Holy shit snacks! What the hell did I just read? I frigging absolutely loved this book. It is such an awesome mindfuck. It's a locked Chinese box with...more Holy shit snacks! What the hell did I just read? I frigging absolutely loved this book. It is such an awesome mindfuck. It's a locked Chinese box with so many secrets. It's a book that sneaks up on you with its pages and pages of normalcy and sweetness and sadness and intrigue. There's grief and loss, mystery and murder. Then -- when you are least expecting it -- KA-POW! It pounces from the left, and bites you from the right. It punches you in the face and kicks you in the kidneys.
Bruised, battered, confused and reeling. You are in shock. Your adrenaline spikes. All the answers start to pour forth faster than your brain can deal with them. You hang on for the ride, delirious, but hungry for more answers, more revelations, just more! more! more of everything! How is this possibly going to end? What a maze! Which way is out? Is there even a way out?
David Neff is a memorable, sympathetic main character. I don't think any part of this teetering, layered narrative -- so many branches on a tree, so many ripples on a lake -- would have worked without normal, nice guy David and his charming, precocious four year old son Tanner. We come to know them, like them, feel empathy and yes, even love. You root for father and son and pray for their release from the tangled and warped web in which they are ensnared.
David reminded me a lot of Jake Gyllenhaal's character in Zodiac -- one of my favorite movies that also deals with obsession and its damaging, lingering effects.
This is a dramatic and thrilling story that's well-constructed and well-told. It's everything I was hoping to get from The Shining Girls and did not. It surprised me in many ways -- not just its twists, but how emotionally invested I became in the story, its characters, and its outcome.
Read this review! It will make you want to read this book. And you should. Read this book. Yes, you most definitely should.
I had some idea what to expect when I picked up the late Michael Crichton's sci-fi thriller Sphere because I'd seen the movie years ago -- a movie I l...more I had some idea what to expect when I picked up the late Michael Crichton's sci-fi thriller Sphere because I'd seen the movie years ago -- a movie I love by the way despite a lot of lambasting from the critics and grumbling from the book's fans. Sure it isn't perfect (with its moments of cheese and flubs); nevertheless, the exciting, chilling core of Crichton's story is evident and for me the film still stands as a great example of escapist cinema, that mesmerizing addictive blend of science fiction and horror.
But I'm probably more forgiving than most. One of my favorite movie genres is space horror. There's something about the claustrophobic squeeze of the 'group in peril' scenario as it hurtles through the freezing, oxygenless void of space where no one can hear you scream. Or the imperiled stranded on an uninhabited, hostile planet where the very environment wants to kill you -- Alien, Aliens, Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Event Horizon, and Pitch Black just to name a few.
Sphere is not set in space, but it might as well be. It takes the reader deep into the darkest part of the ocean where unfathomable pressure forces threaten to crush and demolish, where the only breathable oxygen is what you bring with you, where the landscape is as alien and inhospitable as anything found in outer space.
A thriller should thrill. It should keep you turning the pages long into the night, white-knuckled and on the edge of your seat. Horror should unsettle and disturb you, compelling you to look over your shoulder and under the bed for that unnamed threat. Science fiction should challenge your concept of reality, bending your mind to what's possible, to what could actually be. In Sphere Crichton is firing on all cylinders as a storyteller, accomplishing all three of these seemingly without any effort at all.
It's such a treat to see an author in this much control of his narrative. I read this compulsively, voraciously, rarely coming up for air. I can only imagine the inexorable tension I would have experienced had I not seen the movie and therefore knew most of what to expect. Even so, the whole experience remained thrilling and deliciously unnerving. The pacing is pitch perfect, each devastating reveal coming at the exact right moment. Who or what "Jerry" is becomes a maddening puzzle, his voice and demeanor as terrifying and memorable as HAL 9000.(less)
This new series by Steve Niles (he of 30 Days of Night fame) has got my attention. It's the future, and the robots have risen up and destroyed the Ea...more This new series by Steve Niles (he of 30 Days of Night fame) has got my attention. It's the future, and the robots have risen up and destroyed the Earth. But don't think Terminator, think War of the Worlds (the remake with Tom Cruise). While of man-made and not alien origin, the robots are huge towering machines that lumber across the land like metal warships, either solo or in groups, hunting humans for their blood. The machines require blood for fuel; their continued existence depends on procuring it, but such insatiable appetite has wiped the planet clean of all life forms unlucky enough to have blood pumping in their veins -- big or small, animal or human.
