I was hooked from the first chapter, which introduced the hilarious concept of the book: not only are gods real, but anyone can become a follower of aI was hooked from the first chapter, which introduced the hilarious concept of the book: not only are gods real, but anyone can become a follower of a god to pay tribute and reap the benefits. The book opens as our heroes, Teri and Phil, essentially surf an online dating service to find a god. They settle on a luck god...who promptly moves in with them, to their dismay.
Meanwhile, Bonnie finds herself attached to Syph, a goddess of heartbreak, and Worthington becomes the number one follower of Gorgoz, a chaos god.
One critic called A. Lee Martinez an "American Terry Pratchett," and I wouldn't go that far (although I can't think of any other candidates), but the book is good fun. The three plots intersect, but the plotting isn't really the strong point of the book, actually. I found that halfway through the book, the actual story wasn't really holding my interest, but the characters are fun, and the tone is silly and absurd while still treating the situation with seriousness (there's an Office of Divine Affairs). If you enjoy books about gods acting like regular people, then this is a book you will enjoy!...more
The book details the, well, robopocalypse, as it were, from the moment that the A.I. known as Archos comes into being and decides to KILL ALL HUMANS to the end of the New War. Wilson takes a different storytelling tack than Brooks, though. While Brooks created a sprawling epic compiling dozens of different voices to give a worldwide picture of the zombie war from as many perspectives as possible, Wilson is more focused. In the beginning, however, they seem similar. Each chapter introduces a new character or characters as they describe the initial signs of the robot uprising. What isn't apparent, however, is that these are our heroes. Unlike World War Z, this book has actual characters and follows a fairly linear story. Wilson chooses to tell the story from the perspectives of key figures in the war against the robots, and it's exciting to find out the important roles they all play in humanity's survival.
On paper, I should have loved the crap out of this book, maybe even more than World War Z, but for some odd reason—especially because the audiobook for World War Z is supposed to be amazing—I think this book suffers as an audiobook, read by Mike Chamberlain. This is not to say that it's not wonderfully effective at some points, but Chamberlain's rough monotone made everything seem so goddamn serious. I mean, the book doesn't have a lot of humor at all, but hearing the words out loud seemed to make them sound incredibly overwrought at times. Like, we get it, HUMANITY! or whatever. I think I would have enjoyed it more if they were just words on a page for me to appreciate.
Yet, I did honestly want more from the book, which didn't really feel as fleshed-out and imaginative as World War Z. I never got a real sense of what society was like, what the world was doing, or what was up with the robots. For some people, that may be a plus; there's clearly a lot of story that goes on between the lines. It's definitely worth a read if you think it's up your alley. And it'll make a hell of a movie!...more
I clearly need to read more by this guy, because he writes like I talk. I didn't know you were fucking allowed to say fuck every third word and be pubI clearly need to read more by this guy, because he writes like I talk. I didn't know you were fucking allowed to say fuck every third word and be published and be successful and shit.
In A Dirty Job, Charlie Asher becomes a father. At the expense of his wife. Amusingly enough, the one-sentence blurb for this book in the library catalogue simply describes it as the story of a man who must cope with his wife's death and be a single father. That's all it says. And the great thing about this book is that it's true! Of course, it would also be nice to mention that Charlie becomes Death and stuff. That's kind of important to the story.
Charlie is a beta-male. You will never forget this because Moore mentions it three thousand times. It is one of the central ideas of his book, strangely, and he gets a surprising amount of mileage from the idea of the "beta-male." And, well, since I am a beta-male, I found his observations about our behavior astute.
Charlie the beta-male must juggle his new daughter, his secondhand store, and his new calling: collecting souls! Moore develops a neat little mechanism for soul collecting and the role of Death, and he borrows from Celtic mythology to give Charlie some formidable—but funny—foes. Dark powers are rising!
