When Dark Matter started showing up in my Goodreads feed over and over again attached to delirious five star reviews, how could I resist? All that ent When Dark Matter started showing up in my Goodreads feed over and over again attached to delirious five star reviews, how could I resist? All that enthusiasm, all those stars -- a whole galaxy of them! -- I was hooked and went running straight to Netgalley with the grabby hands. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
As many other early reviewers have already pointed out -- this book is covered in awesome sauce and lives up to the hype -- BUT -- it's also a pain in the ass to review because you basically cannot say ANYTHING about it without spoiling SOMETHING -- or if you're really careless (and just don't have any fucks left to give ::cough::Stephen King::cough::), you can spoil EVERYTHING.
Don't be an asshole. Don't do that. This book is ridiculously fun and compulsively readable -- it has a narrative that runs on nitroglycerin -- you won't be able to put the book down for barely a minute. There are page-turners, and then there's this book which takes it to a whole other level.
How to describe this book without giving anything away? Fans of The Man from Primrose Lane will love it. The mindfuck nature of the twisty plot and the ramifications that build in size and consequence with each reveal will absolutely appeal to fans of Peter Clines' 14. Remember the movie Cube? The ideas are smarter and way more fleshed out in Dark Matter, but it's working on the same kind of puzzle vibe.
And it also reminded me of something else -- how could it not?!!! But I'm putting it under a spoiler tag just in case it gets your mind thinking of certain things before you sit down to read the book. I don't want to be a douche canoe and spoil you accidentally.
For those of you who have not read the book:
*MAJOR SPOILER* AHEAD skip to the last paragraph
(view spoiler)[ Remember Homer and his magic hammock when he created all those clones of himself? Okay, I know it wasn't strictly clones Jason Dessen was creating of himself, but the multiple copies all with a legitimate case for being the "real" Jason was close enough for a cigar. All I know is that one of me is more than enough. The thought of trying to win an argument with myself, or outsmart myself in a game of wits and winner takes all does NOT sound appealing in the least. Supernatural fans will remember when Dean Winchester traveled five years into the future and met himself (and found out how much of a dick he really is). And for those Constant Reader Dark Tower fans out there, I'll just leave you with this: "Go then. There are other worlds than these." (hide spoiler)]
Dark Matter is loads of fun, and highly entertaining, but it's also got some pretty heavy themes at work in the background -- about free will and where our choices lead us, the futility of regret, and that where you are is really where you're supposed to be. To contemplate anything else is a shortcut to madness, akin to staring into the abyss. And that's all I'll say about that. Because, you know, spoilers -- and the less you know going into this one the better. Read this as soon as possible before some asshole ruins it for you. Because you know they're out there, and they will, and won't even feel bad for doing it.
I'm so remiss in my reviews of late, but I really wanted to make sure I wrote something for this one to draw your attention to it: A) because it's a wI'm so remiss in my reviews of late, but I really wanted to make sure I wrote something for this one to draw your attention to it: A) because it's a whole lot of wacky, weird and wild fun (something I've come to expect from this author) and B) said author was generous enough to send me a copy in the mail so the very least I can do is tell the reading world what I thought of it.
James Renner is the author of the mind-bending, genre-mashing The Man from Primrose Lane and you really must read that one if you are looking for something that is wholly unlike anything else. There was some buzz a few years back that Bradley Cooper had been tapped to star in a film adaptation, but no updates on that yet.
I didn't know what to expect in picking up The Great Forgetting, but you can bet I approached it with keen anticipation. Renner is a brave author who doesn't ever make safe choices. He marches out into the badlands of crazy and bewildering, sees what he finds there, and then puts it into his story. It doesn't always work, but considering the kind of unique crazy pants he's peddling, it works amazingly, unforgettably (heh) well most of the time.
This one starts as almost a quiet domestic drama: an unassuming high school teacher returns to his hometown where his sister is looking after their senile father. Jack has to deal with an ex-girlfriend who married his best childhood friend Tony. But Tony has gone missing and his wife wants Jack to help her get him declared deceased. In his efforts to do this, Jack meets a boy named Cole, the last person Tony had any significant contact with before his disappearance. Cole is a patient in a psychiatric ward suffering from complex and paranoid delusions. Or are they? The more Jack talks to him the further down the rabbit hole he goes. And takes us with him.
Side note of interest: James Renner is definitely an author to watch. And while he has a noteworthy talent spinning wild and crazy tales of speculative fiction, Renner is also a dedicated true crime writer. He is currently researching the unsolved disappearance of Umass nursing student, Maura Murray and will publish True Crime Addict in May 2016 about his experiences. The Maura Murray case is a real life rabbit hole story and it is very easy to become lost in all the moving pieces and arm chair detective theories that exist for this cold case. Renner also maintains a blog of his ongoing investigations that makes for riveting reading if you are into that sort of thing.
