Holy moses, I just knew I was being set up in the last volume. I knew it!!! My momma didn't r...more
Holy moses, I just knew I was being set up in the last volume. I knew it!!! My momma didn't raise no fools.
But that hurt. A lot. You'd think I'd be so numb by now that nothing would really get past my defenses anymore but apparently I can still be shivved, right in the back and fall to my knees screaming. (view spoiler)[Watching Glen go out like that was brutal. It really tore me up. (hide spoiler)]
This new baddie Negan is a real piece of psychotic work. He makes the Governor look like a misunderstood, tree-hugging hippie who just wishes the kids these days would stay off his damn lawn.
Where can the story possibly go from here? (view spoiler)[Watching Rick break was tough. I know he's told the community they're rolling over...for now, but he's obviously got something else planned. That last panel when he sends Jesus to follow the baddie back to Negan's camp to spy and gather intelligence tells us that. Living as slaves is no option. Something has to be done, and you can bet it's going to involve A LOT more bloodshed. Even if Rick's group triumphs against all odds over these animals, what would they have really won? Won't there always be another Governor or Negan around the corner? Wiping the zombies off the planet is an easier task I figure than neutralizing all the psychos. (hide spoiler)]
I haven't been patiently consuming this series episode by episode, volume by volume over the course of years. I gobbled down all 96 issues essentially...more I haven't been patiently consuming this series episode by episode, volume by volume over the course of years. I gobbled down all 96 issues essentially back-to-back thanks to the Compendiums (which weigh a ton each and are a bitch to maneuver let me tell you).
This volume -- A Larger World -- is where Compendium 2 leaves off, a bit of a cliff-hanger you might say. I decided to re-read it in preparation of getting to Vol. 17: Something to Fear. I'm all caught up now, and forced to get my dose of Walking Dead shenanigans doled out piecemeal like the rest of you suckers. But maybe that's a good thing, because too much of this world at any one time can really mess with your head.
I get the feeling Kirkman is setting us up to really put the hurt on this time. Hasn't he already? Hells yeah, but something tells me he's just getting started and that makes me both weary and wary. Everything in this issue is glossy with optimism:
(view spoiler)[ the new guy Paul Monroe (a.k.a Jesus) turns out not to be a Charles Manson-esque kook. He's got a normal, functioning community behind him with almost 200 members called Hilltop. They are farming and thriving. What's not to appreciate? Rick goes through his usual "I can't trust you get the fuck out of my face or I'll bite it off" routine, but eventually learns to relax (even after he's forced to kill one of their people in self-defense -- it really was self-defense this time). Glenn is smitten with the community, and Rick is forced to admit it's time to start living again, rather than merely surviving. In the Hilltop he sees that as not just a possibility but a reality, a reachable goal. (hide spoiler)]
BUT... cause there's always a but right? There's a new baddy in the neighborhood -- Negan. After what we've been through with the Governor, the idea of upping the ante some more makes me very uneasy. Rick can talk all he wants about building a new life with meaning and getting back to raising their children, but I can't imagine he's going to get his people to the promised land any time soon, if at all. I've called this story bleak and nihilistic before and I still stand by that. Kirkman wants to show us the very worst of humanity it seems, and I don't think he's finished doing that yet. And that makes me very afraid. Very afraid indeed. (less)
Scudder is three years sober when we run into him again in Book 7, Out on the Cutting Edge. He's faithfully attending meetings, and even leading a few...more Scudder is three years sober when we run into him again in Book 7, Out on the Cutting Edge. He's faithfully attending meetings, and even leading a few when the mood strikes him. He's also still living in his spare hotel room lodgings and with a lot more time on his hands now that he's quit the bar scene and sipping bourbon coffee by the quart. While the vapor fumes of booze no longer waft from his person, there is yet an elemental quality of loneliness that continues to seep from the pores of our favorite New Yorker.
No wonder then that he should take up the case of a missing young woman at the behest of her distraught parents, and that he should find himself taking a much closer look into the sudden death of fellow AA member Eddie. Eddie is a man who dies with dark secrets on his lips, and Scudder's spidey senses are urging him to uncover those secrets no matter what the cost.
The thing I love most about the Scudder books is that they are such fine pieces of place -- Scudder's New York is just as much a character as Scudder himself. We've hit the late 80's where rents are sky-rocketing in the Big Apple and rent control is a landlord's sworn enemy. I find the details Block is able to pepper his books with always fascinating. He drops them into the story like a pro, as they work seamlessly side-by-side with the unfolding mystery. Like when Scudder interviews an actor who, with bitter amusement, comments on all the young men sick with AIDS:
We're all whirling merrily through the void on a dying planet, and gay people are just doing their usual number, being shamelessly trendy as always. Right out in front on the cutting edge of death.
It's a heart-breaking sentiment, and in an instant we are thrown back in time living and breathing the gritty reality of Scudder's city. It's not misty-eyed nostalgia, or even vintage. It's authentic, it's time travel.
This Scudder installment is also noteworthy because it's where we first encounter Mick Ballou, a.k.a The Butcher Boy. Ballou is a giant man with big hands and a bloodstained apron. Rumors abound about his violent prowess, and include toting around a head in a bowling ball bag and beating a man to death with a baseball bat. Despite Ballou's possible homicidal tendencies, he and Scudder hit it off and talk to each other in a way usually reserved only for the confessional or perhaps the man pouring your whiskey. Inexplicably, there is an instant kinship and unbeknownst to either man, Ballou is the key to solving the mystery of not only the missing girl, but Eddie's untimely death. This is a *great* character, and I can't wait to get more of him in the future.
