Bloodchild is my introduction to grand dame of science fiction Octavia Butler, but like most short story collections, it's a mixed bag. The two non-ge...moreBloodchild is my introduction to grand dame of science fiction Octavia Butler, but like most short story collections, it's a mixed bag. The two non-genre stories ("Near of Kin" and "Crossover") are the weakest, and the award-winning "Bloodchild" and "Speech Sounds" are the strongest, both powerful and evocative. The former deals with a horrifying arrangement between aliens and humans, and the latter tells a story without dialogue, as humanity has lost the ability to communicate with words. I also really liked "The Evening and the Morning and the Night," which tackles degenerative disease. It was interesting to see familiar themes pop up; both "Bloodchild" and "Amnesty" examine how aliens and humans might coexist, giving the aliens priority in the arrangement. Her stories aren't happy, and they reflect a disappointment in humanity; "The Book of Martha" finds a Butler stand-in talking to God about how to save humanity from itself. Although a great deal of the stories was spent on a character explaining how the world worked, Butler constructs such fascinating worlds that the worldbuilding is the story. I appreciated the afterwords of each story, where Butler could discuss her inspiration and how the stories came to be. As an introduction to Butler, it did not blow me away, but she admits that she's a novelist, and that's where her talent shines. These stories give me a taste of her style and her interests, and I look forward to being made very uncomfortable over an extended period of time.(less)
The search for Zuko's mother comes to an end, and Yang resolves a controversial plotline in a way that recontextualizes the entire series in a good, i...moreThe search for Zuko's mother comes to an end, and Yang resolves a controversial plotline in a way that recontextualizes the entire series in a good, interesting way. Sisters and brothers, mothers and sons, fathers and faces, this book has it all! Plus boomerang.(less)
If I were reviewing this book independently, I may have given it a higher rating, but since I am reading the whole "series," as it were, I was annoyed...moreIf I were reviewing this book independently, I may have given it a higher rating, but since I am reading the whole "series," as it were, I was annoyed that nearly half this book is material that has been covered in previous books. Yes, the other two books did have their share of internal repetition as well, but this book contains some entire lists that have no new information, simply familiar tips with new (or sometimes even the same!) metaphors. Thus, the title is not as accurate: this book does not contain 500 more ways to be a better writer. That being said, the lists that do cover new ground remain as useful and entertaining as always; Wendig challenges the writer to think about all aspects of storytelling in the service of telling a great story. He lauds Die Hard and denigrates Snooki. It's a book of writing tips that will have you laughing out loud.(less)
Chuck Wendig continues to do his Thing, mixing sound writing advice—both advice for writing and for being a professional writer—with profanity and abs...moreChuck Wendig continues to do his Thing, mixing sound writing advice—both advice for writing and for being a professional writer—with profanity and absurdity. And, indeed, herein lie many ways for you to tell a better story. I appreciated a list focused solely on the short story, as even though most of his tips are applicable to all writing, they're very novel-centric. He also has a very interesting list on transmedia, which continues his refrain of "Diversify, diversify, diversify." After four books' worth of these tips, they begin to get a bit repetitive, but the message is worth hearing multiple times.(less)
This book will simultaneously empower and encourage you to be a writer and terrify you from writing ever again. There's plenty of good advice here wor...moreThis book will simultaneously empower and encourage you to be a writer and terrify you from writing ever again. There's plenty of good advice here worth considering before you write. And while you write. And after you write. I appreciate that Wendig goes beyond the act of writing itself and addresses the many other things a writer must do, such as queries, synopses, promotion, and so on. Want to be a better writer? Read this book.(less)
Chuck Wendig knows his shit and he is going to shove that shit down your throat AND YOU WILL LIKE IT. While a lot of Wendig's writing advice is basic...moreChuck Wendig knows his shit and he is going to shove that shit down your throat AND YOU WILL LIKE IT. While a lot of Wendig's writing advice is basic stuff (focus on character, avoid passive voice, etc), he manages to make even the most obvious tips fresh and entertaining through pure style alone. It's funny and conversational, as if he's in the room yelling at you. With love. Vulgar, mildly offensive love. The advantage of his particular voice is that he makes you think about writing in a whole new way, as you understand why he has chosen each tip to be part of each hallowed 25. The tips generally flow together with a coherent theme, with some callbacks and continued jokes. I do wish he provided more examples to show how putting each tip in practice improves the sentence/story/character, but that could impede the rat-tat-tat form of the lists. In the end, I agree with the title of the book: these are 250 things you should know about writing. Well, 275.(less)
Upon discovering that Campbell Award winner Mur Lafferty had written a book about superheroes with shitty powers, I immediately bought it, and I have...moreUpon discovering that Campbell Award winner Mur Lafferty had written a book about superheroes with shitty powers, I immediately bought it, and I have no regrets. Playing for Keeps is a fun ride.