Two young armchair detectives are also hosting a pretty decent podcast right now about the Maura Murray case in which Renner has been a guest. The hosts are currently at work on a documentary. ...more
Here we go again: The Drawing of The Three: The Prisoner marks Marvel's third iteration of its ongoing, ambitious adaptation of King's Dark Tower magn Here we go again: The Drawing of The Three: The Prisoner marks Marvel's third iteration of its ongoing, ambitious adaptation of King's Dark Tower magnum opus. The results have been mixed for me. I started out in a fangirl tizzy, but my excitement soon waned for quite a stretch (in which I stopped reading altogether), then it peaked again like a firecracker going off, only to dampen and fizzle once more at the conclusion of the last two volumes.
Sigh. Look, don't get me wrong. I get a thrill and a chill every time I pick up one of these volumes. Because it holds so much potential. And sometimes I think just the sheer anticipation is worth its weight in gold no matter how conflicted or underwhelmed or disappointed I am by the time the reading is done.
This latest volume likely didn't stand a chance from the get-go, I had placed such GINORMOUS expectations of want and need on its slim modest frame. Out of all of King's seven Dark Tower books (I refuse to count The Wind Through the Keyhole in that number), The Drawing of the Three is my absolute favorite. For a lot of reasons. Not the least of which, Three is what got me addicted to the series in the first place.
When I read it that first time lo those many, many years ago (can you kennit?) I had never read anything else like it. I didn't even know books could do that to your brain and emotions, get in there and live there and completely wrap you up in its world and life and characters. I had loved other books before The Drawing of the Three, but I think it's safe to say this was the first time I had become obsessed - possessed by one. Books have been having that effect on me since but that time, was the first time, and you never forget your first, do you?
At the end of the day, these graphic novels are not, and can never be the books. At their best they are lovely companion pieces to tickle that nostalgia part of every DT fans brain; at their worst, they are very poor substitutes with the power to egregiously spoil the books for any reader ill-advised enough to start with the graphic novels. DON'T DO THAT, OKAY?? Read the books first. Will you promise me that?
There are parts of this one that I did enjoy -- going back to 1980's New York and hanging out with a young Eddie and his big brother Henry was a bittersweet, and due to knowing what's coming, an ultimately heartbreaking affair. The artwork is weak though, and Roland just looks like a caricature sketch of himself. And let's just say the lobstrocities scene fell as flat as a pancake. Boo. But there was astin! And tooter fish! So I shall read on. If only for the anticipation, if not the disappointment. ...more
Bees are exceptional creatures. Their hive characterized by drama and high stakes, intelligence and a sophisticated organization that is a marvel to s Bees are exceptional creatures. Their hive characterized by drama and high stakes, intelligence and a sophisticated organization that is a marvel to study and behold. For all its beauty and the tantalizing production of golden, luxurious honey, the bee life comes at a high price -- an existence propped up by slavery and the hive mind. There shall be only one Queen and no original thought. Accept. Obey. Serve. It's Orwell's 1984 in the flesh, Thought police and Big Brother included. Deformity means death and is ruthlessly stamped out in a strive for purity that rivals Hitler's attempts at Eugenics in the creation of a genetically homogenous Aryan Master race.
I was excited to read this book. I needed no convincing that bees could be the stars of their own literary masterpiece in much the same way rabbits became legend in Watership Down. Growing up one of my favorite movies was The Secret of NIMH, a movie I love to this day. I bring it up now because it did what The Bees does not, and that made all the difference for me in my level of involvement and enjoyment of this novel.
NIMH (based on this classic children's book) is an animal fantasy that anthropomorphizes rats and mice to tell a harrowing adventure tale. For me as a child, and even now as an adult, the movie strikes a perfect balance between "humanizing" the animals enough so that the drama soars, yet still allowing their animal natures and the laws of the natural world around them to shine through.
While The Bees is a beautifully written book, with scenes that are quite lovely in their composition, I felt the author lacked conviction and an overall commitment to just what kind of story she was telling. At times, the bees are very humanized. At other times, they feel alien and unknowable. This back and forth and hesitation ultimately prevented me from ever truly bonding with any of the characters. I was emotionally shut out of the story even when my reader brain was fascinated by some of the details contained therein. For that reason, the story dragged in many places.
If you have a personal curiosity of bees, the detailed portrait the author offers here of hive life may indeed appeal to you. She has done her research, and there is definitely poetry contained in some of the pages of this book and in scenes that deal with the harsh realities of the natural world and the strict laws of bee existence.
