Acclaimed novelist Paul Sheldon, badly injured in a car accident, is held captive by deranged super-fan Annie Wilkes. A former RN, she vows to aid him...moreAcclaimed novelist Paul Sheldon, badly injured in a car accident, is held captive by deranged super-fan Annie Wilkes. A former RN, she vows to aid him back to health until he’s well enough to make the trek to a hospital. However, it’s on one condition; he write a new novel featuring his signature character Misery Chastain - just for her.
Outside of the legendary Randall Flagg, Annie Wilkes has to be the most terrifying villain King created. Mentally unbalanced and completely unpredictable, she’s everything you want in a horror novel “bad guy”. Driven by an insane goal, to see Misery Chastain resurrected from the dead and once again placed into the literary world, Annie will do anything to make sure Paul Sheldon “makes it right” with a novel written just for her. If Paul decides to make this process difficult, well, she has ways of making him write.
Having not seen the classic 1990 Rob Reiner film, I went into Misery blind. I knew next to nothing about the story other than Kathy Bates taking the Oscar for best actress and that very famous “wooden block scene”. If you think that was hard to watch, try giving the book a read - things get graphic and Annie’s punishments are downright brutal.
Seeing as Misery - for the most part - is a two person show, King writes both characters with a tremendous sense of depth. These are two characters who are far from cookie cut-outs of the “heroic” protagonist and the “crazy” antagonist. King kept me guessing right up to the very end, wondering what would happen - would Paul kill himself? Would Annie kill him and then herself out of desperation? Would Paul kill his captor and escape? I honestly didn't know - which was fantastic.
After a particularly brutal finale, in which King blew my mind with the sheer ugliness of it all, he’s still intent on scaring the crap out the reader. Lesson learned - King isn't truly finished until the book is closed. Misery is loaded with suspense and despite the story taking place over a period of several months, a sense of absolute urgency is constantly at the forefront. King should teach classes on pacing alone.
Jude Coyne, a middle aged former front man of an immensely popular metal band, is obsessed with the occult. His assistant finds a post online advertis...moreJude Coyne, a middle aged former front man of an immensely popular metal band, is obsessed with the occult. His assistant finds a post online advertising a ghost-for-sale and being the collector he is, Jude decides that he must have it. When a heart-shaped package shows up, it contains nothing but an old raggedy suit. However, it isn't long before the suit brings about unexplained events and spooky behaviour throughout Coyne’s mansion. With his sanity hanging by a thread, can Jude exorcise the demon from his home or will he himself soon be knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door? (Sorry, not sorry)
I had my mind made up by about page fifty that Jude was going to be this irredeemable asshole. I mean, who pays a thousand bucks for a ghost and then is outraged to find that he actually bought a ghost? However, after spending more time with the metal-head, turns out he wasn’t such a bad dude after all. Hill and this other writer he’s related to like to do this a lot. They present their characters through these complex shades of grey to create people who will make the readers question their own interpretations of good and bad. Same goes for Jude’s ever present girlfriend Georgia who starts out quite bratty but settles down and becomes a great, interesting character throughout the rest of the story.
Hill’s ghost, the former hypnotist and downright crazy Craddock McDermott, is a blast to read. Craddock puts Jude through the wringer with trippy dream sequences and deadly mind games. As the reader, it’s hard to get a handle on what’s happening when Jude passes out and the ghoul takes over but I suppose that adds to the fear gripping Jude’s beat-up brain. Craddock can also seemingly take possession of TVs, radios and telephones to freak out his target making certain scenes unsettling.
There’s a few minor gripes like the constant references to pale skin and the umpteen Trent Reznor shout-outs but those are small in scale. It’s clear that Hill was destined for greatness from his first novel onward and while Heart-Shaped Box is certainly frightening fiction, it only gets better from here on out.
