This is a sweet, deeply inclusive book that reminded me of a not-scary Leviathan Wakes. It's been recommended to me by friends because of its portrayaThis is a sweet, deeply inclusive book that reminded me of a not-scary Leviathan Wakes. It's been recommended to me by friends because of its portrayal of a diverse cast of characters, all of whom vary in appearance, gender identity, and sexuality, and it was nice to read kind stories about a cast that wasn't dependent on the viewpoint of white, cis, straight guys (which is something that the Expanse is sort of ok at too)(I don't read a lot of spaceship books, which is why I keep drawing that comparison). Chambers is obviously very fond of her crew and I was too, especially Kizzy. Their camaraderie was a lot of fun, but even though I truly enjoyed the diversity and the lightheartedness, I eventually found myself bored with the story. This felt like YA to me, which of course is not a bad thing, but YA isn't really my cup of tea. Three stars for the joy of simply experiencing thoughtful portrayals of a variety of characters, especially right now, but I'm not in a terrible hurry for the sequel....more
Pros: The relationship between Elka and Penelope, everything about being in the forest, the scary as heck situation with Missy, Magistrate Lyon (althoPros: The relationship between Elka and Penelope, everything about being in the forest, the scary as heck situation with Missy, Magistrate Lyon (although I could've sworn she wasn't a blond), and (view spoiler)[cannibalism! (hide spoiler)]
Cons: The repetitive nature of Elka's inner monologue, the magic wolf, and the conflicting metaphors used to cloud Trapper's actions (view spoiler)[When she first twigs to his murdering, she talks about him going on wolf hunts & that's the euphemism for "kidnapping women & chasing them through the forest & killing them." Okay. But then it's "deer" that they're butchering, and then it's "pigs" that they're seasoning and I know it's a little thing but I got kind of tired of it after 300 pages. He doesn't come back with anything, just covered in blood when he hunts "wolves," but Elka only talks about one specific time where she goes "deer" hunting, so where are all these other "deer" they butcher coming from? Possibly they were killing literal deer all of these other times but I got the sense that the reader was supposed to call every previous mention of deer into question after getting that reveal. Although I figured that the deal was going to be that Elka just didn't "see" the fact that they'd been eating people the whole time, especially after she saw Josh as a deer in her snare instead of a person, by the end of the book I found that I preferred the notion that Trapper went "wolf hunting" on his own & she just didn't know what was up. But that bit about Nana was COLD (hide spoiler)]
I don't feel like three stars is the best rating for a novel that I liked well enough to read in two days yet have a lot of little annoyances with, but since there are no half stars this is where we're at. This kept me up really late one night in a bit of a daze, unable to put the book down during the saga of Elka & Penelope & the boat and all of that, but I was over Elka by the last 50 or so pages. I feel like this could have used a more strenuous beta read and a little more editorial tightening, but I do thank Lewis for going there since not many authors will. Two and a half....more
The horror of a totalitarian dictatorship exists in its gulags, in the violent squashing of dissent, in its brutal removal of those who disagree. "I lThe horror of a totalitarian dictatorship exists in its gulags, in the violent squashing of dissent, in its brutal removal of those who disagree. "I later learned that this was Ri Yong-ho, the Vice Marshal of the Korean People's Arm, who was removed from his post by Kim Jong-un in July 2012. He has not been seen in public since, and it is believed that he was either sent to a political prison camp of executed." But this book is a testament to the more banal horror in the lives of everyday people, in what they are not allowed to do and say, in the brainwashing of an entire country's worth of citizens who are taught to believe that they are the best, that their Great Leader is the best, even as they are malnourished and go without electricity, warmth, and humane treatment.
Suki Kim was given a list in preparation for her time at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology that reads like it should be included in the book of short horror stories I just read:
Do not approach or start a conversation with anybody outside the campus. A minder and a driver will always accompany you. All trips require permission beforehand.
When you talk to students, be very careful about the topic of conversation. Never hint that there is something wrong with their country.
Pray with your eyes open. No foreign magazines or books will be allowed in Pyongyang except those declared and pre-approved.
Do not speak Korean and always use English. Remember that people around you will know English and understand what you are saying, so be careful what you say.
Do not get into long conversations with the guards or minders.
Do not make comparisons. Be careful with gifts. You must not give one thing to one person. It could be considered a bribe.
