Listened 6/21/14 - 6/25/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers who dig a big ole heap of eerie in their fiction and don't necessarily need to knoListened 6/21/14 - 6/25/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers who dig a big ole heap of eerie in their fiction and don't necessarily need to know what's going on to enjoy it Length: 6 hours Publisher: Blackstone Audio Released: February 2014
Holy Jeff "you've got my attention" Vandermeer.
Let me start off by admitting that Annihilation was a book I'd been hearing a lot about, but wasn't necessarily in a rush to get my hands on. All too often, the "most talked about" books turn out, in my opinion, to be big fat duds. Not that I doubt you, dear readers, but I find that, time and time again, when discussing books we consider "scary" or "creepy" or "disturbing", our experiences with them tend to run perpendicular, rather than parallel, to each other. The most recent example I have of this is The Three. Every review I read gushed over how creepy and scary that book was, how people weren't able to sleep with the lights off for days after reading it... and there I sat, waiting and waiting for it get creepier and scarier, and it just never did.
This, though? This book. It totally brought the creepy.
No. Wait. Not only did it BRING the creepy... it kept building the creepy up until it became flat out disturbing. And then it went and turned the disturbing right on its fucking head.
So the premise of Annihilation: something catastrophic has taken place in a corner of the world. A kind of invisible border came down out of nowhere decades ago and anything that was caught within its net was lost. Gone. Vanished as if it never was. This is referred to as The Event. The landscape, the ecosystem behind the border, has changed, morphed, in ways no one knows or can understand. The land contained within it is referred to as Area X. And a group of people - part of a new government, a special branch, a highly confidential containment unit of some sort? - known as The Southern Reach have been sending Expeditions beyond the invisible border to research and observe Area X, and return with their findings ever since.
Only, when these expeditions return... when these people come back, IF they come back... they are changed. Not the same. In many different ways.
And what they claim to have seen, to have experienced, varies greatly as well.
Annihilation is the story of the twelfth expedition. And it is told in first person, through the eyes of The Biologist. Along with her were The Linguist - though she quit the group before they actually crossed the border; The Archaeologist; The Psychologist - the group leader; and The Surveyor. Each chosen for this expedition based on a particularly unique set of qualities or skills. And then they were stripped of their names, issued new names that corresponded with those skill sets, and put through grueling training sessions before they were packed up and shipped off to the border.
What they find within Area X, all recorded into journal entries by The Biologist, is unlike anything they have ever experienced before. Strange plant and animal life, a horrible keening noise in the night, a tunnel - or is it a tower? - that contains a string of living words on its wall, words that appear to still be in the process of being written by someone, or something, father down there...
Reminiscent of The Ruins and Fragment, Annihilation is very much a hybrid sci-fi thriller-slash-eco-terrestrial mystery of a book. The reader, following in the footsteps of The Biologist, is forced to experience Area X from her perspective. Which we discover, as we get to know her and the circumstances surrounding her personal interest in Area X (and as we learn of the "training" that she had been put through), may not be totally reliable.
Vandermeer exceeded my expectations with this creepy, eerily disturbing introduction into Area X and The Southern Reach. I am already in the process of downloading the second audiobook of the series, Authority, and cannot wait to uncover the secrets that it holds and further immerse myself into this terribly frightening and surreal world....more
Listened 6/4/14 - 6/18/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of non-linear, non-main-character driven fiction Approx. 14 hours Publisher: Little, Brown, &Listened 6/4/14 - 6/18/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of non-linear, non-main-character driven fiction Approx. 14 hours Publisher: Little, Brown, & Co. Released: May 2014
Where to start... where to start.
When I requested a copy of the audiobook for review, I did so without fully understanding the style in which the book was written. In hindsight, had I known The Three was a non-linear, non-main-character driven story, composed entirely of conspiracy blog and book excerpts, tweets, emails, texts, and skype interviews, I definitely would have either requested the book in print, or shied away from it completely. I suppose I had expected the book to be something different than what it was.
That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. Because I did. Once I got the hang of it - of the way the story was being laid out to us, of how the research was being conducted, of the two audiobook narrators and their ever-changing accents to depict the different characters - I became more comfortable with the format and felt myself, I don't know, sort of relaxing into it and trusting that the narration would make it all come together on its own.
So four planes crash on the same day, in different parts of the world, within hours of each other. The only survivors? Three children, found alive and mostly unharmed, among the wreckage. And the cause behind the crashes? Terrorism was ruled out almost immediately but that didn't stop the world from working itself up into a frenzy. UFO freaks crawled out of the woodwork, blaming aliens. Religious nutters, following the lead of one outspoken rapture fanatic, believe the simultaneous crashes to be the sign of the four horsemen - and they are adamant that a fourth child survivor still wanders out there, undiscovered. Not to mention that those children, once released and sent to live with their guardians, are somehow... different. Changed. They are themselves, but.... not. Is it the trauma of surviving the crash that has affected their personalities so drastically, or something else entirely?
