I’m really tempted to give this five stars. Not because it’s one of the groundbreaking classics of the comic genre like Watchmen or Dark Knight ReturnI’m really tempted to give this five stars. Not because it’s one of the groundbreaking classics of the comic genre like Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns. It’s not. It’s also not putting a new twist on a familiar hero in brilliant ways like the current run of Hawkeye, and it’s certainly not doing anything wildly original like Saga.
What is it then? Just a helluva lot of fun.
There’s three stories in this collection. The first and best involves Tony Stark and Bruce Banner trying to settle a debate over science by pulling some of the other Avengers into a race to Antarctica to check out a potential problem, but of course things go sideways once they get there. The next one has Black Widow trying to repay an old debt from her days as a KGB spy and assassin with a little help from Hawkeye and Spiderwoman. Finally, Vision tries to cope with his return from the dead as the Avengers confront a super villain.
So there’s no huge crossover events that force you to read 20 other books to get the whole story. Nor are there major character deaths to pimp for sales. No epic storylines that will “Change the Marvel universe forever!” (Or at least until they return to baseline a few issues later.) It’s also not so bogged down with history and continuity that only long time fans can understand it.
It’s just the Avengers being Avengers with funny interactions, nice character bits, evil villains with dastardly schemes, plenty of action, and lots of Big Damn Hero moments.
The only bad thing is that it got my hopes that this title might keep delivering stories like that, but when I looked up what comes next I see that it’s nothing but crossovers like Age of Ultron and Infinity after this.
When Parker takes a boating trip along a river, you know that it’s not gonna be a pleasure cruise.
After a narrow escape from his previous robbery, ParWhen Parker takes a boating trip along a river, you know that it’s not gonna be a pleasure cruise.
After a narrow escape from his previous robbery, Parker is contacted by a retired government bureaucrat named Cathman who has a proposition. Cathman has the details on a new riverboat casino that is always loaded with cash, and while Parker doesn’t much like the idea of pulling a job on a boat, it’s too tempting a target to pass up. Parker assembles a top notch crew of thieves to pull off the heist, but he’s worried about Cathman’s real motives. As always with a Parker story, there are some other monkey wrenches lurking around just waiting to be flung into the works at the worst possible moments.
This is second Parker book that Stark (a/k/a Donald Westlake) wrote a long lay off from 1974 until 1997. While I don’t find the second phase of the books quite as strong as the early Parker novels, a weaker Stark is still better than most other crime novels, and this one was particularly fun to re-read. The riverboat heist is a nice change of pace, and as usual there are some clever gimmicks as to how the job gets pulled off. Another aspect I enjoyed was that for a while in the series most of Parker’s problems were coming from loose ends that he would leave hanging. In this one, most of the obstacles come from directions he couldn’t have reasonably anticipated so he comes across as smarter in this one as well as more ruthless in the way he deals with them.
Something that did strike me funny was the idea that there’s a riverboat casino that actually goes up and down a river. When the riverboat fad hit Kansas City in the ‘90s there was the usual battle between the puritans and the capitalists, and the riverboat compromise was sold as being a way to do gambling with strict limitations. But then the so-called boats were essentially just buildings along the river.
We all played along with the joke for a while. There was a brief period when you actually had to get boarding passes and could only step ‘on-board’ at certain times with a time limit that meant you had to leave the ‘ship’. Most of those rules were tossed out pretty quickly so what we were left with are casinos along the rivers in areas no one goes to except to gamble which pretty much eliminated all the projections of bringing tourism in.
Anyhow, that’s why I found the idea of a riverboat casino that actually cruises on a river hilarious. (Are there parts of the country where they actually do this? Anyone got an actual cruising riverboat?) Parker should have just hit one of these KC casinos, and he wouldn’t have had to worry about any of that boat nonsense. ...more
Do you want to hear Walter White curse at a child? (And who wouldn’t?) Then you can download this from Audible for free now and listen to Bryan CranstDo you want to hear Walter White curse at a child? (And who wouldn’t?) Then you can download this from Audible for free now and listen to Bryan Cranston profanely urge a youngster to eat something just as Samuel L. Jackson once begged another kid to Go the Fuck to Sleep. It’s as funny as you’d expect it to be. ...more
"This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen KiFrom the synopsis on Stephen King’s website:
"This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written."
That’s a bold statement that sets the bar very high for Revival. So does it clear it?
Almost. I think. If it doesn’t then it comes damn close which still makes this a pretty impressive achievement for Uncle Steve at this point in his long career.
Jamie Morton first meets Reverend Charles Jacobs when he’s a 6 year old kid in Maine during the early ‘60s. Jacobs is a popular minister with a pretty wife and infant son, and he loves fiddling with electrical gadgets. Jamie and Jacobs have a bond from the moment they meet that is cemented later when Jacobs aids a member of Jamie’s family. After a tragedy drives Jacobs out of town, Jamie profoundly feels the loss, but time marches on. When he becomes a teenager Jamie discovers he has some musical talent and as an adult he makes a living as a rhythm guitar player in bar bands. But Jamie hasn’t seen the last of Jacobs as their paths cross again and again over the years and each strange encounter leaves Jamie increasingly worried about what Jacobs is up to.