After the hellish events that took place in North Korea, Deadpool decides it’s time for Shield to come clean with the money they owe him for knocking...moreAfter the hellish events that took place in North Korea, Deadpool decides it’s time for Shield to come clean with the money they owe him for knocking off all those zombie presidents. When the coin doesn’t show, Deadpool takes matters into his own hands and pursues the keeper of the cash himself, rogue special agent Gorman. The bad news? Gorman puts a ten million dollar price tag on the head of Deadpool and every villain sets their sights on the Merc with a Mouth. Can Deadpool push through the gauntlet of gore to get his payment?
This is such a fun series. Posehn and Duggan have been kicking ass and clearly having a blast writing for this character. There’s a lot of development on the part of Deadpool and while the series does move ahead steadily, it just didn’t come across as strong as the first three volumes. Then again, it’s hard when you’re coming off an arc as excellent as the North Korean madness in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
I will say that I very much liked seeing this other side of Deadpool. While I’ll always prefer the joke-cracking, murderous side of the mutant mercenary, seeing a complicated and downtrodden version of Wade Wilson helps to expand his personality and create a more complex character. It’s not all gloom and doom though. There’s a few panels that had me laughing out loud, one in particular involved perennial loser Batroc the Leaper.
“The most successful war seldom pays for its losses.” –Thomas Jefferson
Lawrence Block’s fourteenth entry in his long running Matt Scudder series is by...more“The most successful war seldom pays for its losses.” –Thomas Jefferson
Lawrence Block’s fourteenth entry in his long running Matt Scudder series is by far the most tragic. The loss of life within these pages is astounding and there came a time near the end where I thought very few would make it out alive. Hell, if I didn’t know there were more books to follow, I’d have had my doubts about Matt too.
Matt’s close friend – and ruthless Irish gangster – Mick Ballou is at war. Someone is picking off members of Mick’s organization and when Scudder is tasked to produce the identity of this murderous maniac, those close to Matt are threatened unless he backs off. Given how little he’s accomplished during his investigation, it feels like a blessing in disguise – he can get off without the guilt associated with disappointing Ballou. Unfortunately for Matt, Mick’s nemesis strikes before Scudder can officially get his hands off the case.
What follows is some of the most intense, nerve-wracking storytelling the series has ever produced and I would go so far as to say that Everybody Dies is my favorite of the series up to this point. Everything that makes a great Scudder story lives within this book; late night philosophical rap sessions with Ballou, comedic exchanges with T.J., butting heads with the police and memorable moments with Elaine – but you take all of those elements, add an unseen level of unpredictability and you have a novel that will keep you up at night.
Everybody Dies is so violent, so deadly, that I often wondered if Block had taken tips from George R.R. Martin in how to cause his audience grief. However, when you pick up a book titled Everybody Dies, you should know what you’re in for.
Many years have passed since a devastating nuclear war left much of the world in ruins. A small village in northern Labrador comprised of religious fu...moreMany years have passed since a devastating nuclear war left much of the world in ruins. A small village in northern Labrador comprised of religious fundamentalists is on the lookout for what they call “deviations” - food, animals or even people who deviate from the socially acceptable norm. Once these deviations have been discovered, it is either to be destroyed on the spot or if you’re one of the few people born with a deformity, sterilized and banished from the community, destined to live in what they call “The Fringes”.
Author John Wyndham brings us into the mind of David, a young man born with telepathic powers. Where his own personal deviation is not visible to the community, he and others who share this ability must keep their special talent a secret for fear of death or banishment. Can David and his fellow friends keep their special skills under wraps or are they doomed to live among the fallen?
There’s nothing that creeps me out more than hardcore bible thumpers. I’m not about to go Rust Cohle and step onto some imaginary soap box and start throwing shade on those who believe in a higher power. I understand the purpose in believing that there’s some omnipotent being that guides us through this thresher (OK, maybe a little Rust won't hurt) but when you start forcing your beliefs onto the general population and allowing it to govern the way you operate as a society, I get a little upset.
