Picking this one up I was not prepared for such a trip into dark and depraved waters. This is more than Scudder has ever gone up against previously an Picking this one up I was not prepared for such a trip into dark and depraved waters. This is more than Scudder has ever gone up against previously and definitely the strongest in the series since Eight Million Ways To Die. While we've moved along in years out of the 80's into the early 90's, New York City continues to be a seething trap of anger and violence and desperation with all those ways to die and Scudder has stumbled upon yet another one. This time, he didn't even go looking for it, not really. It sort of finds him in a weird, chilling series of coincidences.
Two words: snuff film. Yeah, like I said, dark and depraved waters.
Scudder is moving along nicely in his life these days. He's sober and regularly attending meetings. He's got his girlfriend Elaine (who one dewy-eyed reviewer wistfully and with no irony whatsoever refers to as Matt's snuggle bunny) no matter that she's a call girl and continues to see clients. He's also forged a pretty meaningful friendship with Mick Ballou, the Irish gangster who may or may not have carried around some guy's head in a bowling ball bag, the man who proudly wears his father's blood stained butcher's apron (and which of those stains are man or animal, nobody knows).
I keep coming back to these books mostly for Scudder. He's such a great character to spend time with. But also for the sense of time and place that Block is able to conjure. I find the Scudder books act like time capsules in a way. So much of the plotting of this story relies on VHS tapes and renting them from a video store. It made me remember what that was like and how long it's been since I've actually done it.
I remember when my family got its first VCR ever and it was this huge exciting moment, like we had finally arrived at a Jetsons' version of the future. And with Block, it's so authentic, because he's not writing these books from a 21st century perspective and recreating 1991, he actually wrote this one in 1991 without the long view and hindsight that we have as readers. I love that. That doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to Scudder aging and getting Block's take on a 21st century New York. I can't wait actually.
I'll wrap this up with a note on the ending -- holy shit snacks. (view spoiler)[If Scudder had done this in his heavy drinking days, I would have blamed it on the booze, but to do it stone cold sober, I'm positively shocked. Yet pleased. Satisfied. There was a time early on when I was so angry at Scudder for letting a child rapist walk free (forcing him to donate money to Boys' Town). I was so disappointed with his lack of action then. Well, no one can accuse him of lack of action here. Decisive. Unequivocal. Was this justice or cold-blooded murder? I loved when Scudder tells Ballou about his mentor who told him you don't ever do something with your own hands you can get somebody else to do for you. Well I guess Scudder decided that wasn't for him. If this was going to happen, he was going to have blood on his hands to show for it. I can respect that. (hide spoiler)]
Now I think I'll go for a walk among the tombstones. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
1. Setting: Post-Katrina New Orleans. Swampy, sensual, tragic, dangerous. A complete immersion into the si How do I love a book? Let me count the ways.
1. Setting: Post-Katrina New Orleans. Swampy, sensual, tragic, dangerous. A complete immersion into the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a damaged and depressed city, betrayed and forgotten, seeking its redemption.
2. Heroine: Kick-ass, ruthless, complicated, haunted. Claire DeWitt is much like the city of New Orleans itself: damaged and dangerous, tragic and seeking redemption. Neither needs nor desires your pity or understanding.
3. Language: Hard-boiled dialogue that snaps and shows its teeth, married with gorgeous turns of phrase and a robust philosophy about the very nature of solving mysteries.
The client already knows the solution to his mystery. But he doesn't want to know. He doesn't hire a detective to solve his mystery. He hires a detective to prove that his mystery can't be solved.
4. Mystery: I don't read a lot of "mysteries" where there is a genuine, bona fide puzzle to be solved. I'm not a clue junkie hoarding each item the author throws down in an effort to beat him or her to the big reveal. Here, I really felt compelled to sit up straight and pay attention. It didn't take very long before I became incredibly invested in Claire's investigation and its outcome, no mere detached observer but something akin to an actual participant.
Despite the fact that Claire's methods are anything but conventional -- bordering on mystical and clairvoyant -- the investigation remains firmly grounded in reality and logic. I adore how everything comes together in a satisfying "click" "snap" "lock" way that isn't pretty and predictable, but all the more beautiful for that very reason.