Humans are on the cusp of extinction. What gives this story its twist is that they are not the only ones -- vampires are also facing annihilation. Without humans (or even animals) to feed on, they too are starving and dying off. Thus evolves an unlikely and tenuous alliance -- vampire and human -- against the unstoppable machines. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
I love the premise here. It's got me. I love the artwork even more. While not created equal in every panel, the majority of it is gorgeous, capturing a grey, dead, post-apocalyptic landscape punctuated by explosions of ruby as the last of the world's blood is shed and consumed by metal monsters.
Whoah. This is some really good shit. Color me very impressed. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked this one up, but it totally de...more4.5 stars
Whoah. This is some really good shit. Color me very impressed. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked this one up, but it totally delivered on tension and suspense, a palpable dread, and a suffocating sense of doom.
Just as a launching off point I'm going to throw two pop culture references at you that I couldn't stop thinking about while reading this book. The first is the music video "Just" by Radiohead. Remember that's the one where there's this guy who just lies down in the street for no apparent reason and when this other guy starts screaming for a reason why he's done this and when the man finally tells him, everyone who is in earshot lies down too, as if whatever he's said is just too huge and overwhelming for the mind to process that the only human response is to collapse.
The second reference I'm going to throw at you is a Twilight Zone episode from the '80s called "Need to Know" where everyone starts going insane in this small town and it's eventually discovered that the source of the problem is not a physical disease, but an idea, a single short phrase, that is being passed from person to person by word of mouth. That horrible phrase is nothing more or less than the purpose and meaning of existence; the moral of the story being -- Knowledge we are not ready to receive will drive us mad.
I freaking love that Radiohead video and I was twelve years old when I saw that Twilight Zone episode and it scared the crap out of me (which is Trudi speak for I loved it). So in a lot of ways I was already primed to love this book where a mysterious pandemic plague is causing the "infected" to go on homicidal killing sprees before killing themselves. In the escalating chaos and confusion, the source of the infection is identified as having seen something the human mind cannot fathom, a creature that is so beyond our comprehension we are literally driven mad by it. But who is to know for sure, since no one has survived to confirm what it is that they saw.
Your only defence is to close your eyes, and keep them closed.
Humans hide in houses behind windows that are painted, covered with blankets or boarded up. They dare not venture outside for water or food unless they are blindfolded. If you thought surviving the end of days was tough with all of your faculties and sight, try doing it completely blind and feeling hunted and watched the entire time.
I love survival stories of all kinds: but an apocalypse scenario where the group must survive together is my favorite. And it's done so well here, I really can't stress that enough. The way the tension builds gradually as the unknowable threat outside the doors of the safe house becomes more menacing and tangible. How so much is implied rather than relying on big gushy scenes of gore and explicit violence. How the daily trek to the well blindfolded to get fresh water becomes an exercise in exquisite pulse-pounding suspense to unnerve the most steely-nerved of all readers.
Did you hear that? Sssshhhhh. I think it came from behind you. Whatever you do, don't open your eyes.
Readers who have a perpetual desire for answers and reasons may find the lack of explanation here troubling. I didn't. I was okay that we really don't know what the hell is going on and can only guess (and imagine our worst fears). If something like this ever goes down for real we'll be just as much in the dark as the characters in Bird Box discovering we are as much at the mercy of our ignorance and fear of the unknown as anything that may or may not be hunting us. (less)
If the plethora of J-horror coming out of Japan the last 15 years hasn't convinced you of the country's own unique brand of crazy pants in the best, m...more If the plethora of J-horror coming out of Japan the last 15 years hasn't convinced you of the country's own unique brand of crazy pants in the best, most entertaining way, then this book will. And there's a movie! Which I now have to hunt down.
