Nothing earth-shattering, McKinney nonetheless manages to fuse his book with violent urban zombFor my full-length review, please visit Casual Debris.
Nothing earth-shattering, McKinney nonetheless manages to fuse his book with violent urban zombie adventure and a few scattered comments on the decline of modern society. There were elements I liked and elements I liked less, but I appreciate his attempt to cover so many elements common to zombie fiction. Besides the violent action and social touches, we are given a narrow geographical setting, philosophical brooding, scientific speculation, episodic scenarios, varied characters of varying race and gender, character tensions, dialogue, family drama, a range of arsenal, slow deaths and quick deaths, and slow zombies and quick moving zombies. Surprisingly the end result is not a mess.
My preferred elements included the focus on police procedure, and the personal character elements which heightened the overall drama. McKinney was once a police officer and is clearly comfortable writing from the point of view of a young cop trying to survive a zombie uprising. The knowledge of everything from weapons, police vehicles and police procedure make the read interesting and somewhat educational. In fact, protagonist and narrator Eddie Hudson is believable as both cop and brand new father. The attention to Hudson's concern for wife and son are not at all sappy, but are rather welcome in the midst of zombie gore.
A few things I would have done without. The early references to zombie movies mar the suspension of disbelief as they place the story in a fictional context. Moreover, if the characters are familiar with the dead of Romero and others, they would immediately shoot at the zombie heads rather than their chests. Anyone familiar with the genre would instinctively go for the head shot.
SPOILER ALERT. There are some missed character opportunities, particularly with Channel 9 reporter Sandy Navarro. There is a three-way tension built into the story when the sexy reporter appears, and I was getting psyched up for some character tension amid the urban chaos, yet it doesn't go anywhere, and when the three drive off from their meeting, Sandy becomes a non-character (as though leaving the church turns her into a zombie), and she sits quietly in the back seat until she's devoured. Literally.
While the first person narration is surprisingly good, with consistent and fluid sentences, the dialogue is at times weak, particularly with the bantering between cops Hudson and Marcus. The humour also doesn't work as it feels forced.
Finally, the occasional typos and grammatical errors were irritating. Copy editors should learn the proper use of lay and lie.
The good outweighs the bad and at some point, when the mood grips me, I'll likely pick up its sequel....more
Despite being a great novel, I was slightly disappointed with John Fowles's The Collector. The novel teFor my full review, please visit Casual Debris.
Despite being a great novel, I was slightly disappointed with John Fowles's The Collector. The novel tells the story of social outcast butterfly collector Frederick Clegg who, after having come into a considerable sum of money, kidnaps young art student Miranda and keeps her captive in his basement. The first part of the book is told through Clegg's point of view, while the second is told through Miranda's, with a brief return to Clegg at the end.
The novel is great in its treatment of character and how it plays with the readers' sympathies. Clegg is an unusual kidnapper as he does nothing to hurt Miranda, but rather fawns over her, tolerates her every mood and does his best to please her, though with the exception of giving her her freedom. Despite being clearly disturbed and doing something terribly wrong, he is not "evil" the way in which we imagine kidnappers to be. During his narrative we grow to like Miranda, who is a spunky and intelligent twenty year-old. I was rooting for her to get the best of Clegg in their little game of outwitting each other, or rather of Miranda trying to outwit Clegg's obsessively careful game of warden. I found the first part fascinating because, though I was rooting for Miranda, it was all told through Clegg's point of view.
Jarring is the point of view shift half-way through, yet it is meant to be jarring (like this sentence). Now we are reading Miranda's journal, and our impression of her soon changes drastically. She is an unbelievably arrogant woman who thinks highly of herself and looks down without hesitation on others, including Clegg. Like Clegg she too is the collector of the title, as she collects and examines and catalogues the people around her. Of course there is no physical collecting on her part, though she has learned to keep herself captive amid her arrogant and narrow world view; there's no pinning of wings and keeping anything under glass, yet her sharp mind and sense of self allows her to pin people metaphorically, and examine them through the glass of her eyes. While I was still rooting for her to escape since Clegg's crime is greater and more accessible, she was no longer the spunky Miranda that we meet through Clegg's point of view.
