Wait, that's my Midwestern nature talking. We tend to understate. The truth is I walked into the books...moreI walked into the bookstore in a bit of a mood.
Wait, that's my Midwestern nature talking. We tend to understate. The truth is I walked into the bookstore furious at the world. I can't remember why. I am prone to dark moods, and when I'm in the middle of one, I tend to rumble through the world like an angry old-testament god.
I went directly to the Sci-Fi Fantasy section. That's where I live for the most part. That's where I go when the world gets to be too much for me.
I looked at the titles. I'd read about a quarter of them. I read a lot. But nothing looked particularly good. Nothing does when I'm in one of my moods.
A friendly bookseller walked over. "Can I help you find anything?" she asked.
"I want to read something good," I said. "I'm tired of gritty depressing shit. I want a fun, light book that isn't going to leave me wanting to put a gun in my mouth."
I'm not hyperbolizing. That's what I actually said. It wasn't a nice thing to say, but I can be unpleasantly brusk at times.
The bookseller didn't bat and eye. She pointed out a couple books, then asked how I felt about YA.
"I'll read anything if it's good," I said.
She pointed out this book. I'd heard of it before, appreciated its awesome title. I like faerie stories. Most importantly, I've read Cat Valente's work before, and I know she has a marvelous grip on the language.
Five pages into this book, I thought, "Why didn't I read this years ago? Why haven't I heard about this book before?"
I flipped to the back cover and saw blurbs from Neil Gaiman and Peter S. Beagle. "Oh," I thought. "Probably because I'm an idiot who lives under a rock."
Ten pages in, I was irritated. Fifteen pages in, I was jealous. Twenty pages in, I was in love.
So. A review:
This book is beautiful. The language is lovely without being pretentious. The story is careful and playful and smart. This book made me tear up in places. Not because it is particularly sad. But because sometimes when a story is true and sweet and perfectly shaped, it puts its hand around my heart.
This book is everything I about Victorian faerie tales without all the tedious bullshit.
This is the best book I've read all year. And I read a *lot* of books.
I look forward to reading this book to my little boy. And that, ultimately, is the best thing I can say about a book.
This book was a bit of a departure for the series.
The first two books are written in first person, and they follow the same main character, Owen.
Thi...moreThis book was a bit of a departure for the series.
The first two books are written in first person, and they follow the same main character, Owen.
This book leaves that character behind and changes to third person perspective.
I can see why it had to be that way. This story didn't have anything to do with Owen. It was all about Earl.
That said, the shift was pretty jarring for me. Losing the main character I'd been following for two books was difficult. And the loss of the first-person perspective was odd too, given what I was used to.
That said, it's a good story. It works. So if you're really into this series because of the world and the action, that's still in this book. But if you're like me and one of the reasons you're following the series is because you've come to enjoy Owen's character and voice... it's going to be a bit of a bumpy ride. (less)
I recently read this to my little boy, and I have to admit I really didn't care for it.
Don't get me wrong. It's...moreMy impressions in a single word: Meh.
I recently read this to my little boy, and I have to admit I really didn't care for it.
Don't get me wrong. It's not a *terrible* book. There's nothing hideously wrong with it. (See my review of Esio Trot, if you want to see me go off on a Dahl book I hated.)
But there wasn't much right with it either. The simple fact was Mr. Fox was not, in fact, very fantastic.
The plot centers around some farmers that try to kill Mr. Fox. They try to dig him out of his hole. Fox's clever solution? Dig down so they can't reach him.
But then the farmers dig *faster.*
Fox's clever solution? They should dig away faster.
Eventually they try to starve Mr. Fox and his family out of the hole.
Fox's clever solution? Dig even farther and steal some food.
And that's pretty much the whole book. (Spoiler alert.)
I like my books to have some cleverness in them. If you have a book where the main character is a Fox, and people are going to praise him for being fantastic, he better... y'know... do something if not fantastic, then at least interesting.
If your clever solution to *every* problem is "Dig more" you're kinda just phoning it in.
