First of all, if you like a good spooky tale, I will say that I recommend it, because it most certainly is that. However, I will tell you what a hundr...moreFirst of all, if you like a good spooky tale, I will say that I recommend it, because it most certainly is that. However, I will tell you what a hundred other reviewers have probably said already, which is that it's more like _two_ spooky tales, with a very tight, gripping first half and a somewhat weaker second half which is still workmanlike, but which skirts the edge of overstaying its welcome.
One of the things I really, really love about the first half of this book is the slow decay of the protagonist's state of mind. He's lost, hungry, tired, dehydrated, injured... nothing mystical is happening to him, he's just in terrible shape and rapidly getting worse as the story progresses.
He starts hallucinating. His body begins to malfunction and he doesn't understand why. He talks to people who aren't there. He has inexplicable outbursts of emotion. He is, if you will pardon the tabletop RPG term, failing his sanity checks, and his sanity is going down.
In other words, it has all the elements of the "descent into madness" you so often see in cosmic horror, but it's not motivated by, say, raging xenophobia or inexplicable mathematics. But the book features the most convincing and evocative description of that overall effect I've read in recent memory.
I would have been fine with the bleak, dead-end ending that was the conclusion of the first half, but I didn't find the second part tedious or pointless. I will say that as cosmic horror in the modern vein goes, you could do a lot worse. Moody and evocative, full of lush prose. (less)
Plowed through this in record time. Reminded me a lot of early Cronenberg; The Fly meets Videodrome meets Bug (the William Friedkin movie). Gross and...morePlowed through this in record time. Reminded me a lot of early Cronenberg; The Fly meets Videodrome meets Bug (the William Friedkin movie). Gross and bleak and not the kind of thing I'm generally prone to reading, but damn, I couldn't put it down. Scarcely a likeable character in the lot, although that didn't bother mer. The author has some of the best sensory details I've read in a long time, and cuts to the heart of her characters' psychology. A nice, creepy October read. (less)
I'll be honest. I really don't go in for most zombie fiction. I find a lot of it tedious and formulaic, and when I picked up DEAD SEA GAMES: ADRIFT, I...moreI'll be honest. I really don't go in for most zombie fiction. I find a lot of it tedious and formulaic, and when I picked up DEAD SEA GAMES: ADRIFT, I was skeptical. But the story won me over with its enthusiasm and fast pace.
EXILED picks up where ADRIFT left off, with our hero Deathwish (real name: Jeremy) running into some consequences from the previous installment. What follows is a brisk serving of confrontations, tense showdowns, backstabbing, betrayal, sacrifice, and zombie mayhem. What I like about DEAD SEA GAMES is Hazzard doesn't leave any dead air in the story. There's always something going on, and very little downtime.
EXILED does what a good sequel should do -- broaden the conflict, deepen the characters, and raise the stakes. If you dig zombie fiction at all, give it a look. (less)
I'll admit, when I read Stephen Blackmoore's first book, CITY OF THE LOST, I was entertained but not blown away. I liked the hard-boiled feel of the p...moreI'll admit, when I read Stephen Blackmoore's first book, CITY OF THE LOST, I was entertained but not blown away. I liked the hard-boiled feel of the prose, the cynical and tough-talking character, and the fun paranormal twists on what was basically a pulp noir tale. But it felt like Blackmoore was yet to really hit his stride.
Well, I just read DEAD THINGS, and I'm here to tell you, he hit it.
DEAD THINGS is a two-fisted paranormal noir that starts swinging from the first pages and never really lets up. The protagonist, Eric Carter, is a wry, broken, down-on-his-luck necromancer who never seems to catch a break. I have a fondness for vulnerable heroes, and I liked Carter a lot from the get-go. He makes bad decisions, gets the crap beat out of him, and just keeps on rolling -- he's like John McClane, back when John McClane was still cool. Oh, and if John McClane could talk to the dead and kill people with magic, I guess.
DEAD THINGS is not for the squeamish, though. Some books in this genre pull away from the nasty bits to make sure the protagonist doesn't get too unsympathetic. This is not such a book. Carter pulls no punches, and the end of the story is not neat or tidy. There are big moral questions left everywhere, like victims in a horrific freeway pile-up.
If you liked Chris F. Holmes' DEAD HARVEST, I recommend picking up DEAD THINGS. The two are similar, and both good yarns, but frankly I think Blackmoore's is far superior. I hope this becomes a series, because I want more Eric Carter. (less)
I've seen this book described as "Hunger Games from the male perspective + zombies," and while that might be a decent shorthand, it's only a small par...moreI've seen this book described as "Hunger Games from the male perspective + zombies," and while that might be a decent shorthand, it's only a small part of the picture.