Elspeth Martin, a journalist, has written a book about Black Thursday (the name given to the day of the crashes) and The Three (the name given to the three children survivors), entitled "From Crash to Conspiracy", and it is from this very book, and all of Elspeth's research, that we learn of the events that took place on and around those crashes.
So ultimately, Sarah Lotz's The Three is a book within a book. A fictional book within a fictional book composed of fictional research... I know it sounds clunky but it's actually smartly done.
Some may have a hard time sticking with it in the beginning. The story starts off terribly slow, but that's understandable because there is a lot of set-up that has to take place, so many 'characters' that have to be introduced and outlined - Bobby's grandmother (guardian of the child survivor of the Florida crash); Jess's uncle (guardian of the child survivor of the UK crash); and Hiro's cousin (guardian of the child survivor of the Japan crash), and all of those who have had contact with them; as well as Pastor Len - the man behind the four horsemen and rapture conspiracy, and a handful of his closest followers; along with taxi drivers, on-scene police and emergency personnel, and on and on...
But once the first pass is made, and details of the crash starting coming to light, we start getting to know everyone on a more intimate level, and we begin to learn more about their current situations, their interaction with and concerns regarding the survivors. We being to question their and Elspeth's ability to remain objective and honest with us. Are they sharing all of the facts? What are they hiding? Why does so much of what we're hearing not make sense?
If Sarah Lotz was going for a "scare you so bad you can't sleep at night" creeper of a story, it either (a) didn't come across well in the audiobook or (b) I'm immune to her style of creepy because it really didn't unsettle me in any of the ways some of the other reviewers claimed it had. And there's also the matter of the loosely open ending... one of my pet peeves, especially in a book that hinges itself specifically on the 'hook' factor. I couldn't help feeling kind of cheated right there at the very end.
I definitely would not classify this as a horror story. Though if pressed, I'm not sure what I would actually classify it as. And for anyone considering picking it up, I strongly suggest grabbing it in print. ...more
Listened 5/29/14 - 6/2/14 5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best (Audio)Book - A kickass audiobook if ever there was one / Get yer Post Apoc fixListened 5/29/14 - 6/2/14 5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best (Audio)Book - A kickass audiobook if ever there was one / Get yer Post Apoc fix on now, Biatches. 6 1/2 hours audio download Publisher: AudioGo Released: 2012
Audiobooks are strange animals. The story could be well written, the plot could be interesting, the characters engaging, but if the voice of the narrator grates on me; if their pacing is off; if they overly, painfully enunciate, the darn thing won't stand a chance.
For me, everything hinges on the narrator.
And in the case of Immobility, Brian Evenson's storytelling and Mauro Hantman's narration were a perfect match.
(Beware: The jacket copy for the book is a bit misleading. Written in second person, you might - not surprisingly - assume the book is also written that way. But fear not, "you" non-fans, you'll find the third person narration comforting.)
The story is set in a post apocalyptic world - brought about by what we are led to believe was a nuclear war, but is simply referred to as the Kollaps - and revolves around Josef Horkai, who has just been pulled out of a 30 year cryogenic sleep. As he begins to wake up, he realizes that he is paralyzed from the waist down, something that he seems to have no memory of. Heck, he seems to have no memory at all of being stored, of why he was stored, of where he is, who he is or what he was prior to the Kollaps.
All of these questions are answered by Rasmus, the leader of a group of people who have made their home in an old ruined university, and his two lackeys Olag and Olaf. Rasmus explains to Horkai that he is not like them, he can regenerate and survive outside in the brutal and inhospitable environment, but he is also infected with a debilitating disease that has left him crippled and will continue to cripple him over time, which is why he has been stored - to stop the disease from spreading while they work on a cure. The Community, as Rasmus refers to his group, needs Horkai's help to retrieve something that has been stolen from them, something very valuable, something very important, something... that their very survival hinges on. And they will provide Horkai with two Mules - identical human-like men named Qatik and Qanik - whose sole purpose is to carry Horkai on their backs, like a burden, while traveling to the mountain where Rasmus believes the stolen capsule is hidden. Though Horkai can travel outside with no ill side effects, his Mules cannot. And though they are fitted with hazard suits, the clothing will only slow the effects of the radiation on them. Rasmus urges Horkai to make the trip there and back as quickly as possible - the longer the Mules are exposed, the quicker they will die.
