A very, erm, mild sci-fi thriller. The concept's a bit compelling, and likely the best element (inexplicable aliens come to Earth, build a space elevaA very, erm, mild sci-fi thriller. The concept's a bit compelling, and likely the best element (inexplicable aliens come to Earth, build a space elevator, infect the world with 28 Days Later juice which affects everyone who ISN'T hugging the elevator, and vanish! MYSTERIOUS!!!), but everything else feels very half-baked and by the numbers. The characters are flimsy, the action sequences dull, the romance painfully typical, the political intrigue predictable from a mile away... Even worse, internal consistency is hit-or-miss; in one chapter, a character will be declared an impeccable judge of character, and moments later he'll fail to notice the most obvious spy in the world. This book is the author's first release, and it feels like it. I realize it's pretty widely celebrated, but I think I'll let this series' cliffhanger mysteries stay unsolved....more
A fun, fluffy military action novel which mashes Avatar (the blue cat people movie, not the Nickelodeon elemental kung fu cartoon) into Starship TroopA fun, fluffy military action novel which mashes Avatar (the blue cat people movie, not the Nickelodeon elemental kung fu cartoon) into Starship Troopers to create a hot violent mess of a read. In the near future, humanity is allowed at age 75 to sign up for the Colonial Defense Force, trading in their miserable golden years for a second chance at youth and vibrancy. In exchange, all they have to do is help defend humanity from the terrors what haunt the galaxy. This blossoms out into a pleasant but oddly-subdued guts-and-glory tale of heroism and freaky space monsters. It's not about to significantly change your worldview, it fails to introduce any particularly novel sci-fi gimmicks or conceits, and it honestly seems to forget that its cast is made up of mature human beings very quickly, but it's still a fun read all the same....more
The exposition and dialogue may be a little clumsy and confusing at times, and the scientific MacGuffins occasionally left me wincing, but The DescentThe exposition and dialogue may be a little clumsy and confusing at times, and the scientific MacGuffins occasionally left me wincing, but The Descent still accomplishes what it set out to do admirably: that being to be the best darn anthropological horror novel about cannibalistic underground demonoids ever. It's fast and fun and predictable and cheesy; if you find yourself in need of a silly weekend body horror fix, you can't do much better....more
A short story with a name so bizarre I couldn't pass it up, Hellhounds of the Cosmos is a fun little unpolished mish-mash of Lovecraftian weirdness anA short story with a name so bizarre I couldn't pass it up, Hellhounds of the Cosmos is a fun little unpolished mish-mash of Lovecraftian weirdness and kaiju monster beat-'em-up. It's unlikely I'll remember it a year from now, but as something to fill a bored afternoon with, it did quite nicely....more
A really excellent first salvo from promising new author Zack Parsons, Liminal States starts off as the story of two warring men (Warren Groves, the mA really excellent first salvo from promising new author Zack Parsons, Liminal States starts off as the story of two warring men (Warren Groves, the morally-compromised-yet-iron-willed sherriff, and Gideon Long, conniving son of a dying industrial magnate) before evolving into something much, much larger. Easily one of the most satisfying horror novels I've read, Liminal States playfully refuses to stick to a single genre, swapping tones while simultaneously hitting the reader with scenes of brutality, classic horror, and modern-day anxieties.