Finally, I can't do this book justice on my own so I'm going to call in the big guns. Without these two reviews I don't think I ever would have found my way to Claire. Take it away Carol and Anthony. ...more
Pardon me while I flail about in fangirl mode, but OMFG and all that is holy, Y: The Last Man is totally a.w.e.s.o.m.e!!!! I didn’t think the graphicPardon me while I flail about in fangirl mode, but OMFG and all that is holy, Y: The Last Man is totally a.w.e.s.o.m.e!!!! I didn’t think the graphic novel format would ever win me over entirely, but it’s happened - I’m in love - hook, line, sinker, fully, completely. Not only is this an addictive premise taken to the extreme reaches of the most fertile imagination, it’s brimming with fully fleshed out characters who live and breathe with histories, motives, strengths and vulnerabilities. The best part? This edition only collects Issues 1-10; I still have another 50!! to look forward to.
How’s this for a premise? – last guy on Earth is not alone, literally. Yorick is a hapless, near to agoraphobic, practicing escape artist, madly in love with a young woman a hemisphere away in Australia when a sudden unexplained plague hits the planet and kills every last mammal carrying a Y chromosome. Every last mammal that is except for Yorick and his pet Capuchin monkey Ampersand. Think it would be a laff riot to be the last guy on Earth surrounded by a few billion ladies? Think again gentlemen. Welcome to your new nightmare.
Vaughan’s world-building here post-plague is incredibly detailed and believable. With all men suddenly blipped out of existence women aren’t standing around singing Kumbaya (did you really think we would?) and the world does not become a better place. Far from it. Vaughan deftly explores the harsh realities that must be faced when such a monumental, unpredictable, counter-evolutionary shift happens to humans with no warning.
The graphics are superior; each character has their own unique look and the action is propelled along not just by Vaughan’s ripping dialogue, but by Pia Guerra’s sharp interpretation of the action. I love that I get so much story delivered on such a small canvas. I could have taken days to plow through a 650 page novel and not felt as sated or panting for more, the way I felt here after indulging in a mere 250 pages of colorful, comic book cells. That’s storytelling magic. I can’t wait for more!
My deepest thanks to my graphic-novel reading friends who kept throwing this series title at me for ages – I finally get it now!!! ...more
I love this series!!! The dialogue is snappy, smart, and funny, the characters are multi-dimensional with their own distinct histories and motivationsI love this series!!! The dialogue is snappy, smart, and funny, the characters are multi-dimensional with their own distinct histories and motivations and the action is compelling and suspenseful. Not only is this an original idea, it is executed with real finesse and with a great sense of humor.
Yorick is the perfect not-hero. He's just your regular guy, young, impulsive, mouthy, a little stunned sometimes but basically in possession of real heart and good intentions. It's not easy being the last guy on Earth, especially when your two escorts across the country are a top-notch secret agent who is secretly in love with you, and a brilliant geneticist who is secretly in love with the secret agent. Talk about a triangle worthy of the Apocalypse!
As if that weren't drama enough there are umpteen special interest groups -- political, paramilitary, rogue, cult -- that want you dead or captured to suit their specific agendas. Including your very own sister!
What I love about the writing of this series is that it stays fresh and alive and the situations -- while dramatic -- don't seem contrived. The cast of characters that come and go out of the storyline are all richly drawn no matter how brief their contribution to the story. This time around I'm particularly partial to the lovely Natalya and her broken English in America to rescue a Russian Cosmonaut.
All I can say is I can't wait to see what happens next! ...more
Camille Preaker is haunted by childhood memories of a cold, hysterical mother and the devastating loss of her sister, Marian, who died when Camille waCamille Preaker is haunted by childhood memories of a cold, hysterical mother and the devastating loss of her sister, Marian, who died when Camille was only 13. Literally carrying her war wounds upon her flesh, Camille is a recovering "cutter" who has carved a myriad of words into her skin as a visible record of the pain and trauma she's experienced. Having escaped from the clutches of a cloying family environment, Camille is being sent back into the cauldron, this time as a reporter for a second-rate newspaper to cover the gruesome murders of two local pre-teens. The more involved she becomes in the mystery, the more she uncovers about her town, her family, and herself. The discoveries are anything but pleasant.