All of this makes little sense to Horkai but with nothing else to go on, he agrees to do as Rasmus asks.
Brian Evenson allows us to see the world as Horkai sees it, with new and disbelieving eyes. We ponder the same things he ponders - Who is he? What's happened to the world? Where are all of the other people? What is the Community? How did he end up in storage with them? Who are these strange and obedient men he travels with? Why are they so willing to follow their purpose without questioning? How can they be so willing to die for him? What happens when he gets where they're going?
As Horkai pokes and prods at what little knowledge Qatik and Qanik have, and tries to reason out the situation he has found himself in, he begins to question his place in the mission and allows himself to doubt the sources of his information. Nothing makes sense. The pieces don't seem to fit. The Community, the Mules, Rasmus, even Olag and Olaf... something is going on and Horkai won't be at ease until he uncovers what that is.
This book reeks of cultish and organized religious behavior (and not in a bad way). The blind, adoring faith of the religious compares greatly to that of the members of the Community. The unquestioning obedience and willingness of the Mules to perform their purpose feels very much like the drink-the-koolaid mindset of cult members. The re-appearance of religious or cult-like tendencies, even when the religion we had is dead. And then there's Horkai, much like myself, who questions everything he hears and sees, not content to take what he is told at face value, unafraid to push for answers even when he knows those answers will remain to be vague and clouded. Immobility challenges the reader to look at humanity from a different angle. Not one of imminent survival-at-all-costs. But one of whether or not it should be allowed to survive at all. In Evenson's world, we have managed to kill most of our species (and all other species) off. Should we be given the opportunity to do it again? If we did manage to survive this, we will learn from our mistakes or continue to make more? Do we deserve a second chance?
I listened to this book every chance I could get - on my commute to and from work, driving out to run errands, sitting and waiting at my son's baseball game - I devoured it, because I was dying to learn what Horkai was learning. I needed to know what the endgame was. I couldn't shake the feeling that I knew how it was going to end and I needed to see if I was right.
I enjoyed putting the pieces of this novel together. As Horkai comes into contact with more people - like Mahonri for example, a "brother" who looks exactly like him, who calls himself a Keeper, and Rykte, the recluse who is content to remain un-influential in the trials and tribulations of humanity - as he began collecting more pieces of the puzzle, as realization begins to dawn on Horkai that he's a part of something much bigger and much more awful than he initially anticipated, I began to unravel the knotted road Horkai would end up travelling. And even though I had the ending pretty well pegged, I wasn't disappointed when Evenson delivered it. ...more
Read 6/9/14 - 6/11/14 3 Stars - Recommended to readers who prefer allegorical, non linear, reflective literature Pages: 168 Publisher: Lazy Fascist PressRead 6/9/14 - 6/11/14 3 Stars - Recommended to readers who prefer allegorical, non linear, reflective literature Pages: 168 Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press Released: May 2014
Lazy Fascist, my friend, I love you, but sometimes your choice of literature confuses me. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this book. But. I mean. Well, there's something a little not-quite-you about it. It's definitely less bizarre than your usual fare and far more out-of-body than I'm used to from you. If that makes sense. To be honest, though, I do find it interesting that Michael J Seidlinger's writing shares similarities to the likes of Blake Butler and JA Tyler, both of whom you've published in the past. So maybe, now that I think about it, this type of book is more common to your catalog than I give you credit for? And I've just managed to read around it this whole time? Huh. Looks like I just talked myself into a big fat circle right there. Uhm. Ok. Moving on...
So I crack open The Fun We've Had - or, uhm, rather, I slide the pages from right to left on my smartphone - and begin to read about a 'he and she' who're paddling around the great wide ocean in a coffin. They are in love, were in love, will be in love once more, bicker and ignore one another, borrow one another's bodies, and move through the endless waters in a numbing humdrum of internal contemplation. They are each other's protector and rejector, judge and jury. They cannot escape one another, nor do they seem to want to. They harbor heavy guilt and concern for one another. Each exudes forgiveness while refusing to forget, and this inability to let go is what we begin to realize has been keeping them both afloat.
Seidlinger breaks the book out into chapters that resemble the various stages of grief - Anger, Fear, Acceptance, etc. The 'him' and the 'her' take turns sharing their viewpoints through that chapter's specific filter, divulging their side of the relationship as they "row", intimating their idea of where they are and why they are there, and how they might get themselves out of their strange and worrisome predicament. As they accuse (whether outwardly or inwardly) the coffin takes on water and they must work together to avoid it slipping beneath the waves. When the rain that falls upon them turns acidic, one scurries to protect the other.