My disappointment in the novel is fairly basic. I was so involved with Clegg's point of view that the switch to Miranda was not overly welcome. While I did get into Miranda's story, it lumbered on and became a little repetitive. Fowles makes his arguments clear and there was no need to have so many lengthy spiels in her diary, or so many scenes devoted to Miranda's playboy mentor G.P. Once I'd finished the novel, however, I found myself liking it more than when I was reading these sequences, at times wanting them to end quickly. With The Collector Fowles has given us a fascinating read incorporating two characters that are simultaneously likeable and despicable, and a finish which, though a little predictable for our time, is nonetheless quite disturbing....more
A neat premise and a few promising details are all that that this short novel has to offer. A group of people are trapped inside a hardware store whilA neat premise and a few promising details are all that that this short novel has to offer. A group of people are trapped inside a hardware store while the people outside are mysteriously transforming into piles of salt. Characters speculate as to what is causing the strange apocalypse, with chemical agents of terrorism or God's judgement being the prime suspects. The main problems with the story are weak writing, poor characterization, inattention to detail, wholly absent atmosphere and wasted plot opportunities. (Pretty much everything other than its premise.)
John Buchan's short novel, written while he was laid up, is an improbable spy thriller chase story.For my complete review, please visit Casual Debris
John Buchan's short novel, written while he was laid up, is an improbable spy thriller chase story. At times comical with the occasional moment of suspense, the spy thriller genre has advanced to all lengths of complexity that The Thirty-Nine Steps feels incredibly tame and occasionally silly. Thankfully it is short. What saves the novel from being more than a pulpy joke is the solid writing and the charming narrator. My favourite sequence is the opening, where our Scottish hero Richard Hannay is describing his incredible boredom. He sees a homeless man yawning and gives him some change in a moment of pure empathy.
The amount of coincidence and luck that the story relies on is, by modern standards, not just unbelievable but, sadly, a little irritating. Hiding in the moorlands Hannay happens to meet someone he knows. He happens to stumble upon the hooded owl's lair, happens to find explosives when convenient, happens to walk into a Sir Walter's house in time to see one of the bad guys in disguise, and so on and so forth. Nearly every plot element relies heavily in such unlikely fortunes, that a modern reader will soon grow weary of the tale and wary of its author. Despite these shortcomings, and if you can manage to swallow the coincidences, as a quick, charming read, it manages to be good fun....more
Published in 1913, this oft-reprinted anthology edited by Lemuel Arthur Pittenger is an interesting document in the annals of the evolution of the shoPublished in 1913, this oft-reprinted anthology edited by Lemuel Arthur Pittenger is an interesting document in the annals of the evolution of the short story. Pittenger's anthology is quite elementary, though many of his ideas hold up, as do the ideas of Edgar Allan Poe. Pittenger, however, emphasises the importance of the notion of morality, which is both dated and suited to a younger audience (the anthology was aimed at high school level readers). The selection of stories is fairly common, though should be read, and for the most part I was impressed with the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson, who I haven't read in some time.
For an in-depth review on Pittenger's introduction, please visit Casual Debris. For a discussion and analysis of the individual works, please visit this page of Casual Debris....more
At eighty-two pages, Shock Totem #2 is slim, attractive and promising. I often prefer shorter periodicals as the lengthier issues seem to be stuffed wAt eighty-two pages, Shock Totem #2 is slim, attractive and promising. I often prefer shorter periodicals as the lengthier issues seem to be stuffed with filler material, and with a total of fifty-seven pages of fiction, I opened the glossy cover waiting for a wallop of prose.