Part thriller, part mystery, part Southern Gothic, Gillian Flynn's debut novel is simply outstanding. Camille Preaker is a heroine worth cheering for, as Flynn expertly delves into the female psyche and the delicate, often damaging ties between mothers and daughters. In the tradition of Flannery O'Connor, the writing here is so effective and evocative, this one will stay with you long after the reading is done....more
Neil Gaiman weaves a tale in such a way that he transports me back to a state of childhood wonderment when being transfixed by a story seemed so muchNeil Gaiman weaves a tale in such a way that he transports me back to a state of childhood wonderment when being transfixed by a story seemed so much easier and so much more pleasurable. Gaiman reminds me of why I love to read and I love him for that.
First-line-fever: There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife....more
Truer words have never been spoken. To quote from my much beloved Supernatural:
Endings are hard. Any cha
"It's not how you start, but how you finish."
Truer words have never been spoken. To quote from my much beloved Supernatural:
Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There's always gonna be holes. And since it's the ending, it's all supposed to add up to something. I'm telling you, they're a raging pain in the ass.
Anyone who has ever fallen in love with characters enough to follow them through many pages and various books is familiar with that aching feel of needing to get to the end but never wanting it to be over. Closure to a series, that “final” book that has to come eventually gives rise to such a vast array of contradictory emotions – even when the ending delivers more than you could possibly have ever hoped for, but especially when it doesn’t. Oh the betrayal! Oh the crushing disappointment! See? It’s not how you start, but how you finish.
I began Y: The Last Man series back in April and I was a smitten kitten from the start. Oh yes, can you spell "shameless fangirl"? The premise is just simply fantastic and oh so deliciously tantalizing with possibilities. What would happen if one day without warning ALL the men on the planet just up and died, including any Y-chromosome carrying mammals … ALL that is except for the unassuming, underachieving twenty-something Yorick and his pet male Capuchin monkey Ampersand. Yes, starting this epic story would be easy ... finishing was gonna be a bitch.
Because I was able to absorb / inhale / ingest all sixty issues in a few short months I did not have to face the long, agonizing wait between issues, or the anxiety that the creator would die before finishing (a common nightmare I had about Stephen King before he finished The Dark Tower series and one that nearly came true when he was struck by a van and almost killed while out walking one day near his home in 1999).
I loved getting this story all in one rush – the momentum never slowed, I never had a chance to forget characters, or salient plot points. I was living and breathing the adventure and like any addict, I never wanted it to end. But all good things must, and this series is no exception. I feared the ending as much as I craved it. Disappointed I did not want to be ... I couldn’t face feeling robbed or cheated. After coming along for the ride this far, and thinking about little else in-between, I expected BIG. EPIC. EXTRAORDINARY. UNFORGETTABLE. Keep my expectations reasonable? Never!
I had nothing to fear I’m so drunk with happiness and relief to report. If you choose to start this series (and I HIGHLY recommend that you do), you will not be disappointed with how it finishes. Heart-pounding, heartbreaking, white-knuckling, shocking, and bruising – this is just some of what to expect.
(view spoiler)[ Agent 355’s death ranks as one of the most shocking moments in storytelling history for me; I DID NOT see that coming and was totally devastated, screaming “NOOOOOOO!” at the page. I also sobbed my eyes out when it came time to say good-bye to Ampersand. ::sniffle:: That feces throwing little fuck really grew on me. I love that we get a look into the future, to see how Dr. Mann’s work played out, what happens to Yorick’s clones, and of course, what happens to Yorick himself. His final escape and ambiguous end was much appreciated. Alas, poor Yorick!(hide spoiler)]
I’m not a graphic novel aficionado – in fact, I’m quite the newbie. I can say this series has taught me a lot about the magic and strength of the format, how it combines images and text together in a way that isn’t film or novels but some intoxicating lovechild of both. Before reading this series I assumed graphic novels by default would be heavy on action and seriously lacking in character development. Boy, is my face red. I can’t remember the last time I came to care about people (and monkey) the way I did here. I also became addicted to the snappy dialogue that's intelligent and filled with irony, humor and pop culture references. And that action? It’s there alright and just as addictive.
I will definitely re-read this series at a later date.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The very short and dirty review for this collection could be -- when it is good it is very, very good. But when it is bad it is horrid.
I did not love The very short and dirty review for this collection could be -- when it is good it is very, very good. But when it is bad it is horrid.