David’s father is a no-nonsense preacher who presents select bible verses as fact and therefore is void of empathy when it comes to protecting the community from so called deviations from the devil, despite the fact that many pose no threat. Since nuclear waste has an approximate half life of twenty-four thousand years, there’s a good chance that the deformities are a result of radiation rather than the mythical man below. However, I guess the struggling society isn’t all that knowledgeable given the separation from the “Old People”.
Wyndham’s novel is less about the apocalypse, genetic mutations and God than it is about what we’re doing to ourselves as a species. If we’d put away our own reservations about race and religion, we could really accomplish more as a society rather than be bogged down in archaic ideals about what’s “right” and what’s “wrong”.(less)
You know that old saying, “the night is always darkest just before the dawn”? Nothing could be closer to the truth when analyzing the year that was 19...moreYou know that old saying, “the night is always darkest just before the dawn”? Nothing could be closer to the truth when analyzing the year that was 1995 within the World Wrestling Federation. Prior to their massive spike in popularity that would arrive in 1998, Vince McMahon’s wrestling empire was crumbling in the face of a determined young upstart by the name of Eric Bischoff with his Ted Turner financed wrasslin’ company, WCW. Author James Dixon looks at the budget cutbacks, decreased wages and stagnant programming that plagued the global entertainment juggernaut as its promoter Vince McMahon struggled to find a way to compete as well as increase the company’s fledgling audience.
While mainly concentrating on 1995, the book also delves into the WWF’s various lawsuits of the early 1990s, the steroid trial initiated by the United States government and McMahon’s struggle to compete with WCW signing away his brightest stars. There’s even a portion dedicated to the long rumored Randy Savage/Stephanie McMahon scandal, calling attention to whether or not anything actually transpired between the two. Hard evidence is given through quotes from those who were backstage during the time and an eerily specific rant given from Savage himself seemed to give it credence.
For hardcore fans like myself, there may not be much in here you don’t already know. However, it does reinforce how horrific the morale was among the workers backstage. A group known as “The Kliq” comprised of top stars Shawn Michaels, Kevin “Diesel” Nash, Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, Sean “1,2,3 Kid” Waltman and Paul “Triple H” Levesque continually occupied the top of the card, thus receiving large payouts and creating a glass ceiling of sorts for those hoping to ascend to main event status.
Of those comprising The Kliq, Shawn Michaels was without a doubt the worst of the bunch. If the man hadn’t been so undeniably talented, there’s no way he could have gotten away with half of what he did. Seemingly all of the events that occurred within the company during that period either ended or started with Michaels “losing his temper”. The gang would terrorize others backstage, sabotage matches if they happened to be working with a performer they didn’t like as well as constantly having the ear of McMahon lobbying to remain on top. The atmosphere became so bad that a rival group was formed under the guidance of locker room veteran Mark “The Undertaker” Calaway, whose chief job would be to police the Kliq making sure things never came to the point of violence.
Dixon’s book is tightly researched taking content from shoots (interviews with a performer out of character), podcasts, memoirs and documentaries (all of which are cited in the rear of the book). Dixon even had Jim Cornette, a man at the forefront of the madness in 1995, write the foreword. Recommended to me through what could be considered an excellent companion podcast, The New Generation Project Podcast, “Titan Sinking” is a great look at a difficult time for what is now the gold standard of wrestling.
Chris Jericho returns with his third memoir entitled, “The Best In The World At What I Have No Idea”. Beginning with his return to WWE in 2007 up to h...moreChris Jericho returns with his third memoir entitled, “The Best In The World At What I Have No Idea”. Beginning with his return to WWE in 2007 up to his return in 2013, Jericho’s third book details his acclaimed programs with Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio, CM Punk and Edge while also looking at the growing popularity of his metal band Fozzy as well as his ventures into acting, game show hosting and a brief reality TV stint on Dancing with the Stars.
While there was a fair bit that I found interesting, it very much felt like the weakest release of the three. Both his in-ring work and character during the period detailed were undoubtedly the best of his career - his ladder match with Shawn Michaels in October of 2008 is often considered a classic - but parts of the book felt like glorified recaps of the events adding little new information to what went down.