The book honestly reminded me of Machine of Death, taking a clever but seemingly simple gimmick and running with it much farther and more effectively than I would've ever expected. If it weren't for an unfortunately weak second act, I'd give this five stars, but as it stands it is still an exceptionally good bit of uncomfortable literature....more
Coming in at a hefty 1,141 pages, The Stand is widely considered one of Stephen King's best works, and for good reason. With all that space to work wiComing in at a hefty 1,141 pages, The Stand is widely considered one of Stephen King's best works, and for good reason. With all that space to work with, King puts together and fleshes out an excellent cast (definitely not a guarantee in his work) and runs them through his authentically horrific post-apocalyptic vision with time to spare for insightful dissection of the modern man and the technological house of cards we've built around ourselves. More than that though, it's reassuringly hopeful, and even though my credentials as a Christian are more than a little expired, it's one of the most moving defenses of God in an age of science and death I've yet read. This is coming right after my experience with Desperation, another King and an absolutely disappointing instance of Christian Horror. But regardless of the Jesus stuff, it's a fantastic book, even if I can see why the editors felt the need to trim a good 40% for its first publishing. An excellent novel to sit down with for the long haul, and a massively revealing piece in the puzzle that is King's endlessly multifaceted book-universe....more
As much as I enjoyed the first volume of Fletcher Hanks' work, I feel like they already used up most of the wild, out-there material by the time theyAs much as I enjoyed the first volume of Fletcher Hanks' work, I feel like they already used up most of the wild, out-there material by the time they decided to make a second. While there are still some extremely uncomfortable, Axe Cop-style insanities thrown at you (particularly in the second half of the collection), you'll see the same napkin-thin plot used again and again, the same phoned-in artwork, and after the first book I'd already gotten over the shock factor of it all. More interesting, I found, was the tragic biography of Hanks provided in the foreword; as I read along I couldn't help but wonder what kind of life this abusive comic jockey was leading as he scrawled out the adventures of "Space" Smith and Big "Red" McClane, and the epilogue just concluded the whole Fletcher Hanks experience perfectly....more
There are far too many volumes of this for me to want to rate and review and track all of it, so here's my review of GantZ as a whole. Expect a wholeThere are far too many volumes of this for me to want to rate and review and track all of it, so here's my review of GantZ as a whole. Expect a whole lot of unexplained sci-fi mystery, garnished with ultra-violence, casual rape, lazy nihilistic philosophy, and teenage superhero power fantasies. The story follows Kurono Kei, an unpopular, untalented schlub who gets run over by a subway train and suddenly finds himself enlisted into an unexplained monster-hunting game, along with a number of other briefly-deceased Tokyo inhabitants. He is given a suit that grants him phenomenal strength, and when placed in this life-or-death situation, his intense will to survive makes him an unparalleled champion compared to the others who, in spite of their gifts, are by and large quickly torn to shreds by the horrible monsters they are pitted against. Time passes, the action escalates, the mystery thickens, the female characters are abused nearly without exception, and the cast comes and goes and explodes in messy splatters every so often.
The comic's not without its charms. The scumbaggy realism of the dialogue and gallows humor help soften the comical seriousness of the story, and there are a decent number of silly, likable, or even relatable characters in the massive cast. The artwork is unusual, incorporating heavy use of CG to create a very detailed, realistic end product, in spite of the fact that most issues feature some form of ridiculous monstrosity. The pacing and writing, while very trashy, are light enough to keep momentum going strong; this is a manga you can easily plow through in a single long sitting. Unfortunately, the plot just gets too muddled and overloaded with twists not to judge, and although it builds up to a very strong second half, the final pay-off is about as disappointing a resolution as you could imagine. I can't say I didn't enjoy it, but it's got some serious weak points and it's not the sort of read I'm about to start pushing on my friends....more
This one took much, much longer to read than I expected it to. An ambitious, unfortunate sci-fi novel, City of Golden Shadow was written in the late 1This one took much, much longer to read than I expected it to. An ambitious, unfortunate sci-fi novel, City of Golden Shadow was written in the late 1990's by a man who'd just discovered MMORPGs and decided to predict a grim dystopian future where the entire internet was essentially a virtual reality equivalent to Ultima Online. It's a neat concept, but it has that way-off-the-mark tragedy you normally only find in sci-fi written back half a century or more. That alone wouldn't be a major detraction, but coupling it with the vaguely awful writing just does not paint the author in a very flattering light. There's too much drab dialogue, too much monologuing, and too many hokey, one-dimensional characters that lack any kind of intriguing edge. It's not a bad world, mind you; the multicultural approach to casting was a good idea (if crappily executed), and as a Dwarf Fortress enthusiast I can't say the concept wasn't interesting, but the book could stand to lose a good 60% of its page count. Top it all off with the fact that this trilogy-launcher spends an unforgivable amount of time building up to something interesting before hitting you with a whammy of a cliffhanger and you have a book best left unstarted. I'm curious about what comes next, but not enough to start book 2 in this lifetime....more
While the first two entries in the The Strain series weren't exactly good books, they were at least fun. Del Toro's got a knack for monster design, anWhile the first two entries in the The Strain series weren't exactly good books, they were at least fun. Del Toro's got a knack for monster design, and the series served as an excellent vehicle for that. In spite of the hokey dialogue and action-flick writing quality, my 10-year-old self loved the grotesque ugly bastards.