I’ve seen complaints from some readers that this is too slow and that the ending doesn’t live up to the hype. I can understand why. The readers’ impressions of it are probably going to be determined by how well the punch King spends the entire book setting us all up for landed. If it was a glancing blow, then you’ll shrug it off. After all, there are no evil clowns or haunted hotels or telekinetic teenagers getting buckets of pig blood dumped over them. The book could almost be one of those VH1 Behind the Music bios about Jamie Morton if King doesn’t pull off the last act for you.
But if that punch lands solidly… If, like me, King catches you squarely with that jab of an ending, then you’re going to be lying on the floor looking up at the ceiling with a bloody nose and spitting broken teeth as you mumble, “The horror….the horror…”
What made that ending so powerful? * (view spoiler)[ The idea that death is merely a doorway that has leads every person to a HP Lovecraft nightmare of an afterworld where all spend an eternity damned and enslaved is something that I’d think would the terrify everyone from the very religious to the skeptical atheist. Good or bad, believer or non-believer, we all end up in the same place. Death isn’t the gateway to the magical place where you’ll see grandma and all your pets again. It isn’t even a long dark dreamless sleep. It’s the start of a torment that will never end. And there is no escape from it.
That’s the kind of idea that could make even a writer like Cormac McCarthy break into tears as he wails, “King, you went too far!”
I think this has an extra jolt because Uncle Steve has never been shy about heaping misery on characters, but generally for him death is the end of it. Even in one of his other most disturbing books, Pet Semetary the message is that ‘Sometimes dead is better.’ Not this time. King wrote something where there is no safe harbor, no hope, no end…
But I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords….. (Sorry, it had to be said.) (hide spoiler)]
I’ll be thinking about this one for a while, and it could end fairly high in my personal ranking of King novels after some reflection. Probably not top five, but maybe top fifteen or even top ten. However, I think it’s got a serious chance of being the one I find the most disturbing of them all.
* - Any comments about the ending that aren't hidden by a spoiler tag will be deleted. Sorry, but I don't want anyone who hasn't read it getting spoiled on this review.
Also posted at Kemper's Book Blog.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Treasure of the Rubbermaids 23: Rival Companies United!
The on-going discoveries of priceless books and comics found in a stack of Rubbermaid containerTreasure of the Rubbermaids 23: Rival Companies United!
The on-going discoveries of priceless books and comics found in a stack of Rubbermaid containers previously stored and forgotten at my parent’s house and untouched for almost 20 years. Thanks to my father dumping them back on me, I now spend my spare time unearthing lost treasures from their plastic depths.
The Coca-Cola Company doesn’t have to worry about trying to come up with a crossover concept to Pepsi to make fans happy. Ford and Toyota don’t have to design a new car together.
But Marvel and DC both manufacture stories about superheroes which means that any kid who ever picked up a comic book wondered what would happen if Marvel Hero A met DC Hero 1, and since both these companies generally would murder their own stockholders to make a buck, they’ve put these crossovers together every now and then. The problem is that’s when the lawyers get involved, and you can almost see the contractual language in the dialogue balloons that guarantees that one hero isn’t going to win a fight between them or that one will be allowed to outshine the other.*
That’s what you get here when Doctor Doom cooks up a pretty ambitious scheme to take over the world that involves freeing the Parasite. Superman and Spider-Man end up working together to stop the threat with guest appearances from the Hulk and Wonder Woman (Who both feel kind of shoehorned in her for no real reason.).
This is all early ‘80s comic book cheese without even a nodding acquaintance to reality in it’s twists and turns, but it’s not horrible as these things go. There’s actually a few nice bits like the always turgid Doctor Doom saying that all his monologuing is recorded and that he reads his own transcripts at night looking for inspiration. Which just seems like the kind of thing that Doc Doom would do. Or Spider-Man feeling useless for a chunk of the book because what’s climbing some walls when compared to the Man of Steel? While that power imbalance prevents Supes and Spidey from having one of those Heroes-Meet-And-Have-To-Fight-For-Reasons things, there are a couple of battles between the Hulk and Superman and Wonder Woman and Spider-Man which of course both end without a clear winner.
The real oddness and what feels like a missed opportunity is that Clark Kent and Peter Parker don’t meet. While Superman and Spider-Man are on a completely different power scale and don‘t really have all that much to say to each other, I could see Clark and Peter having some things in common.** But for some reason the plot has Clark moving to New York and going to work for The Daily Bugle just as Peter goes to Metropolis and ends up free lancing at The Daily Planet. So they both interact with each other’s supporting cast, but never meet face to face. It’s a weird decision that makes the story kind of unsatisfying as far as fulfilling fan boy wishes.