Now, the first thing I'm naturally itching to do is compare issue two with the first, solid launch. Both are attractive, sporting great, easy on the eye cover art (both issues by Hicham Haddaji), nice glassy binding and good quality paper. Internal improvements include better font which makes for easier reading, though the interior artwork is a little unclear and hence I pretty much ignored it. Content-wise the stories here are not as consistently strong as they were in issue one, though the concepts are more interesting. Darker-themed and modern ideas work well with the good mixture of dark fiction, brushes with postmodernism and much welcomed moments of absurdity and surrealism. The problem is that while there are a couple of really strong stories ("The Rat Burner," "Sweepers," "The Rainbow Serpent"), there are also a couple of obviously weaker ones which makes me think it was for the best that the editors waited a year to release issue two. Many of the stories don't quite work because their good ideas are not fully developed ("Pretty Little Ghouls," "Leave Me the Way I Was Found"), and the abundance of flash fiction is an unfortunate let-down.
At the same time it's great that the editors weren't daunted by tweaking the journal's overall content, and are offering us something different, as though we were reading independent anthologies rather than two volumes of the same periodical. Shock Totem deserves an audience and I recommend the purchase.
The novel tells the overlapping narratives of a hit-man known as "The Butcher's Boy" who gets caught amid tensions of the organized crime assortment,The novel tells the overlapping narratives of a hit-man known as "The Butcher's Boy" who gets caught amid tensions of the organized crime assortment, and an intelligent and hard-working Justice Department crime analyst on her first field assignment. The Butcher's Boy is a good read, both tense and interesting. The tension is generated by a smart, nameless hit-man trying to outrun the criminals determined to find and kill him. The interesting bits come from the fact that the various judicial parties of the United States are improperly organized, work poorly together amid professional diplomacies and lack of straightforward communication, and essentially foil an investigation that our young analyst, Elizabeth Waring, works so hard to piece together. The two separate narratives work well side by side with only a few plodding moments in an otherwise well-paced thriller. I bought the plot except for one all-too convenient encounter near the end.
The problems with the novel are more social than technical. For one thing, having been written in the archaic heyday of those dark ages known as the 1980s (yes kids, the 80s are not a myth that your parents have made up just to freak you out; they really did happen). Characters spend far too much time looking for telephones, waiting to be transferred and placing messages that even a semi-Luddite such as I is now considering getting a cell phone. There is even a scene when Waring asks where the police keep their computers, as though the entire precinct shares two. Earlier novels get away with their own ancient forms of technology, but reading something fairly modern, written shortly before the computer craze, feels somehow odd. Of course I don't blame Perry or the novel for this, but rather I blame the world that we have created.
I ended up reading Slam simply because I had a copy lying around that a neighbour had tossed away, and I was only half-way through when I learned thatI ended up reading Slam simply because I had a copy lying around that a neighbour had tossed away, and I was only half-way through when I learned that Slam is a Young Adult novel. Perhaps that says a good amount about me, needing to be told the genre of this book, or any mainstream book, but whatever the analysis I was a bit sorry to have made that discovery, since it may have prejudiced my reading a little.
Yet, I sort of enjoyed the novel. Whether classified Young Adult or Geriatric, the book was somewhat enjoyable but altogether frustrating. I laughed at times and was surprised at times. Laughing and being surprised are part of a positive experience. I was also annoyed at times, even frustrated. I'm no expert on adolescent or teen psychology and won't pretend to know the latest theories on how Hornby or anyone can affect the young mind by creating such an irresponsible, self-centred teenager... Wait. Isn't the point of being a teenager to be self-centred and irresponsible? Sigh... I guess Hornby gets away with it.
What frustrated me the most was the lack of purpose and direction.The lack of direction, more so than purpose, deposited a sediment of doubt for the novel's overall effect, and that doubt was proven true when, after reading each milestone Sam and Alicia must experience, I am left thinking that the scene is exactly as I'd expected it to be. Though is was consistently funny.