Also some mild sexism in here. Nothing horrifying like in Esio Trot, but why read a meh book with mild sexism to your kids? There's better stuff out there. Much better. (less)
You know what it's like. You read the first book by a new author and you fall in love with the series. You know you shouldn't. You've been hurt before...moreYou know what it's like. You read the first book by a new author and you fall in love with the series. You know you shouldn't. You've been hurt before.
Then the second book shows up and it's just... meh.
It's called the sophomore slump. And all of us who have been burned by it learn to dread it. Especially when we *really* enjoyed the first book of the series.
Good news. You don't have to worry about that here. If anything, I enjoyed this book more than the first one in the series. And that's really saying something. (You can read that review if you like, to see how gushy I got.)
This book continues in the same world. It follows the familiar themes established in the first book, but it doesn't just re-hash the previous story. Instead Max opens up a new part of the world. We see new gods and religions. New cultures and new complications. The new story grows very naturally out of these things.
Perhaps best of all, this is what I think of as a hopeful book. That's rare these days, especially when the author is writing a world that is dystopian or post-apocalyptic. (These books kinda are.) So while this book does has dark elements, we aren't left with something so grim as to be oppressive or nihilistic. Instead we have characters that fight against the fact that the world kinda sucks, hoping to make things better.
Yeah. I like books where people try to make the world a better place. Sue me.
So... yeah. If you liked the first one, there's more goodness waiting here for you. And even if you haven't read that one, you still might dig on this. Not that I would ever condone the horrible practice of non-sequential reading, mind you.... (less)
Earlier this year, I met Max Gladstone. We were both attending a convention in Boston.
Simply said, I really liked him. He was funny, articulate, and s...moreEarlier this year, I met Max Gladstone. We were both attending a convention in Boston.
Simply said, I really liked him. He was funny, articulate, and smart. He'd traveled the world and had interesting stories to show for it.
So I picked up his book. Because when I meet an interesting author, I like to see what they've written.
To be completely honest, this isn't the best way to pick up new books. Someone who is funny in person isn't always funny in print. A person might be delightfully verbally articulate, but that doesn't always transfer onto the page.
But smart.... Well, that's a different matter. Smart people tend to write smart books. I like to read smart books. And Gladstone struck me as being a very clever individual....
So. I bought his books and read them on my trip. They were not merely clever. Not merely good. They were stunningly good. Stupefyingly good.
Let me put it another way.
Twenty-ish years ago, I read Neverwhere and it kinda blew the top off of my head. It was a mix of things I didn't know could be mixed. It was magic and myth and London and faerie all brought together in a clever, cunning, subtle melange.
That's how I feel about these books. They mix magic and science and culture and finance in a way I never considered possible before.
Good language. Good story. Good character. Absolutely stunning world and concept.
Will you have to work a little to get your head around things a first? Yeah. A little. That's the price you pay for something original like this. But it's worth it. So worth it.
If you read fantasy or sci-fi, if you enjoy clever thoughts and unique worldbuilding, if you want something new and fresh and sharp: This is the book for you. Seriously.(less)
I picked this book up in Texas when one of the folks in the bookstore recommended it to me.
If I were forced to give you an elevator pitch, it would b...moreI picked this book up in Texas when one of the folks in the bookstore recommended it to me.
If I were forced to give you an elevator pitch, it would be something like this: "Imagine Dresden files if you removed all the magic and replaced it with guns...."
That's not a really accurate description, mind you. Elevator pitches never are. But there's an element of truth to it as well...
Looking online, I see that I'm not the only one to make this comparison. That irritates me a little, but at the same time, it means I might want to discuss the similarities and differences a little more, in order to prevent confusion and potential unhappiness.
Similarities: It's urban fantasy. (There are supernatural creatures in the world, and there are people trying to keep them under control, mostly by blowing them up.) Very good action scenes. A hint of mystery. Written in first person.
Differences: The Dresden files starts off small, with Harry trying to solve murders and occasionally fighting a monster or two. The series slowly builds over many books until Harry is dealing with huge world-shattering events.
Monster Hunter takes the more standard path. Many monsters, armies clash, and there's an Apocalypse averted at the beginning of the first book.
And there's nothing wrong with that. As I said, the action is good, the world is interesting. But if you pick this up looking for the slow burn of the Dresden files, you're going to be disappointed.
