I am about to thoroughly confuse several people. Bear with me.
"American Psycho" is the story of a sociopath who fits so well into 1980's-era Wall Stre...moreI am about to thoroughly confuse several people. Bear with me.
"American Psycho" is the story of a sociopath who fits so well into 1980's-era Wall Street, no one seems to notice that he is about to have a psychotic break of lethal proportions.
Patrick Bateman wears all of the right brands of clothes, uses all of the right brands of hygiene products, and lives in the right apartment with the right furniture and appliances. He blends well with his environment, which helps him hide the fact that he has no conscience, no empathy, and no compunctions about what he does to get what he wants.
Ellis crafts this tale with much skill and creativity. Even the odd rants about music (praising the slide of Genesis from art-rock band to plastic, generic synth-pop, for example) give glimpses into Bateman's need to fit in, be as generic as the people he is with, in order to hide his differences more effectively from the "normal" people.
The parts where Bateman kills his victims were extremely graphic. Even for veteran horror readers, they have the power to make the reader feel very uncomfortable in the gruesome details of torture, sexual sadism and cannibalism depicted.
I have no problems with the book, or it's author. My problem (and the reason a 5-star book got only a 2-star rating) is how utterly, soul-suckingly grim "American Psycho" is.
There's little or no humor (aside from the part where Bateman is ordered by an ATM to FEED ME A STRAY CAT, a part that was better handled in the movie) to break the sheer darkness of Bateman's inner dialogue. I get that he's a monster. I get that he's all darkness. It felt like this book was starting to drill into my soul and look for a dark corner to nest in.
The other huge problem is, Bateman is completely unsympathetic as a main character. He's next-to-impossible to relate to. I couldn't find myself caring what happened to him, or wanting to know how the book ended, because Bateman was so damned loathsome.
Conclusion: "American Psycho" is a very well-written, very good book that I thoroughly hated. I can appreciate the artistic merits of it, but ultimately it made me feel somewhat diminished for having read it.(less)
Imagine, if you would, H. P. Lovecraft's final days. His writing suggests that he took the Soy Sauce, so he has seen his end. Knowing that he is about...moreImagine, if you would, H. P. Lovecraft's final days. His writing suggests that he took the Soy Sauce, so he has seen his end. Knowing that he is about to perish, he projects his essence ahead in time to a worthy author that can complete his life's work of scaring the ever-loving shit out of anyone insane enough to read his stories.
At some point, however, that essence is rerouted through Monty Python and Second City TV, before it winds up with David Wong.
The result is John Dies at the End, which alternates between hysterically funny and "oh shit oh shit oh SHIT!!!" spooky. I'm eagerly waiting for that movie to hit the theatre next year, because I still have no idea what the hell happened in the book, even though I enjoyed it immensely.
This Book Is Full Of Spiders, however, is even better.
It's a zombie novel, if the zombies were created by the bastard offspring of Lovecraft, John Carpenter and Gabe Newell and raised on a diet of meth and LSD. It's also a paranoid fantasy (or IS it?). Also, it's at turns terrifying and side-splittingly hilarious.
The central characters are exactly the guys you wish would just stay the hell away from any and all disasters. They will even tell you they have the wrong stuff, even as they try to do the right thing and make things even worse. Also, dick jokes.
The whole story takes place in [Undisclosed], which is somewhere in the Midwest (the only clue is its Iroquois name translates to "Seriously, Fuck This Place"). The town is something like Buffy's hometown of Sunnydale: a cesspool of weirdness and unexplained/unexplainable deaths and disappearances. Basically, it's like a supernatural Chernobyl: no one wants to visit or live there. That anyone does live there is a huge mystery.
Ultimately, the charm of this book is in the writing. David, John and Amy (the main characters) each get to tell a portion of the story from their perspective as things go from bad (invisible spiders turning humans into zombie-like creatures who don't know that they are even infected) to worse (because of John) to "holy shit it's Armageddon time!!!" Along the way, each of them shows why they should never be put in charge of a disaster because they make the handling of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy look perfectly executed.
Wong has a knack for scaring you white on one page, then having you crack a rib laughing the next. It makes the book so difficult to put down, because you don't know which ambush (the feather, or the "OH MY GOD WHAT...!!!") you'll get next.
Tongue piercings. I'll never look at them the same way again.
The only real problem (and it's a nit-picky one) is the ending. After the realistic handling of the main characters, and the very authentic way the story was presented, the ending just seemed WAY too neat. Not "I'll dock a full star, because DAMNIT that was lame!!!" bad, just... too neat.
