Funny, original, suspenseful. A total page-turner, even. The Martian and its author Andy Weir deserve every accolade they are earning, and I can't waiFunny, original, suspenseful. A total page-turner, even. The Martian and its author Andy Weir deserve every accolade they are earning, and I can't wait to see the movie (which already has a stellar array of talent attached).
My half-star dock is purely about my own ignorance, but be forewarned -- if you don't have much of a scientific background, some passages may make your eyes glaze over. I'm sure the science is impressive (and accurate, I'm told), but sometimes it made me feel stupid.That being said, if one has to be trapped on Mars, Mark Watney is an excellent companion. (And I'm sure he'd be happy to explain the science stuff if I could only ask.)...more
I need to put some thought into this review, but I will say that Revival sees King treading interesting ground. It's a novel that manages to horrify oI need to put some thought into this review, but I will say that Revival sees King treading interesting ground. It's a novel that manages to horrify on a number of psychological levels without much in the way of classic supernatural horror. I really, really enjoyed this novel....more
If somebody told you they were reading a book in which Lizzie Borden fights Lovecraftian horrors with her infamous axe, you might snicker a little. YoIf somebody told you they were reading a book in which Lizzie Borden fights Lovecraftian horrors with her infamous axe, you might snicker a little. You might think, "Oh, great. Another historical fiction gag a laSense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Special." I've been awaiting Maplecroft's release for a long while now, mainly on the strength of Cherie Priest's general badassery, but also because for a historical horror and Lovecraft/ian junkie, that's actually an impossible pitch to resist. It could have been ridiculous, and I'd probably have enjoyed it anyway.
Fortunately, snickering is not the order of the day, and the good news is that it's not one bit cheeseball. In fact Priest has crafted a somber and deeply disturbing story of two intelligent women of independent means (and scandalous reputation), small-town mistrust, and a creeping contagion that threatens not only the coastal Massachusetts town of Fall River, but possibly the entire human race. Maplecroft is set in the handful of years after Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the heinous 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother. Of course there's more to that story than meets the eye, and therein begins the tale.
Despite being written in the oft-maligned epistolary style, Maplecroft moves along at a satisfying clip through the letters and diaries of the Borden sisters, Lizbeth (her preferred name) and invalid Emma, Fall River's stalwart local doctor, and a number of mysterious "authorities," one of whom is a peculiar marine biologist from Miskatonic University. The sense of the uncanny, of things that just should not be lurking right outside the safe home Lizbeth has built for her sister and herself, builds slowly, but plateaus over and over again as escalating events among their friends and neighbors threaten -- once again -- to destroy not only their hard-won independence, but also their sanity.
Dark, uncanny and action-packed (also thoroughly gross and reeking of the foetid depths), Maplecroft would be a thrilling stand-alone New-Lovcraftian creation, though I'll admit I'm pleased to see by the subtitle that Borden and her trusty axe will be back. ...more
A most excellent speculative thriller. Medical ethics, identity, and the limits (or not) of technology are all thematic touchstones that run through LA most excellent speculative thriller. Medical ethics, identity, and the limits (or not) of technology are all thematic touchstones that run through Lock In, but primarily I'd class it as a techno-thriller. Fast-paced, with fully-realized main characters and a clear speculative vision of a horrible disease (the titular "Lock In," which has swept the world, leaving millions unable to communicate from within the prisons of their bodies) and its greater social consequences, Lock In is a pretty intense book. It's not as genius, or as funny, as Redshirts, but it's a totally different kind of tale. 4.5 stars, highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a page-turning socio-political thriller with a sci-fi edge....more
A fascinating -- and not a little terrifying -- first-hand account of what it's like to have your own brain suddenly turn on you. Cahalan was a risingA fascinating -- and not a little terrifying -- first-hand account of what it's like to have your own brain suddenly turn on you. Cahalan was a rising young reporter at a major metropolitan newspaper when her brain and body began to spin out of control. After enduring frightening seizures, numbness in her limbs, aural and visual hallucinations, and uncontrollable outbursts and mood swings, she was finally hospitalized as she became more and more unstable. There, Cahalan suffered numerous misdiagnoses (alcoholic, epileptic, manic, psychotic and, finally, catatonic) before a brilliant diagnostician discovered the answer at the 11th hour, and miraculously saved her life.
First thoughts: Why would anyone ever want to climb Everest? (The famous rejoinder "Because it's there" really doesn't clear it up for me.)
This one wi First thoughts: Why would anyone ever want to climb Everest? (The famous rejoinder "Because it's there" really doesn't clear it up for me.)
This one will be short and semi-sweet, as I see my feelings are pretty much echoed in all the long, thoughtful reviews below. I'm a long-time Dan Simmons fan, and have read and enjoyed the majority of his novels, both horror and sci-fi (though I have not read the Joe Kurtz books). I was really excited when my pre-order of The Abominable showed up on my birthday . . . I could not wait to get home and crack it. (Yeah, I spent my birthday evening with a book. That's just how I roll.)
So last night I finally finished it. (It might tell you something that my birthday was three weeks ago.) And, much like the expedition recounted in its pages, parts of this book were beautiful and exciting, but most of it was hard work, spent in long, slogging preparation for the actual adventure. I loved the characters -- the Deacon and Cousin Reggie in particular -- but frequently felt overwhelmed by the mountains of information (if you'll pardon the pun) about 1926 climbing gear and techniques that Simmons felt the need to include. He obviously enjoyed his research, and almost despite myself, I felt thoroughly schooled and ready to join the expedition by the time our intrepid heroes finally set out from Darjeeling.
