Austin Grossman’s Crooked bends into disappointment.
If you know anything about U.S. President Richard Nixon, it’s his involvement in the Watergate scAustin Grossman’s Crooked bends into disappointment.
If you know anything about U.S. President Richard Nixon, it’s his involvement in the Watergate scandal and his subsequent resignation. In Crooked, Austin Grossman reimagines Nixon’s political career through the prism of him (and governments worldwide) fighting against supernatural evils. He’s still a rather unpleasant fellow, but you understand many of the choices he makes.
People argue whether Crooked is horror or a political thriller mixed with Lovecraftian supernatural elements, but whatever it is, it’s a mix of many genres. I get the feeling Grossman could’ve written it several different ways and would still wind up disappointing x amount of readers no matter what he did. According to peeps in my book club, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter went full action hero and the hokeyness didn’t deliver. Crooked is far more subdued, and in my opinion, too far below the radar. The first chapter starts out strong, with President Nixon performing some occult act in the White House to combat the supernatural, but the next 30 pages seem like a purely political take on Nixon’s early days, stymying the pace.
Part of me wishes Grossman had gotten to the presidency of Nixon earlier, but then other parts of me wish he hadn’t encased the novel inside of Nixon’s head or historical events, period. Late in the read, Grossman tries to bend his novel to history, but it doesn’t make sense. I checked with my book club—apparently nobody understood the actions of the fictional Nixon at this juncture. Not good. What I did like was all the little unexplored avenues Grossman put in (like a survivalist who went into a mysterious room with a month’s worse of supplies, disappeared, then a few months later was heard briefly screaming before no trace of him was ever seen or heard from again). Grossman is a talented writer, but the story sadly comes up short. In some ways, Crooked is a novel about disappointment and life unfulfilled, but that also means I was left disappointed in it. Two stars. ...more
The Hot Kid is your standard Elmore Leonard crime story. No better, no worse.
Set in Oklahoma during Prohibition, the novel centers in on Carl Webster,The Hot Kid is your standard Elmore Leonard crime story. No better, no worse.
Set in Oklahoma during Prohibition, the novel centers in on Carl Webster, a young lawman who warns criminals that if he has to pull his piece, he shoots to kill. He sets out to stop Jack Belmont, the wayward son of an oilman who hopes to replace John Dillinger as Public Enemy #1. Along the way, Webster will meet Louly Brown, a woman who starts out the novel on the wrong side of the law, but seeks to tell her story to the “True Detective” journalist, Tony Antonelli.
If you ever watched “Justified,” the following archetypes are in place: Carl Webster is Raylan Givens (hat love and all); Jack Belmont is Boyd Crowder (with a little less history with Webster); and Louly Brown is a mix of Eva Crowder and Winona Hawkins. Maybe it’s just the era, or that many of the female characters are prostitutes, but I doubt the women in The Hot Kid pass the Bechdel Test.
There’s not much wrong with the storytelling. The Hot Kid moves fast, is entertaining, and Leonard couldn’t be naffed to write a denouement (the climax wraps on the last page), but as it’s in the mold of “Justified” (even if it came first), that inevitably becomes the comparison point. In the end, The Hot Kid just isn’t as good as “Justified,” but if you’re looking for that type of style, I get the feeling you can find it easily in the Elmore Leonard catalog. Three stars. ...more
Let me off the John Scalzi hype train. Blow it when I’m clear.
By this point, most nerds know what a redshirt is—the random ensign on “Star Trek” whoLet me off the John Scalzi hype train. Blow it when I’m clear.
By this point, most nerds know what a redshirt is—the random ensign on “Star Trek” who gets killed by whatever issue is resolved by the end of the episode. So that’s the premise of Redshirts: that all those no name ensigns suddenly start figuring out that they’re the ones likeliest to die on away missions. Of course, it’s not actually “Star Trek”; it’s a knockoff Starfleet Enterprise called the Universal Union Intrepid (“ ‘The Shinning’? Don’t you mean ‘The Shining’? / “Shut up, boy? You want to get sued?”).
