Very good (and quick) read, but man, Melville House needs to get their proof-reading and copy-editing act together. I noticed a lot of typos for a bigVery good (and quick) read, but man, Melville House needs to get their proof-reading and copy-editing act together. I noticed a lot of typos for a big release. ...more
I've said it before, and I'll say it again - if you're a fan of horror, you're most likely a friend of mine. I think this is generally true of most wiI've said it before, and I'll say it again - if you're a fan of horror, you're most likely a friend of mine. I think this is generally true of most within the horror fandom community. Wear a t-shirt with your favorite horror icon or movie to any horror convention, and chances are you won't have any problem making a host of new friends. It doesn't even matter if they don't agree with me on particular movies - part of the fun of horror-based friendships is the heated debates, after all. So I just want to clarify it's not because I disagree with a lot of what Rockoff says in this book that I disliked it, nor does my feeling about the book mean that I probably wouldn't enjoy getting a chance to sit down with Rockoff himself and BS about the genre for hours. Different opinions aside, I bet I could get along with the guy.
The problem with Rockoff's new book, however, is how unfortunately pointless it ends up feeling. Rockoff admits at the beginning that he was having a hard time even thinking of an idea for a second book (after his seminal slasher history book, "Going to Pieces"), and, quite frankly, it shows. He has settled for a Klosterman-inspired series of essays covering some of his personal views and memories of the horror genre, but other than seemingly wanting the opportunity to publicly share some of his more controversial views (like that Hitchcock's Psycho is overrated because we never see the knife actually pierce Marion's flesh), it doesn't really seem like Rockoff has anything of deep interest to say in these pages. He keeps admitting that there are far better and more researched books about the genre (even going so far as to often tell his readers to check those books out instead), and even often simply spends large chunks of text simply summarizing what THOSE authors had to say. Left to his own devices, meanwhile, Rockoff just sort of rambles on with surface-level observations about the genre and its recent history. What kills the book, I think, is that he isn't really saying ANYTHING that his target audience won't already know. "Going to Pieces" was a cool book, but it's not like it made Rockoff a star that transcends the horror genre. So I think it's safe to say that the only people who would be interested enough in reading this guy's random thoughts about the genre are huge horror-nerds themselves...but they are also exactly who will already be 100% familiar with nearly every film and genre history anecdote he brings up. This is a weird disconnect that the book can't quite conquer. I didn't feel like I was learning anything new except for Rockoff's own personal thoughts on some topics, and even there things get dicey. Rockoff spends some time complaining about how horror fans can sometimes be contrarian just for the hell of it, but he also has an entire chapter just devoted to more of his own "controversial" views ("The Exorcist isn't scary! Red Dragon is better than Manhunter!). There's nothing wrong with anyone thinking Alien and Scream are overrated movies, or that Friday the 13th is as good as Halloween (I don't agree with any of this, but the dude is entitled to his opinion). But I don't really get why Rockoff thinks these views are interesting enough to justify sections in this book, especially since he doesn't really go into deep analysis about any of it (if he REALLY dove into his conflicting views with the majority, that might make this an actually interesting read...but, instead, he sticks to just quickly and easily summarizing his points). Honestly, this often just comes across as a big horror fan sitting at a table with non-horror fans and lecturing them about things like "what is torture porn" and "who is H.G. Lewis?" Except nobody at that table even asked. And neither did anyone who will probably bother to read this book, since they will already know the answers. Here's hoping next time Rockoff really can't think of a book idea, he spends a bit more time wrestling with it before just plowing ahead anyway....more
There are definitely elements to like about this, the first in a new YA series about a teenage Lois Lane. Author Gwenda Bond certainly gets the characThere are definitely elements to like about this, the first in a new YA series about a teenage Lois Lane. Author Gwenda Bond certainly gets the character - Lois is a likable, rebellious spitfire who instantly takes to her new calling as a young reporter and shows a righteous desire to help those in need. And I really liked how the story fits Superman in - he never makes an actual appearance...instead, Lois only knows him as "SmallvilleGuy," a mysterious online friend she met while posting on conspiracy message boards after seeing what she thought might have been a flying man during a family drive through Kansas. Though their conversations are entirely presented only as Instant Message chats, they really do crackle with the recognizable Lois & Clark dynamic.
Unfortunately, the character stuff is overshadowed by a fairly plodding story. With all the possibilities offered by the DC universe, it seems odd to introduce Lois with this, a weird tale of high school students being inadvertently turned into soldiers with physic powers by a virtual reality video game. And after Bond races through the set-up (seriously, Lois meets Perry White and is INSTANTLY offered a job at the Daily Planet's new teen magazine The Daily Scoop, despite NO journalism experience, in the very first chapter), she then falls into a habit of having Lois constantly repeat the same thoughts and realizations over and over. It started to wear on me quite a bit, I have to admit.