Holy shit snacks, people. This book is intense!!! I need a moment to compose myself. But there will be a review.
I was already familiar with Frank Bil...moreHoly shit snacks, people. This book is intense!!! I need a moment to compose myself. But there will be a review.
I was already familiar with Frank Bill's writing after surviving a close encounter with his debut -- the short story collection Crimes In Southern Indiana. Upon finishing those stories, my only thought was: "Jesus Christ, this man is a lunatic" -- and then immediately, "I want more!" For sure the stories are raw and unpolished, and perhaps a little too overeager to tell rather than show, but there is also an urgency, a ferocity to the writing that refuses to be ignored. It's so in your face that at times it feels like an assault. I loved it!
So you can bet when I heard this guy was about to publish his first novel I became very afraid, and very, very obsessed with getting my hands on it to read it.
Usually my eyes tend to glaze over and ignore most book blurbs because they always seem so generic and at their worst, sycophantic. But at their best, book blurbs can capture in a few short phrases the very tail of the beast itself and show you its face. As much as I loathe the majority, there are some that do their job so well, they deserve to be recognized along with the book they're blurbing. I only say this now to emphasize that Bill has attracted the attention of authors I love and respect and if you're not going to listen to me when I say this guy's the real deal, then maybe you'll listen to them:
Donnybrook is vivid in its violence, grim in its grimness. It reams the English language with a broken beer bottle and lets the blood drops tell the story. -- Daniel Woodrell, (Winter's Bone)
With action like a belt across the face and vivid prose like a stroke up the neck, Frank Bill's astonishing novel...renders you punch-drunk. Here's the writer to watch: mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Megan Abbott, (Dare Me)
I also like this one by Bonnie Jo Campbell: "Don't poke this book with a stick or you'll make it angry." And trust me -- you won't like this book when it's angry. Goodreads friend Jacob writes in his review:
something this good should be illegal, because the act of hunting down a banned copy and hiding from the censors and morality police to read it is the only goddamn way it could get any better. Donnybrook is a relentless, no-holds-barred, total fucking mind-fuck of endless violence...
Yeah, like that. But now you're looking at me tapping your foot impatiently saying: "Yeah, but what the hell is this book about?" I could give you the plot summary lowdown -- about bare-knuckle fighting in the backwoods of Southern Indiana, about desperate family man Jarhead Johnny Earl who's going to steal a thousand dollars to cover the entry fee into the infamous annual Donnybrook tournament.
Then there's meth-making brother and sister Angus (nickname Chainsaw) and Liz who put the F.U.N. in family dysfunction. They've just lost their last batch of dope and are determined to recoup their losses, no matter who gets in their way, even if it means each other. Like any great rural crime story, you've got the steely, determined deputy Sheriff following a trail of dead bodies into a trap he has no idea lays in wait for him. Last but not least, there's Chinese "collection agent" Fu, who's about as badass a dude as you're ever going to meet. He is awesome.
This mad, manic mélange of murderers, misfits and miscreants will eventually descend upon the Donnybrook -- a three day stint of brawling, booze and drugs run by a man named McGill, who makes the Governor from the Walking Dead comics look like Mr. Rogers. But it's not about the final destination folks, but the journey to get there, and (to quote one of my favorite movie taglines ever): who will survive and what will be left of them. Reading this book I couldn't help but be reminded of the lucid insanity of some of Tarantino's best work -- the ensemble characters, the multiple plot threads, and how it all comes crashing together in the end with defined, divine purpose. Hells yeah, people. This is the good shit. Heisenberg grade blue.
Frank Bill is a writer you want to watch. You can find out more about him at his blog House of Grit or follow him on Twitter @HouseofGrit. And as my mama always told me -- never trust a man with two first names.
This series is flipping fantastic! I feel like it's been written just for me. It has everything in it that I love right now and want to be re...more4.5 stars
This series is flipping fantastic! I feel like it's been written just for me. It has everything in it that I love right now and want to be reading to escape from life and have a helluva good time. I blew right through this one in a day and a half, not realizing there won't be another Sam Thornton adventure until Summer(?) 2013. Boo. But these are well-crafted, crazy mash-up fantastical noir crime novels that need time to grow. I get it. You take all the time you need Mr. Holm, just keep them coming!
This time around we learn a lot more about Sam's life as a Collector of doomed souls, the rules involved and the wicked dangers. The world-building here is so fine. I could eat it up with a spoon. Lilith (yes, that Lilith) is becoming more of a character and I love her. Femme-fatale indeed. One of the addicting things about this series is that the stakes are always so astronomically, apocalyptically high. I can't get enough of the scenarios. I am totally buying what Holm is peddling. Listen to me, I'm raving like a fangirl. Is what I'm writing even making sense?
No matter. Look, this series isn't going to be for everyone. But it just might be for you. If you like crime stories with a noir bent, if you like road movies and buddy pictures, if you enjoy a well-meaning sarcastic narrator with a past who is as funny and clumsy as he is smart and tough then you just might love this. If the fantastical elements of angels, demons, heaven, hell and the Inter-World intrigue you, then I know you will love this. Give it a chance, you really have nothing to lose. But start with Book 1, Dead Harvest.