Everything you do and say will be watched. Even your dorm room may not be secure. They could go through your things. If you keep a journal and if you say something that is not complimentary, please do not leave it in your room. Even in your room, whatever you say could be recorded.
"We accepted our situation meekly. How quickly we became prisoners, how quickly we gave up our freedom, how quickly we tolerated the loss of that freedom, like a child being abused, in silence." ...more
I am totally not going to make a joke about how life these days is just one scary story after another . . .
I'm usually skeptical of collections likeI am totally not going to make a joke about how life these days is just one scary story after another . . .
I'm usually skeptical of collections like this. I don't know if I'm picky or what, but I usually don't find the claim of ". . . in each and every one there was that icy frisson of fear . . ." to be accurate as far as my tastes go, but color me pleasantly surprised because five out of six of these are really solid and creepy and well worth the read, and two of them are so good I've continued to think about them a day after reading this and it doesn't get any better than that. Mild discussion of the contents of each story, and while I'm not planning to give much away, read no further if you want to go in completely blind like I did.
"Wild Swimming" - This story had a line that truly made me shake: "I'm very used to lakes, the fact that there's nothing but dark below you, going down tens, often hundreds of feet." Um, yeah, no. We went camping several times this summer at a site that had a lake that people could swim in. I found that when I got out to where my feet could no longer touch the bottom, I tended to panic a bit & flail around until I got to shallower waters. I know how to swim so it wasn't that I was afraid of foundering in water over my head, and I know that there are no sharks in mountain lakes no matter what my six-year-old would like me to believe, but the thought of dark, watery space below me fills me with such unreasonable revulsion that I couldn't do much more than wade (but the wading was nice). Elodie Harper might not have intended this to be the scariest part of her story, but it added such an element of aversion for me that I ended up really enjoying this despite being able to immediately predict what was going to happen.
"Eau-de-Eric" The weakest one of the bunch. I understand that the horror is supposed to be in Kathy's actions rather than Ellie's stuffed animal, but this escalated in a way that I found really artificial (view spoiler)[particularly Ellie biting her mother repeatedly (hide spoiler)].
"The Spots" This is one of the stories that stuck with me. I just finished Without You, There is No Us, a non-fiction account from a teacher in North Korean, and the description of The Leader, the single leopard remaining in the People's Menagerie, the "November plotters," the basement of The Great Hall of Conciliation, etc. were so apt I assumed at the beginning I was reading specifically about the DPRK. Five stars for this one.
"The Unpicking" Ahhhh! Brecht Evens's Panter is one of the most unsettling books I read this year and it apparently left me with the lasting impression that (view spoiler)[stuffed animals (hide spoiler)] are completely evil, so the actions of the group in this story haunt me still. "'Oh. An Unpicking doesn't have rules. And we don't need any balls, or mats, or skittles. We do need someone to be the Baby. I think Bunny would make a good Baby.'" Shudder.
"La Mort de L'amant" A perfect case study in how an author can ramp up tension without saying too much. "He drew a hidden thumb across a hidden handle." By littering a few careful words across the landscape of his story, Stuart Johnstone builds pressure and makes you draw your own conclusions about what has happened. I love it when authors can do that.
"The Bear Trap" I honestly didn't see that coming. (view spoiler)[In much the same way that I didn't realize how much I needed to have Isaiah Quintabe foil an abductor with a grenade launcher until I read it, I didn't know how much I needed to see a young boy triumph over a thief by feeding him to his pet bear until I read that. (hide spoiler)]...more
A delightful revisiting of characters from Sandman. While the story meanders a bit too much & the mystery & eventual reveal are tepid, this waA delightful revisiting of characters from Sandman. While the story meanders a bit too much & the mystery & eventual reveal are tepid, this was just such a nostalgia trip for Season of Mists I don't really care about its flaws (although I have to cry foul at the dutiful, psychotic woman being a big fat chic because that's just weak). It was especially nice to see Mazikeen again, and Matthew. The artwork is grim & lovely, the dialogue is sometimes perfect, and there's a scene on a greyhound bus that made me laugh out loud, so this is definitely one of the few series that I've read this year that I have any interest in keeping up with....more
A rare dud from the usually great Steve Mosby. Perhaps I missed out on some of the gravitas of the main case in this book flashing back to the 50/50 KA rare dud from the usually great Steve Mosby. Perhaps I missed out on some of the gravitas of the main case in this book flashing back to the 50/50 Killer since I haven't read that one yet, but the inclusion of the great detective Mercer fell flat for me, the concurrent (view spoiler)[or are they? I mean, I guess this is the spoiler cut so I can say that no, no they are not concurrent at all, but the reader is supposed to think so until 2/3rds of the way through so there can be a big aha moment (hide spoiler)] cases didn't mesh well, and honestly, I am so not into reading about (view spoiler)[pedophilia (hide spoiler)]. ...more
"'As circulation improves over the next couple weeks, you'll start to get a persistent tingling, and then you'll need physical therapy to work toward"'As circulation improves over the next couple weeks, you'll start to get a persistent tingling, and then you'll need physical therapy to work toward regular functioning. Then, around early October, a massive object will strike Earth and you will die.'"