At one point in the book, they move into each other's bodies and see themselves through the other's eyes - how they've let themselves go, how they've aged ungracefully - and little by little, as they acknowledge and accept portions of the other, they give the bits of their bodies back. At another point, the woman's mother floats up to their coffin out of nowhere and moves away again. All the while, they ask themselves and each other "are we having fun?"
Throughout the rotating chapters, we begin to piece together a moment, or series of moments, that took place in the couple's past, the catalyst that most likely influenced their current situation. And I'm afraid if I go any further I may just ruin the book for you - assuming I am spot-on with my assumption of what has been taking place throughout the entire book and am not completely off base or reading into something that is not there.
On the surface, The Fun We've Had appears to be a quick read but you'll soon discover how deceiving it is. Yes, at face value, it's a dissection of relationships. It's a call to arms for love and the fear of losing love, a look at the lengths we go to in order to never let go, to fight the final goodbye, and everyone who reads it is guaranteed to find themselves reflected in some way, some shape, some form, within its words.
But if you're like me, you'll find yourself stopping more and more often between character rotations to digest what has just been thrown at you. Like the sting of cold water splashed unexpectedly at your face, Seidlinger excels at tucking his meanings between the lines, lulling you to sleep with his prose, only to jolt you awake again with a statement or confession that causes you to look back at what you've just read through newer, more aware eyes.
This book is certainly not for everyone. Its style and structure will be an immediate turn off for those who prefer the more standard and linear forms of story telling. If you get a thrill out of reading books that pull you out of your comfort zone, that leave you questioning what exactly is taking place, then go on and grab this one. I'd be curious to see if you came to the same conclusion I did....more
Read 5/26/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to fans of bizarre not-quite-post-apocalyptic-but-definitely-shit-I-dont-ever-want-to-live-through literatuRead 5/26/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to fans of bizarre not-quite-post-apocalyptic-but-definitely-shit-I-dont-ever-want-to-live-through literature / great gateway into bizarro fiction Pages: 125 Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press Released: May 2014
The end of the world is upon us and I can think of no one more capable of raining down some strange ass shit on the last of the human race than Brian Allen Carr. This novella is a strange and perfect mix of old school Mexican (and mostly made up) myths and legends - the wispy lost souls of the dead walking the earth, a plague of rouge severed hands that are aching to tear you to shreds, and El Abuelo, who comes to ask you a question you better be damn sure you're able to answer.
The backwoods people of Scrape, Texas are so typically human it hurts, and they uphold the usual rompy B horror flick requirements - the old, ignorant hillbilly with a closet full of guns; the token black guy; the young couple who fuck their way through the end of the world, mostly oblivious to the racket all around them; the local drunk; and two cute town chicks just to make it interesting.
Carr spends a little time setting up the history of this trashy little town, sharing the stories of its local yokels in the usual barstool-gossip sort of way. Within minutes of cracking it's cover, you're well acquainted with the secrets and skeletons carried by every one of Scrape's citizens.
And right when you're getting comfortable and about ready to chug back that first can of sweaty cheap beer, right as you're leaning back in that creaky ole porch swing, Carr pulls the mother fucking rug right out from under you.
In a matter of seconds, the entire town collapses all around your ears, and you gawk and gape as he unleashes the most god-awful end-times can of whoopass you can imagine.
The Last Horror Novel...is a quick, addicting read that runs you through the rinse cycle - soaking you to the bone one moment, mercilessly wringing you out the next, and whipping you around at break neck speeds - with some well placed breathers where time seems to slow down a bit - as our survivors take stock again and again of their ever-worsening situation.
The only criticism I have is with the ending. To me, it felt rushed and disconnected, very much the equivalent of Franco and Rogan's This is the End, which had some real kick-ass potential until that friggen devil-monster came out of nowhere and raped poor Jonas. The rest of the movie just devolved from there. Similarly, reading those last pages in Carr's novella, I got the sense that he might've shot his load a little too early and was left looking for a tissue with which to clean it all up. As if there was no where left to turn but to the devil, which, to me, even though we are taking end-times here, took a fairly disappointing turn.
All in all, a wonderfully wicked example of what the tamer side of bizarro fiction can be, especially for all you newbies out there who are still too afraid to give the genre a try....more
Read 9/11/14 - 9/12/14 3 Stars - Recommended to folks who like faux-documentaries about fictional celebrities Pages: 97 Publisher: Main Street Rag ReleaseRead 9/11/14 - 9/12/14 3 Stars - Recommended to folks who like faux-documentaries about fictional celebrities Pages: 97 Publisher: Main Street Rag Released: 2011
I landed myself a signed copy of The Mimic's Own Voice during the Cobalt Press Four Fathers Kickstarter campaign back in 2013, when I had partnered with Cobalt and organized a pretty cool four-way interview session with the contributors of the collection - Ben Tanzer, BL Pawelek, Dave Housely, and Tom Williams himself.