Another difference: these books tend to be a lot longer than the Dresden Files. I'm guessing maybe twice as long. So depending on your taste, there's either going to be more to sink your teeth into, or they might feel like a bit of a slog. (They didn't feel that way to me.)
Okay, first things first. My little boy loves these books. He reads a lot with his mom, but lately the Toot and Puddle books are the ones he's been ta...more Okay, first things first. My little boy loves these books. He reads a lot with his mom, but lately the Toot and Puddle books are the ones he's been talk about.
In some ways, that's the only review that matters.
That said, there's some weird shit going on here....
The book's two main characters, as you might have guessed, are Toot and Puddle. They're two pigs that are best friends.
That's not the problem.
In this story, Puddle is trying to figure out what to get his friend for his birthday.
That's not the problem either.
The problem is that Puddle, a sentient pig capable of speech, goes shopping at a pet store. And (spoiler alert) buys a parrot for his friend.
THIS is the problem.
Let's breeze right past the fact that the only thing that makes a parrot cool is the fact that it's an animal that can talk. And therefore in a world full of talking animals it would have nothing to make it unique.
No. Let's jump straight into the fact that in this world where animals are people and they can talk, Puddle effectively buys a person. He buys another sentient creature to give away as a present.
Doesn't that strike anyone else as kinda fucked up?
A simple request to all the children's authors out there. I don't care if you populate your world with talking animals. It's cool. We're all onboard with that.
But when your talking animals take a field trip? Maybe you shouldn't have them go to the fucking zoo. Why? Well, because your entire world is ostensibly populated with sentient animals. Why the fuck would they have a zoo in the first place?
Don't get me wrong here. I'm not asking you to engage in Dune-Level worldbuilding. I'm not going to quiz you about how the economy of your Animal-Farm lite society functions. I don't need to know what sort of numinous porcine deity they pray to.
I'm not going to pester you with questions about why the animals all speak the same language. I won't even quibble about the fact that a pig lacks the manual dexterity to turn a doorknob, let alone hold a hammer or a paintbrush.
All I'm asking is that you think things through a *little* bit. No zoos. No pet stores.
And for fuck's sake. I know it's easy to draw, but when your protagonist pig is eating lunch, could he have something *other* than a ham sandwich?
I liked this anthology enough to actually write an introduction for it. Needless to say, that rarely happens.
I was going to drop a review here, then...moreI liked this anthology enough to actually write an introduction for it. Needless to say, that rarely happens.
I was going to drop a review here, then I realized that would be kinda silly, when the introduction I wrote says everything I want to say, much more clearly and cleanly than any quick review I could bang out.
So here it is...
* * *
This is a good anthology. Can we start there? Let's start there.
That's really the most important thing you can get out of this introduction. tl;dr - This is a good anthology full of stories that are worth your time and money.
If you want, you can hop directly into reading it. Go on. I won't be offended.
For the rest of you, let me be completely honest and say that when I sat down to read this anthology, I was really nervous.
I really admired Veronica and Tom for putting this anthology together. It's not just a cool idea, it's a vital thing. Anthologies that focus on new writers are really important.
Everyone knows it's hard for new writers to get noticed. Anthologies like this help new authors get their foot in the door, so to speak.
I know this for a fact, because an anthology like this helped get me my start as a writer. When I was published in Writers of the Future back in 2002, it opened up doors for me.
So I admired the hell out of Tom and Veronica for giving new-writers a chance to get a leg up. But at the same time, I when I heard Sword and Laser was putting out an anthology, I was worried for them. What's more, I was worried about the anthology itself.
Why? Because I've read submissions for writing contests. I've read stories at writer's workshops. I've taught writing classes. I've read submissions for a few anthologies myself.
In short, I know how many really awful stories are out there.
That sounds harsh. But it's the simple truth. Bad stories outnumber good ones about 50 to 1. And good stories outnumber great ones about 10 to 1. That's the harsh mathmatics of the situation.
I know this better than anyone. Not just because I've read slush. But because I've *written* awful stories. More awful stories than good ones. Many more.