* DC and Marvel would let their heroes engage in combat with winners and losers in the mid-90s as part of a crossover done as a desperation move when the comic industry was swirling the toilet bowl after the artificial collector’s bubble they created burst. Let‘s just all keep pretending that it never happened. Amalgam Comics? What‘s that?
** I guess this is the second crossover between Superman and Spider-Man, and the first one is even referenced here, but the impression is given that Clark and Peter didn’t meet in that one either....more
“I’ve got an assignment for you. You know that our new Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy is coming out soon.”
“I sure do, sir. O“Bendis!”
“I’ve got an assignment for you. You know that our new Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy is coming out soon.”
“I sure do, sir. One of the hundreds of Marvel titles I currently write has been a new rebooted version of Guardians to capitalize on the movie.”
“I doubt there’s going to be much to capitalize on. Seriously, it’s going to have a talking raccoon, a walking tree, and the fat guy from Parks & Rec in it. It’s going to be a flop that’ll make Howard the Duck look like Titanic by comparison. I don’t know what idiot in the film division cooked this up. Hell, all they had to do was keep shoveling a small part of the money they’re making at Robert Downey Jr. to play Iron Man and crank out a new Avengers movie every couple of years. How hard is that?
“Not hard at all, sir.”
“Well, that’s not our problem. What we need you to do is cook up some kind of crossover for Guardians.”
“Uh,… a crossover, sir?”
“Bendis, you know Marvel General Order #2 as well as I do: Crossover At Every Opportunity.”
“I’m well aware of that, sir, and I’ve written my fair share of them. It’s just that this Guardians book is fairly new, and I’ve already had to spend a lot of time having Iron Man as part of the team for a while to ride the gravy train of those films. Then I had to work in Angela because……Sir, why did we want Angela in Guardians again?“
“To spite Todd McFarlane.“
“Oh, that’s right. Anyhow, after that we had the huge Infinity crossover that just wrapped up. There hasn’t been a lot of time in the book for me to develop them as the new version of the team, and I thought maybe with the movie coming out that we’d want to do some kind of story that just focused on the Guardians themselves. That way we could maybe draw in some fans of the film to our books because they could read a story that is similar to what they saw.”
“Ah, don’t worry about that. Only the hard core comic geeks are gonna see this turkey, and they’ll be too busy posting on the Interwebs how awful it was to read the book. What we need is to preemptively keep some of the stench of failure off the title so we're going to do a really juicy crossover with something popular. Like All-New X-Men. You’re doing a bang up job on that one. So let’s do that.”
“Ummm….You want me to come up with a story that combines the original X-Men as teens brought forward in time with the team of interstellar misfits dedicated to protecting the galaxy?”
“Why not? None of this crap really makes a lick of sense anyhow.”
“Sir, you know I’m a good company man, but I do have to point out that I also just got done with a big crossover with All-New X-Men that left them in vastly changed circumstances so I was really hoping to explore that rather than just rushing into another story that has nothing to do with any other characters or elements we’ve worked in so far.”
“How hard can it be? The X-Men are always going off into space. Like the Phoenix thing…. Hey, there’s an idea. Aliens find out that young Jean Grey is back so they kidnap her and put her on trial for what he older Jean Grey did as Phoenix. Then the Guardians show up to help out. That will also let us fulfill Marvel General Order #17: Reference Phoenix History Constantly.”
“Well, I guess I could also maybe do something with young Cyclops and his father since he’s out in space, too…..”
“There you go! See, this stuff practically writes itself.” ...more
“Which one, sir? I write about 137 of them a week for Marvel so you’ll have to be“Bendis, get in here!”
“There’s a problem with your story.”
“Which one, sir? I write about 137 of them a week for Marvel so you’ll have to be more specific.”
“Oh, right. I’m talking about the latest issues of All-New X-Men.”
“What’s the problem?”
“There’s no Wolverine in them.”
“Right. It’s about the original X-Men team being brought to the present day and having to deal with seeing their future. Wolverine didn’t join the X-Men until later so he’s not with them.”
“Yeah, but he’s around now, isn’t he? So why haven’t you put him on the team? Hell, since he’s the oldest, make him their leader. That’ll be a nice twist.”
“Uh, but sir. We’ve already got Kitty Pryde acting as their mentor and leader. Frankly, it’s going pretty well so I’d hate to….”
“Bendis, are you aware of Marvel's General Order #1?”
“Of course, sir.”
“And what does it state?”
“Put Wolverine In Every Book.”
“Pretty clear, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sir. I think calling one title Wolverine & The X-Men was particularly inspired.”
“That was my idea, you know.”
“I am aware of that, sir, and a brilliant idea it was.”
“Right, so why are you fighting me on putting Wolverine in this one?”
“Ordinarily, I’d agree with you 100%, sir, but I’m afraid I wrote us into a bit of a corner here. I had managed to work Wolverine into All New X-Men earlier as an authority figure who wanted to send the team back to their own time. That led into a lot of the conflict we used as part of Battle of the Atom.”