How this didn't win the Reader's Choice Award for Best Horror here on Goodreads boggles my mind. If you didn't vote for ...Spiders then you simply did not read it. Go do so now, then do penance by reading Twilight in Starbucks, naked and slathered in mustard.(less)
After reading several reviews, I'd like to clear a few misconceptions:
1.) This is not a good book to introduce you to WH40K. If you want a good entry...moreAfter reading several reviews, I'd like to clear a few misconceptions:
1.) This is not a good book to introduce you to WH40K. If you want a good entry point to the galaxy according to Games Workshop, get the Ultramarines Omnibus, the Space Wolves Omnibus, or start reading the Horus Heresy novels. They introduce the WH40K galaxy in much better detail.
2.) This is a book about war. It's not a kid's book, where a happy ending is almost mandatory; rather, it's ending is perfect for what the book is trying to communicate. I read 3 series by another, unrelated author in an unrelated universe, with wonkier endings than this one has, and they worked.
What it does right is tell the story of an Imperial Guardsman from induction, through part of basic training, to his very first day in combat. There are no frills, but plenty of symbolism is present: his homeworld is warm and colorful, yet the planet he fights on is cold and grey. It's basic, but again... it works.
What it doesn't do right is jump around in the beginning. You see nearly nothing of Arvin Larn's basic training. You know almost nothing of his social life before or during his Guardsman days. Worst of all, it almost loses the reader before they even reach the battle.
Once Scanlon gets you to the fight, though, he does an amazing job of painting the scene in the grimmest possible terms. This isn't honorable warfare, or even glory and heroism: this is dirty, muddy, bloody trench warfare in its basest form. The generals are incompetent, artillery is inaccurate, and it all ends in tears.
This isn't high literature by any stretch of the imagination. This is just an entertaining read to kill a few hours (maybe 15 of them?) between serious books, or a change of pace from reading paeans to the Space Marines. If you like 40K, you'll enjoy this book; if you don't, or have never tried reading in the 40K galaxy, it's still an interesting book.(less)
After reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I've learned three things about Sweden that I didn't know before:
1.) Every man in Sweden is either a se...moreAfter reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I've learned three things about Sweden that I didn't know before:
1.) Every man in Sweden is either a sexual sadist, a Nazi, or both.
2.) People with social awkwardness are incapable of managing their own financial affairs according to Swedish law (so shy people are bad a paying their rent?).
3.) Sweden is a bad place for females to take a vacation.
...at least, if Stieg Larsson is to believed.
The story is pretty straightforward. Mikael Blomqvist (who must not be Swedish, or else is the exception to the rule set out by Fact #1) is convicted of libel and sentenced to prison after a story he wrote for his magazine is proven to be laughably inaccurate. He is subsequently hired by a Hendrik Vanger, retired captain of industry (who is of Dutch extraction, so his lack of sadism and fascism are explainable) to investigate the disappearance (or murder) of his niece in the mid '60s. He, in turn, hires the woman who did his background for Vanger, Lisbeth Salander (the eponymous girl with the dragon tattoo... although the wasp tattoo is much more visible and mentioned more readily), who has a freight-train's worth of her own social and legal problems.
The writing style is extremely painful in spots. The reader does not really need to know who ate what when, or the type of computer equipment Blomqvist or Salander use, etc., etc. Thankfully, when Larsson gets away for detailed descriptions, the story flows at a rapid clip.
The characters are uneven. Blomqvist is unbelievably bland, and I'm convinced that the only reason he gets laid so much is that he's the only Swede who isn't a de Sade/Hitler hybrid. Salander, on the other hand, is completely believable and complex, although her reactions to some things don't quite seem to ring true.
Finally, I'm a bit disappointed with the ending. It felt a little too "happily ever after" to be true. Even the revelations about the missing girl felt less like closure and more like a cheat (though I can understand in context why Larsson had that arc end the way it did).
The one redeeming feature is its readability. Once the narrative picks up, it's like riding a smooth highway at 95 MPH.
Overall, I find that the hype for ...Dragon Tattoo was overdone and unjustified, but the book was entertaining and readable despite its flaws.(less)
It's not often that I read a book and find myself floored by a twist the story takes.
Thr3e has TWO of them.
The premise is simple: Kevin Parsons is a 2...moreIt's not often that I read a book and find myself floored by a twist the story takes.