It sounds interesting enough, but the premise is better than the novel. Maybe it’s because Scalzi doesn’t do much to distinguish his characters from one another. I get it; they’re ensigns, but this doesn’t seem like an intentional move by Scalzi. Late in the book, I still confused two of the characters with D names, but it didn’t really matter to the story if I distinguished them. Again, not intentional by the author. It just didn’t matter. The cliché writing could be excused as satire, but no, I won’t give Scalzi the credit. Each chapter felt full of plot and structural flubs I’d correct in a writers’ group. I don’t intend any slight in that—I’ve read great works that went on to be published—but if you’ve been a part of those groups, you know what I mean. It’s technically sound, it’s just… bad.
As a Hugo Award winner, I had higher expectations. Also, given that this was described to me as a funny novel, I expected to enjoy it on that level, too, but again, Redshirts tries too hard only to fall so short. I’m no humor snob either. I mean, I understand The New Yorker cartoons, but I don’t laugh… Finally, Scalzi tries to go deep into the meta rabbit hole late in the read but, again, failure. No need to waste any more words on Scalzi. I’m done. One star. ...more
Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’ Locke and Key: Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft reminds me that I still don’t like Stephen King.
The Locke family—teenagJoe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’ Locke and Key: Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft reminds me that I still don’t like Stephen King.
The Locke family—teenagers Tyler and Kinsey, their younger brother, Bode, and their mother, Nina—move to Lovecraft, Massachusetts. Why anyone would move to a place called Lovecraft is beyond me, but in the wake of their father being murdered by two men, the kids have little choice. Bode soon discovers the old mansion has secrets, as he finds a doorway that leaves his body dead while he roams around as a ghost, and a spiritual force trapped in a well.
I’m a big fan of the art work here, but much of the story feels played out. An old house with ghostly secrets? Bleh, already seen it a billion times. A key that opens a door to anywhere you can imagine? I liked it better in “The Lost Room.” Really, I know that part of my beef is that I never connected with Stephen King. As Joe Hill is his son and has a similar style, I don’t connect with the next rung down on the bloodline either. If you don’t have that inability to connect with anything King, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this more than me, but here’s where I step out on the series. Two stars. ...more
Looks like I showed up to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels about 300 years too late.
Oh did I say Gulliver’s Travels? I meant Travels into Several RLooks like I showed up to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels about 300 years too late.
Oh did I say Gulliver’s Travels? I meant Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships. That’s the full name, you see. Anyway, the novel is told from the perspective of the everyman, Gulliver, whom, through a series of unfortunate travel plans gone awry (dude, seriously, learn your lesson) travels to fantastical parts of the world no one else has seen. In one place, he’s a giant; in another, he’s the tiny person in the land of the giants.
Although parts of it are entertaining—there’s a delightfully decent amount of peeing and crapping on people going on—I inevitably felt that I was missing the comparison points to fully appreciate the work. Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels as a parody of the traveler’s tales subgenre… but that subgenre is long gone today (as far as I can tell). It was also written as a satire on human nature. I mean, that stuff hasn’t gone away in our time, but the deep points Swift made then are played out for me now. I got it; the human race is kinda selfish and lame. So while I appreciate the influence of (deep breath) Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, I like to know or care about the targets the literary social commentary is supposed to hit. A dull middle section didn’t help either. Two stars, but reaching higher. ...more
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman still punches the myth of happypants capitalism right in the mouth.
Willy Loman believes in all the hope of workinArthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman still punches the myth of happypants capitalism right in the mouth.
Willy Loman believes in all the hope of working hard for the American Dream. At least he did, until he finds himself disillusioned near retirement age. He works hard, yet his bills stay above his income, and even when something is getting paid off, his wonders if it was worth it. What’s the point of having a family home if no family lives there anymore? But Willy does have family around. His wife, Linda, is supportive, but often trampled by his tirades (enough so that I can understand why feminists were not pleased with the portrayal of women in this play); his kids, Biff and Happy, are in their thirties yet still live at home for periods of time. They work menial jobs and sleep around, but promise their mother that they plan to settle down someday.