Outside of that, he shared hilarious stories about the boys backstage (the stuff about Santino Marella - a goofy, comedic wrestler - stands out), the time he was trapped in a war zone while visiting Iraq for a tribute show to the U.S. troops, the Icelandic volcano disaster that left the majority of the WWE roster stranded in Europe and his brush with the Brazilian police after kicking and stomping on their flag in an attempt to get a reaction from the crowd.
The bits and pieces dedicated to his ventures outside the squared circle didn't do much for me. I think Fozzy are a fine band and they've certainly grown as a unit but the stories about Jericho mandating a certain fashion style for the group, their festival gigs and the countless name dropping of various musicians he’d met fell flat to me (although, his story about geeking out meeting Metallica was charming).
“Time makes everything mean and shabby and wrinkled. The tragedy of life … is not that the beautiful things die young, but that they grow old and mean...more“Time makes everything mean and shabby and wrinkled. The tragedy of life … is not that the beautiful things die young, but that they grow old and mean.”
Marlowe befriends a down-on-his-luck war hero roaming the streets of California. A few months after Marlowe cleans him up and sets him on his way, the man is standing on Marlowe’s doorstep, holding a gun and asking for a ride to Mexico. While Marlowe refuses to hear out the reason for this request, it’s revealed that the man’s wife has been murdered and it may or may not be by his new friend’s hand.
With those rather shady circumstances still hazing over his head, Marlowe is approached by a publisher asking for his assistance in figuring out just what exactly is throwing their prized writer off his rocker. Marlowe initially disagrees but before long, he’s pulled in by the author’s stunning wife. Can Marlowe narrow down the reason for the writer’s madness? Are the two cases connected? Is Marlowe in over his head?
While there’s still another novel to follow (Playback), The Long Goodbye is widely considered Raymond Chandler’s swan song to arguably literature’s greatest detective. Often cited as the gold standard in crime fiction, The Long Goodbye snapped up the Edgar Award for best novel in 1955, is listed on countless “best of” compilations and has influenced a generation of mystery and crime writers.
Chandler wrote The Long Goodbye during a very difficult time in his life. His wife was terminally ill and he was suffering from bouts of depression and alcohol abuse. It’s been noted that a few of the characters in the novel were used as a way for Chandler to clear his mind. He used them to express his innermost thoughts on the state of society, his frustrations as a writer and his internal struggle with whether or not he should commit suicide.
It’s been said before – by myself and others – that the plot in Chandler’s Marlowe novels can almost be considered secondary to the author’s writing. As usual, Chandler is in top form here as he calls out society’s apathetic trend, the hypocrisy of the police force and the power of money.
There’s so much to love about this novel and in my opinion, it’s the finest of the series. Given the circumstances surrounding its creation, it’s hard to ignore the personal nature of the writing. At heart, both Chandler and Marlowe are very cynical people and Marlowe literally offends every person he comes into contact with. I suppose that’s nothing new but it reflects Chandler’s state of mind at the time. You almost wonder if Marlowe couldn’t care less whether he lives or dies at the end of the day. He’s a solitary individual who could give a damn what you or anyone else thinks of him, all that matters is the truth. That’s a very dangerous man and that’s the best kind of detective.
After coming into a small fortune, a quiet closed accounts registrar named Mr. Berger decides to pack it in and retire. At only thirty four years of a...moreAfter coming into a small fortune, a quiet closed accounts registrar named Mr. Berger decides to pack it in and retire. At only thirty four years of age and with countless years ahead of him, Berger decides to pursue his dream of becoming a writer.
After a particularly frustrating evening with pen and paper, Berger embarks on a walk to clear his mind when he witnesses a young woman throw herself in front of a speeding train. However, a spotless track and lack of evidence leave both Berger and the authorities dumbfounded.
Several weeks later, the same woman appears again and when an identical scenario threatens to repeat itself, Berger prevents the woman from doing so, chasing after her until she enters a large non-descript building. What Berger discovers inside will change his life forever..