Keepsie Branson runs a bar for members of the Third Wave, those with powers deemed too useless to be worthy of superherodom. Her power? No one can take anything from her. Hurrah, go fight crime with that. Her best friend can balance anything on a bar tray. BIG WHOOP. It's not invulnerability and flight and laser eyes, I tell you what. Her friends and patrons all have wonderfully stupid powers in comparison to the First Wave superheroes who protect Seventh City from the supervillains. But one fateful day, Keepsie finds herself embroiled in a battle that will change her life forever. Who are the real heroes? Can the superheroes be trusted? What about the supervillains?
It did take me a while to get a handle on all the characters, but once I could keep them straight, I liked them. Lafferty finds very clever uses of their powers, as they discover that they may not be so useless after all. It's a big day for them all, really, and I enjoyed watching them become more confident in themselves. The First Wavers are jerks, and the villains are, well, villains, but the Third Wavers seemed like people I'd love to hang out with.
The book's major strength is also its biggest flaw: it's basically one long action scene. Once the plot kicks off, shit just gets more real with every chapter. Plot twists! Double crosses! Character deaths! Wanton destruction! It makes for an exciting read, but it's also exhausting, and it makes the book feel long when it really isn't. It's like jumping into the last few episodes of an anime and getting the five-episode battle royale without all the build-up. On the one hand, I kind of loved that it never slowed down, and on the other hand, I wanted some room to breathe.
I really dug Playing for Keeps. It's fun, it's funny, it's creative, it's action-packed, and it's entirely engaging. If you like superhero stories—especially more offbeat ones—check it out.(less)
Within the first few pages, I knew I would love the fuck out of this book for two reasons. One, it deals with the underworld and gives it a mythic qua...moreWithin the first few pages, I knew I would love the fuck out of this book for two reasons. One, it deals with the underworld and gives it a mythic quality, using journal entries from a lost explorer to provide the exposition and worldbuilding. Two, the vibrancy of the fucking language, holy shit. Chuck Wendig is a master of metaphor, and his imagery leaps off the page. The staccato descriptions, sentences frequently dispensing with needless subjects and getting right to the verbs, pull you into the action and give the book a pulpy noir feel, appropriate for a book about the criminal underworld.
The Blue Blazes is built on that pun, really, melding together the supernatural underworld and the criminal underworld. The man who straddles that line is Mookie Pearl, a big, burly hulk of a man. He's the tank in your raid team; he's not on the Brute Squad, he is the Brute Squad; and so on. This tough enforcer dabbles in the delicate culinary art of charcuterie, finding peace in tiny meat. And peace is what he needs when his daughter, Nora, declares that she is going to take down his boss and rule the city of New York. The complicated, conflicted relationship between Mookie and his daughter is easily one of the best parts of the book.
Wendig constructs a world with fearsome monsters and dark magic, only able to be seen with a drug harvested from the underworld. Guess what color it is. I loved the cosmology of the book, the nature of the underworld and its denizens, the effects of the Blue. We learn about the world bit by bit, sometimes from a journal entry and sometimes from a character. To my utter delight, we get multiple POVs throughout the book, as Wendig gives us a glimpse into the heads of the good guys, the bad guys, and everyone in between. It made me positively giddy each time we got a new perspective, especially because some scenes were not told from the perspectives I expected, and I could tell whose head we were in simply from the language. The language in this book, good God. I may love Miriam Black more as a character, but I really love the way this book is written. It's got a sick pizzazz.
The Blue Blazes is filed under urban fantasy, but it's really supernatural crime noir. With a strong relationship at the center, exciting action scenes, and interesting and conflicted characters, it's a promising start to a new series that tells a satisfying story on its own. "Please let Mookie Pearl punch his way into your heart," wrote Chuck when he signed my book. He has. Oh, he has.(less)