The story's protagonist, a fifteen-year-old boy with the nickname D.W. ("Deathwish") does participate in a bloody gladitorial match against hordes of zombies -- a form of entertainment and gambling in the post-apocalyptic future he lives in -- but the real meat of the story is in the character's struggle with his own anger issues, the bleakness of the future he's been dealt, and his desire to do some good in a world where there is very little good left.
Like many post-apocalyptic stories, the focus of Adrift is on "worth." Lives are cheap and necessities are expensive. Zombies are explicitly described as beings of "no worth," and are met with disgust and revulsion not just for the threat they pose, but for the burden they create on an already dwindling society. In risking his life in the "games," D.W. finds things of value, but it's only in sacrificing for others that he truly finds his own worth.
That said, Dead Sea Games is not an overly introspective work -- the focus is on slam-bang action with a side order of gleeful grue. Hazzard writes one of the more accurate teenagers I've seen in a while: impulsive, short-sighted, angry, self-centered, but still possessed of a half-assed notion of right and wrong that gets him into trouble.
Dead Sea Games: Adrift is a fast read, and can probably be devoured in an evening. (less)
Zombies invade a Renaissance Faire, and the bodice- and tunic-wearing denizens strike back. The fun concept alone earns a couple of stars. Unfortunate...moreZombies invade a Renaissance Faire, and the bodice- and tunic-wearing denizens strike back. The fun concept alone earns a couple of stars. Unfortunately, the characters are completely one-dimensional, none of the protagonists have any relationship to one another, and the conflict is 100% free of tension. Three stars for a fun, inconsequential read, but lost one star for the laziest, most unsatisfying ending I think I've ever seen on the printed page.(less)
I was really disappointed at the end of this book. Why? Because I tore through it in a day and a half and now I have to wait months for the next one,...moreI was really disappointed at the end of this book. Why? Because I tore through it in a day and a half and now I have to wait months for the next one, that's why.
MOCKINGBIRD is the continuation of the adventures of Miriam Black, introduced in BLACKBIRDS. Miriam can see how people will die by touching them. Well, not so much "can" as "does whether she wants to or not."
In BLACKBIRDS, Wendig established the limits of Miriam's power, and what she can do to change the future she sees. MOCKINGBIRD expands the mythos around her, introducing new elements of her abilities, and brings to bear new characters who might be friends, enemies, or both.
Miriam Black is one of my favorite female characters ever. She's crass, foul-mouthed, irrational, impulsive, devoted, ruthless, and sometimes flat-out insane. She's terribly broken as a human being, but never lets that slow her down.
MOCKINGBIRD is paced for Extreme Readability. The chapters are short, pointed, and devoid of fat -- Wendig wastes no time. I said in another review that Wendig sometimes reminds me of early Stephen King -- but in terms of prose, he's the polar opposite of King in one respect: where King will ramble for entire chapters about minutiae, Wendig takes care of business and moves on. There's no wasted time in MOCKINGBIRD, and I love that. It's one of the things that makes it so damn hard to put down.
If I were to level one complaint, it's that the Kindle pre-order had a noticeable number of typos and formatting errors -- quotes where there shouldn't have been quotes, misspellings, and one sentence that was clearly supposed to be edited out, but instead became an incoherent run-on. But aside from that, MOCKINGBIRD is awesome.
And, once again, looks like I'll be twitchy-eyed and bleary, waiting by the phone at 3 am for the next Miriam Black book to call. (less)
Remember that story in Skeleton Crew, "Word Processor of the Gods," where the protagonist finds a computer that will make whatever he types in happen...moreRemember that story in Skeleton Crew, "Word Processor of the Gods," where the protagonist finds a computer that will make whatever he types in happen in real life? This is a lot like that. A fun, short read.(less)
Amusing but sort of ridiculous, even by King's "killer car" standards, with an ending I would expect from a sub-par episode of "Tales from the Darksid...moreAmusing but sort of ridiculous, even by King's "killer car" standards, with an ending I would expect from a sub-par episode of "Tales from the Darkside." But it kept me turning the pages to see what happened, and I call that a success when it comes to a horror short. (less)
The second installment in the Double Dead series. I give it slightly higher marks than the first because Coburn develops as a character, and we see so...moreThe second installment in the Double Dead series. I give it slightly higher marks than the first because Coburn develops as a character, and we see some fun forward progression on the overarching plot. A little easier on the inventive and prolonged profanity, which was a relief (I don't mind profanity, there was just such a volume of it in the previous book that I started getting a bit bored with it).