Because crazy pants, did I mention? So much crazy pants.
This isn't horror, but it is really messed up. It's a revenge tale about screwed up, damaged narrators who each get to tell a piece of the story, so you won't have all the pieces of the puzzle until the very end.
No one is likable. If you are a reader who wants an emotional story and characters that you can relate to, then skip this one.
But if you're like me, and you like the crazy pants, then definitely check this one out.
This whole book left me stupid happy and deliriously impressed and I spent most of my time declaring:
Jesse would have loved Mark Watney. I lo...more4.5 stars
This whole book left me stupid happy and deliriously impressed and I spent most of my time declaring:
Jesse would have loved Mark Watney. I love Mark Watney. He's super smart but not just in a poindexter nerd alert bookish kind of way. Watney's got some serious problem solving skills; he's McGyver in a space suit. Give this guy a toothpick, some tinfoil and a ziplock bag and he'll build you an airplane. But don't forget the duct tape. Duct tape is awesome and I will be putting in a supply of it in order to survive the zombie apocalypse.
Watney is also a funny, the glass is half-full kind of guy who gets repeatedly knocked on his ass but finds a way to get right back up again. And who doesn't love a fighter?
The Martian is being referred to as Cast Away in space and that's pretty accurate as those things go. It's definitely an adventure survival story (my favorite kind), and just like Tom Hanks, Watney finds himself stranded and completely alone. The only difference is rather than washing up on a deserted island with a plethora of unopened FedEx packages, Watney finds himself abandoned on Mars with....well, you'll have to read the book to find out.
There's a lot of geeked out science descriptions, but I found most of it to be pretty accessible, even to a softcore sci-fi gal like myself. There's a real balance and warmth to the story as Watney battles with the unforgiving Mars environment that wants to kill him every time he turns around. It's thrilling and edge of your seat stuff with lots of laughs built in to break the inexorable tension.
You know, the thing about a shark...he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya ~JAWS (1975)
The perfect beach read (for my twisted tastes anyway) found as summer's door closes on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend. The book's blurb describes BAIT as: "Survivor meets Lord of the Flies meets Drugstore Cowboy" and that's pretty accurate as blurbs go, with a side portion of Trainspotting to sweeten the deal.
Subtract the worst of SAW's gory torture-porn aspects, I also couldn't help be reminded of it as well -- oh yes ladies and gentlemen, BAIT is a winner, a white-knuckled page-turner with a gaping maw of shark's teeth ready to take a chomp out of your ass at any moment. I'd love to see this as a movie, and its length would have made it the perfect one hour Twilight Zone or Night Gallery episode.
The novel works so well because Messum takes some time (amidst the roiling action) to develop his cast of sad, deplorable and desperate characters. As readers, what are we to think of protagonists plagued by heroin addiction and the jagged guilt of dirty deeds?
The six victims who wake up stranded on a deserted beach are not the people we usually cheer for. It's hard to warm up to them, and unless you've suffered from addiction yourself, it's very hard to relate to them in any way. Despite this challenge, Messum takes what could have easily resulted in stereotypical junkies -- no archetypes or caricatures here -- and turns them into sympathetic characters, nicely fleshed out in a short period of time with minimal details.
On the surface, BAIT is a thrill-kill, adrenaline read, a man versus nature versus man extravaganza. But beneath the surface, there is deep water that runs, not just with sharks, but with thematic purpose tinged with social commentary and observations of the human condition -- our rage, our prejudices, our lack of empathy and understanding, our human ability to dehumanize ourselves and others around us. In some respects, this cautionary tale has an allegorical feel to it all, about justice and second chances and who deserves them.
As the dog days of September draw near, I can't recommend this book enough for a quick and satisfying read.