This is a book you read with your brain, not your heart. ...more
Magical realism and I have a very standoffish, disinterested relationship. We have never gotten along, and we tend to avoid each other like the plague Magical realism and I have a very standoffish, disinterested relationship. We have never gotten along, and we tend to avoid each other like the plague at parties. So despite some very beautiful five star reviews I knew this book probably wasn't going to resonate with me the way it has for others. And it didn't.
It is quite the provocative, unusual, sensory read. Yes. This book engages the senses. All of them. And it is terribly sad. Incredibly violent. Unforgettably dark. There's the soul crushing awareness of grief and love and love lost. For all of that, I should have been hugely emotionally invested but I remained rather detached through the whole experience. Maybe that says more about me than the book, that my heart responds more to realism than it does to magic. Maybe at a different time, this would have been the exact right book.
This wasn't that time.
It should also be said, this isn't a book for sensitive readers. There are two distinctly disturbing scenes, the second of which I was not prepared to encounter at all. In fact, it sideswiped me utterly and I felt that nothing that had come before it hinted at this destination. A part of me admires the author for such a bold choice; another part of me feels a bit exploited.
I do feel I was given an uplifting ending however, and after the ordeal of the journey, this was much appreciated by this reader bumping The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender from two stars to a very respectable three.
What the hell do you read next after you finish a book like this!?
While not a full on frontal assault horror novel in the tradition of The Shining or What the hell do you read next after you finish a book like this!?
While not a full on frontal assault horror novel in the tradition of The Shining or Pet Sematary, Revival definitely ranks as one of the darkest, most unsettling books King has written in a long time. It's a slow burn that touches on a lot of themes we've come to expect from King in his golden years -- family, nostalgia, grief and loss. King turned 67 this year and he seems to have reached a point in his life where the "big questions" about what it all means Alfie, and where we all end up are weighing heavy on his mind and heart. It's inevitable, right? I turned 40 this year, and I know those questions have already started to weigh on me.
This is one of those books I want to peel back layer by layer and dig down deep into its beating heart. King has moved past penning coming-of-age novels to now tackling what happens when we get old. What do our relationships look like to friends, lovers, siblings, parents when we start to lose hair where we want it, and gain it where we don't? What does a life of regret look like? What does redemption look like?
There is this exploration in Revival in a luxurious, patient way that could only be written by an author of King's maturity and discipline. It's been a humbling, emotional experience for me as a Constant Reader to watch how this man's work and art have aged with him, have reached places only possible because he's lived this long to keep telling the tales.
I get frustrated sometimes with certain fans (with hearts in the right place) who still want King to be churning out the kind of books he was writing in the 80's. Some of the best stuff the man has written happened in that decade. No doubt. He was a writing machine. With young kids and a coke habit to boot. But he's not that man anymore. Decades have come and gone and the writing should be changing to reflect that. Not just the style, but the contents. What King cares about, what he's come to realize and believe to be true, these are some of the passions that he injects into his writing now. There is a self-awareness and self-reflection that just wasn't apparent in his earlier novels. I'm not saying one is better than the other, just different, with different rewards to be found and had.
The first three-quarters of this book represent some of the most literary writing King has done over the span of his incredibly long (and hopefully even longer) prolific career. Yes it feels familiar -- there is the small Maine town and the coming-of-age elements of young children navigating a threatening and perilous world. But the writing is so rich this time, lyrical even. The doom is laying on the horizon, you can almost glimpse it, but you don't really know where it's going to come from. Or when.
One of the things I've loved about King over the years is his profound ability to assemble a world and characters that are so very, very normal. They are us. They are him. They are who we know and love. And the world they populate is normal too. Small town USA. Baseball games, apple pie. Rock and roll on the radio. But into this normal world creeps something slimy and sinister. While ordinary life of first loves, car accidents, weddings, births and tinnitus march ever onward, the sinister stays hidden in the shadows, watching and waiting to make its move. It's all so very fucking normal, until it isn't.
It's the rat trap waiting in the dark hole that you just had to stick your hand into. *SNAP*
The last quarter of this book is the snap! and it's either going to work for you or not. King has written a beautiful dedication (he often does) paying his respects to all those legendary writers of the dark who helped "build his house". In the pages of Revival the long shadow of their influence live and breathe in Charles Jacobs' obsession with electricity and his unnatural lifelong quest for answers and revelation. The Bible says: seek and ye shall find. But we must be prepared for the unraveling of the mystery and realize that we are just as likely to fall to our knees in horror as wonder.
I'm shouting his name from the rooftops, are you paying attention? This gentleman has got some serious skill people Alan Ryker! Alan Ryker! Alan Ryker!
I'm shouting his name from the rooftops, are you paying attention? This gentleman has got some serious skill people, writing chops to make you quiver and shake.
Dream of the Serpent is only my second Ryker book (the first being The Hoard) but with it he has clinched a spot on my author to watch radar. Color me a smitten kitten.