(view spoiler)[I have to add a few spoilers here that will help refresh my memory when Book 3 comes out. First of all, LOVE the concept of soul skimming. Demons jonesing to get just a small taste of human memories and experience life in God's grace. LOVE the concept that splitting a soul apart is the equivalent of splitting the atom -- bad, cataclysmic shit will happen. Earthquakes, floods, the end of times. Depends on how completely a soul is damaged. LOVE the concept of Collectors being 'shelved' - put into a vegetative body that is a long ways from death, where they will likely go mad before the person actually dies and releases them. LOVE the Inter-World and the Deliverants (who come to collect the collected souls). Can't wait to find out more about these beings who are neither demon nor angel and operate under their own set of rules. I want more! (hide spoiler)](less)
a post-apocalyptic zombie soap opera, where the soap is made out of lye. The story is harsh -- almost nihilistic in its way -- extremely violent, and peppered throughout with characters hooking up in almost sure to be doomed relationships.
Now, after wading through another 1068 pages of Compendium 2 I can't say much has changed.
Other than the fact I'm completely, utterly exhausted from all the carnage and devastation.
Seriously guys, when this series goes dark side it does not fuck around. It is bleak goddammit, B-L-E-A-K. Surviving the zombies is the easy part; it's all the crazy, fucked-up, out to slice and dice you and take what you have humans with Grade A mental issues that Rick's gang has to worry about the most. It's one tragedy heaped upon one depravity after another. And what does it do to a person to take on the savages and repel them? End them? Mutilate them? It's certainly changed Rick from the man we first came to know in the first few issues. It's most definitely changed little Carl (who is starting to creep me out a little bit truth be told). In some ways, all the survivors have been carved into new animals by forces beyond their control.
It's good. It keeps the pages turning most of the time, but it can become positively grueling and yes, even a bit repetitive at times, over the long haul. Especially if you're a pig like me and devour the story in huge non-stop helpings. (view spoiler)[The big shocker for me this time was Carl getting half his head blown off. My jaw literally dropped open. But then he survives, and I mean, nothing against the kid, but I felt cheated. I felt like Kirkman was out and out cheating. That's the kind of thing that happens on soap operas all the time and we roll our eyes. I'm surprised there wasn't an "experimental" brain transplant tried or some such thing. (hide spoiler)]
What's more, I find myself missing characters introduced in the television show -- namely Carol, Daryl and even Merle. It really sucks not to have those guys around and I find the story is suffering from their absence. Michonne however, continues to be kick-ass and delightful. She is the saving grace of this entire series character wise if you ask me, reminding me of Agent 355 from Y: The Last Man series. I like Glenn too, but I find Maggie really whiny most of the time. I should be more forgiving I suppose considering everything the poor thing has been through.
So the series is not without problems. By issue #96, it's starting to repeat itself and Kirkland needs to get serious about wrapping this baby up. Go out on a high note, man. Some are already saying you've stayed too long at the party. The goal should be for the narrative to remain fresh and bloody and vital. The gore should still feel wet on the pages. Unfortunately, it's starting to feel like a limping, dessicating zombie. I've given it my all, I've suspended my disbelief where I had to, and I would argue this remains required reading in the genre; however, let's end it. It's time. (less)
First of all, Carol knows what she's talking about. This is another great installment in the Scudder series and I really wavered over whether to give...more First of all, Carol knows what she's talking about. This is another great installment in the Scudder series and I really wavered over whether to give it five stars or not. It's a flashback novel, back to Scudder's hard drinking, bar crawling days of wee morning hours and head splitting hangovers. This is Scudder in all his glorious dysfunction, surrounded by the other barflies that make up his small cadre of "friends". It's 1970's New York, where Irish bars have Republican Army connections.
Because this is the most intricately plotted of the series thus far, I feel like I didn't get as much Scudder this time around. There's so much going on in this book that Scudder is nearly lost in the details and dialogue required to drive the action forward. Don't get me wrong; he's there, just not as there when it comes to his private ruminations and general observations about life. Turns out that's what I really love even more than a richly constructed plot. My favorite thing about this one is that ending. Holy moses. Betrayal and backstabbing, revenge and a couple of suicides.
(view spoiler)[ I was surprised that Skip went ahead and turned in the actors, including best friend Bobby Ruslander. Betrayal is a horrible thing, and Bobby is a huge asshole for what he did, but for Skip to turn them in to the Irish heavies knowing full well they would be killed, well, that's going to be tough to live with. Scudder takes the reward though "and somewhere along the line it stopped being blood money and became...just money."
Carolyn's suicide was a bit of a shock, but Scudder using her death to frame Tommy really shocked me. He was pretty positive Tommy killed his wife after all, and Tommy is a huge sleazeball, but still. Just desserts? Poetic justice? Scudder justice anyway. I can't help question though whether Scudder would have made the same choice sober. (hide spoiler)]
The last few pages of the novel are the best. Scudder's voice is so strong, the bittersweet nostalgia acute as he recounts all the landmarks that have crumbled and disappeared, all the lost souls lost for good to the hereafter: "So many changes, eating away at the world like water dripping on a rock." It's a strong man looking back from a better place in his life, yet it's a man who still finds himself longing, just a little bit, for "the good old days" of bourbon and coffee, and nights spent drinking til the sacred ginmill closes.
And so we'll drink the final drink That cuts the brain in sections Where answers do not signify And there aren't any questions.
I broke my heart the other day. It will mend again tomorrow. If I'd been drunk when I was born I'd be ignorant of sorrow.