A Dirty Job is full of quirky characters (and, unfortunately, ethnic stereotypes), and it has a delightfully absurd sense of humor, down to the chapter titles. I loved that it was set in San Francisco, and I recognized the locations and inspirations (there are creatures clearly inspired by some of my favorite things in Paxton Gate). And apparently, nearly all of Moore's books take place in the same universe, and characters from one book pop up in others and shit, which I love. So I will definitely be checking out more Moore....more
John Dies at the End begins with the following line: "Solving the following riddle will reveal the awful secret behind the universe, assuming you do nJohn Dies at the End begins with the following line: "Solving the following riddle will reveal the awful secret behind the universe, assuming you do not go utterly mad in the attempt." The riddle involves decapitation, a foot-long slug with a bulging egg sac on its tail, and a darkly comic sense of humor. Are you still with me? Let's continue.
People describe John Dies at the End as "a mash-up of Douglas Adams and Stephen King" or "Stephen King meets Harold and Kumar," which are fairly accurate. I think it's like the Johnny Truant sections of House of Leaves as directed by Sam Raimi. It's gonzo horror. Still with me? Let's continue.
David Wong (not his real name) and the titular John (also not his real name) are two dudes who come across a strange drug dubbed "soy sauce" that has some very...interesting effects. But the soy sauce is just the beginning. There is bloodshed, intrigue, otherworldly creatures, hot chicks, bratwurst, meat monsters, video games, and a bit with a dog. It's almost better if I don't tell you anything about this book because it is just so goddamn insane. It's like one long acid trip. A fucking hilarious acid trip that's also creepy and scary. It's often profane and puerile and clearly written by a dude (only one female character has real development), but it's like pure imagination let loose on the page. What is the craziest shit that can happen next? It'll happen. Don't expect it all to be wrapped up in a little bow at the end, but the ride is worth it. You should know by now if it's your kind of thing, and if you think it is at all, pick it up.
John Dies at the End is like nothing I've ever read....more
Zoo City takes place in Johannesburg, but in a world where something called the Ontological Shift occurred. Now, whenever someone commits a heinous crZoo City takes place in Johannesburg, but in a world where something called the Ontological Shift occurred. Now, whenever someone commits a heinous crime, they are "animalled," saddled with a scarlet furry letter that immediately ostracizes (or exoticizes) them, but they also receive a mashavi, a special ability. Zinzi December has a Sloth and a talent for finding lost things. She's an ex-journalist and ex-addict, working to get out of debt with 419 scams ("Hello, I am a Nigerian prince who wishes to give you lots of fake money if you give me some real money"). Against her better judgment, she takes a missing persons case, hunting for one half of a brother-sister pop duo. Things get difficult.
The book has a lot of things going for it, like the noir urban fantasy with a dash of cyberpunk, the setting (Johannesburg is totally hip these days), the occasional in-universe media clippings (scientific papers, newspaper and magazine articles, and, perhaps my favorite, an IMDb entry), a snarky female protagonist with a Beukes-imbued gift for analogy, and, of course, that strange and intriguing premise.
The book doesn't delve enough into that premise, however. I wanted to know more, more about the animals and why people had them, how they functioned. I also wondered why, exactly, Beukes chose to center the book around this particular mystery. Why spend so much time on pop music and clubs? Zinzi has no personal investment in the case, although it does end up drudging up some of her past. The case, obviously, is more than it seems on the surface, and it leads to a resolution befitting a fantasy-noir hybrid.
I definitely liked Zoo City overall, even though I wasn't sure about the purpose of the individual elements and how Beukes intended them to cohere. It was definitely an interesting look into another culture, albeit through a fantastical eye....more
American Born Chinese is highly acclaimed for a reason. First, we meet the Monkey King, who wants to be a god and command the respect a monkey doesn'tAmerican Born Chinese is highly acclaimed for a reason. First, we meet the Monkey King, who wants to be a god and command the respect a monkey doesn't get. Then, we meet Jin Wang, an Asian-American boy who simply wants to be accepted at school. Finally, we meet Danny, a white boy who wishes his offensively negative stereotype of a cousin, Chin-Kee, would just go home. These three seemingly unrelated stories work together to capture the Asian-American experience, and when they inevitably intersect, it's very powerful and perfectly done.