“Now that was a good crossover. Lots of Wolverine in that one.”
“Yes, sir, but unfortunately the aftermath of that would make it very difficult to come up with a logical story reason for Wolverine to work with this team.”
“Hmmm…I don’t suppose those fanboys would just forget about that?”
“I doubt it, sir. They’re pretty touchy about continuity.”
“Damn them and their parents for letting them live in their basements! They’re the ones who want all this Wolverine, but now they’re making it impossible for us to deliver him! What do they want from us?”
“I have an idea, sir. We could use X-23.”
“X-23? What’s that? Some kind of amnesia gas we can spray on those Cheeto snarfing comic geeks?”
“No, sir. It’s actually another character we have. Laura Kinney, she’s the female clone of Wolverine.”
“Oh, that’s right. She’s got a healing factor and claws too, right?"
“Yes sir. She even has foot claws!”
“Foot claws, eh? Well, it’s not Wolverine, but I guess it's going to have to be close enough. Any chance you could tie some of this into some history those fanboys will recognize?”
“That’ll do. I’m still worried about our overall Wolverine quota dropping though.”
“Maybe we could do something big to get him more publicity, sir.”
“Killing off a character and bringing him back later usually does the trick, sir.”
“Great idea. We’ll get to work on that right away. We have to keep the fans happy because I just heard those Hollywood nitwits are going to use Rocket Raccoon in our latest movie. You believe that? Featuring a damn talking space raccoon instead of Wolverine in a big budget movie? I don’t know what idiot cooked that up, but I expect that it’ll flop and cripple the company!” ...more
Between this book and Packing for Mars I know way more about pooping in space than I ever wanted to…..
Mike Mullane’s childhood fascination with spaceBetween this book and Packing for Mars I know way more about pooping in space than I ever wanted to…..
Mike Mullane’s childhood fascination with space travel gave him the determination to become one of the first groups of astronauts chosen for the space shuttle program, and eventually he made three trips into orbit. Despite eyesight bad enough to prevent him from being a pilot, he was also an Air Force officer who flew combat missions in Vietnam as the weapons system operator. (Like Goose in Top Gun.) He’s traveled the world and has a lot of funny stories about meeting famous people like hobnobbing with Christie Brinkley at a Super Bowl and getting a tour of the White House while cracking jokes with Barbara Bush. While he’s justifiably proud of his achievements, he’s also got a self-deprecating sense of humor that shows he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
All in all, Mullane has lived a life that’s going to make most of us seem about as interesting as a bowl of cottage cheese by comparison, and he’d probably be entertaining as hell if you had a couple of beers with him. He’s amusing at providing the details about what it’s like to be in space including oversharing a bit on the Viagra effect of zero-G as well as a step-by-step explanation of using the toilet. However, despite having the subtitle of “The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut”, I didn’t find any of the tales that outrageous or different from other books I’ve read from people involved in the space program.
Since the shuttle missions were mainly about delivering freight to space, they just aren’t that exciting unless something went horribly wrong. It doesn’t help that two of Mullane’s three missions involved putting top secret military hardware into orbit so he can’t even talk about the details of those because they're classified. I feel silly saying that a guy writing about riding a giant tank of burning rocket fuel into space seems kind of routine, but when I contrast this with something like Jim Lovell’s Lost Moon, in which Lovell recounts not only his life story but the life-threatening Apollo 13 mission, then this seems kind of tame by comparison despite Mullane’s efforts to convey the wonderous nature of viewing the Earth from orbit. (In fairness, part of the reason I checked this out was because Andy Weir’s The Martian gave me a tremendous hankering to read something from a smart-ass astronaut’s point of view, but it’s really not fair to compare the fictional Mark Watney to the real life of Mullane.)
What I did find intriguing was Mullane’s frankness when discussing the shuttle program, NASA management and his own obsession with getting into space. He doesn’t hedge when saying that after NASA completed the greatest engineering project in history by getting to the moon that it was turned into a freight hauling service with demands to become cost effective by politicians and bureaucrats who treated the shuttle like a commercial jetliner instead of the high risk experimental aircraft it was. He’s highly critical of the NASA management that let a secretive process to select flight crews turn the astronaut’s office into a seething stew of paranoia, fear and frustration. Mullane plainly lays the blame for the Challenger and Columbia disasters on the culture that resulted from these factors. He also confesses that like most of the other astronauts he was so desperate to get into space that he ignored safety concerns, and that he often put his own family second to his career.
Mullane is also brutally honest when recounting the casual sexism that he and the other astronauts engaged in when they were training with America’s first female astronauts. As someone who had gone to the all-male West Point as well as being a military officer, Mullane’s background had been almost exclusively male, and he admits to behaving like a jerk at times. However, he would grow to respect most of the female astronauts and would develop a strong friendship with Judith Resnik who would later be killed on-board Challenger. He was far less friendly with Sally Ride, and one gets the impression that the two of them probably didn’t exchange Christmas cards.