And so we've had another night Of poetry and poses, And each man knows he'll be alone When the sacred ginmill closes.
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)
"You know what you got in this city, this fucked-up toilet of a naked fucking city? You know what you got? You got eight million ways to die." ~Eight Million Ways to Die
Matt Scudder, how much do I love thee? Let me count the eight million ways.
This is definitely my favorite of the Scudder books so far, for all the reasons captured in this review here. Eight Million Ways to Die is New York in all of its grimy splendor: murderous, amoral, seething and unsympathetic. Block creates an authentic portrait using his signature slicing prose to recall an early 80's Big Apple plagued by poverty, racial tensions, police corruption and crime. Scudder describes the degeneration of the subway system and if you think Block is exaggerating for dramatic effect, take a look at this slideshow of photos captured during this period.
When I think of Scudder's New York, this is what comes to mind for me:
It's enough to drive a good man to drink. And drink some more. Drink yourself into oblivion. Matt has a choice to make -- stay sober and live, or drink and die. It's not as easy a choice to make as it should be. Matt continues his struggle in a battle of will versus weakness, guilt versus loathing, that's as enthralling as anything on the subject I've read. There are demons to be wrestled and subdued. The road from self-hatred to self-acceptance can be a long and lonely one.
This time around Matt becomes tangled up in the gruesome murder of a young and beautiful prostitute. Her pimp Chance is a sure bet for the dirty deed, but he's the one who approaches Scudder and pays him to find the killer. The mystery is nicely layered and evenly plotted. Chance is an interesting dude and the chemistry he shares with Scudder is memorable. I really like their scenes and the dialogue exchanged between the two.
Actually, most of the dialogue in this book resonates with a clear-cut precision that carries within it a hint of the philosophical. Whether Scudder is interviewing a hooker with the heart of a poet or trying to outdo an embittered cop in a game of "the worst murder you ever heard", the dialogue snaps with an emotional fervency and stark honesty that's as addictive as anything poured from a bottle (and I'm already jonesing for my next fix).
What more can I say? I love this series and I thank the reading gods that there's much more to come yet.
The brandy, I told myself. Probably be a good idea to stay away from it. Stick to what you're used to. Stick to bourbon. I went on over to Armstrong's. A little bourbon would take the edge off the brandy rush. A little bourbon would take the edge off almost anything. ~A Stab in the Dark
Ah, Matt. Things are getting pretty dark for you my friend. Rock bottom is rushing up to meet you at about 200 miles an hour. It's going to hit like a freight train and I'm afraid you won't even see it coming. Cause we all know 'denial' is not just a river in Egypt.
As you may have guessed, what marks this fourth installment of Lawrence Block's Scudder series, isn't the unsolved nine-year-old murder, or Scudder's uncanny ability to solve it with his characteristic dogged style, but his further descent into excessive boozing, blackouts and hangovers. He meets a woman this time that suffers from the same malady as Matt, but she has a name for it -- alcoholic. Matt bristles at this term, because as far as he's concerned he can stop drinking any time he wants. Like any good boozer who ain't ready to jump on that proverbial wagon and stay there, Matt doesn't see himself as having a problem. He sees himself as still in control.
I acutely felt Matt's loneliness and guilt in this one. It's a sad book really. Even the crime is a sad one that should never have happened in the first place. Now on to Book 5 - Eight Million Ways to Die. What's in store for you, Matt? How bad is this going to get before it gets better? (less)
Matt Scudder continues to impress and please me. He has become such a richly realized character, after only three short books, that I have a hard time...more Matt Scudder continues to impress and please me. He has become such a richly realized character, after only three short books, that I have a hard time believing he isn't living out his golden years somewhere (on or off the wagon -- haven't decided yet) with a lovely lady by his side or a scruffy Heinz 57 mutt to keep him company.
The temptation to just plow ahead and read all the books in the series as fast as I can is a strong one. As soon as one case wraps up, I find myself immediately jonesing to check in with Scudder again to see what's up with him now. Each book brings a little more insight into his private life, and an update on the status of his on-going battles with booze and various other personal demons of guilt and self-loathing.
Published in 1976, there is a real vibe of authentic '70s New York City, replete with seedy settings and gritty characters. Corruption is rife in the NYPD and Block's fictional account is written in the long shadow of the infamous Serpico case of 1971 giving these early Scudder books welcome depth. Sometimes I'm so wrapped up in the time and place I'm reading about, I want to walk out my front door, turn the corner, and get a drink at Armstrong's. This is vintage New York, and for anyone with a Big Apple fetish, it's the bee's knees baby, I'm telling you.
I wasn't too crazy about the mystery this time around, what really got me is the way Block makes it all about something else anyway and it's in the little touches (view spoiler)[the way Scudder keeps calling the murder victim's phone to hear her voice, the way Scudder makes a connection with his client's wife to the point where he even cuts back his drinking (for a day). His return to the bottle when this "might have been" opportunity is lost struck me as sharply poignant. Although, truth be told, this lady did nothing for me and did not seem like a good match for our guy so part of me was very relieved. (hide spoiler)]
The best part for me continues to be watching Scudder as he quietly goes about his investigations, relying on his wits, instincts, and natural ability to talk to anyone in any setting under any circumstances. This man is unflappable in his cool. In his even handedness. Yet, the cracks are beginning to show. Scudder recounts a blackout where he experiences lost time. There are a few occasions where his behavior seems erratic, where he seems not quite in control of all his faculties.