I really like the idea of a Lois-centric series, especially in the YA market. Wouldn't it be great if the character inspired young girls to want to be the same sort of justice-seeking crusader? Still, this first entry left a lot to be desired, and I'm not really sure at the moment whether I'll have the motivation to check out the next one....more
I won't lie - I got emotional as I got to the end of this book, and ruminated on the loss of the small video stores that I loved going to as a kid. ThI won't lie - I got emotional as I got to the end of this book, and ruminated on the loss of the small video stores that I loved going to as a kid. This isn't some dry history of video stores - rather, it's a fictional (and quite amusing) story set in a small independent video store in North Carolina in 2007, right in that moment when video stores began to go the way of the dodo. The eternally drunk and grumpy store owner, Waring Wax, can be a hard character to love...but he's always entertaining (and I was very happy to see Hawkins confirm in the book's acknowledgements that he borrowed liberally from the excellent British sitcom "Black Books," as I was definitely getting a Bernard Black vibe from Waring throughout). You really do root for him and the other characters as they try to figure out how to save the seemingly doomed business...and I realized that what I was really rooting for was them to save video stores themselves, even though that moment has passed and I know it's a hopeless wish. I'm betting most readers my age, who share my love of movies, will recognize their own favorite indie video store in Waring's Star Video, which imparts the book with a special kind of nostalgic (and sad) charm. But rather than just let it be a bummer, I'll say the book also brought a smile to my face a lot, and is a nice tribute to an increasingly lost rite-of-passage for movie buffs. I might never again have the chance to walk the aisles of a store like Star Video...but at least this book reminds me that plenty of others share my fond memories of that experience....more
A really fun beginning to what should be a super cool series. A nice amount of twists and an interesting collection of supporting characters keep a prA really fun beginning to what should be a super cool series. A nice amount of twists and an interesting collection of supporting characters keep a pretty packed story moving at a good clip. And I didn't hate the main character! I know, that sounds like faint praise, but believe me, if you knew how I usually felt about the child protagonists of series at this reading level, you'd be more impressed. With Simon, Carter has fashioned a genuinely likable and realistic hero (as realistic as one can be in a story about people talking to and turning into animals, that is). IT definitely only feels like the start of something bigger, but the good news is that it does set up a compelling mythology that should give Carter a lot of material to play with as the series continues....more
A well-written book about boring/frustrating characters. Although I liked it more than the previous two, it still did little to win me over to the sidA well-written book about boring/frustrating characters. Although I liked it more than the previous two, it still did little to win me over to the side of this series. The problem is the main trio of characters - I just cannot get into the adventures of Harry, Hermione and Ron, none of whom appeal to me or feel likable. Some of the stuff that's happening off to the side with the adults seems genuinely interesting, and Remus Lupin is probably the best character I've encountered yet...but it doesn't matter, because we're always locked in with Harry and these other two. Ron an Hermione's constant squabbling, in particular, was really bumming me out throughout. I also didn't enjoy that all the major story revelations come in long, expository sequences where people just stand by Harry and talk about what is happening. And, in the end, we learn that this was really a book without a villain or real conflict, which didn't help matters any....more
Originality can be overrated. I know, that's a weird way to start such a positive review, but let me explain. I'm only talking about on a very basic sOriginality can be overrated. I know, that's a weird way to start such a positive review, but let me explain. I'm only talking about on a very basic story level. In the genre world, you can go insane really trying to think of "new stories" to tell. That's not to say it can't be done, but there is also no shame in simply taking the old classics out for a spin. The trick is how you take the classics and make them your own. Some of my favorite horror movies (You're Next, Cabin in the Woods) and books (Horrorstor) of the last few years have been new looks at pretty tried-and-true (some might even say "tired") concepts. It's not always about re-inventing the wheel...sometimes, it's just about the rims you choose (I'm not really a car guy, so I hope that analogy works).
Josh Malerman's "Bird Box" gives us the author's spin on not one, but two classic post-apocalyptic concepts ...the perilous journey, and the old chestnut of survivors in a house under siege by outside forces. These can both be pretty reliable plots (hell, my favorite movie of all time is Night of the Living Dead, so obviously I have a soft spot for the latter), but - let's face it - they have also both been done to death in the genre world, which means you need to bring something special if you're going to make them compelling today.
What Malerman brings to the table is a terrific twist on the survivors' ability to get by in their new world. Whatever the outside force is that has brought ruin to the world (and Malerman remains just on the right side of vague about this), its very power comes from being seen - if you see it/them/whatever, you go mad. And so the book's characters must spend much of their time wearing blindfolds, trying to adjust to a sightless world, and Malerman himself must attempt to adequately recreate the experience of forced blindless and having to rely on your other senses solely through the written word. Both are pretty tough challenges - the book's characters struggle with theirs, but Malerman pulls his off with flying colors.
If horror books were old horror movies, and you could set them on double-bills for an exciting night at the drive-thru, I'd pair "Bird Box" with Tony Burgess' excellent "Pontypool Changes Everything." Both get great mileage out of the genuinely frightening idea of having something we completely take for granted first turned against us and then taken away - common, everyday language in "Pontypool," and sight in "Bird Box." Imagine the crossover possibilities of these two worlds! Nobody would stand a goddamn chance!
Like the best tales of those under siege, "Bird Box" of course also eventually reveals that the real horror might not be what's outside of the walls, but what is already within, standing right next to you, sleeping right next to you. This is great stuff, and one...well, let's call him "suspicious" character in the household is a particular highlight, almost stealing the whole book. But even with those moments speaking to the NOTLD nerd in me, I have to say that it's the scenes on the river, with a determined young mother trying to lead two small children to a sanctuary she only hopes actually exists - all three blindfolded the entire time - that I found particularly captivating. You will probably have moments, like I did, where you think to yourself "yeah, there's NO WAY you'd be able to do that, get that far, all while blindfolded." But Malerman sells the moments (and the lead character's determination) so well that, damn, it works. And believe me, after reading this, you'll find yourself occasionally closing your eyes and trying to see just how much of your usual routine you actually CAN do with your eyes closed.