The truth about this story (which might be useful to someone):
It's not a very good story at all.
There's apparently some hype surrounding it, because,The truth about this story (which might be useful to someone):
It's not a very good story at all.
There's apparently some hype surrounding it, because, I think, it's supposed to be a refreshing take on Lovecraft. Now, full disclosure, I've only made about 5 minutes headway into any Lovecraft story. I remember having an interest in Cthulhu and trying to figure out what everyone was going on about. Five minutes in, I thought, "Nope, not spending hours on this shit." I was very young.
This book is also shit. And I'm no longer very young.
LaValle can write well enough, but I've already read this story that he's written. I don't know how close it veers to Lovecraft, but it's damn close to Johnathon Strange. Johnathon Strange however, is a door-stopper. It's a massive work of effort. The word count on the footnotes alone would probably add up to more words than this entire novel.
The Ballad of Black Tom is so familiar to Johnathon Strange, it might as well be fanfiction. I don't know how no one else has seen this, and maybe the audience demographics don't align too closely between the two books, but this is basically a Shonda Rhymes type snatch and grab. The same way you wonder if Shonda Rhymes knows that some of her Scandal viewers probably also watched Alias, 24, Americans? This is how I wonder if LaValle knows that the possibility exists that someone who's read this book might also have read Johnathon Strange.
Suydam... with thistledown hair? Black Tom... the (backstabbing) nameless slave who shall be named king?
And if that really is what the author did and not just a horrible coincidence that no one in his circle thought to clue him in on, then, well... *shrug*
This book isn't about story. LaValle I don't think, gives anything about working out his characters, plot, magic system, consistency... And if you don't care about the story at all, you might as well just rip it from somewhere else, if you're being practical. When you write fanfiction, you tend to cut out on all the world-building and stuff, because that's already down, and that's what LaValle does. That's why it's only 3 hours long. Because it's a fanfic, more or less.
If you are an avid fantasy ready and you came for the story, then I doubt you could muster up more than a star for this, because it's drivel.
On the other hand, if you always thought "Hey, I want to read about police brutality and magic at the same time, and also someone going Sith and using magic to get brutal Aesop-ish revenge for the police brutality, and you don't actually much care about the story structure itself, as in you don't really need plausible rational logic to go from plot point A to plot point B, then yay for you.
I can't get behind it though, because I don't see how a black author writing a bad novel helps anything. I also don't see how pretending it's not a bad novel helps anything.
For instance, why for the love of good is he referring to the character by name every single goddamn time? I can't get immersed in this at all, because I'm constantly aware of LaValle the narrator hurrying through a story. Like when a friend is telling you a joke and he keeps renaming all the plays just so you can follow the story because he knows that you don't know or very much care who the joke is about, you just want to get to the punchline? So he keeps going something like:
"And the guy says...", "And then Amy my friend says to the guy, Paul from gym...", "But David, my roommate, remember him, the Mexican? The Mexican slapped Amy across the face..." "And Amy, was like, David, my roommate, remember, you tortilla cooking Mexican son of a bitch..."
That kind of story telling can work if you're standing writing in front of a person and using a lot of hand gestures, because the story is only 5 minutes long and the punchline is damn good. No sane person would go on like this for an hour straight for a less of 3.
This is like, something that you'd find written by a person who's like "black people can never be racist." It's so melodramatically over the top, it's at the level of a Boondocks cartoon. That episode where the white policemen just cruise around looking for a random black man and break his back with a judo knee to the spine just for fun and general kicks and high five each other.
It's like, you're not comfortable with Quentin Tarantino doing Django because he's a white guy... Fine. That's fair enough. If a movie is going to use the N-word a record number of times, you don't want it to be directed by a white guy. That's more than fair.
Do you want Tyler Perry to try his hand at it on one of his sitcoms, though?
This is a good book for the person who'd watch Tyler Perry's Django.