Where is all this headed, Matt? I'm worried about you now. (less)
Ahhh, Scudder...I have a bone to pick with you. Why you wanna hurt me so bad?
More on that in just a bit, first just a little note on the numbering of...moreAhhh, Scudder...I have a bone to pick with you. Why you wanna hurt me so bad?
More on that in just a bit, first just a little note on the numbering of these early Scudder books. Feel free to skip this paragraph which cuts right to the nerd in me. I tend to be a tad OCD when I take on any series, and always want to read them in order. Goodreads has this book listed as #2 which turns out to be correct. In the afterword Block explains that Time to Murder and Create is the second Scudder book he wrote, but it was the third to be published. If I had been going by another source (like the Great and Terrible Wikipedia), I would have read In the Midst of Death second (when it's actually third). OCD, I know, I know, considering all the books were written very close together in the same year and don't spoil each other in any way, but still. Now I know I've read the books in the order which the author intended. Somebody give this girl a cookie to make her shut up already.
On to the review. Time to Murder has all the good stuff I've already come to expect. First and foremost great, snappy dialogue that's sharp and sexy. There's no flowery language here, no overly complicated metaphors. Scudder's world is populated by New Yorkers who have seen more of the underbelly and bottom-feeding side of humanity than they care to recount. Blunt and direct is the catch of the day. That's not to say some wordplay is entirely absent. Scudder can be a cheeky bastard when he wants to be, especially when anyone is trying to put the squeeze on him. I like the way he talks to the ladies too, the ones he likes, and the ones he's wary of. Buy me a gin and tonic and light up my Marlboro, Matt, I'd shoot the shit with you til the bar closed any time. I'd even let you walk me home afterwards.
The mystery is a bit meatier this time around than the one introduced in Sins of the Fathers. Matt finds himself investigating three victims of blackmail who are desperate to keep their secrets. One of them has had enough and murders the blackmailer holding all the cards. That would be low-life Spinner Jablon, who ends up with his head caved in and his body dumped in the East River. Low-life though he may be, he was smart enough to leave all the juicy details to Scudder in a sealed envelope (which Scudder is not to open unless Spinner winds up in the morgue). When that day arrives, Scudder is on the case and uses himself as the bait. I love the unintended consequences that arise as Scudder quietly and diligently goes about his unconventional investigation. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and that goes double for Scudder's emotions and reactions.
Here's the thing: Scudder is no saint, nor does he pretend to be. But he's one of the good guys always trying to do the right thing, whatever that might be. It's not always clear though, especially if you're a live and let live kind of guy. Scudder doesn't suffer from a self-righteous arrogance, or a moral certainty of what's right and wrong. The only real crime in Scudder's books (that I can see so far) is murder. You can steal, lie, prostitute yourself, blackmail, extort, bribe, whatever, and he'll shrug and look the other way. It's your business. But intentionally with malice aforethought take the life of another human being? Not on his watch.
I like that. I like that even in this Scudder doesn't suffer from hubris:
"I don't know if human life is sacred. I just don't like murder, and that bothers me, and there's just one thing I'm going to do about it. I don't want to kill you, I don't want to expose you...I'm sick of playing an incompetent version of God."
And that almost makes it okay for me to swallow the fact that (view spoiler)[Scudder is willing to let a pedophile -- a rapist of children -- basically walk away scot-free with his dirty little secrets in tact. I'm trying to look at this through a 1970's lens and give it some context. While distasteful, was it pretty much acceptable to bugger young boys (landing one of them in the hospital from internal injuries) forty years ago? Is it unfair to let my 21st century knee-jerk repulsion inform how to react here? I thought for sure Scudder would have something appropriately nasty and poetic planned for Huysendahl whether he turned out to be behind Spinner's murder or not. Getting him to write a ten thousand dollar check to Boys Town is not what I had in mind. At all. But Scudder has never proclaimed to be a crusader for the protection of children nor does he see himself as a force to prevent the corruption and theft of innocence. But it sticks me where it hurts. I'm choking on it. I guess for me, there is something as bad as premeditated murder, and that's rape. (hide spoiler)]
I'm still with you though, Scudder. We just have a little making up to do.
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've finally found my way to Matt Scudder. And ladies and gents? There ain't no going back. I'm intrigued, a little titillated, crushing for sure, may...more I've finally found my way to Matt Scudder. And ladies and gents? There ain't no going back. I'm intrigued, a little titillated, crushing for sure, maybe even falling in love. I had my reservations at first. I don't "do" hardboiled detective stories. I have a kink for classic noir films that has never translated into a love for that hyper-masculinized breed of pulp fiction. I chalked it up to "dick-lit" and moved on, assuming these stories were written for the menfolk, and would contain very little appeal for a gal such as myself. How could I have been such a stupid asshole for so flipping long? I have nothing to offer in my defense.
I began to come to my senses when I started to read some of the men's reviews, the same men who read LOTS of detective fiction but continue to single out Scudder again and again as one of their favorite go-to guys -- Dan, Kemper, Stephen all share in a Scudder man-crush so let's just say my interest was piqued. Then Carol comes along and starts blasting through the Scudder books like they're made of chocolate rolled in potato chips. She just couldn't stop at one. The more she read the more I knew I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about.