A meaty ninety-seven paged novella, The Mimic's Own Voice tells the story of Douglas Myles, a fictional professional comedic mimic a la faux documentary style. It's ultimately a story of a story, in the sense that someone pens this completely unbiased, journalistic biography of this wildly talented but completely hermetic guy once his post-mortem, unpublished, autobiographical manuscript is uncovered. (You got all that?)
How incredibly meta of you, Williams!
Typically, I hear of books written in this style and my eyes start to glaze over and I begin to feel a nagging, almost uncontrollable urge to run, run faaaaaaarrrr away, to avoid coming into contact with said book. And I have to admit that, though I didn't request that a copy of this book come into my possession, I alone chose to pull it out from under the TBR pile and crack it open. The first few pages were a bit difficult for me, because I really wasn't sure where Williams was going, blathering on and on about the old-time mimics, "those artists who made their fame and fortune with stunning mimicry of the period's political leaders and actors, athletes and musicians, scholars, and men of science." We're not actually introduced to Myles until the bottom of page four. And by that point, I'm looking at the total page count of the book and thinking to myself, well hell, I'm already about 5% into the darn thing, might as well finish it, yeah?
Much of the book is focused on how Myles applied his savant-like talent for mimicry. How he initially cultivated an audience with his vocal trickery by mimicking the old-time mimics (how very meta of YOU, Myles), then turning his ear and voice towards his contemporary peers and rivals, to his final big ta-dah... mimicking the voices of his very own audience members, to their amazement and enjoyment.
So, I mentioned that The Mimic's Own Voice is meaty, and meaty it is. You're gonna need a fork and knife and some major jaw muscles to chew through this sucker. It's a sticker and a stayer. Kind of like a well-seasoned but overcooked cut of meat. There's no swallowing this one down quickly. You're gonna be working at it for a little while. But when it's all gone down, and the plate is clean, you'll definitely feel full and satisfied....more
Read 5/13/14 - 5/21/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of Gothic 1980's teenage coming-of-age stories where the coming of age is anything but... 320 PagesRead 5/13/14 - 5/21/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of Gothic 1980's teenage coming-of-age stories where the coming of age is anything but... 320 Pages Publisher: Perfect Edge Books Releases: July 2014
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth is a dark and angsty roller coaster ride set to a wickedly awesome goth rock soundtrack.
In the center of it all is Mina, an anything but typical teenager. Long time sufferer of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her brother, daughter to a dead mother and somewhat clueless father, shy and self-conscious Mina struggles to find her place among the rest of her school mates. Sure, she's part of an inner circle of friends, but she often finds herself on the outer edges of the group, peeking in from beneath her fringe bangs, feeling the most alone when in the presence of others. At home, when she's not being roughed up, she locks herself away in her room composing short stories, rocking out to the darker classic alt bands of the eighties, and hanging with her feathered friend Animeid, a girl she looks to as protector and confidant, a girl who is a complete and utter figment of her imagination.
Mina does a pretty good job of playing normal and seems to be keeping her crazy in check - acting out in all the usual teenage ways: dying her hair, plastering on the goth greasepaint, getting drunk in the clubs, falling for strange older boys, and getting dumped by one group of friends only to find herself caught up in the swish and sway of another.
But the crazy can only be quieted for so long before we find ourselves staring over the edge of the rabbit hole with Mina, slugging back Elysium in the hopes of returning to a relatively normal life and instead, finding ourselves tugged down inside its black, gaping maw, directly into Bergen's capable and waiting hands.
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth is a book that avoids genre. It's a melting pot of science fiction, murder mystery, and coming of age YA, whipped to a froth and blended beyond recognition. While it's not for everyone... it's a reading experience that the braver fans of unconventional literature will not want to miss.
Think cult classic film Heathers with a healthy heap of Alice in Wonderland, and you've got the idea....more
I can't rate this because I am helping to promote this book.
Starship Grifters is a fun, humorous deep space Sci-Fi adventure that immediately broughtI can't rate this because I am helping to promote this book.
Starship Grifters is a fun, humorous deep space Sci-Fi adventure that immediately brought to mind Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the 1980’s Star Wars spoof Space Balls. It’s a tongue-in-cheek deep space story that hooks you from the very start.
We're looking for reviewers! Comment here or message me with your interest, and we'll pass along an uncorrected PDF arc.