I'm so angry write now. This is not how I wanted to start my reading year at all. It doesn't give me any joy to write a bad review for this. But Jesus Christ, I feel tricked. I feel like I've been deliberately deceived. And I don't like it. ...more
Okay, so it might actually be decent. It may actually be very good. But it's hard to go from Old Man and the Sea stPure nonsense of zero significance.
Okay, so it might actually be decent. It may actually be very good. But it's hard to go from Old Man and the Sea straight into this absurd, psuedo-serious, Prachetty tale of a girl (grown as woman), boy (grown ass man) and a boring black hole.
This is about the pathetic (as in evoking pathos?) beauty and tragedy of "going too far out." It is about obsessioThis is not about an old fisherman.
This is about the pathetic (as in evoking pathos?) beauty and tragedy of "going too far out." It is about obsession and desperation and how the two can come together to put you in the most dangerous situations.
It's about a man so low, he's nearly an animal, but at the same time, he's doing something legendary and touching godhood. A body fails as the spirit peaks, and it's plausible that his spirit is peaking because on the brink of the body's starvation it has no choice, but you want to believe that the spirit was always too unnatural for the body, that the spirit broke the body down and the strange old man will throw off his tattered rags like Odysseus or one of those guys, that when he wakes up, Poseidon will be there saying "Old Man, I am your well pleased father."
But it's too real for a happy ending, and that is why I love it. It is about valour and courage, but also the downside of resolution. How gumption and grit impairs judgement. The downside of not knowing when to quit. The danger of ambition.
It's almost like a demonstration and simultaneous deconstruction of the so-called "Japanese Spirit." That's what I think this is. Yamato damashii, as demonstrated by an old fisherman.
To know something like this, and to go even further to write something like this - that's genius level skill. The style, even Donald Sutherland comes off as a haggard sea bum as he reads it. Terse, precise, all the fat cut off, it's like a lean gruesome machine of a story.
Or I could be biased...
... It turns out that, I apparently live by the same moral code of an old desperate Cuban fisherman. I also tend to think, "Well, let's just try our hardest and go until success or death." I also speak to myself out loud and come up with gritty badass boasts to encourage myself along the road to oblivion.
If I'd read this ten years earlier, I'd probably have walked with spare harpoons and salt. For all people try to write heroes that readers relate to, this is the first time I've ever clicked with a character to the point where I feel thoroughly immersed in the plot.
I've gone too far out myself, for skeletal rewards. I'm a sucker for "No retreat, no surrender" idiocy and overly dramatic Bushido adventures, so this is an easy 5 stars....more
How you can tell is by the best character being the illiterate neo nazi who only has about 5 chapters. June isThis is a hot mess of a romance story.
How you can tell is by the best character being the illiterate neo nazi who only has about 5 chapters. June is possibly the worst character I've read in a long while, and as annoying and monotonous as the "social worker meets Russian mafia guy who forces her into blackmail/prostitution but falls instantly in love with her and solves all her problems" formula was becoming, it's at least more developed than this.
Why exactly is June in such a hard up position that she has to accept abuse on a daily basis? It seems like she could have easily just resorted to actual prostitution and provied for herself and Jordan. This only works if shes actually impaired in some way, and then not even, because Mason becomes just another person taking advantage of her mental deficit....more
It's not really about anything, but it's not a bad way to spend 5 hours. If it was a movie, it'd probably be the Lady in the Water, meaning you'd be eIt's not really about anything, but it's not a bad way to spend 5 hours. If it was a movie, it'd probably be the Lady in the Water, meaning you'd be expecting much more than what you got, but it works somehow as a novel. I guess you can call it a gothic novel... If you squint at it. American, the way Tim Burton is. If the movie had a soundtrack, it'd be a bunch of songs by Lana Del Rey, but not the Born to Die album. Maybe, Ultraviolence...