And if I needed one more reason to sanction this virgin foray into Scudder territory, I got it when the edition I picked up featured an introduction by my man Stephen King. So I get an entire King essay I didn't even know existed. Thank you Matt Scudder. I have a feeling this marks the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Well that's enough about me, what about the book? The mystery is very secondary here; in fact, I didn't think the mystery seemed all that important. Much more vital to the story is our introduction to weary, troubled, lonesome ex-cop Matt Scudder and his booze-soaked life in the Big Apple. Scudder has had a very bad thing happen that's driven him out of the force and away from his wife and sons into a solitary life of unlicensed private investigating. People come to Scudder with questions they want answered. For a variable fee, he'll try to help them out.
What I love about Scudder is that he's not a macho, bullying asshole strutting around intimidating people and getting in their face. He goes about his business with a quiet intensity that speaks volumes about his integrity. Don't get me wrong; he's no pushover. If he's got to get tough he will, he just prefers to keep things civilized and on a low simmer. He's got class and despite his unquenchable thirst for coffee laced with bourbon and a talent for greasing palms, he's got a built-in moral compass that's always pointing true north. That isn't to say he's a saint. There are flaws, but flaws that make him human and a little tragic (and only more lovable in my books).
I also appreciated how unflappable and non-judgmental Scudder is (self-righteous people piss me off). He treats everyone with the same level of respect whether a gay bar owner, a prostitute or a minister. He knows he doesn't have all the answers and adults should be free to live their own life as they see fit. If you want to try and get away with murder though, don't expect to do it around him. He will figure out a way to make you pay, one way or the other.
A totally unexpected source of joy came from the book's dated references. Published in 1976, Sins of the Fathers is filled with details about life before the personal computer, before Google and Facebook and smartphones. When Scudder visits his lady friend Elaine she's got a pile of vinyl on the record player. It's subtle, but it creates a kind of unintentional nostalgia that I found inexplicably pleasing.
Block's writing is crisp and uncomplicated. The dialogue has a natural rhythm that caresses the ear. The prose might be stripped to its bare essentials, but it manages to retain depth and texture. It's emotional writing, intuitive and smart. Out of it comes Matt Scudder, fully realized, three dimensional and ready to take on the world. Okay, I think I've gushed enough, wouldn't you say? I'm off to read the next book in the series. I want more Scudder now, but I've promised myself not to gorge, to save some for later. Let's see if I can hold to that. (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.
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!
Stealing a man's wife, that's nothing, but stealing his car, that's larceny. ~The Postman Always Rings Twice
If Noir can be said to have a cold, black heart it’s Postman that provided the juice to electroshock it into a beating, breathing existence. It is without a doubt one of the most important crime novels of the 20th century (of any century really) and has gone on to influence entire generations of writers and filmmakers. As a debut, it shocked, titillated and disgusted, banned upon publication in Boston and in Canada. Before I even knew anything about this book, or the films that were based on it, I adored that title. To this day, it remains one of my favourites.
What Cain accomplishes in just a mere 100 pages is impressive. He finds the voice of the common man, and the dark and dangerous shortcut to greed, lust, and violence. More than anything, Cain understands how easily man is corrupted, how easily he can corrupt others, like an infection. And I use “man” here in the generic sense encompassing both genders, because when it comes to villains and black hearts, Cain is an equal opportunist.
Entire books and dissertations have been written about Cain’s women – the good, the bad, the rampant sexism, the alleged misogyny – whatever. Cain’s characters don’t bleed political correctness that's obvious – what they are is a symbol of their time and circumstances – hewed from harshness, beacons of egocentrism, proprietors of antisocialism. The women like to be smacked around a little (it helps get them in the mood), and the men are only too willing to oblige the ladies in that regard. Men aren't asking for what ought to be freely given, and should it be denied to them, why... they'll just take it anyway, won't they?
Based on all of this, Postman easily garners five stars, so why am I only giving it four? My only hesitation stems from this: I just didn’t enjoy it as much as Double Indemnity. Neither Frank nor Cora drew me in to quite the same extent that Walter and Phyllis did – the former are cold, dislikable and a bit icky, whereas the latter duo are fascinating in their terribleness and villainy. They are even sympathetic in their own messed up way … whereas Frank and Cora felt like reptiles crawling on their bellies, sniffing for a blood meal. Plus, Phyllis is simply an awe-inspiring, terrifying creation – a walking, talking sociopath before the term was even widely known. She is quiet, sexy, subtle and deranged -- I love her.
Having said that, Postman is lean and mean hard-boiled pulp fiction and you gotta respect that. It’s not shy about going for the jugular with absolutely no foreplay. But Cain doesn’t need it, requiring so little time and so few words to get the reader foaming at the mouth -- when he’s ready to go, so are you. This is a must-read, but you know that already. (less)
I downloaded this ebook for 99 cents for one reason only, and that is because it features a story by Ryan C. Thomas. I've only read his The Summer I D...more I downloaded this ebook for 99 cents for one reason only, and that is because it features a story by Ryan C. Thomas. I've only read his The Summer I Died so far, but that short novel impressed me so much that I will continue to seek his work out in any shape or form I can get it.
For me, two stories really work, while two -- the first and last -- fail miserably.
Not surprisingly, the Ryan C. Thomas story is one of the two that really work. In Choose we meet unassuming Peter Baker -- husband, father, and computer repair shop proprietor. One day Peter is assaulted and his life threatened by a hulking, shadowy figure who says he knows Peter but refuses to identify himself. He demands that Peter pay for a past sin and gives him twelve hours to "choose" -- the life of his wife or the life of his daughter. If Peter doesn't choose which one to kill, both will die.