Winning the 2014 Edgar Award for best short story, Connolly’s Museum of Literary Souls (or the alternate title ("The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository") reads like a love letter to literature. Connolly writes about the power of fiction and how truly great works can bring a culture together. Readers can often identify with certain characters, speaking about them as if they’re real people.
My only gripe is given how deeply Connolly immersed me into the story, I was disappointed in how quickly the ending snuck up on me. While I have a deep appreciation for short stories (Hell, I even wrote a few), truly great ones always leave the reader wanting more. Don’t take this as a criticism but rather just a self-entitled reader whining.(less)
Buying and reviewing single issues of comic books isn’t something I normally do (I think Locke & Key has been the only exception). I’m the kind of...moreBuying and reviewing single issues of comic books isn’t something I normally do (I think Locke & Key has been the only exception). I’m the kind of reader that would prefer to wait until the trade paperback is released and read it all in one shot. However, seeing as I have the opportunity to get in the ground floor of a Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips project, why not give it a go?
The dynamic duo of noir return with The Fade Out, a story about murder most foul in post-war America. This time around, the creative crew have taken on a research assistant in an effort to make this tale as historically accurate as possible as well as an editor (a first for the collaboration in nearly a decade) to assist in smoothing out any bumps along the road. For a team as talented and ambitious as Brubaker and Phillips, this can only be good news.
With Phillips’ perfect penciling and Brubaker’s grim and gritty storytelling, The Fade Out could prove to be their most polished and remembered work yet.
When the top agent for the spy organization ARC-7 is murdered, all evidence points to Velvet Templeton, the unassuming organization’s secretary. She’s...moreWhen the top agent for the spy organization ARC-7 is murdered, all evidence points to Velvet Templeton, the unassuming organization’s secretary. She’s innocent but capturing her is proving difficult and those hot on her trail are meeting the true Velvet, the retired secret agent with the skills to pay the bills.
While recently on vacation in Ottawa, I dropped into The Comic Shoppe to pick up Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips new noir series The Fade Out. I couldn’t find it so I asked the clerk if he had any available. When he came back with issue one, he asked if I had already picked up Brubaker’s new trade, The Velvet. Even though everyone on Goodreads had been raving about it, it had somehow slipped my mind. I went in for one issue but came out with two books! It was like comic book Christmas.
Image is putting out some of the best work in the industry right now (Saga, The Fade Out, Fatale, The Walking Dead) and Velvet is no exception. Ed Brubaker’s razor sharp writing paired alongside Steve Epting’s beautiful artwork combine to create a compelling vision of mid 20th century cold war hysteria. There are enough twists and turns in here to keep its audience engaged and it certainly doesn't hurt to have such jaw-droppingly gorgeous visuals either.
I can’t wait for volume two. Write, Brubaker, write!
Lynn Denton’s The Grappler: Memoirs of a Masked Madman is the Forrest Gump of wrestling books. The man may not have been known on the world stage, but...moreLynn Denton’s The Grappler: Memoirs of a Masked Madman is the Forrest Gump of wrestling books. The man may not have been known on the world stage, but he was around during one of the biggest eras in wrestling interacting with some of the biggest names in the industry.
Although he worked with household names like The Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, Jake the Snake Roberts and Goldberg, he didn’t achieve super-stardom in the big leagues (World Wrestling Federation or World Championship Wrestling). His true success came within regional territories like Mid-South Wrestling, World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) and Don Owen’s Portland territory.
You get the sense that Denton’s a very humble man who shows no signs of ego, he’s appreciative for all the opportunities he’s had and offers candid opinions on those he worked with. The book has a very conversational tone, almost like Denton is telling you his life story over a beer.
The book is filled with great stories about working for Stu Hart up in Calgary (a great Owen Hart story as well), performing in front of forty thousand plus fans in the New Orleans Superdome and his time as booker in Portland, Oregon (wrestlers can be a temperamental lot). There’s a lot crammed into these nearly three hundred pages and not once did I feel it really dragged.