While I enjoyed his story as well as his frankness, in the end I wish that NASA had come up with a grander mission for a guy like Mike Mullane rather than risking his life to put satellites into orbit....more
It’s seems the most common way of describing this is that it’s like Ocean’s Eleven set in a fantasy world. That’s accurate enough for the first part oIt’s seems the most common way of describing this is that it’s like Ocean’s Eleven set in a fantasy world. That’s accurate enough for the first part of the book that tells how Locke Lamora and his group of Gentlemen Bastards run elaborate cons on the upper class population of the city of Camorr while pretending to be simple petty thieves to the criminal underworld. This early phase certainly resembles the kind of zany schemes that the Ocean’s Eleven crew pull in their movies in which they’re always a step ahead, no one really gets hurt, and the worst crime is rich jerks losing money.
However, I think a much closer crime movie comparison would probably be The Usual Suspects because there comes a point when Locke and his friends are forced to do the bidding of a mysterious villain who wields tremendous power. Things take a darker turn from there with the kind of violence and body count that George Clooney and his pals never had to deal with.
There’s a lot to love in this remarkably strong debut novel. The world building is excellent in the way that Camorr is fully realized in almost every detail including its politics, social classes, and religion as well as how its criminal underworld functions within a complicated set of rules. Characterization is particularly strong with Locke and his friends well developed via flashbacks that explains their history as well as giving readers the sense of the strong bond among them. Locke in particular is a great main character as a cocky con man, but I also liked that he’s not your typical dashing rogue. He’s small, not a big manly man, and he’s not much good in a fight so having him have to use his wits rather than a sword is part of what makes him interesting.
Author Scott Lynch also does a superior job of managing tone. While this starts out as a kind of bawdy romp, he doesn’t hesitate to make things bloody and doesn’t hedge the cost of these events, but he’s able to keep the novel’s original boastful spirit alive even as everything is going to hell without it feeling too jarring. The witty dialogue helps keep things from getting too dark, and it is so profane that it would make the characters in Deadwood blush. (Which is an extra bonus for me because I love colorful cursing.) Plus, Lynch balances the weird elements extremely well by doling out just enough magic and strange creatures to make this a fantasy novel without letting those things overwhelm or distract a reader.
While it’s a serious story filled with violence and deadly consequences, it never gets so bogged down in those aspects that it forgets to be entertaining. ...more
“God, when did Wolverine become the reasonable one? These X-Men get crazier every year.”
Yes, they certainly do, and this 10-part crossover that was pa“God, when did Wolverine become the reasonable one? These X-Men get crazier every year.”
Yes, they certainly do, and this 10-part crossover that was part of the 50th anniversary of the original title proves Maria Hill’s point.
Since the X-Men and time traveling go together like the Doctor and Clara, then I guess it’s only natural that this would lean heavily on that concept, especially since the All New X-Men are actually the original team brought forward in time due to a very curious decision by the present day version of Hank McCoy. Even though almost everyone agrees that having them remain is a spectacularly bad idea, they just keep hanging around until a future version of the X-Men show up demanding that they be returned immediately to prevent some horrible outcome.
This is a fairly entertaining story, and it does at least try to address the elephant in the room regarding the original X-Men: if everyone except young Jean Grey thinks that having them stay actually endangers the entire space-time continuum as they know it, then why haven’t they been sent back? The problems start popping up because of the whole superhero vs. superhero thing which is an angle that Marvel has leaned on far too heavily since the Civil War storyline.
So all the battles here take place between past X-Men, present day X-Men, future X-Men, ex-X-Men, and future ex-X-Men. Oh, and SHIELD, too, because you might as well have the worldwide peacekeeping force and the good guys at each other’s throats while you’re at it. *sigh* Remember the days when superheroes fought supervillains in comic books?
This causes several problems with characters and story because to generate conflict some of the present day X-Men have to decide that letting the past X-Men stay in place is a good idea even when they barely avoid a very scary incident at the beginning of the story that shows them how the timeline can be disrupted just by their presence. (view spoiler)[I just don’t buy that Kitty Pryde and Rachel Grey would think that they should let the younger X-Men stay with so much at stake, and I certainly don’t believe that Kitty would jump ship to crazy Scott Summer’s renegade band of mutants over it. (hide spoiler)]
This puts the reader in the position of having to root that the people endangering all of time and space to win when there’s no good reason presented why they should. (view spoiler)[ I guess you could argue that since the future Brotherhood is posing as the future X-Men want to send them back that it shows that Kitty, Rachel and the younger X-Men are right, but we’re never told why. (hide spoiler)] A lot of this could be avoided if it had been written that a villain had brought the original X-Men forward in time for some nefarious scheme, and that they were stranded in the present . Then we could still have the good story of the originals dealing with the present day stuff, but it wouldn’t feel like they were recklessly endangering all of existence in doing so.