There is a pretty nice build-up of tension and suspense here, and parts of the story reminded me of King's novella Secret Window, Secret Garden -- the elusive, unknowable villain in Choose reads a lot like John Shooter. There is a "just desserts" twist to this one too, a revenge story worthy and seemingly ripped from the pages of Tales from the Crypt or the Vault of Horror. Nice and pulpy!
The other story that works extremely well is The Mushrooms by Gregory L. Norris. Here we meet celebrity chef Sunny Weir who is at the pinnacle of her career publishing yet another cook book when she is violently attacked by an enraged fan who claims Sunny stole one of her recipes. Sunny survives the assault, but her attacker goes on to commit suicide. Sunny decides to escape to her island retreat to heal and contemplate her future, thinking her nightmare is over ... when it has only just begun. This one is deliciously (no pun intended) creepy and a whole lot of fun. Like Choose, there is a pulpy, Tales from the Crypt vibe going on with revenge as the main course. Yum!
There's a reason this is a classic and has stood the test of time, and you only have to read the first few pages to fully understand why. It all start...more There's a reason this is a classic and has stood the test of time, and you only have to read the first few pages to fully understand why. It all starts with a delicious chill up your spine, your eyeballs riveted to the page, your breath held, the "gotta know what happens next" monster rattling the bars of his cage. Your first thought: Strap on baby, this is gonna be g-ooood
Cain is a MASTER storyteller: his cutthroat instincts for plot and pacing unerring and enviable. His ear for dialogue is enough to make grown men cry and women purr. It's sharp, with staccato beats and primal rhythms. And he makes it all look so easy which anyone who has ever put pen to paper knows, easy it is not ... ever. Whether you believe Cain to be a genius, an idiot savant or the prince of pulp, there's no denying his enduring appeal and lasting legacy to the world of literature. And not just the written word, but film as well, since so many of his stories have been adapted into silver screen classics that resonate with awesomeness to this day.
As a movie, Double Indemnity is pure gold, yet the vein from which it is mined is richer still. Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis is THE femme fatale, yet there is so much nuance and depth missing from her character in the film (in what is already an amazing performance). Cain's Phyllis is so much more than a sultry seductress and the cold-blooded spider hanging in her web. But I will leave the pleasure of that discovery to you.
Yowza, wowzers, and woot! woot! This book -- a mad collaboration from four horror gods (small 'g') -- is this cat's meow (or as they say where I come...moreYowza, wowzers, and woot! woot! This book -- a mad collaboration from four horror gods (small 'g') -- is this cat's meow (or as they say where I come from -- it's all that and a bag of chips).
It was going to take a lot for this book to impress me for the simple reason that vampires of late have become...meh for me. As monsters meant to inspire horror they have been done to death it seems. Not to mention they have suffered an incredible disservice in recent years both on film and in print (yeah, I'm looking at you Ms. Meyer). There just hasn't been anything really new or fresh tried either. It's either you're sparkling and pouty and misunderstood, or it's waaay back to the Stoker tradition of a debonair, aristocratic abomination that abhors garlic and crucifixes.
Don't get me wrong: I haven't always felt this disillusioned. I love 'Salem's Lot and I am Legend. I went through a huge Lestat phase in my early 20s. The Lost Boys remains one of my favorite movies of all time, and I love Steve Niles' re-imagining of vampires in his graphic novel series 30 Days of Night (the movie is pretty kick-ass too).
Despite that, I've stopped 'looking for love' with vampires. Even del Toro's The Strain underwhelmed me. So I had doubts with this one, I really did, but thanks to two awesome reviews filled with squee here on goodreads by Stephen and Daniel, I decided to throw my doubts aside and dive in.
This is about the most self-indulgent fun I've had in bleems! Draculas hits just the right note of gorror-ific combined with pee your pants scary that's doused with a gallon of can't help but giggle here even though that's beyond messed up and so wrong (I can't tell you how many times I cringed and burst out laughing at the same time (view spoiler)[1. the balloon animals made out of intestines, 2. the baby eating its way out of mom's stomach, 3. all the scenes involving self-mutilation, cannibalism and auto-cannibalism. (hide spoiler)] Remember the first time you ever saw The Evil Dead? Oh yeah baby, that's what I'm talking about!
So yeah, this book is tremendous fun, awesomely gory, written with a frantic energy that keeps the pages turning. Another thing worth praising is the way this novel is a completely mad mash-up of a whole bunch of horror elements; it's like the authors took vampire stories, along with zombies, werewolves and aliens, threw them into a blender and spit out this mish-mash of pure chaos and entertainment. I recognized about 100 shout-outs to other books and movies, but at the end of it all, this book stands as its own original. The authors tried things here I don't think I've seen tried anywhere else. The way the teeth are described though made me think of this from 1985's Fright Night: c'mon, gimme a kiss!
The ensemble cast is fun too, and added a lot to the story's enjoyment. If it weren't for such a large cast and getting to know the group -- I loved that the narrative kept changing pov -- it just would have been a ho-hum affair about a bunch of lunatic infected running rabid through an enclosed space (which has been done a 1000 times). Not only do we get pov from the good guys, we get the story from the side of the infected too. I really appreciated that and the decision to do so added great entertainment value. Highly recommended!!!!!!