There's no plot twist. Well, there is one, but it's that sort of Japanese "not really a twist because it's so incredibly obvious, it's just that it's so horrible nobody wants to say it out loud, but you've been thinking it since page 1." And in that vein there is no real climax, and you're really just spending 5 hours immersed in a vaguely interesting, calm, odd, musty, shut-in world.
The extra star is for getting that feel right, getting that mustiness across so completely in 5 hours. And all the batshittiness. That's efficient writing....more
As per the usual with DC comics and comics in general (as opposed to graphic novels or manga), very little attention is paid to the chronology, so I aAs per the usual with DC comics and comics in general (as opposed to graphic novels or manga), very little attention is paid to the chronology, so I am not completely sure where to go next or what came before as I prep for the last Defender. I'll have to Wiki it, probably. I'm thinking New Avengers...
It was a good read though, except for the anticlimactic fights at the end of the arcs which usually take up only half a chapter......more
Really helps you when you're rounding out a character, either as a rough mold in the beginning or at the end to help lock everything in.
On the surfacReally helps you when you're rounding out a character, either as a rough mold in the beginning or at the end to help lock everything in.
On the surface, it might all seem horribly cliche, like, "Whoa, I'm gonna have a Xena and a Tony Soprano, what do I need for that?" But if you have even just a workable knowledge of archetypes, Jungian psychology or the Monomyth concept, you can really squeeze a lot of juicy value from this set of rough templates....more
This is perfect. A perfect audiobook. Like with any and all Norm stories, at some point you inevitably ask yourself "What crazy nonsense shit10 stars
This is perfect. A perfect audiobook. Like with any and all Norm stories, at some point you inevitably ask yourself "What crazy nonsense shit is this?" See any of his rambling stories on Conan or anywhere else. Usually involving some kind of punchline that relies on a pun or horribly unclever wordplay.
But this takes the cake. He narrates it as part jaded cynical degenerate with a gambling and morphine addiction from the dingy alleys of Sin City, and the other part is bumbling old senile, possibly illiterate, low IQ deep American South farmer. And then those two flavours bleed together and result in this work of retard brilliance, where he laughing narrates "real life" anecdotes about going to hell and seeing the pet dog he had that he'd had to put down after it killed a child.
It gets even more retarded/brilliant when it goes super meta and the ghostwriter becomes a character, who winds up in trouble because he's a "method writer" who has to also become a morphine addict in order to find Norm's essence.
It becomes a masterpiece at that point, but it was already largely incoherent nonsense from the beginning as the jaded Vegas yarn-spinning farmer from Ottawa Valley flashbacks to stories about rapists and magical squirrels with a blend of delusional narcissism and hyperbolic self-deprecation who reads like a Stephen King parody. There's the additional juxtaposition of an apparently ghostwritten Norm against Real Norm who is a pure dirty mouthed, money hungry incoherent unintelligible desperate bum.
You get crazy spirals where nothing happens, crazy metaphors like "the wolves of irrelevance", the plot of an Elmore Leonard story with Adam Sandler-ish side characters who may or may not be real, all written up with some laughably good prose mixed with Norm's laughably bad/excellent joke delivery.
This book is maybe 10% biography, and when I really think about it, it feels sort of like a mocking parody of autobiographies. Especially the sort of biography like Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft where King goes on in detail about his drug abuse and how it affected his life and his work. It's like saying "Don't write TMI autobiographies unless you really put TMI in it that includes things like the time you talked to God or that time your best friend was a prostitute." I mean the only thing technically separating this from a King novel aside from the laughs is a character wearing a blue chambray shirt
But it doesn't feel right giving Norm the benefit of the doubt and saying it was all intentional and he's really some kind of genius comedian and the greatest comic of all time... That doesn't sound right at all, but suffice it to say then, that Norm, King of the stale joke and Owner of all shaggy dog stories told everywhere like some kind of White Canadian Anansi, has mastered whatever this book is... Coming of old age meta-adventure comedy?...more
A strong 3.75 stars. If this had been my first horror novel or even my first Stephen King, it would have gotten a full 5.