What’s strange to me is that Death of a Salesman was first published in 1949, but the above descriptions of the struggles of the Loman family apply more today. Sure, there’s the occasional odd technology reminder—like where his boss is excited that he has a device that can record the radio when he’s not home—but the societal struggle covered still applies: People still work hard to pay off mortgages for homes that may not matter the same way when they’re done; everything still breaks and falls apart. In short, the grind of this American life remains the same.
Usually I don’t read introductions of classic reads, because if I’ve somehow avoided learning the major plot points, the writers of introductions seem content to spoil it, but a) it’s kind of hard to spoil Death of a Salesman; and b) I left my current book at home while traveling and was content to hammer through all of content during my layover. In the intro, there’s a description of a woman saying that the play was a “time bomb under American capitalism,” to which Miller retorted that it was a bomb under the BS of capitalism. Whatever it is, it’s still rolling around in my mind a week later even if it didn’t seem amazing at the time. Three stars, but reaching higher. ...more
Jonathan Barnes’ The Somnambulist finds a way to keep the fantastical rather dull.
Edward Moon is a detective and magician in Victorian-era England. AfJonathan Barnes’ The Somnambulist finds a way to keep the fantastical rather dull.
Edward Moon is a detective and magician in Victorian-era England. After a man is mysteriously murdered, Moon is brought onto the case along with his partner, the Somnambulist—a mute, hairless giant who loves milk and can be stabbed without seemingly any ill effects. There are all kinds of oddities as the novel goes on—circus freaks, bearded ladies, a man claiming to live his life backwards—and while none of it is really explained, it doesn’t need to be. Mostly, it just needed to be more interesting.
I can’t say exactly what it is, but from the early going, the narration didn’t do it for me. There’s not just monologuing; it’s hoity-toity monologuing. I get it, Victorian England, influenced by Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein and all that, but meh. I like those; I didn’t like this. While many who did enjoy The Somnambulist didn’t care for the final 40-50 pages, that’s where it started to pick up for me, as I’d wished that all those fantastical beings were interacting all along. Before this, there was a dragging mystery that wasn’t all that mysterious (or important), a convoluted plotline that really fell apart when explained, and an ongoing dragging feeling for what should’ve been a fun fantasy read. Instead, Barnes tempered the fun for a humdrum literary tone. Two stars. Barely. ...more
Given that I'm deep into the series (as this is volume three, collecting issues #13-18), I'm not goiIt's official: Saga is my comic book happy place.
Given that I'm deep into the series (as this is volume three, collecting issues #13-18), I'm not going to give any description to avoid spoilers. If you're unfamiliar with Saga, read my volume one review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Volume three picks back up after a minor misstep in volume two. While there are things I can nitpick here and there, overall my view is simple: You should be reading Saga; it's the best comic going today. Four stars. ...more
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets: Volume 2: Split Second Chance takes the series in the right direction.
If you’re unfamiliar with 100Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets: Volume 2: Split Second Chance takes the series in the right direction.
If you’re unfamiliar with 100 Bullets, it’s got a great premise: Throughout the 100 issues, the mysterious Agent Graves approaches people who’ve had their lives ruined by nefarious means. The victims get info on who did them wrong, a handgun with 100 untraceable bullets, and full immunity for whatever revenge they want to take, be it on one person or the whole unsuspecting world. Despite that great premise, I was disappointed in volume one (collecting issues #1-5), as I found some of the stylized pulp violence cheesy, and I feared that if the stories remained episodic, the formula would wear out fast.
Thankfully, volume two (collecting issues #6-14) goes deeper into the plan that Agent Graves is building. Volume one characters return and people ask questions as to how this approach to vengeance could even be possible. Even the revenge tales that could be episodic are better this time around, and without question, issue #11: “Heartbreak, Sunnyside Up,” is my favorite issue thus far. It finally puts the heart into the series, and you feel for the mother learning about the true motivation behind her runaway daughter. I’m still not 100% sold on the art style, but 100 Bullets now has the momentum to get me reaching for the next volume. Three stars. ...more