Burning is the sort of thing that changes you forever. It makes you realize that you're an animal, that all the rest is pretense.
The prose and pacing is exquisitely rendered here reflecting a maturity and mastery of the craft that is a pleasure to read even when what you are reading is fraught with pain and despair. When I picked up this book I was wholly unprepared to read such a graphic, explicit depiction of a young man's savage burns and the life he must confront post-fire. It is tragedy at its most gripping and devastating, so poignant and raw and in your face. It's impossible not to become positively engrossed in Cody's story and his ultimate fate.
This is not a "horror" story per se, but there is plenty here that is shocking and horrific. It is in its way a love story as well, or at least just what and how much we are willing to sacrifice for those we love. Amongst the punishing bleak detail of excruciating hopelessness, there emerges a twisty, mindfuck tale of second chances that's mysterious and oh so satisfyingly constructed in its parts.
Bravo Mr. Ryker. Bravo.
A free copy was provided by the publisher through Netgalley for an honest review....more
1) The main character Kirby is fantastic. She is a survivor (literally), independent, courageous and dete There's a lot for me to love about this book:
1) The main character Kirby is fantastic. She is a survivor (literally), independent, courageous and determined, a bit of a smart ass with a smart mouth. But she's no mere Mary Sue, possessing vulnerabilities and flaws that make her uniquely "Kirby" and nobody else. I found her funny and totally sympathetic. Quite honestly, the entire novel pivots around her. Without her, the intricate house of cards the author builds would collapse in on itself at the slightest shift.
2) The villain Harper is a skeevy, creepy predator, a wholly horrific construct of misogyny and homicidal tendencies. There isn't much depth or nuance to this guy -- he's just a walking talking body of hedonistic impulses and demented desires. We don't get any personal history for him or why he should have become what he's become. We know some of his twisted motivations derive from the magical qualities of "the House" -- but not all of them. You could even argue that "the House" sees the evil in him and draws Harper to itself.
3) It's about time travel in that tangly mind-fuck way that makes my brain itch, a pleasant buzz but one with bite. The mechanics of the time travel are not explained or explored in the ways they usually are in a sci-fi novel. The time travel just exists. There is a "House" that holds the magic and its door opens onto different years of the same city anywhere from the 1930s to the 1990s. It's this "House" that allows for a time traveling serial killer, and for that unique premise alone the book deserves a second look.
What can I say? This book has a lot going for it, and I liked it, I liked it a lot. But not once did I love it. I was intrigued, I played along with the mystery of the time travel, fitting pieces together where I could and trying not to get too caught up in the logic, faulty or otherwise. While Kirby stood out bright as the sun as one of "the Shining Girls", the rest of Harper's victims feel underdeveloped by comparison, almost throwaways, mere plot devices. It was hard not to get them mixed up with each other.
I also felt a tad underwhelmed by Kirby's "hunt" of her attempted killer. The uncovering and following of clues felt clunky, a cobbled together hodge-podge process where results are based more on luck and coincidence than real groundwork and actual "hunting".
This is largely a plot driven piece and if puzzles and the snake eating its own tail nature of time travel appeals to you then definitely check this out. As I was reading it, I was struck by its cinematic qualities, and won't be surprised if The Shining Girls gets optioned for the big screen.
Patrick Ness is a magnificent storyteller and master wordsmith in possession of a vibrant imagination. His Chaos Walking trilogy is tremendously uniqu Patrick Ness is a magnificent storyteller and master wordsmith in possession of a vibrant imagination. His Chaos Walking trilogy is tremendously unique and exciting, and his A Monster Calls brought me to my knees with its merciless emotional elegance and purity of Truth.
More Than This shows glimpses of greatness, but never quite reaches that level of soul-satisfying, heart-stopping, mind-melting resolution for me. It's an existential tale of seeking -- the search for meaning, for Truth, for understanding and forgiveness and discovery of self -- where redemption and final destination are displaced for the all important journey. This is a story without a climax, a story which poses many questions and offers no definitive answers.
The characters are great. I loved them. Especially Tomasz. I want an entire book just of that kid. Seth's back story and his relationship with Gudmund (while taking up very few pages of the novel) burns bright, so vivid, so emotional. I quickly became astonishingly invested in their story after only a few scenes, in what they meant to each other and how they expressed their thoughts and feelings. So tenderly realized. There were times I did not want to return to the "other story" going on, I so wanted to stay with these two and find out everything about them -- everything that came before and everything to come after.
Patrick Ness, you need to write a love story. I believe you have it in you to break all of our hearts.
But this is not that book. This is something else. It defies categorization, and sometimes that's a wonderful, brilliant thing. Here, I'm left feeling a little let down and yearning for more. ...more