I enjoyed this a lot more than the first one, particularly since I feel like The Last Detective was written in third person even though I'm almost certain I'm incorrect about that, which contributed to my feeling put off by Hank Palace. I liked him a lot more as a character here even as I recoiled from the deus ex machina that attended his every move & laughed every time his bichon frise menaced another character (insert photo of tiny yappy dog here). I'm more of a sucker for that murky area in an apocalypse timeline where everything starts to break down and this book is all about that, especially towards the end - the growing lack of utilities, society beginning to crumble, generalized lawlessness abounding & your more unsavory elements coming into their own, particularly Cortez, the wise-cracking master thief with scruples and a "juiced up" staple gun. I'm particularly endeared of one passage towards the end where the shit has hit the fan and Palace observes, among other horrors, "A family of five hightailing it on foot down the center of the road, dad carrying two kids to his chest, mom carrying one, looking back anxiously the way they came." I read this at night in my bed and experienced a moment of visceral terror that made my heart grow cold, imagining having to go through something like this with my own little twerp, who is too big to carry & would be incapable of keeping up and/or treating such a dire situation with the seriousness it deserved (I have also pictured scenarios where I try to enforce his silence because, say, there are zombies in the house & since he cannot. refrain. from. talking. to save his life it would probably end very badly) and while sometimes I don't enjoy feeling horrified in such a way, it turns out that sometimes I really enjoy it & this was one of those times, so thanks Ben H. Winters. ...more
Panther is the story of Christine, whose pet cat is put to sleep in the opening pages. She is visited by Panther, a magical emissary from Pantherland,Panther is the story of Christine, whose pet cat is put to sleep in the opening pages. She is visited by Panther, a magical emissary from Pantherland, who comes out of her dresser drawer to tell her all about his country and get inappropriately touchy. Panther is never overtly abusive to Christine, leaving the reader with no solid evidence of exactly what his motivation might be, but the fact that he’s grooming her is clear even without knowing to what end and the entire book is permeated with a sense of dread as the reader watches a trusting child be manipulated. Her stuffed toy Bonzo tries to write a warning about Panther on her bedroom wall, then goes missing and comes back from a visit to Pantherland with a lot more teeth than before. Christine’s birthday rolls around, Panther throws her a party with a lot of disturbing guests from the dresser drawer, and things go terribly awry for the little girl. The reader (thankfully) isn’t shown explicitly how Christine is hurt in the end, and she is unable to articulate it herself, simply voicing her sense of violation with words that belie her own naiveté: “Those weren’t real friends!” Panther tries to console her even as he pushes his agenda, but the damage has already been done. Christine doesn’t need to know exactly what happened to her to understand that her body isn’t a safe place anymore.
This is a tough book to review; I’ve seen it compared in many places to Vehlmann’s Beautiful Darkness (dubious thanks to Karen’s comment thread, which was where I first saw this comparison), so this seemed a natural next choice of disturbing graphic novel for me since I adored the savage artwork and grotesque storyline of that book, but this saddened me in a way that BD did not. I'm all for delightful creepiness but this hit a little too close to home for me, both as a mom and a woman. ...more
This contains enough casual racism to make the modern progressive reader weary (in fact I was surprised to see that it was written in 1993 since it seThis contains enough casual racism to make the modern progressive reader weary (in fact I was surprised to see that it was written in 1993 since it seems way more dated than that), but besides all that, it is also really, really funny, so it's got that going for it. ...more
**spoiler alert** This reminds me a lot of that Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity, which terrified me even though it was supposed to be a comedy. Ther**spoiler alert** This reminds me a lot of that Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity, which terrified me even though it was supposed to be a comedy. There's one specific scene where he wakes up from being cloned again & asks another Michael Keaton how it went & I can't remember the context, but you think that the MK who's woken up is the real one but another MK tells him, "But you're the clone," and I am not at all cool with that level of unreliable narration/character disconnect/whatever you want to call it. I had sort of a soft spot for all of the other Jasons, because weren't they (except for Jason2) the real Jason just as much as the narrator? Even though some of them were psychotically unhinged because of what they'd seen? I'm glad Daniela & Charlie were happy with the Jason they got, but I felt bad for the rest of them who had to stand down.
