with Clue, or the more dramatic Gosford Park, to really enjoy this book the large cast has to please you, rather than become an annoying obstacle (and a fast way to eject you out of the story).
You won't find three-dimensional dramatic characters with in-depth histories and story arcs. It is true they are more caricature than character, but it works here in this context. Adams expertly juggles all his characters like a bunch of colorful scarves; each is unique enough to follow with ease. I love the voices he uses, and the frequent changes of perspective jumping from cliffhanger to cliffhanger is invigorating. It adds an element of suspense and tension that kept the pages turning almost faster than I could read them.
While Adams’ story may fall on the too fluffy side to be taken too seriously, within its pages he introduces a gargantuan idea and I really can’t wait to see where he takes it in Book 2 – Restoration. This is the second novel I’ve read coming out of the weird but ultra cool publishing house Angry Robot (the first was Slights). I usually don’t take notice of the publisher but these guys have got something exciting going on. I for one will definitely be keeping my eye out for more of their books. As for The World House, read it!!!! (less)
This is an exceptionally well-written book, with an original premise that’s solidly executed, but I could only give it three stars because it is such...moreThis is an exceptionally well-written book, with an original premise that’s solidly executed, but I could only give it three stars because it is such a dark, depressing, claustrophobic read that never lets up. Ordinarily that’s an amazing thing, but this time the darkness was too much, the unrelenting nature of this story falling in the vicinity of soul-numbingly exhausting. I need some light! some redemption!
I will say this: Stevie is a villain like no other I’ve read in a very long time. Getting inside her head is akin to cracking open a log on the forest floor and having all sorts of creepy crawlies come pouring out — beetles, centipedes, maggots, you name it. Horrible right? I wanted to feel sorry for her, find some reason for empathy, but she is just so completely rotten to her core that you can’t. I’m telling you, you can’t! I dare you to read this book and tell me you felt sorry for her in any way. Just when I felt myself starting to, my burgeoning empathy was squashed by a cruel or selfish word, thought or deed. It is quite an interesting portrait of evil, and Warren’s thesis seems to be that evil is born, not made, at least in Stevie’s case.
And it’s not just Stevie: no one is likable in this book. There is no one to root for and I hate that kind of post-modern existential reading experience. I need a hero, or at least an anti-hero, someone with one redeeming quality to hang my hat on. But everyone is horrible. Maybe it’s because they’re seen through Stevie’s eyes, but it doesn’t matter because the end result is the same.
The first half of the novel reads like a coming-of-age story with lots of jagged edges. It’s a slow build, and the real meat of the novel doesn’t come until 2/3 of the way through. Stevie’s reminisces are painful, ugly and awfully uncomfortable to read because Warren’s language is graphic, brutalizing, and scalpel sharp.
Through numerous near death experiences, Stevie manages to uncover the power of slights, the small insults we inflict in our day to day lives that leave others feeling miffed, pissed or otherwise “slighted”. These recipients of our slights are awaiting us when we die, ready to slice, dice, and carve to get their revenge. Interesting, ghoulish premise. That means you can be a really good person, do no real harm, but still have “slighted” people and have the Inquisition waiting for you when you die. Because let’s face it: it’s only easy to slight someone. Most of the time we don’t even mean to, it was never our intention, but that person is having a bad day and feeling hyper-sensitive.
This is a richly textured novel, quite literary, but also ruthless in its barbarity. This book will shock you and make you squirm, of that I am certain.(less)