By The Night Eternal, del Toro's all out of horror ammo. The vampires never manage to do more than occasionally kill off bit characters, and the Master's more concerned with gloaming around his evil lair than doing anything actually impressive. On top of that, the world has essentially ended and it's made everyone so dreary and annoying. The most interesting character went and kamikazed at the end of book 2, and the remaining cast is just generally pretty flat and colorless. There are still some fun spots here and there, but overall I can't say this is worth the read....more
A more substantial summary: One of the best alternative history novels I've ever had the pleasure to read, The Handmaid'In short: The feminist "1984."
A more substantial summary: One of the best alternative history novels I've ever had the pleasure to read, The Handmaid's Tale is the agonizing, fascinating story of a woman who has spent three years dissolving in the militant, ultra-zealous theocracy the USA devolved into late in the twentieth century. Like all good dystopias, it skirts the border of plausability, and although it was published in 1985, the issues covered within are still alive and well and horrifying today. I absolutely recommend this book, so long as you can enjoy something that leaves you hurting after the fact....more
I don't think I like Katniss anymore, which is a real shame since she was a pretty nifty protagonist in The Hunger Games. She was believably naive aboI don't think I like Katniss anymore, which is a real shame since she was a pretty nifty protagonist in The Hunger Games. She was believably naive about life and love in spite of her tough-as-nails survivalist upbringing, and by basing the book almost entirely in the Games, we got to see her be bad-ass and sensitive in a perfect ratio that made the book work well enough as popcorn fiction.
No such luck in the sequel. Instead, we're treated to half a book's worth of confused political canoodling and human interest stories in a world where Katniss is no longer just some girl from the slums of the Seam. Instead, due to her bold defiance in book 1, she's now an admired revolutionary, adored by the oppressed and feared by those in power, and all the boys love her and she gets EVEN MORE pretty dresses and the president has determined that she is his ultimate nemesis. The sense of restraint and scale in the first book is long gone, and instead we are given an unpleasantly dense teen girl hero facing off against illogical, irrational, cartoon super-villainy. As much as I like books espousing standing tall in defiance of "the man", Catching Fire's presentation of "the man" as an old albino gentleman named Mr. Snow with blood on his breath and a passion for needlessly starving millions is probably causing more harm than good.
Katniss' passion has somehow turned into incoherent, hysterical whining, but when she finally shuts her dramatic monologue-hole in the second half of the book, at least we're presented with another round of the Hunger Games. A new Dungeons & Dragons arena has been devised, filled with more traps and terrors than ever before, but we've already seen this play and the twists and turns aren't all that unpredictable. There's not enough time to grow attached to the new cast of characters, and the old crew has long since worn out their welcome by this point. I'm certain that I'm not the target audience for this book, but I really hope this isn't the height of young adult fiction today....more
A world where gargantuan warships soar via the magnificent force of the 8TH SPECTRUM OF PROPULSION!
A world where NUDE SWORDSMEN engage in the MOST INTA world where gargantuan warships soar via the magnificent force of the 8TH SPECTRUM OF PROPULSION!
A world where NUDE SWORDSMEN engage in the MOST INTIMATE OF DANCES with countless armed combatants!
A world where ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE through the modern miracle of RADIUM TECHNOLOGY!
I came across this book by accident, finding it in a random plastic bag on my kitchen table and picking it up more for a good laugh than expecting anything substantial. About a page in, I discovered two immutable facts:
1) I was actually reading a book about the heroic adventures of John Carter, a southerner Civil War vet who somehow found his way to the savage, dying planet of Mars.
2) I would like to know more of this instantly-charming gentleman/poet/champion of the civilized world.
My low expectations were immediately corrected once I fell into the rhythm of the narrator's incredible and ridiculous antics. While the century-old story sounds like something you'd find in a junion high D&D session, the author gets your inner child all riled up and rarin' to go on impossible adventures, free of the tedium of politics or sexy-shenanigans. Beyond that though, you'll find the seeds of so many future science fiction greats here, from the sober Dune to the stupidly drunk Flash Gordon.
It's a short read that captures you up and flies by in an instant, an excellent classic popcorn piece for between headier fare. Find it, read it, love it, and look forward(?) to the upcoming movie....more