A free copy was provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (less)
I'm pretty sure the idea of being forced to live my life over and over again is something plucked from my worst nightmares, but who among us hasn't be...more I'm pretty sure the idea of being forced to live my life over and over again is something plucked from my worst nightmares, but who among us hasn't been at least tempted to dream of it occasionally with a wistful sigh. Please, please, please, just one more chance to live the best moments again and when necessary, to make different choices? But I would imagine if any of us were actually tasked to unravel all the "right" and "wrong" choices from our life and to relive the bad with the good, we'd go screaming into the night like raving banshees.
For what is a perfect life? How many kicks at the can would it take for you to answer that question, if it is indeed answerable at all? Change one thing, change everything, change nothing, change all the good, change all the bad. Round and round and round. It's exhausting just thinking about it. What's the saying? If I only knew then, what I know now...what? What would you do different? And would different choices always translate into better choices?
Ursula is a normal British girl except she's pretty certain she's lived her life before, maybe many, many times. The older she gets, the stronger these feelings of deju vu become, hounding her like ghosts in the night. Her prescience is rarely crystal clear, more like moods or instinct. Do this. Don't do that. Run away. Run toward. Stay still.
Life After Life starts slow and unassuming. The story is teasing, the pacing a dawdling, scenic walk through the English countryside. But from the very first page I was enthralled and little did I realize what a powerful spell Atkinson was casting on my reader brain. Because as you continue to read, the book picks up gravity and speed and texture. Each life after life reinforces the tender bonds you have been working on with each of the characters. Your acquaintance with them is not one brief life, but many, many lives. Like Ursula we are both cursed and blessed with the long view, the big picture. We come to know all the various permutations of death, cruelty, love and loss. We bear witness through two World Wars and how some forces, no matter how forewarned, are unstoppable, greater even than the hand of time.
This is a very English story, and is steeped in pre-1950 historical detail. Not ever having watched an episode of Downton Abbey I'll go out on a limb here and suggest fans of that show will love this novel for its acute sense of time and attention to detail. Atkinson is ruthless in her pursuit for authenticity. This is wartime England, no time to pussyfoot around. This has got to be right, and in her quest I believe she succeeds magnificently. The details are small but glorious, and paint such an intimate portrait you will feel absorbed into Ursula's quiet family life where there are disagreements and births, and jealousies and forgiveness. Yes, there is the rumble of the earth as the German bombs fall during the Blitz, but such terrible moments co-exist with the stark ordinariness of a life lived. Dinners, and picnics, and birthdays and games of cricket, and work, and gardening, and lots and lots of tea.
"Ow!" one of the evacuees squealed beneath the table. "Some bugger just kicked me."...Something cold and wet nosed itself up Ursula's skirt. She hoped very much that it was the nose of one of the dogs and not one of the evacuees.
This knowledge of the ATS girl's background seemed to particularly infuriate Edwina, who was gripping the butter knife in her hand as if she were planning to attack someone with it--Maurice or the ATS girl, or anyone within stabbing distance by the look of it. Ursula wondered how much harm a butter knife could do. Enough she supposed.
There is whimsy and humor laced throughout this novel and it makes for a beautiful contrast to the more serious components of tragedy and war. Life is a farce after all; if you can't find the humor in it you've been doing it wrong or have missed the point entirely. Atkinson has not missed the point. As readers, we are in capable hands. She has one helluva story to tell you, and trust me, you don't want to miss it.
This is the second installment of Atwood's great serial ebook experiment, and I'm definitely hooked. Choke Collar is an entertaining blend of dark hum...more This is the second installment of Atwood's great serial ebook experiment, and I'm definitely hooked. Choke Collar is an entertaining blend of dark humor mixed with delicious hints of dystopia dangers. I'm thoroughly enjoying the pacing and the when and the how Atwood is choosing to reveal things. I'm being pretty conservative with my star ratings so far, but that's only because I know the story is only barely getting warmed up. Don't let my three stars keep you from picking this up. Three stars in this case is not a reflection of "meh mediocrity" but rather "hmmmm...interesting. I want more please."