And because I've acted as editor-in-chief before, if only in a small way, I know that sometimes, after reading 40 bad stories, you throw up your hands and just say, "Fine. Fuck! We need to put *something* in this anthology. That story about the mutant in the woods is good enough."
But who wants to read a story that's just "good enough? Not me. I want stories that are great. I want cleverness. I want wit and language and magic. I want to be surprised. I want to be dazzled.
I want brilliant stories. And I'm guessing you do too.
I was not expecting to get that here. But I did. Some of these stories show brilliance. And not just flashes of brilliance, either. Not just a thin gilding of brilliance over the surface of a clunky tin meh. I'm talking about solid brilliance.
Simply said, I was impressed and pleasantly surprised.
Now am I saying that you'll love every story in here? No. That's a ridiculous expectation. Because everyone enjoys different flavors of story.
And honestly, that's one of the strengths of this anthology. There's enough variety here that no matter what you enjoy, you're probably going to find something to your taste.
Okay. That's enough from me. I'm just the opening band. Quit reading my ramble and check out the real stories. (less)
A strange bird here. A story with chapters of YA novel alternating with chapters of graphic novel.
Both stories are related, but the time frames don't...moreA strange bird here. A story with chapters of YA novel alternating with chapters of graphic novel.
Both stories are related, but the time frames don't mesh. And while the YA novel doesn't have any element of the fantastic involved, the graphic novel is full of mythic elements.
First, let me say that I've enjoyed a lot of Castellucci's work in the past. Good storyteller.
Second, I admire the hell out of her for being willing to take a risk. For being willing to try something new and different. I don't think I've *ever* run into something that was half-comic half-novel before.
That said... I don't know how successful it was.
Speaking only from my personal experience, I picked up this book thinking it was going to be a comic with an element of the fantastic. This was reinforced by the title and the cover and my previous experience with Castellucci as a comic writer.
When I opened up the book and it looked like it was mostly text.... I was disappointed, and I put it aside for over a year.
Then, when I started to read it, I found it hard to shift gears every chapter. Moving not only between comic and raw text, but between two stories featuring the same characters, but one of them full of fantastic elements, and the other perfectly mundane.
The story did come to good resolution. The relationship between the two stories becoming clear, fruitful even. But that doesn't retroactively remove the frustration I felt through most of the book.
It's possible that the true audience of this book, younger readers, would have less of a problem with this shifting of gears. They are more limber of mind and less set in their ways. They have fewer expectations crudding up their potential enjoyment of things.
In the end, I enjoyed it about 3.5 stars worth. Rounding up to 4 because I admire anyone willing to do something genuinely new and different. (less)
It's hard for me to give a harsh review to a book written by artists whose work I've very much enjoyed in the past.
That said, this book really didn't...moreIt's hard for me to give a harsh review to a book written by artists whose work I've very much enjoyed in the past.
That said, this book really didn't satisfy me as a reader.
This story was certainly atmospheric, with disturbing imagery and emotional scenes...
But honestly, I have no idea what was going on in the comic. There are 4-5 people living in a house, and shit starts to get weird... and... I just don't know. Someone's assaulted. Someone's engaging in self-mutilation. Maybe? There's a arcane practitioner doing... something. Maybe there's a guy being haunted too?
Not only am I not really sure what's going on in each of these individual storylines, but I don't see how they fit together either.
I'm fine with leaving space for the reader to form their own opinions. I tend towards the implicit in my writing. I get that.
But this was too much space for me to enjoy as a reader. I didn't feel like I was filling in the gaps in the narrative. I felt like the story was *mostly* gaps.
Your mileage may vary, of course. If you're really into post-modern literature, you'll probably dig this more than I did.
I picked this up on a whim, as I'm a fan of Frank Miller's work, and I enjoy Spider-Man as much as the next guy.
I'd assumed it was a run of Spider-Ma...moreI picked this up on a whim, as I'm a fan of Frank Miller's work, and I enjoy Spider-Man as much as the next guy.
I'd assumed it was a run of Spider-Man Miller had *written* but it wasn't. It's just all the spider man stuff Miller worked on back in the day. Some comics he did art for, some he did pencils, some he co-wrote...