Coming from someone who considers himself a big fan of the industry, I’d never heard of The Grappler before picking up this book and I’m glad I took the time to sit down and read his story. While it doesn't have the built in audience Bret Hart, Mick Foley or Chris Jericho would have with their books, it deserves a look from any wrestling fan who is interested in a career spent outside the grip of Vince McMahon.
Tragedy strikes the United States and in an effort to rebuild society, terrifying new measures are implemented, stripping women of their rights as hum...moreTragedy strikes the United States and in an effort to rebuild society, terrifying new measures are implemented, stripping women of their rights as human beings. No longer permitted to work, own property and their identities erased, women have been reduced to their most basic function - carrying life. If they’re unable to conceive, they’re shipped off to the heavily polluted colonies to assist in the cleanup of nuclear waste; a guaranteed death sentence.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale follows Offred, a woman serving under a man known only as The Commander. Having difficulty conceiving, she fears for her safety. Struggling to adapt to her new “life”, Offred tells of her past, how society crumbled and her desire to break free and be reunited with her daughter.
Atwood keeps the reader in the dark for most of the novel when it comes to the pivotal event that caused society’s downfall. While I was initially frustrated (I need to know now!), it proved to be a great technique in keeping me reading for long periods at a time, waiting for that one sliver of information to leak through so I could bring it all together.
However, it turns out that it doesn’t matter. What’s important is the repercussions following the event. There are probably more than a few conservatives who would think this is a logical plan - and that’s what makes Atwood’s novel so frightening. It’s deflating when the pursuit of equal rights in society can often be labeled as “feminism” when in an ideal world, feminism is something that shouldn’t even exist. I know it’s shocking for some to hear this but we’re all equal.
As riveting as The Handmaid’s Tale is, Atwood’s story sadly remains relevant nearly thirty years after it was first published. It’s frustrating to think that in 2014, there are still unnecessary roadblocks set up to keep one sex on a lower plane than the other. I didn’t expect to get on a soapbox here but it’s almost impossible to avoid doing so. While I’m not saying anything you haven’t already heard, neither is Atwood. That fact that it needs to be said again and again is the issue.
When Jughead’s dog, Hot Dog, is struck by a car and dies, he turns to Sabrina Spellman for help. Being a witch and all, she can surely bring Hot Dog b...moreWhen Jughead’s dog, Hot Dog, is struck by a car and dies, he turns to Sabrina Spellman for help. Being a witch and all, she can surely bring Hot Dog back from the dead and save ol’ Jughead a world of hurt. Unfortunately for Jughead, beings that have expired are not eligible for any of the regular Spellman family get-well-soon spells.
Despite being forbidden by her Aunts, Sabrina’s guilt heavily outweighs any potential punishment. Taking matters into her own hands, she grabs the nearest Necronomicon (like you do) and casts a spell to bring Hot Dog back to life. In doing so, Hot Dog rises from the grave - but not exactly alive.
I couldn’t tell you the last time I read an Archie book. Sure, I heard the odd news story about the series (which was usually followed by - “they’re still printing that?”), something about Archie finally picking between Veronica and Betty or that Riverdale has introduced its first gay character or hell, they just recently killed off the ol’ redhead himself while he was saving the life of said gay character!
The thing that stands out the most within Afterlife with Archie are the tremendous visuals provided by Francesco Francavilla. The pages are filled with plentiful shades of orange creating that vintage Halloween feel. Not only that - but to use a worn out and beaten cliche - this ain’t your daddy’s Archie comics. Gore litters each page and the excellent pacing provides a neverending sense of dread.
The writing ain’t half bad either. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is no slouch when it comes to laying it on thick. Not only did I feel sympathy for the citizens of Riverdale, Archie is hit with some heavy decision-making within split-second moments that will certainly influence the series going forward.
Volume Two is currently in the works and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Consider me an Archie fan!