Something I've noticed aboutA strong 3.75 stars. If this had been my first horror novel or even my first Stephen King, it would have gotten a full 5.
Something I've noticed about the king after reading, I think this may be my 8th, novel, he's very very good at creating the tone and atmosphere. "This is going to get very evil and nasty. You are now entering the Nightmare Zone." All the characters get flashed out, the down and out blue collar worker who's vaguely racist or homophobic, maybe an alcoholic, who's generally a good guy, and Co. And there's all kinds of drama brewing up.
And then the swing starts to descend instead of going all the way over the bar. It never gets as high as you think it is going to go. At some point, there tends to be a gang of guys who come up with an overly rational, overly pragmatic plan of action that they carry out while running low on everything asides courage, faith, and gumption.
King is just not as good at these parts of action. In my opinion as a fan who pays attention to how people write. He's less good at using the setup he created.
in this novel, there's a love interest who is forgotten about at the 60 percent mark or thereabouts. Her father, the would be father in law of the hero who he spends a significant amount of time with, is not even mentioned afterwards. The mother daughter drama also goes unresolved, making chapters of setup irrelevant. The characters who were all different in the beginning sort of become interchangeable posse members rallying together like a band of brothers at war (re: faith, courage and gumption) and evil is more or less slain, as evil must inevitably be once the heroes are in possession of faith, courage and gumption.
It did get very creepy though, during them middle parts, so, four stars....more
- The heroine. She's a psychologist with zero insight into herself, her patients, her boyfriend and her husband. ZeBoring.
In descending order of fail:
- The heroine. She's a psychologist with zero insight into herself, her patients, her boyfriend and her husband. Zero insight. She's reputed to be the strongest person ever (in addition to the most beautiful), but she's basically a crybaby who's incapable of making any decision on her own. Horrible. So horrible. "I'm a sex therapist, but I have zero sense of professional ethics - it's just a thing I vaguely heard of maybe years ago. So you know what, I'mma begin a sexual relationship with a self-confessed sex addict. See my stellar judgement in action."
- The hero. He literally says at least five hundred times "My mother never loved me." He's introduced as some kind of rebel without a cause, but by a third way in he's a broken record stuck on the line "Love me, love me, say that you love me." He quickly becomes as monotonous as the heroine.
- The evil ex. Well, I'll say this. After one paragraph, I had him in my head as Jeremy Irons. Blond for some reason. In full Lolita mode. Five minutes from the end, guess the big reveal. Yes, the evil ex is a mentally maladjusted peadophile. Wow. And even this, instead of leading up to the guy's arrest is done so horribly and so lacking in insight by the two of these educated idiots, Humbert ends up killing himself. Traumatising the child in the process, probably for the rest of his life because Mummy decided to make a public scandal out of Daddy.
I'm not saying she had to become The Good Wife, but if she had tried like maybe a little harder not to be the bitter, petty ex wife... And then too, wouldn't she be aged out by the time they met? How would that work with this supposed obsession he has for her?
Way too long. Way too boring. Not enough suspense. Not enough of the up and down twists romance novels are known for - the secret, the reveal, the fallout, the grovel... It missed alot or nearly all the steps of the traditional romance novel, which would sound like a good thing if originality is a thing you like, but the thing is, all these things were gutted out and replaced with absolutely nothing.
This is at most a 30k story. And it got bloated way out to maybe 150k. Meaning roughly that what a normal story would convey in 1 paragraph becomes a 5 paragraph word bonanza. There's filler thoughts, filler dialogue, so much mindless filler......more
Or a 3..5 the chapters on Grammer could have been used for something else, Imo. Not rarely worth it, but an entertaining enough way to kill some timeOr a 3..5 the chapters on Grammer could have been used for something else, Imo. Not rarely worth it, but an entertaining enough way to kill some time if you have nothing else going on. It doesn't really get deep and is more of a very light introduction to rheotric....more