Even worse is that despite all of this timey-wimey stuff none of this really gets resolved which is typical for one of these big crossover events, but it makes reading a big 10 part story arc seem kinda pointless despite a generally compelling story.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book certainly isn’t abominable, but it doesn’t exactly soar to the height of the peak of Mount Everest either.
In 1925 young Jake Perry is an AmeThis book certainly isn’t abominable, but it doesn’t exactly soar to the height of the peak of Mount Everest either.
In 1925 young Jake Perry is an American mountain climber who has been knocking around the Alps with his new friends, Richard Davis Deacon and Jean-Claude Clairoux. Deacon is a veteran English climber who had been on a previous expedition to scale Mount Everest. After the men hear about the deaths of several people attempting to summit Everest, Deacon comes up with a plan to get funding for another Everest expedition by telling the mother of a young English lord that they will try to find and recover his remains
With Deacon’s experience and several new climbing innovations, the three men hope to become the first men to climb Everest, but the addition of a new member to their party is just one of many surprises they’ll get as they try overcome all the obstacles that come with a high altitude climb.
Dan Simmons threw me for a bit of a loop by starting with an introduction in which he describes how he met Jake Perry as an old dying man who inadvertently inspires his Arctic horror story The Terror. This is supposedly an account that Perry wrote that Simmons received after his death and arranged to have a published. The inclusion of Simmons into his own story made me think for a minute that Perry was real until a bit of research showed that Simmons was doing his historical fiction thing again like The Terror, Black Hills, and The Crook Factory.
If you’ve read any of those books and you know that a big chunk of this is about trying to climb Mt. Everest in the ‘20s then you might guess that there’s going to be a massive amount of detail about mountain climbing techniques and equipment from that era. And you’d be absolutely right!
Some people would probably be bored to tears by this, but most who have read any of those other books by Simmons probably had a pretty good idea that there would be long explanations of the terrain, food, clothing, equipment, etc. etc. The question for many readers will be is if the detail helps sell the experience of the book or if they think that it just turns into Simmons showing off his research skills.
The problem for me wasn’t so much the infodumps. I’m a Simmons veteran so I knew what I was getting into, and I knew that I’d be getting an education in mountain climbing by reading this. It was that not only did Simmons give you that much detail, he’s awfully damn repetitive about it. For example, Simmons writes that Deacon has come up with a new kind of rope and exactly how it’s breaking strength is superior to the other ropes of the time. OK, so they’ve got better rope. Easy enough to understand. Yet Simmons feels the need to repeatedly remind us every time a hunk of rope is used that the Deacon’s ‘miracle rope’ is much better the old ‘clothes line’ rope. I got it after the first 20 times, Dan Simmons. You didn’t need to keep telling me.
And it isn’t just the rope. Perry’s team has acute future vision because they manage to use groundbreaking new ice climbing methods as well as improved equipment in every phase of their expedition. Even their tents and clothing are such a quantum leap above the gear of the day that I was wondering why they bothered trying to climb Mount Everest when they could have just founded North Face and made a fortune instead.
Maybe this wouldn’t have been quite such an irritation to me if the main part of the story would have kicked in a little earlier and been a bit more believable. I was invested in finding out if they were going to be able to summit Everest when Phase Two begins late in the book, and everything goes in another direction. (view spoiler)[There’s a lot of teasing all the yeti stuff, and since this is a book by the guy who wrote The Terror it certainly seemed like some abominable snowmen would be making an appearance so it turning out to be Nazis seems to come out of left field despite the earlier scenes in Germany.
Also, after so much detail about how exhausting it is to be in the death zone, the plot of being chased by Nazis up the mountain seems completely unrealistic. Plus, the idea that all of this was because of pictures showing that Adolf Hitler was a pedophile doesn’t really work for me either. If the British really had blackmail material like that, wouldn’t they have used it to derail Hitler’s career earlier when he was becoming a threat or avert the war when he started invading other countries? I just don’t buy that they’d wait to play that card until England was about to be invaded rather than much earlier. (hide spoiler)]
Still, for all the excess detail and slow pace, I did very much enjoy some aspects of this. Simmons is a writer who can really make you feel what it’d be like to climb the highest mountain on the world, and he provides some very gory details to make you appreciate the peril. I had never thought about what would happen to human bodies that go tumbling down mountain faces, and now I have those mental pictures in my head thanks to this book. So that’s another one I owe Dan Simmons…["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
“Mr. Kemper, I hear that you are somewhat familiar with me?”
“Please tell me what you know. Be succinct.”
“You are haunted by“Hello, Mr. Ellroy.”
“Mr. Kemper, I hear that you are somewhat familiar with me?”
“Please tell me what you know. Be succinct.”