Each story has a different feel and is entertaining in its own right. The Monkey King's story is mythical, full of magic and kung fu. Jin's story feels terribly real, as he has to deal with racism as well as simply just, you know, growing up. Danny's story is the most uncomfortable to read, as Chin-Kee is just awful, as if Yang is daring you, just fucking daring you to laugh at his incredibly racist antics. But the very simple art gives the reader some distance and allows all three stories to become, as the book jacket says, a fable.
I thought American Born Chinese was pretty fantastic for the most part, but the ending, like with Level Up, felt a little rushed and unearned. The final message feels very simple, and I would have liked a little more exploration of it. I love that Gene Yang is making comics about growing up Asian-American, though, and they can be appreciated by children and adults alike....more
Level Up sounded right up my alley: the story of an Asian-American boy who loves video games but is under pressure by his very traditional parents toLevel Up sounded right up my alley: the story of an Asian-American boy who loves video games but is under pressure by his very traditional parents to succeed succeed succeed!
Dennis Ouyang is a video game fanatic, but his dad just wants him to do well in his studies. Then, when Dennis is in high school, his dad dies. His grief lasts longer than expected, and before he knows it, he's kicked out of college.
And that's when four extremely bossy angels show up to help him get his life back on track.
The simple, crayon-y art helps sell the magical realism angle; the angels are clearly manifestations of Dennis's grief, but they're also real. They help him get into med school and follow the path his dad had laid out for him. But is that the path he wants to be on?
Level Up reads like a good short story, moving quickly through time and establishing characters in short scenes. I was surprised and a little disappointed that the video game angle didn't really figure too prominently in the actual story (I expected something more akin to Scott Pilgrim), but I didn't mind too much because the story and characters were engrossing enough. I felt like there wasn't enough meat, however, because it was so short. Character relationships aren't explored as fully as they could be. That being said, though, it does lead up to a solid climax and resolution, so...really, like I said, this is basically a good short story....more
By the middle of Specials, I wasn't sure how much I really cared about anyone or what was going to happen to them, but I'm really glad I decided to reBy the middle of Specials, I wasn't sure how much I really cared about anyone or what was going to happen to them, but I'm really glad I decided to read Extras, which takes place after the trilogy and has a different protagonist, a Japanese girl named Aya Fuse. The world has changed, and Westerfeld has some new social commentary to play with. And I think it was my favorite book of the four! It was really good and exciting, and I remained invested throughout, even with all these new characters. Plus, even though it's sort of disconnected from the trilogy, it's not a fully stand-alone novel or anything; it truly does function as a (second) conclusion to the series....more
I had been intrigued by the premise for years: in this future, everyone gets an operation at age sixteen that makes them "pretty." Before then, you'reI had been intrigued by the premise for years: in this future, everyone gets an operation at age sixteen that makes them "pretty." Before then, you're considered "ugly," even if you're normal-looking. I thought it would be an interesting examination of standards of beauty and societal perceptions.
The story of Tally Youngblood, our protagonist, however, is not really about shattering societal perceptions of beauty. Tally is about to turn sixteen and is all ready to become pretty when she befriends wild child Shay, who wants her to run away with her to the mythical Smoke, where everyone is ugly and it's totally awesome! But Tally is not as rebellious, and she wants to be pretty. Sucks for her, then, when she's asked to rat out her friend or not become pretty at all!
Tally Youngblood is no Katniss Everdeen, I tell you what. For many pages, she's just annoying, and I wished the book were about Shay instead. She's the POV character, but she has the brainwashed POV of the future, which is clearly wrong, so it's irritating until she wises up. Her character development is...strange, and the way it progresses is frustrating. This is not to say that she doesn't have some awesomely badass moments, though.