I love the nasty implications of "social experiments" gone horribly wrong, or hijacked for other nasty purposes. Humans do weird things when they are rigidly controlled. It is not in our nature it seems to respond well to being mere mice in a maze. Both Stan and Charmaine are great examples of this as they persist in their debauched extra-curricular activities.
(view spoiler)[Charmaine is fascinating to me as she continues to have her lurid affair with "Max" while she plays happy housewife with Stan yet still finds the time to take pride in her day job. Even though her day job is killing people by lethal injection, Charmaine finds the romance in it. She believes she has a "talent" -- and has even added her own personal touches -- the kiss on the forehead -- to a very ritualized procedure. It's amazing what can become "normal" under the right, twisted circumstances.
Stan is an ass, but I have to think much of his dysfunction and outright more unlikeable qualities are a result of Consilience than his natural character. He certainly paid for his pervy, lustful obsession with a woman who turned out to only exist in his imagination. Jocelyn is quite the bird too. A dominatrix flair with a Black Widow sting, and I found myself laughing helplessly at Stan's fate when he unwittingly falls into her spider trap and particular brand of torture.
The 'big reveal' offers a satisfying cliffhanger -- organ trafficking? Sweet. What will happen to Stan? Will Charmaine "kill him"? What will he do if he makes it outside the walls of Consilience? Does Stan even have it in him to be a hero? Is that even what Jocelyn and Phil really want or are they setting him up for something else? (hide spoiler)]
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)
Ah Ms. Atwood. We meet again. You and I haven't been getting along so well of late. The Blind Assassin? Oryx and Crake? I tried to love them but it wa...more Ah Ms. Atwood. We meet again. You and I haven't been getting along so well of late. The Blind Assassin? Oryx and Crake? I tried to love them but it was not meant to be. But here we are. At last you've given me a tantalizing premise that I just can't walk away from. A dark future? Yes please. A sinister dystopian landscape dressed in idealistic utopian clothing? Tell me more!
While this first installment is short and sweet and only begins to hint at sinister shenanigans, I'm hooked already and will be sticking around for the duration. What I love about any well-constructed dystopia, is its construction. The devil is in the details. I love a slow reveal. I want a bit of foreplay. But then you had better be able to deliver on what you're promising!
I figure at this point in her writing career, I'm in good hands with Atwood and this crazy vision for the future she's concocted. I'm ready to go along for the ride anyway. I respect her tremendously as an author despite some painful misses, and The Handmaid's Tale has a permanent spot on my all-star team of favorites. Dystopias are my crystal meth, and Atwood's classic tale about reproductive rights is 'the blue stuff' -- Heisenberg grade if you kennit.
So far we have a kinky story going on that seems more lustful than outright unnerving and paranoid. But already I'm getting Stepford vibes that something is rotten in the the state of Consilience. Oh my my, Ms. Atwood, what do you have up your sleeve?(less)
Oh yeah, baby! Should I have taken this much pleasure from a cannibalizing FDA special agent who gnaws on dead things to solve crimes? Probably not, b...more Oh yeah, baby! Should I have taken this much pleasure from a cannibalizing FDA special agent who gnaws on dead things to solve crimes? Probably not, but nothing can stem the tide of my glowing praise for such an original story concept delivered with this much dynamic flair, humorous overtones and an underbelly of noir nastiness. Can you spell epic win? The action is punctuated by ripping dialogue and graphic art that puts you into the scene, no muss no fuss.
No disrespect meant to all you vegetarians out there, but I love me some chicken, okay? I love it roasted, fried, cold in a salad or on a sandwich. I love it dark and white, leg and breast, bone in and boneless. Don't even get me started on chicken wings. Take it away Homer:
That's why just the idea of a future without poultry -- where it's been outlawed like booze during Prohibition -- sends me into a feathery panic. In Tony Chu's world, an avian flu has killed millions of people across the globe. In response to the pandemic, the processing, distribution, sale and consumption of chicken has been criminalized and a thriving black market of chicken bootleggers has risen up. This may sound stupid, but it's actually quite smart and nasty in all of its implications.