Because of this, there's no storyline, just a bunch of random comics. What's more all the comics are from the early 80's which means the storytelling is pretty clunky and cumbersome, with lots of people thinking things like, "She's using her invisible force shield!"
So, yeah. This is more a historical curiosity than any sort of cohesive collection. I'd probably be irritated if I hadn't bought it half-price.(less)
I think this might be my favorite Terry Moore Series so far.
It has all the depth of character of Strangers in Paradise, with a nice element of myster...moreI think this might be my favorite Terry Moore Series so far.
It has all the depth of character of Strangers in Paradise, with a nice element of mystery and tinge of the fantastic that Strangers never had. And right now, having read the first four books, I'm finding the story more tight and cohesive than his more recent Echo.
So, yeah. Worth your time and money.
What's more, if you've never read Terry Moore before, this one would be a good place to start and get a taste of his work.(less)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is my favorite Philip K Dick novel. More than that, really. It's probably one of my favorite novels in general. On...moreDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is my favorite Philip K Dick novel. More than that, really. It's probably one of my favorite novels in general. One of the foundation stones of the genre.
So I was curious about this graphic novelization. I read an increasing number of comics these days. And I've been approached by people who wanted to adapt my books into graphic novels. I like to see how different adaptations are done, so that when I do decide to let someone adapt mine, I can do it in a smart way...
The interesting thing here is that this adaptation is using the full text of the novels. Which, technically, probably makes it an elaborately illustrated novel. Rather than a graphic novel adaptation.
In general, I think this was a mixed success.
Mind you, I'm not damming with faint praise here. It is interesting, and the thought of keeping the full text is an interesting one. It shows respect, even veneration for the original story. That's a good thing.
But the result is something that's neither fish nor fowl. It's not a comic and it's not a novel. And it suffers because of that. Chained to the original text, this adaptation couldn't take full advantage of the strengths of the comic medium. The text of what was a short, sharp, clever novel becomes a rather long, boggy, texty comic.
What's more, you're committing to buying six pricey comics to get the whole story that you could ordinarily buy in a 7 dollar paperback.
So. This adaptation is interesting, but not stunning. And it transforms what I consider a six-star book into a 3.5-4 star comic. (less)
It occurred to me today when I sat down to write a review of this book, that I've never gone into detail about my Dresden Files obsession online.
That...moreIt occurred to me today when I sat down to write a review of this book, that I've never gone into detail about my Dresden Files obsession online.
That said, it's certainly there, in bits and pieces, pretty obvious for anyone who is willing to read between the lines.
And I've talked about my love for the series in public many, many times. Usually in response to the question, "So what are your favorite books?" Or "What should I read while I'm waiting for book three to come out?"
But I've never really stated the depth of my love plainly, all in one place, for all the world to see.
The Dresden files is my favorite series ever. I say that both as a writer, and a reader.
Think about that for a moment. I don't make statements like that casually.
As a series, Dresden trumps out everything else I've ever read, or am currently reading. That includes books I *overflow* with love for, like Lynch's Gentleman Bastard series. Or Robin Hobb's Farseer. Or Sanderson's Mistborn. Or Abercrombie's First Law…
I like the Dresden files more than I like Wizard of Earthsea. More than I like Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber. More than Gaiman's Sandman. More the Lord of the Rings.
As a series, The Dresden Files even beats out Pratchett's Discworld. There. I said it.
I love these books so much that when Ghost Story came out, I read the *entire* series starting at book one, so I would be ready for the newest book.
Then when Cold Days came out, I read the *entire* series again.
That's something I haven't done since high school. I don't have time for that shit. Nevertheless, I did it.
For this book, Skin Game, I would probably have done the same thing again. But this time my obsession went even further. I decided to viciously abuse my meager power as an author. I contacted Jim's editor and begged for an advance reading copy.
She graciously gave me one, probably because the intensity of my request frightened her. Plus nobody wants to see a big beardy man cry. It's just not an appealing thing.
So what did I think of this book? I loved it.
I won't spoil anything. I don't go in for that sort of thing.
I'll just say that I loved it. It's everything I'd hoped for. And that Jim made me cry, like, four goddamn times in this book.
You're walking a thin line, Butcher. I'd hate you if I didn't love you so much… (less)