Also, considerably less dark than the first volume. There's a lot of gross blood & guts, but most characters tend to come through pretty much unscathed, which was a surprise. (less)
**spoiler alert** I struggled with writing this review, because I'm so torn about this book. I found the first 900 pages compulsively readable, almost...more**spoiler alert** I struggled with writing this review, because I'm so torn about this book. I found the first 900 pages compulsively readable, almost addictive. King does what he does best: set up believable, likeable, hate-able characters and set them in opposition to each other, raising the stakes and winding the whole story spring-tight with tension.
Then, in the last 100 pages, it all falls apart. The premise of this story ultimately boils down to this: the Dome is a magnifying glass held by malevolent alien children, and the inhabitants of the town are ants. In the last chapter, all the conflicts and relationships go out the window as all the ants burn. It's a hundred pages of watching characters you followed and rooted for die in horrible, pointless ways. Hey, remember this guy? He burned to death, oh well. The main antagonist? Eh, he goes Hollywood-crazy, has a heart attack and dies. That's your big payoff. The body count racks up so high that compelling characters become mere footnotes in the casualty list.
So I can't say that as a "horror" novel, this book doesn't deliver. It's pretty horrifying, all right, but on a personal level, I found the ending very unsatisfying. I like to see characters fight against long odds, and, win or lose, for their struggles to mean something. Under the Dome builds up those conflicts and then just burns everyone alive. And the ending is the most arbitrary thing since the climax of The Stand (another book I loved up until the seemingly random resolution of the main conflict).
Under the Dome is well-written, and I don't think King has "lost it" or anything like that. The fact that I plowed through this book so quickly is testament that he hasn't lost his story-writing chops, but I found the ending of Under the Dome difficult to take, and not for the right reasons.
A fun yarn with a great premise, but an ending that feels rushed. Double Dead reminds me of Stephen King crossed with Sam Raimi: lots of garish, grues...moreA fun yarn with a great premise, but an ending that feels rushed. Double Dead reminds me of Stephen King crossed with Sam Raimi: lots of garish, gruesome imagery, lots of inventive, non-stop profanity. The latter is probably my biggest complaint with the book -- I don't have a problem with copious profanity, but Wendig's characters have a tendency to become quip machines, slinging endless permutations of the F-bomb at one another. In sufficient volume, it robs the characters of individual voice, and they all start sounding like Wendig's blog.
I wasn't sold on Coburn (the vampire protagonist) at first, because early on he's a very one-note guy, telling everyone within earshot how awesome he is and how he's seconds from killing them at any moment. But Coburn grows over time and manages a satisfying arc by the end. It was nice to see a vampire who is neither maudlin nor sensitive; Coburn is pure macho id who loves him some murder.
Overall, a few flaws, but still an entertaining horror adventure. (less)
I had a blast reading Chuck's novella, Shotgun Gravy, which I finished in the space of one day. Like most of Wendig's material, it was very readable:...moreI had a blast reading Chuck's novella, Shotgun Gravy, which I finished in the space of one day. Like most of Wendig's material, it was very readable: full of inventive profanity, bizarre sensory details, and a cheerful, homespun vulgarity that reminds me a bit of early Stephen King.
Irregular Creatures has all those elements, but I found it a little uneven. The book features nine short stories. Of those, four are quite good, three are mildly inexplicable, and two seem downright pointless. When Wendig's on, he's really on, but when he's off, it's equally as evident. The two weakest tales seem to amount to the author pointing at some gruesome stuff and saying "hey, look at this gruesome stuff! Neat, huh? Well, see you around." Which is not inherently bad, but I was hoping for more.
A couple of the stories were no more than a few paragraphs describing a bizarre situation -- no characterization, no resolution, just some brief Lynchian weirdness, and it's on to the next story. Personally, I would have rather seen fewer stories with more meat to them.
That said, Irregular Creatures was still a fun read. If you already know you like Wendig's work, you'll get some enjoyment out of this. If you don't know his work, I don't recommend it for an introduction. Read Shotgun Gravy instead.(less)
Almost gave this three stars instead of four. Has a wonderfully strong start, a great premise, and great moments of humor and horror. However, it over...moreAlmost gave this three stars instead of four. Has a wonderfully strong start, a great premise, and great moments of humor and horror. However, it overstays its welcome by about a hundred pages, and the barrages of "random crazy stuff to which we react with insouciant non sequiturs" slowly goes from entertaining to tedious. It's still a good book, it just needed an editor to trim the fat.(less)