As you read on in the story you realize there is more than meets the eye. Was there ever really an avian flu pandemic? Is the government trying to cover up something much more sinister? Cibopath Tony Chu is on the case with his unique talent. Whatever he puts into his mouth gives him pictures, clues, a story, from the innocuous details of how an apple got from the tree to his hand, to the bloody details surrounding a victim's torture and mutilation. It isn't something he can turn off, and his only reprieve are beets, the only food that Tony can taste without being bombarded by a wave of other sensory input. Go figure. Works for me. But if I had to give up chicken and eat beets all the day long? That isn't a life worth living my friend.
Tony has a MASSIVE GOON of a partner at the FDA named Savoy, who also shares Tony's cibopathic talents. Chu also meets food critic Amelia, who is able to harness her powers of food description to the point where she can make you taste anything, really taste it, just by describing it.
I love that I have no idea where this story is heading next. But I am hooked and hungry for more, despite several gross out moments of Chu's gnawing on the dead (including a putrid, decayed dog) for information.
Pretty sure it's gonna be chicken for supper tonight :) (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.
DO NOT pick this book up for character development (there isn't much of that).
DO NOT pick this book up for meaty prose of a philosophical be...more3.5 stars
DO NOT pick this book up for character development (there isn't much of that).
DO NOT pick this book up for meaty prose of a philosophical bent that introduces new ideas and deep thoughts. Nope. Not much of that either.
DO pick this book up for a pulpy, page-turning thrill where, if you don't ask too many questions, and fully suspend all disbelief, you will be majorly entertained by high octane action sequences of cinematic gore and splendor. Cause we all need that guilt-free catharsis once in a while, don't we? Sure we do!
I picked up this book expecting an adrenaline rush laced with dark overtones of fight-to-the-death, futurized Gladiatorial scenes -- a Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park type of deal -- and that's sort of what I got, with some exceptions.
First of all, there are no "Games" plural, there is a lengthy 200 page lead up to the Game singular -- attached to the Olympics in some weird and wild (and not entirely believable) unseemly epic event of internationally sanctioned blood sport. All the countries of the world are monkeying with genetics in a Frankenstein-ish ethics-be-damned way to create monstrous animal (never human!) hybrids (as Mother Nature weeps in horror). All this effort with the sole purpose of annihilating competitors in Gladiatorial-UFC cage matches and be the only creation (abomination) left standing (if Jeff Probst and Joe Rogan had a lovechild, it would be this scuzzy event).
When you combine scientists with capitalists, great leaps forward are made, always. Throw in a healthy dose of national pride, and anything can happen.
These caged death matches is the "anything" that debut novelist Ted Kosmatka imagines. And for the most part, I was on board all the way.
In the first 200 pages leading up to "the big Event" I really thought Kosmatka was laying the groundwork for something much more profound and significant, but the last 200 pages fail to bear that out. It's standard monster of the week fare -- exciting and fun -- but standard nevertheless. We've seen this before, we've seen it done better elsewhere, yet I still like Kosmatka's spin on things and he definitely shows promise as a full-length novelist.
I wasn't entirely sold on the AI aspects of the story -- there is a "super-computer" that plays a HUGE role in influencing events -- but I never really bought into it. "Brannin/Pea" is pregnant with potential -- HAL 9000 worthy -- but I felt in the end that part of the novel could have been developed so much more effectively.
Final thoughts: Fun (check). Awesome action sequences (check). Book to change your life? Eh, not so much. But they can't all do that. This is an escape hatch book and I really did enjoy it. Recommended!
Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.
This is one instance where I'm painfully aware of the inadequacy of a star-rating system for books. To give Ballard's High-Rise three stars does very little to capture its strengths, but more importantly, its ultimate failure as a novel. I'm going to try and do that in my review here, but just in case my rambling goes right off the rails, check out Jeffrey's spot-on assessment here.