“You are haunted by the unsolved murder of your mother which occurred when you were a child and led you to become obsessed with crime and women. You frequently dreamed of scenarios in which you could save damsels in distress. You let your rich fantasy life rule you and with no ambition or discipline you became a homeless drunk and drug addict in your teens. You eventually hit bottom and got sober. You became a writer and used your fascination with true crime and post-war Los Angeles to create what you called the L.A. Quartet. You started with a fictionalized version of the Black Dahlia case, and one of the books, L.A. Confidential, became an acclaimed movie. You wrote a trilogy called Underworld USA that followed bad men doing bad things in the shadows of recent American history. You investigated the death of your mother with an ex-cop and published the results as a memoir. You wrote a second autobiography in which you admitted that much of what you wrote about your state of mind in the first book wasn’t true. You recently published a new novel called Perfidia that you state is the start of a new Second L.A. Quartet.
“What are your impressions of Perfidia? Please be brief.”
“Perfidia begins the day before Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese. Many of the characters are ones you used in other books like Dudley Smith, a corrupt police officer who was a large part of the L.A. Quartet, and Kay Lake from The Black Dahlia. Others are based on real life people like William ‘Whiskey Bill’ Parker, another LAPD officer who would go on to become the chief of police. A new addition is a brilliant police crime scene technician, Hideo Ashida, of Japanese descent. The murder of a Japanese family coincides with the news of the attack, and the investigation takes place as L.A. is consumed by a mixture of patriotism and paranoia. Corruption enters the scene immediately with many people scheming on ways to profit from the war even as the ships are still burning at Pearl Harbor.”
“That’s a summary. I asked for your impressions.”
“There is a lot here to appeal to your fans. The wartime setting with a mystery that blends fiction with history against a L.A. that is completely corrupt is something that you know how to utilize to provide a gritty noir atmosphere. Your plotting with the characters aligning and betraying each other almost at whim is as dense and intricate as ever. Your style of short sentences in a stream of consciousness patter as the perspective shifts from character to character is still sharp, and you retain the knack of writing scenes of brutal violence that seem to pass in moments yet leave lasting effects.”
“That’s the positive side. Please tell me where you think the book was lacking.”
“While some longtime fans will be delighted at the way you’ve incorporated so many characters from your other books, it also brings some of the problems inherent to prequels into the mix.”
“If you know that a character is alive and has a career with the police department in a book set after Perfidia, than I know that they will not die or lose their job in this book despite anything that may occur. This naturally removes some of the drama.”
“Naturally. Please continue.”
“If not done well, the characters may act in ways or accumulate knowledge that seems at odds with the other incarnation. For example,(view spoiler)[ the idea that Dudley Smith is the father of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, is something that is pretty shocking and wasn’t even hinted at that I can recall in his previous appearances. (hide spoiler)]
“I understand the point. Move on."
“Usually your books take place over a period of months or years. This allows for on-going events and new information to change the perspectives and motives of characters. Since this novel occurs entirely in the weeks immediately after Pearl Harbor, the time frame is greatly condensed from your usual work yet you incorporate as many betrayals, shocking revelations and changes of allegiances as your other books. This makes all of the characters seem rushed and erratic. Plus, everyone in the book seems to have an amazing ability to look into the future. None of the major players seem that concerned about the war with the Japanese. All of them somehow immediately know that the war will be won and that there will future tension between America and Russia.”
“Are there any other things you consider shortcomings of the book you would like to share?
“You also use some of the same phrases and tricks here that seem in danger of becoming tropes of your work.”
“State some examples.”
“Using short sentences to indicate a series of actions. For example, ‘Dudley winked. Dudley scratched. Dudley howled….’“
“And characters making instant judgments and psychoanalysis of each other that is 100% accurate.”
“And repeatedly using the word ‘and’ as a way of continuing the flow of information.”
“Very droll, Mr. Kemper. And?”
“And you really got into this thing where a lot of the dialogue is someone demanding information in a blunt and condescending fashion. You used to save that for when one had a definite edge on another, like J. Edgar Hoover interrogating an underling, but it seemed like it happened on almost every page in this book. These conversations also frequently have one person delivering a set of orders.”
“You have communicated your viewpoint, Mr. Kemper. You will write up a review on Perfidia. You will give it no less than three stars. You may bring up the points you have outlined here, but you will still credit my work as still being an enjoyable read. You will also praise my ability to create damaged characters operating in amoral ways for selfish reasons at a street level and use them to illustrate broader themes on subjects like the effect of History on the individual. Once you have completed this review, you will post it on Goodreads. If you don’t do this, I’ll engage in another trope of mine, and have you shot in the face repeatedly. Do you agree, Mr. Kemper?”
“One three star review of Perfidia coming right up!”
Also posted at Kemper's Book Blog. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I’m still enjoying this title in which the original X-Men are doing the time warp again, but I’m starting to wonder how it can possibly continue in aI’m still enjoying this title in which the original X-Men are doing the time warp again, but I’m starting to wonder how it can possibly continue in a satisfying fashion. The idea that the younger versions are having to face the consequences of choices they haven’t made yet continues to offer lots of story possibilities as does the idea that some of them might start to act out in an effort to change their fate.