P.S. I paid three dollars for the eBook and there's really no way to express how much bang I got for my buck. The eBook also contains mega extras that make this title worth so much more. My thanks to Stephen and Daniel on this one. Ain't goodreads grand?
P.P.S. Stephen, I am a woman of my word. You have earned yourself a shelf, sir. :)
Waaaaay back in the early 80's, Stephen King pronounced: "Who's the scariest guy in America? Probably Jack Ketchum." It was, to say the very least, a...more Waaaaay back in the early 80's, Stephen King pronounced: "Who's the scariest guy in America? Probably Jack Ketchum." It was, to say the very least, a generous compliment that drew attention to a relatively unknown entity in horror publishing. Even to this day, Ketchum remains on the margins of an already ghettoized genre. He doesn't publish lots, and what he does produce tends to be graphic, propulsive stories filled with violence, sex, and grim outcomes.
He is most notoriously known amongst horror fans for his The Girl Next Door and Off Season. Neither are fit for the faint of heart, but it was the latter -- Ketchum's debut -- which a panicked, censorious publisher cut to pieces in 1980. It would be almost 20 years before an unexpurgated version was made available.
When Ketchum is writing at his absolute best, I would be hard pressed to think of anyone scarier. His prose is sharp and tight; he doesn't waste words and he will use them to haunt you and hurt you. His book of short stories Peaceable Kingdom contains some of the best writing I have read by anybody (and received the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection).
This early novel (1984) is not Ketchum writing at his best but there is still a lot to recommend it. It's a coming-of-age horror story, set in a small town. It features an abandoned house with a gruesome history and a beautiful fucked up girl with a gruesome history of her own. Ketchum sets up the tension and the dread perfectly. You know something bad is going to happen, really bad, but with no idea exactly what (and the not knowing is always the best part). The climax is graphically realized and electric (if a little derivative).
As an audiobook, the novel excels. The reader has a deep baritone voice that whispers at the exact right moments to provide the desired shivery effect.(less)
Who the hell is Pablo D'Stair? What kind of a mad maniac is he anyway? Jesus wept. The four novellas brought together in this collection represent som...more Who the hell is Pablo D'Stair? What kind of a mad maniac is he anyway? Jesus wept. The four novellas brought together in this collection represent some pretty messed up shit, but the writing (as unpolished as it can be at times) represents the REALDEAL people. There is a palpable energy to the prose and a paranoia that drips over everything that cuts so deep like acid it will unsettle you in ways I can't even begin to describe.
First of all, I think it is important to establish whether this collection is for you (because I will be the first to admit it certainly isn't for everyone).
1) If you require prose that has been put through the editorial rock polisher to produce a perfectly smooth reading experience, then this collection might be hard for you to swallow. There are misspelled words, missing words, made up words and the like, that sporadically pop up. As for myself, this kind of thing usually jars me, taking me out of the story. What can I say? It works here. Whether intentional on the author's part or not, D'Stair's narrators use a stream-of-consciousness style and the "broken" words and sentences perfectly capture minds on the cusp of breaking. You could just see it as sloppy and one of the drawbacks of ill-edited self-published fiction. I think in this case you would be missing the point though.
2) If you derive much of your reading enjoyment from having all your questions answered, than this may not be the collection for you. Each novella deals with a narrator who has become "unhinged" shall we say, causing said narrator to act out in very real and unpredictable ways. We don't know why, they don't know why. There is no rumination on the dark heart of man or any such thing. Shit happens and then it's done. There is none of that satisfying resolution that comes with the linear progression from unexpected chaos to the reestablishment of order. All four endings will leave you with more questions than answers, that I can promise.
3) If graphic descriptions of bodily functions like vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and excess saliva make you queasy than this book is probably not for you. You have been warned.
Okay, if you have made it this far into the review and you're still with me, what comes next is the best part. D'Stair plumbs the depths of human paranoia and anxiety, the overall result an exceptional effort that's as unshakable and easily as memorable as Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart. I'm not shitting you.
These are stories about following and being followed -- about fear of discovery and the siren song of confession. I think Megan hits it perfectly when she writes: "I could see these characters come to life, to the point of waking up at 3 am and thinking one of them might be shuffling around in my bedroom closet." These stories are so steeped in paranoia, that your brain will succumb to the itchy fingers of paranoia as a result. You will be like Michael Douglas' character in The Game, where everyone around you is suspect and a possible threat.
I'm also going to throw out two other cinematic gems that these novellas caused me to think about: Memento and Jacob's Ladder. The former because of the stream-of-consciousness narration by an untrustworthy and possibly delusional narrator; the latter because of the sensation of absolute mindfuck (pardon my French).
Okay, I'm beginning to feel paranoid that this review has gone on too long. One more thing before I wrap this up though; I would never have even known of this book's existence if it weren't for Jacob first bringing it to my attention. When Jacob gives anything five stars I perk up and pay attention. When he said he needed to "gather his brain chunks back together" before he could write a review, reading this was a foregone conclusion (though he tried to warn me!)
Eyes adjusting to the dark, I looked at the closed door to the room, half expecting the knob to jiggle, for there to be some pock-marked face behind the opening, a face as large as a train station clock...
...thought about my hand to the peephole of thirteen, someone's eye to the other side of the hole, only a door thick of wood separating their blinking lash from my sweating palm.
...it seemed if I could stay awake I could bear it, but if forced to wake to it I'd disintegrate utterly, whatever crumb of me was left moistened, pulped, mawed and gone.