What brought me to this book is an endless fascination with "group in peril" stories that look at how quickly our civilized veneer can be stripped down to our lizard brain impulses. Great writers have shown us that human beings as a species seem to be hard-wired to regress to a primitive state when confronted with the total absence of social rules and obligations.
In Blindness, Saramago's characters revert to their most primal and baser urges when forced to confront the fallout of a plague of blindness. William Golding manages to show this very same regression to a primitive state in Lord of the Flies when there is a profound absence of law and order and other recognizable earmarks of "civilization" in place. Using the example of a bunch of British school boys stranded on a deserted island, Golding shows us it doesn't take long for humans to throw off the shackles of civilized conduct and resort to a more brutal "survival of the fittest" approach.
Blindness and Lord of the Flies are two great novels that ruthlessly give us a nightmare portrait of human regression that is frightening because of its very realism and believability. And this is where Ballard fails in his attempt because there is no realism or believability in his tale. It is strictly an exercise in description. Create a sprawling high-rise edifice, make it a contained society with all the luxuries of a modern city, populate it with 2,000 tenants, and then, with no tangible reason whatsoever have these people begin to transmogrify into a bunch of cannibalistic savages within the course of a few months. As Jeffrey points out in his review: "the outside world is perfectly normal. Civilization is existing just fine. There is no cataclysmic event that has ruptured the natural order of things. To return to the world of order is as simple as leaving the building."
So yes, the zombies haven't risen up, the aliens have not landed. There is no pandemic flu or super volcano eruption. Beyond the concrete walls of the high-rise, people are going to work, shopping for groceries, putting their kids to bed. Yet within the concrete walls, what you have is a total post-apocalyptic decline into delusion and depravity and for what? This is just too cheap and easy for me to respect. If you're going to make humans go there, I want a reason. Show me how it could really happen.
Alright, no question the novel fails that litmus test. Do I give Ballard the benefit of the doubt here anyway? So he doesn't trouble himself with a realistic scenario, but maybe that was never the point. Published in 1976, maybe Ballard was going more for an allegorical vibe on the dehumanization of modern city living. Maybe this novel is his statement on the rise of urban disconnect -- as we cram more and more people into their self-contained units, living elbow to chin, something fundamental to our higher-brain humanity is being eroded away. This is a book that also has characters who start out very class conscious. When the breakdown begins, fractures open and tribes form along class lines. Yet, strip civilization away, and we all go feral in the same way no matter how much money is in our bank account. Succumbing to our lizard brain seems to be the true great equalizer.
If you so choose as a reader, you could go all LIT 101 on this sucker, but at the end of the day, I can't really be bothered. I'm reminded of the frustrated actor who cries out: "but where's my motivation?" Yes, where is the motivation in this story? What exactly is motivating the characters to behave in such a depraved way? Without that motivation, the other "elements" of the story that may or may not be there are lost on me. I do not care to engage.
So why three stars? Ballard's writing is very good. The execution of this novel may have failed for me, but I still recognized his prose as effective. He put me in that high-rise where I could smell the stink of putrid garbage and human waste. I felt a little on edge at all times, like the fillings in my teeth were vibrating. There are several well-described scenes that chilled me to the bone (view spoiler)[especially the last one of the abandoned wives on the roof as they circle around Wilder to make a meal out of him as the children play with a pile of bones. (hide spoiler)] Just a lukewarm recommendation this time for fans of classic dystopian literature and science fiction of the 60s and 70s. I can say this however -- High-Rise won't be my last Ballard. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I'm actually shocked by how utterly and completely this book frustrated and bored the hell out of me, how crushingly disappointed I am by t...more* 1/2 stars
I'm actually shocked by how utterly and completely this book frustrated and bored the hell out of me, how crushingly disappointed I am by the whole affair. I mean, this is John Wyndham for Chrissake -- author of The Chrysalids and The Day of the Triffids (both of which are all levels of awesome).
This? This just pisses me off. It's made me want to make my Jules face -- yeah, I got one ... what of it?