So forget that whole operation that turns you pretty. Obviously that's pretty advanced technology, but the real stars of the future are hoverboards and bungee jackets. Hoverboards come with neat little crash bracelets that keep you from falling off your board, and bungee jackets allow you to fall great distances without harm. Westerfeld uses these two devices over and over in his action sequences, and it's rather marvelous that he's able to do so without being repetitive. I could not always follow exactly what was going on in the action sequences, but I still felt swept away in the action, most of the time. Other times, they felt sort of rote, but that may have been because my investment in the story waxed and waned.
There are many good things about Uglies. While the social commentary on beauty was more subtle than I expected, Westerfeld has a lot to say about social hierarchy and environmentalism—much is made about the wasteful, destructive way the "Rusties" (i.e., we) lived. There are several good plot twists. The sci-fi aspects are cool. The worldbuilding is interesting, although I wanted to know more about how it all came to be. But even though I know it's an unfair comparison, for most of the book, I was thinking, "This is no The Hunger Games."...more
The setup of Freakshow is simple: the world's first and only superhero has fallen, and a toxic Smoke has enveloped the city, creating monstrous mutantThe setup of Freakshow is simple: the world's first and only superhero has fallen, and a toxic Smoke has enveloped the city, creating monstrous mutants. Our heroes! Now, stories about freaks with powers aren't new, but I was really impressed with how, in just three issues, Server and Lanzing created unique, interesting characters with distinct relationships with each other. Critter, Rot, Psychosis, Fog, and Stronghold are all characters I wanted to know more about. They band together, hunted. But is it time to take the offensive? Although the story comprises only three issues, it still feels packed and fulfilling; it's one of the more successful miniseries I've read....more
Jimmy—presumably not Jimmy from Meanwhile, although he looks just like him, as that is how Shiga draws—is a nerdy Oakland librarian who follows his beJimmy—presumably not Jimmy from Meanwhile, although he looks just like him, as that is how Shiga draws—is a nerdy Oakland librarian who follows his best friend, Sara, to New York to declare his love. That, and what happens, is essentially the story, which isn't so much about the plot as it is about examining Jimmy's life and motivations, what would drive him to do this. The non-linear narrative isn't readily apparent at first, but we get a lot of flashbacks to Jimmy and Sara and Jimmy and his mom as Jimmy takes his journey. Interestingly, the book has a bit in common with Good-Bye, Chunky Rice, as they both deal with that sense of growing up and wondering where you belong, if the place you've been all your life is where you should continue to be. Jimmy loves Oakland, but there are other places.
The book is a little light, but it's a quick, nice read, with simple yet detailed art that really captures the locations. Plus, there's a cool red/blue color palette going on. I thought I figured out the symbolism but wasn't sure. It's a decent story, but I wanted more. That being said, I was pretty impressed that the same guy who made something as silly and complicated as Meanwhile also made this book, which has real heart and emotion behind it....more
Jason Shiga is a UC Berkeley grad. His degree? Pure mathematics. That should give you an indication of what sort of craziness is in store for you, forJason Shiga is a UC Berkeley grad. His degree? Pure mathematics. That should give you an indication of what sort of craziness is in store for you, for, lo, this is a Choose Your Own Adventure comic book.
You go get some ice cream. Your first decision? Chocolate or vanilla. Follow the path for boring old vanilla, and your story ends in boringness. Choose chocolate, however, and you find yourself at the home of a mad scientist with a time machine, a memory-reading machine, and, uh, the Killitron 2000. Guess what that one does. Now you are thrust into a hilariously complicated puzzle as you play with these three machines and attempt to avoid the dire consequences of your meddling! While the cover purports "3,586 Story Possibilities," what actually ends up happening is that you go around in circles a lot. But there are, in fact, correct paths! Paths that you must go down in order to get the machine codes and solve the horrific secret at the center of the story! And you can't cheat your way through the book either; in fact, just for people like that, Shiga stuck in a page that's impossible to get to by any path, just to fuck with you.
The entire book is navigable online, but it's much more fun as a physical book, which uses tabs that lead you from page to page. Plus, glorious color! You guys, this is a book that was MADE WITH ALGORITHMS. It's fun times....more