Unfortunately, that prelude to Everest is almost 400 pages -- nearly 2/3 of the novel. But at about that point, the story takes a jarring, dark turn at a Tibetan sky funeral and the long-awaited suspense and sense of foreboding kick in. If you make it this far, the story pays off, albeit not in the way one might have imagined. I'm no history buff and I won't presume to question Simmons' references to actual people and events, but when political intrigue starts to compete with the mountain for the lives of the characters, the pace picks up immensely, and that last third goes down like an icy shot of vodka.
The Abominable earns three stars from me. It's not a bad book, and sometimes beautiful, moving, and exciting . . . but it really could have benefited from losing about 100 bloated pages up front.
If you are familiar with Chris Adrian's work, you will already know that it's beautiful, unsettling, and pretty much impossible to categorize. Is it mIf you are familiar with Chris Adrian's work, you will already know that it's beautiful, unsettling, and pretty much impossible to categorize. Is it magical realism? Literary fantasy? Modern fable? Certainly the recondite and sensitive subjects of illness, faith, and apocalypse are never far from the surface in his tales; sometimes bringing tragedy and other times visionary ecstasy.
The tales in A Better Angel nearly all feature children or teens, most carrying some kind of "mark" which separates them from their peers: a young boy becomes dissociative (or perhaps he's possessed?) after his mother's death; another mourns his dead twin in a peculiar way; and a 19th century farm boy has debilitating visions of angels and burning towers. There are also some funnier moments: In "Why, Antichrist?" a teenage boy grudgingly comes to accept that he is, in fact, the Antichrist; a sassy young woman with "short gut" delivers reports on life and death from the pediatric ICU; and in the hilarious title story, a man recalls his experiences growing up with an overly-critical guardian angel.
September 11th also hangs heavy over this 2008 collection, with the burning towers haunting it in both concrete and symbolic ways. Adrian's characters grieve loved ones lost that day, speak for its dead, and obsessively watch the unreal video footage of fiery blooms and people falling from the skies. It could be grisly, in lesser hands. Instead, Adrian is concerned with something infinitely more interesting than mere shock value. He's examining how we, as a culture and as individuals, cope with the paralyzing specters of illness and death, how faith might work for (or against) us, and how we begin to heal from tragedies both personal and universal.
I might knock off half a star just because, thematically, A Better Angel often covers very similar ground to Adrian's 2006 novel The Children's Hospital. It could easily feel repetitive, but Adrian's ability to bring the surreal into tales of daily life, with wit and honesty and crystalline prose, really blossoms in the short form. A truly weird and gorgeous book....more
Conrad Navarro, modern gladiator with a genius IQ, is the apotheosis of all Laird Barron’s previous tough guy protagonists. He is their perfection – tConrad Navarro, modern gladiator with a genius IQ, is the apotheosis of all Laird Barron’s previous tough guy protagonists. He is their perfection – the imago, if you will – a poetic image which Barron invokes repeatedly in his body of work. The story of Conrad's transformative journey is violent, hallucinogenic, and terribly sad by turns; it's also surprisingly challenging in its execution.
Known simply as “the American,” Conrad makes his living fighting in ludi (after the games held in conjunction with Roman religious festivals): secret and meticulously orchestrated blood sports in which combatants fight to the death for the pleasure of the wealthy and powerful. Between bouts, Conrad obsessively searches for his missing sister Imogene, an FBI agent gone off the reservation on her own dark odyssey: she’s hunting the ancient, elusive and sinister Dr. Drake, a radical experimental physician who may have killed their cancer-stricken brother Ezra in a botched treatment . . . or was it a ritual? Following her trail, Conrad finds the cryptic messages she has left for him, parlaying each into another step closer to his beloved “Genie,” and his own fate.
However, nothing in Conrad’s surreal world is as it seems. What really happened to Ezra and the others under Dr. Drake’s care? Why did his mother drive herself off a cliff, and what drove his father – less literally – around the bend? Why does Conrad, “a special case,” according to dear old Dad, seem impervious to death, and get stronger, heal faster by the day? And where has Imogene really gone?
What Conrad fails to grasp until it’s far too late, is the extent of the conspiracy that enfolds his family, or the cruel cosmic game in which they are merely pieces on a board. In his blundering search for the truth, he has caught the attention of the darkness, and he will have to pay.
Short, fast and unapologetically brutal, The Light is the Darkness is a gut-punch that shares more stylistically with Barron’s first anthology The Imago Sequence than it does with his most recent (and more subtle) novel, The Croning. . . though one does get the feeling that all of Barron’s stories are taking place in the same savage world, that the cosmic horrors we meet are related, and that human beings almost always exist primarily as “provender” for their obscene needs.
At first I was mildly disappointed with LitD; so much happens so fast . . . it's like like bright strobes illuminate various setpieces, and then, before you can make the necessary connections, it’s over. But it had crept into my brain and wouldn’t leave me alone, so I went back to it. Fortunately just novella-length, its fairly experimental style requires a closer look in order to fully appreciate the layers of imagery and sometimes nonlinear trajectory. Upon a second reading, symbolic patterns and foreshadowing emerge, and cryptic hallucinogenic stream-of-consciousness passages that seemed intrusions on (or excursions from) the main storyline click into place and make Conrad's story richer and ultimately more horrific. For me, real enjoyment of this incredibly weird book demanded study. The Light is the Darkness may not be anybody’s idea of light summer reading, but once again Laird Barron challenges the prevailing assumption that so-called "genre fiction" can't also be intellectually challenging. ...more