The problem is that if this team isn’t eventually sent back to the past then it’d have to disrupt the entire current timeline. So the possibility that anything we see here really doesn’t matter because it’ll have to be retconned out eventually is very much in play. To his credit, Bendis seems aware of this and even plays with that concept by having one of the team seemingly betray and leave them which means that the entire timeline is now in jeopardy. But this also makes Beast’s decision to bring the original team to the future look increasingly dangerous, foolish and pointless since it’s done nothing to stop the present day Scott Summers from acting like a wack-a-doo.
It’s still a fun read, especially for interactions like the present day Alex Summers meeting young Scott or the way that Kitty Pryde lays down the law to Jean Grey. However, I can’t help but worry this is something that will either end up being wiped out or devolve into a hopeless mishmash of timey-wimey tricks that make no sense....more
These comic books actually accomplished something heroic and nearly impossible: They’ve made Scott Summers interesting.
Granted, it takes the idea of tThese comic books actually accomplished something heroic and nearly impossible: They’ve made Scott Summers interesting.
Granted, it takes the idea of the present day Scott going all dark side as the younger version of Scott is horrified at what he becomes while resenting the reactions of everyone around him blaming him for something he hasn't done yet so it took a couple of incarnations plus some timey-wimey stuff to get this done. Still, this is the first time that I was ever rooting for Scott to win in a fight with Wolverine so give this book the credit it deserves.
I also liked the idea that Kitty Pryde has assumed the mentor role for the original X-Men and is now training them. The Angel story didn’t do a lot for me because it’s probably too much to ask that they managed to make both Angel and Cyclops interesting at the same time, but it did lead to a funny Avengers cameo as well as an action taken by the Not-Dead-Yet! version of Jean Grey that is unethical and borderline creepy. ...more
Sometimes it seems like the X-Men do more time traveling than Doctor Who.
Following the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, Cyclops has gone a little kooky.Sometimes it seems like the X-Men do more time traveling than Doctor Who.
Following the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, Cyclops has gone a little kooky. He’s now working with Magneto and Emma Frost to very publically recruit new mutants while attacking humanity. The current X-Men fear that directly confronting him could kick off a mutant civil war so Hank McCoy decides that the best way to stop Cyclops is to let the young Scott Summers get a look at what he becomes. Hank takes a jaunt into the past where he recruits the original team of X-Men, including his own younger non-blue furry self, to come back to the future.
I had a lot of doubts about this concept, not the least of which was making even more of a hash of what remains of the X-Men’s timeline as well as giving us yet another live version of Jean Grey to kill off someday. However, I gotta admit that Bendis did a very good job with this. The dialogue doesn’t rely as much on humor as he usually does. Instead, he sets up a lot of intriguing things with the young X-Men being pretty much horrified at the way things have turned out for all of them.
I wasn’t sure how this works as a time travel story either. If the original X-Men are in the present seeing their future, wouldn’t that mean that it’s going to change? They get around this for now with the explanation that when they return to the past that Professor X will certainly read their minds, know what happened, and then wipe the memories from them. (But no one seems concerned about Xavier knowing the future after that?) Plus, if one of the team gets killed in the present, wouldn’t that wipe the current version out of existence? This is a point that should come up more considering that Wolverine very vocally considers the idea that killing young Scott would save them all a lot of grief later.
But I was able to set that aside for the more intriguing questions that Bendis and company are playing with here, the ideas of what someone would think of themselves and their fate if they could see into the future as well as considering what warnings a person might offer to a younger version of themselves. ...more
This book started out as a short story called Animal Rescue that got its film rights purchased which led to Dennis Lehane writing the screenplay and tThis book started out as a short story called Animal Rescue that got its film rights purchased which led to Dennis Lehane writing the screenplay and then this novel. I can only assume that a version turning it into a Broadway musical is also in the works.
Bob is a lonely guy who bartends at a joint called Cousin Marv’s that was, aptly enough, once owned by his cousin Marv who he still works with. The bar is now owned by Chechen mobsters who occasionally use it as a money drop for the illicit cash they accumulate in a day's business. Bob’s quiet life starts getting interesting when he saves an abused puppy that was dumped in a trash can, and this also leads him to a meet Nadia, a woman with more than her share of physical and emotional scars. Things get even more exciting for Bob after Cousin Marv’s is robbed one night. The Chechen owners and a determined cop are pressing for answers as a strange man starts taking an interest in Bob’s new dog.
It’s remarkable how in just a couple of hundred pages that Lehane is able to create a fully realized gritty neighborhood populated with rich characters. It’s downright amazing that he makes it seem effortless. If you know the history of it being transformed from short story to movie and this, then you can see some of the seams where he’s padded out it out, but it still feels like it could have been an old school dime store pulp novel of a character based crime story and been satisfying on its own.
I saw the film version of this before reading it and liked it quite a bit, mainly for the good performances by Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini (His final film.) and Noomi Rapace. There aren’t many differences between the film and this book which isn’t surprising with Lehane working off his own blueprint. This isn’t his best novel, but it’s a very solid piece of fiction that shows what’s made Lehane one of the best crime writers working today. ...more