Thr3e has TWO of them.
The premise is simple: Kevin Parsons is a 28 year old seminary student who's life is threatened by a mysterious caller: if Kevin doesn't "confess his sin" in three minutes, he will blow up his car. After the car explodes, the caller escalates his game slowly but surely, until the final move blows your mind.
In the process, details about Kevin's upbringing are revealed that make you wonder how Kevin functions at all.
Thr3e has 2 minor problems:
1. Outside of the central characters (Kevin, FBI agent Jennifer Peters, CBI agent and Kevin's childhood friend Samantha Sheer, and the antagonist), no one else gets any development whatsoever. Even Jennifer is little more than a paper doll placed in the story to hold Kevin's hand and make him feel better about being torn apart by his circumstances.
2. You can only ever read and enjoy this book once. After you know the twist, you spend any subsequent trips though the novel looking for the clues that hint towards the ending.
It's a wild ending, though.
The story is just strong enough to carry you to that ending. It sucks you in and will not let you put the book down until you've read just one more page... okay, one MORE page... no, ONE MORE CHAPTER, I don't care that it's 2 AM!!! You want to learn about Kevin's aunt, and how he met Sam, and about the boy at the window.
The absolute best part is its lack of preachiness. For a supposed Christian writer, Ted Dekker surprisingly refrains from proselytizing in place of letting the story tell itself, a huge flaw in most evangelical-themed fiction (see Left Behind, a fascinating series whose momentum was almost gutted by its need to stop mid-story and preach every 15 or 20 pages).
If you like thrillers, and enjoy a spiritual slant in your fiction, Thr3e definitely delivers. Oh... and brace yourself for the twist.(less)
Upon finishing Soldiers Live, I had mixed emotions:
On the one hand, there was a sense of relief at finally grinding my way to the end of the Black Com...moreUpon finishing Soldiers Live, I had mixed emotions:
On the one hand, there was a sense of relief at finally grinding my way to the end of the Black Company's saga. After the first 3 novels, it started to feel less like reading for pleasure, and more like an unpleasant chore I needed to put behind me.
On the other hand, there was a sense of sadness, of leaving old friends behind after a long journey.
Never mind that, after 30 years of fighting and betrayal, precious few of those "friends" had made it to the end.
Soldiers Live leaves everything on a high note: all of the major story threads have resolved themselves; all of the villains (from the Company's standpoint) have been dealt with; all of the serious questions have been answered. Resolution comes at a very, very high cost, though.
Oh, and the ending... wow.
The door is sort of open for a new series of novels. Personally, I hope Cook resists the temptation: all of the characters I've come to care about over 10 novels are no longer part of the saga in one way or another.
If you have stuck with Glen Cook and the Black Company this far, you will be treated to Cook's best-written entry since The White Rose. The characters are vivid, deep and easy to relate to. Even the Company's new super-sorceror is flawed enough to seem human.
The events follow naturally, without seeming to have been forced together to resolve the story. Pacing is just about right, with only the beginning seeming to drag.
The biggest concern, however, is Croaker's narration. I got sick of the Lethal Weapon/Sgt. Murtaugh-style whining about Croaker getting "too old for this (stuff)" after 50 pages of it. We get that he's been with the Company since forever, and we get that he's not as spry as he used to be. Note it, get past it, move on.
For authors who love the gritty fantasy style so popular these days, take notes. Cook does his setting and characters justice in their epic finale. You could do worse than follow his example.(less)
The Last Vampire is sort-of a sequel to The Hunger set 20 years later. It follows the vampire, Miriam Blaylock, as she tries to conceive a child with...moreThe Last Vampire is sort-of a sequel to The Hunger set 20 years later. It follows the vampire, Miriam Blaylock, as she tries to conceive a child with another of her kind, and a CIA vampire hunter, Paul Ward, who's not all that he seems.
The concepts set forth by the book are rather daring. This isn't some teenager's Twilight romance garbage, but an actual mature look at vampires as something other than undead.
The pacing, however, is horribly uneven. Strieber opens with guns blazing, slows the action down, then butchers the hell out of the book by rushing the ending.
Also... could someone please explain why Sarah Roberts, who is left almost as a living corpse at the end of the first novel, is somehow magically restored in this book? It's almost pathetic how she swings between "I love you, Miri" and "Damnit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a leech!!!"
Ultimately, the ideas Strieber brings to the vampire legends are worth the read, if you can get through the wildly uneven plot.(less)