That multiplying Jasons bit made me like this more than I'd expected to - it was a pretty okay story for the most part, and thank god Amanda left Jason eventually, although she should have done it several doors earlier if you ask me, but that scene in the gun store and then the chat room? Excellent. I'm also a big fan of the various worlds, especially the contagion world, because I love reading horrible stuff like National Guard curfews & "put a red cloth in the window if you're sick" for some reason.
Qualms = it would have been nice to see more about how Amanda coped with the fact that she was forced out of her own life so she could follow around the guy trying to get back to his - it was frustrating that she got a few lines to bring up the tragic spinster elements of her life, the classic dog (surprisingly not a cat!), apartment, and "wine" (good grief) that were all she had to go back to, then she just tagged along with Jason with nary a moment of reflection for herself until she finally ditched him. Also, Crouch seems to like that enter key! as in, using it after typing every period, but it took me about three hours to read this as a result & I need to pad my reading challenge so I won't knock it any more than to just bring it up....more
The vertiginous veering between four stars and two! This starts out with a bang, reminiscent of Stephen King’s short story N. inasmuch as it involvesThe vertiginous veering between four stars and two! This starts out with a bang, reminiscent of Stephen King’s short story N. inasmuch as it involves a patient/psychiatrist relationship that devolves due to the patient’s growing influence over their doctor. While I find most of the conspiracy theories discussed implausible, it’s still fun for me to suspend disbelief and wonder 'What If' along with the protagonist, Jack Felter – what if the fluoride in our water is there to keep us docile instead of cavity-free? What really is the deal with contrails? Is the paranoid Cole actually on to something or is Jack being sucked into his delusion?
There's a lot of exciting buildup, but once the story heads into what does it all mean territory, the writing begins to rush. The characters are heading somewhere for most of the book, but once they get there, actions are compressed and sensible explanations go by the wayside; in particular, there's some totally egregious stuff about teleporting belts to save the day that made me roll my eyes. Everything about their destination seems a little weird but nothing about that gets explored. At least seven weeks of plot happen off-page, and then the story veered straight downhill and I almost stopped reading altogether (view spoiler)[I am not interested in the slightest in being asked to root for our heroes as they crash planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and kill hundreds of people. It’s a bold move for Renner to attempt to change that narrative, to make it that his characters are trying to save America from the Great Forgetting and never intended to kill all of those people, and I honestly loathed it. At some point I was trying to explain to B why I found the 9/11 revision so distasteful & he told me that he thought the re-imagining of WWII was just as bad. I disagree, simply because this book doesn't make any bones about WWII being bad - it's still atrocity, it's even much worse. Changing 9/11 from a terrorist attack to something that's being perpetrated by the good guys of the story grosses me out, especially when someone, Captain I think, makes the case that the "collateral damage" who might be killed would surely be down to die in the name of ending the Great Forgetting.
The writing goes downhill altogether once everyone gets to Mu, and the last 40 or so pages make me feel like Renner had a page cap that he was rushing towards, so he cut tons of stuff that would actually make the denouement make sense, as atrocious as it was. The death of Jean pisses me off in particular. (hide spoiler)] Just writing this is making me angry at the ending all over again. Two and 1/2 stars. ...more
The worst hell ever! Books times infinity, but filled almost entirely with gibberish. Also a hell eventually tainted by the religious right, surprise,The worst hell ever! Books times infinity, but filled almost entirely with gibberish. Also a hell eventually tainted by the religious right, surprise, surprise. What a drag. I think that Peck missed a big opportunity near the end (view spoiler)[I was reaaallly hoping that everyone would've been crying about someone finding the book of their life & getting to leave rather than Dr. Whomever since I don't have the book in front of me anymore actually finishing his calculations, but oh well (hide spoiler)] but this was still a nice little sci-fi-ish/horror-ish short....more