I mean, you have GOT to be fucking kidding me. How does such a fantastic idea in the hands of a gifted writer turn into such tepid, meandering ruminations on ethics, philosophy, the human condition and God himself. Rather than action or character development we are treated to long rambling speeches that go nowhere by characters we could care less about which add nothing to the story's drama nor our enjoyment of it.
The only reason this book didn't get slapped with one star is because it contains an awesome premise -- a staggering golden nugget of an idea alluded to in its clever title -- that has gone on to embed itself in popular culture influencing many authors and filmmakers since its original publication in 1957. The Children of Midwich are phenomenally creepy, the ramifications of their existence fraught with peril presenting a terrible, terrifying dilemma. I can dig that. British filmmakers dug that very thing and turned it into the unnerving and unforgettable classic Village of the Damned (1960).
Do yourself a favor -- skip the book, watch the movie. Now how many times in a life do you get to say that?
This book is dark. It is disturbing. It is ruthless in places and feels dangerous in others. Despite the fact that Pure has been released by its publi...moreThis book is dark. It is disturbing. It is ruthless in places and feels dangerous in others. Despite the fact that Pure has been released by its publisher as Adult fiction, it has been quickly embraced as YA. Though I feel as such, it should maybe come with some sort of disclaimer. Fans of popularized YA dystopias choosing Pure for the same satisfying adrenaline injection packaged in a safe, sanitized story with a sweet romantic subplot are likely going to be put off (even repulsed) over what they encounter here. Furthermore, the conscientious detail in the world-building will seem heavy-handed to readers seeking a fast-moving thrill ride. Pure does not give up its secrets easily or all at once. Not all loose ends are tied up, not all questions are answered. There’s enough juiciness and potential left over for the sequel. At least this is my hope – because I’m hooked now and want to know everything.
There is such heartrending beauty in Baggott’s vivid descriptions of Earth’s utter destruction and the devastating deformities of the survivors. I will never think of the word “fusion” the same way again. At the height of the Cold War, an entire generation of people lived with the mind-numbing fear of nuclear annihilation. It’s a fear that’s largely left us now, though I’m hard pressed to think why; the weapons still exist and there are still enough crazy mofos out there, in charge or gone rogue, to make use of them if they so choose. Even the most cursory research into the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will chill the blood and horrify the mind. This is what we are capable of doing to one another. To think that it can’t or won’t ever happen again is wishful thinking I figure of the most deluded kind. But I am grateful we've stopped crouching under desks and building bomb shelters in our spare time. That shit just ain't healthy, you know?
Pressia is a survivor of the Detonations – a global nuclear holocaust that has left her and every other survivor with a diversity of glaring malformations and “fusions”. When the blasts came, they were so strong, the light so bright, humans fused with whatever material closest to them at the time of the explosion, whether it be inanimate, human or animal. Pressia, a child at the time, held her favorite doll and now carries the mark of that day in her doll’s head hand. Such external deformities are a physical manifestation of the pain and loss carried by all survivors, whose souls have surely been burned and scarred just as severely as their bodies.
There are other survivors of the Detonations however – Pures – who have been safely harbored in the Dome. These are the select privileged, protected, their skin perfect. But the Dome has its secrets too, and while the wretches outside the Dome have been busy surviving, those inside the Dome have been watching, and waiting, with a plan of their own.
This was a convincing world to me that left me wanting to know more about everything. The characters are strong and there without coming across as overly sentimental. It takes a while to get to know them, and it takes even longer to warm up to them and start to care. I really enjoyed that slow build. In no way could Pure be labeled a shocking or controversial novel; however, there were several scenes that jolted me, and if you can surprise me in that way where I flinch or my mouth gapes open, I figure you are doing something right. This book has been called "cinematic" and it is a very visual novel (I'm also not surprised to find out that Hollywood has already come a-courting). Parts of the Dustlands and Meltlands even reminded me of Stephen King's Dark Tower landscape (and that is high praise indeed).
What more can I say? If you are looking for a meatier dystopian read with teeth then this is the book for you.(less)