There is not a single story in the collection I did not like, and there are at least three that really stand out. What I like about Clegg, or at leastThere is not a single story in the collection I did not like, and there are at least three that really stand out. What I like about Clegg, or at least about these stories, is that they are well written, patiently constructed, with a healthy emphasis on characterization. The stories are framed by a narrative in which a woman named Alice and her two sons have kidnapped a boy for ransom. It turns out that this boy is not quite of this world, and has the ability to project nightmares onto his captors. The nightmares he projects are the thirteen stories. While the framing narrative is unnecessary, and not as well constructed as the stories themselves, it is still nonetheless interesting.
There are a number of themes & ideas that appear throughout the work. There is emphasis on religion, relationships and skin. Religion appears in various forms, from misled zealots to avenging angel-monsters. Relationships vary throughout, from unfaithful lovers to masculine prison love, and all forms of familial relations, and its the tightness of some of the relationships that makes the threats in the stories all the more frightening.
Finally, skin makes several appearances throughout. Clegg deals frequently with human skin and the strange worlds that we hide underneath. We have skins acting as trophies, metamorphosing, housing other creatures and even embodying strange worlds. We even receive brief lessons regarding insects and exoskeletons, that, unlike us, have their soft spots safely on the inside. Overall, the skins in these stories generated a better framework than the story of Alice and the kidnapped boy-devil, and I enjoyed Clegg's ideas regarding skin so much that I waited for its appearance in each piece.
For my full-length review of the collection & its individual stories, please visit Casual Debris....more
My response to Michael Crichton's best-known work was surprising: I was highly entertained. Despite its contentious sci(My rating's a 3.5/5, or 7/10.)
My response to Michael Crichton's best-known work was surprising: I was highly entertained. Despite its contentious science, half-formed characters and overly long sequences, Jurassic Park is a good read. The set-up is long yet interesting, as Crichton speculates about the details of bringing dinosaurs back to life, along with the tightly considered aspects of creating and running a dinosaur amusement park. Indeed the set-up is the stronger portion of the novel, since the latter half is burdened by the overly long chase and attack sequences, and the over-written, often annoying rantings of mathematician Ian Malcolm.
Malcolm comes across as Crichton in disguise. A raving chaos theorist, he is the antithesis to Jurassic Park's creator and mad corporate man, John Hammond (perhaps the first mad scientist who isn't actually a scientist at all, though corporatism is a form of modern science). Both characters are portrayed as narrow-minded in their obsessive world views (Malcolm unintentionally), though we see that Crichton's sympathies lie with the mathematician if only because his long-winded rants remain unchallenged by other characters, aside from Hammond's "I don't know what you're talking about."
What Malcolm and Crichton are talking about is the notion of responsibility.
Thirteen short stories and one novelette over 160 pages. There are no stand-out stories in thisFor my full length review, please visit Casual Debris.
Thirteen short stories and one novelette over 160 pages. There are no stand-out stories in this issue, the strongest being Clark Howard's lead-in piece "The Peregrine," Gloria Ericson's "See No Evil" and "The Five-Minute Millionaire," by James Cross. The only real downer is D. S. Halacy Jr.'s "Hard Headed Cop," which falls apart due to the plot's latter turn of convenience....more
Issue three of Dark Moon Digest has a revamped cover style, and it's a grand improvement. The loFor my full-length review, please visit Casual Debris.
Issue three of Dark Moon Digest has a revamped cover style, and it's a grand improvement. The logo, layout and design, and the truly creepy cover artwork, make for an attractive issue. The handsome work is credited to Whendy Muchlis Effendy.
Once again DMD features a wide array of media, including short stories, flash fiction, longer prose excerpts, graphic work, calls for submission, and sentence-long micro-fiction....more
I should not have read this book. If only because the movie appears decidedly better. Directed by Alfred Sole and released in 1976, Communion has theI should not have read this book. If only because the movie appears decidedly better. Directed by Alfred Sole and released in 1976, Communion has the reputation of being a little-known thriller that deserves to be well-know, a "lost classic," essentially. It deals with a horrifying murder and touches on issues of repression, child abuse and the ills of organized religion. The novelization is simply unnecessary. But the cover is quite nicely creepy.