I did not love all these stories equally. In fact, several verged on epic fail for me. Which is not hard to do. I am probably the worst reader of short stories. However, those that did work sent me into such shuddering, paroxysms of delight there are no words to express my infinite admiration. My favorites worked so exquisitely on a sub-atomic, cellular level that I immediately wanted to catch a red eye to Vegas and marry them no questions asked, no pre-nup, with Elvis Presley looking on curling his lip in approval. Thank you, thank you very much. My five stars is the only way I can think of to reflect that boundless joy. Is it for every story? Absolutely not. But I have no problem letting those five stars stand.
My first introduction to Kij Johnson was in June 2011 when I read her short story Ponies. It tickled something very profound in my imagination and gave a real goose to my pleasure center (at least the part of my brain that perpetually craves dark and disturbed). Funny thing is, I picked up this collection based solely on the cover and title. I didn't even notice that the author is the very same author who had impressed me with her little diddy about prepubescent girls and their pet ponies. When I finally put the two together in an "a-ha, duh" moment, saying I was pleased would be quite an understatement.
Kij Johnson is a bit of a mad scientist in her approach to storytelling. There is folklore, magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, fable, myth and legend. That sounds messy and confusing, and it should be. It should be a disastrous, alchemical experiment that blows the whole meth lab sky high. But somehow she makes it work, each story its own landscape playing by its own rules. She blends things in ways that made me think of how van Gogh saw sunflowers and starry nights. Even where I floundered, and did not appreciate the final destination, her prose ran like silk across the neurons of my brain, stroking them into a blissed out reader high.
Kij Johnson is on my radar. I will most definitely be keeping my eye out for more of her strange and wonderful words.
My two favorite stories of the collection are available online for free:
Ponies: If you haven't already, read this weird and deranged tale about youthful female rites of passage and the more brutal realities of fitting in. This is a macabre spin on the innocence lost theme delivered with cutting precision that slices deep.
26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss: This one made me laugh with its whimsy and weep with its melancholy. I don't even know how to describe everything it made me feel actually. Aimee becomes the proprietor of 26 monkeys and a series of circus acts. Her biggest trick is that she makes all the monkeys vanish onstage. Where do the monkeys go? She does not know. All Aimee knows is that they return to her a few hours later bearing little trinkets from wherever they have been. The ending? Perfection in eight little words.
Honorable mentions must go to:
Names for Water - a phone call from unknown origin that whispers like water. I don't know if everyone will love the resolution here, but it gave me goosebumps.
Fox Magic - an Asian-themed fable about love's blindness. A fox falls in love with a man and lures him away from his human life.
Dia Chjerman's Tale - short, almost purely science fiction tale with apocalyptic overtones. There is a vibe of dread here that I really grooved on.
At the Mouth of the River of Bees - I'm usually not one for magical realism (sometimes I'm not even sure if I'm applying the term correctly), but there's a real dreamy quality to this one that almost hypnotized me. A woman follows a literal river of bees to its mouth. What will be waiting for her when she finally gets there? I'm thinking pet owners (and dog lovers) will find this one especially poignant. ...more
Outstanding!!!! I cannot wait for more! This series continues to get stronger with every installment. Since Chapter 1 "Sparrow" is dedicated to the grOutstanding!!!! I cannot wait for more! This series continues to get stronger with every installment. Since Chapter 1 "Sparrow" is dedicated to the great Bill Watterson, it is only appropriate that I express the extent of my pleasure in a happy dance thusly:
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
If I could get the whole world to read just one book it would be A Monster Calls. I could listThe monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
If I could get the whole world to read just one book it would be A Monster Calls. I could list here a whole ream of adjectives to try and describe it -- beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking, lyrical -- but none do it justice. I would need to invent adjectives, and even then I would come up short.
I can tell you A Monster Calls is the warmest hug, the hug that makes you feel the most safe, when you are at your most frightened. The world can be a terrible place, Fate a cruel and capricious bitch. But we humans persevere, it's what we do even when we're certain we cannot.
This story is such an intimate experience; it holds you in its jagged grip, unrelenting in its task, merciless in its final destination. It is the human heart personified, all the love we are capable of feeling contained in its pages.
I implore you -- Read. This. Book. Don't wait a moment longer. ...more