“Saddle up!” This phrase probably conjures an image of a dusty, old West town, and The Ace of Spades, book one in Karen Koehler’s Black Jack Derringer...more“Saddle up!” This phrase probably conjures an image of a dusty, old West town, and The Ace of Spades, book one in Karen Koehler’s Black Jack Derringer series, will conjure this kind of image from the first page.
You’ll see in your mind’s eye the stock saloon from any old western, or rather, you will until you start reading about Goliath, a massive black muto stallion with a bulletproof hide, or Mr. Treen, an albino muto gambler with more secrets than a dead pirate crew.
The main character of this wild fusion of sci-fi, westerns and apocalyptic fiction is a self-styled bounty hunter named Wild Alice West. Far from being a perfect killer, Alice is struggling to survive in a near-lifeless desert world that has no patience for womenfolk doing a “man’s job.”
Though fiercely independent, Alice recognizes that she needs a front-man to give herself legitimacy as a bounty hunter, and after weeks of looking around New Hope, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner in muto gambler Mr. Treen.
I won’t say anything more, lest I give away something from this fast paced, 42 page novella. I was pleasantly surprised by the development of both the main characters, and the ending is a great way to whet the reader’s appetite for the next installment in the series, The Queen of Hearts.
This story has everything you could possibly need from a good yarn; plot twists, gunfights, mutants, sandboat robberies, and yes, even some pirates. And, I found nothing to complain about. No, I mean nothing.
This is so rare for me, and my enjoyment of the story was so complete that I feel only a five star rating is fitting. I would recommend this story for anyone who likes blazing action, solid character development and charming wittiness mixed in equally satisfying portions. Dig into these vittles, y’all. This is some good brain candy here.(less)
Life in in Burger hell is rough for anyone, but it's even worse for a former denizen of the real Hell, which has closed due to competition from Earth....moreLife in in Burger hell is rough for anyone, but it's even worse for a former denizen of the real Hell, which has closed due to competition from Earth. Humans have completely lost control of themselves, and their world has become filled with random acts of bang raping, among other perversities. And in this world, a demon named Charles must adjust to life in a city which makes Hell seem pleasant by comparison. Between a clueless social worker who can't remember his name and a sociopath for a boss, Charles is getting frustrated enough to consider taking dire steps...by looking for a new job. Add in a few interviews gone horribly wrong and a true "date from hell", and you've got a great bizarro story with plenty of laughs and gruesome visuals in generous portions... served with fries on the side.(less)
Tattooing Violet is a first person account of Craig, who tells the story of his Maori step brother Mat, his reality addled sister Violet, and his abus...moreTattooing Violet is a first person account of Craig, who tells the story of his Maori step brother Mat, his reality addled sister Violet, and his abusive step dad Jack. Violet has been abused by her father for years, first starting with molest, and then moving to statutory rape. However, all of this abuse is hinted at subtly, while the real focus of the story follows Mat, Craig, and Violet becoming a dysfunctional family of their own. The writing is brilliant, with witty dialogue and subtle sexuality weaved skillfully throughout the tale. While Craig is the narrator and main character, the focus of the story mostly follows Mat. His conflicts extend beyond dealing with Jack, and as a "nigger" in an all white Tennessee community, he must deal with prejudice from everyone except for Craig and Violet. Mat believes strongly in his Maori heritage, and he works to teach this to his step siblings while talking them into getting tattoos which will tell their stories for them. The end result of this process is that Violet's tattoo is exposed at school, and a major fight breaks out at the family home. And then the real power of Violet's tattoos is revealed. This is a fascinating story from beginning to end, and it was marred only by typos littered throughout the book. These still are not enough to detract from a great story with characters who are easy to identify with. (less)
I knew eventually I'd have to read Loop to complete this series, but when I initially couldn't find a copy of it anywhere, I opted to Wiki it, and rea...moreI knew eventually I'd have to read Loop to complete this series, but when I initially couldn't find a copy of it anywhere, I opted to Wiki it, and read the basic synopsis. It put me off of reading it, so I figured I'd just set aside until I forgot the finer points of the synopsis.
I finally reached that point and got started, and for the first 400 pages, I didn't feel anything at all. While I felt the first books were creepy and scary in some parts, if a bit dry, this book is dry as a bone left in the middle of a desert, and there's nothing I can feel for the story or the characters. Kaoru is a bland character, and his "loving dad," Hideyuki, comes off as creepy, but isn't quite creepy enough to provoke a reaction. His mother Machiko is flat and more a background noise than a functioning character, and his romantic interest, Reiko, is seduced in a clinical description that makes their first time together sound like rape. Following intimate scenes and thoughts are worded in such a way as to negate any stimulating reaction. Passages speak of a woman's "sex organ" and her "fluids" in such a way that all I could do was shake my head at the consistently clinical tone.
And then the punchline came, and I got pissed. I want to break down why it's such a massive failure, but I can't without spoilers. All I can say is, there's no logical reason given for why the ring virus was even possible in the first place. The question is asked, but the answer is "I don't know."
This book is a huge cop out written to undermine the apocalyptic buildup of the first two books. The explanation given for how the ring virus became a cancer doesn't make sense, especially with the virus being coded from within a virtual reality simulation that was made to emulate our world exactly. Even when the scientists admit that such a thing as a psychically viral tape couldn't have existed in the virtual reality, they give no explanation of how such an anomaly could have been introduced without an outside source. And the explanation for how the virus got out of the computer and mutated is just as poorly thought out. So there's roughly 200 pages of dry medical lecturing leading up to a lot of shrugging and "I dunno" on the most important aspects of the plot twist.
Even if a better explanation had been given, the worst book's offense is that it's never scary, nor even creepy. At least with some bad books I feel something, even if it's just boredom. But I felt nothing for this book until very close to the end. And the anger I felt was more about how this final book takes everything that was scary about the first two books and chucks them out a window in favor of a "one man saves the world" solution. It's ludicrous, it doesn't stack up even according to the new rules laid out by this book, and not one event is all that memorable because of the bored tone the narrator takes.
I can't say there aren't some interesting ideas about life in a virtual reality made to resemble our world and the cyclical nature of the universe. But those ideas are buried as marrow dust inside a dry bone, and I don't feel like it was worth the effort of reading the book to explore those themes. I would much rather have read a bleak final entry that killed off the whole world with the ring virus than this denial of everything that happened in the first two books. In fact, this book ruins the series for me so much, I'm going to have to treat it like the Star Wars prequels and pretend they never existed. In my altered history, there was a third book where Sadako killed everyone, and the whole world ended. Boo-hoo. But my version is still a thousand times better than this book.
I give Loop two stars, and would only recommend it to readers of the first two books who feel a need to complete the series. (less)
Imagine a place which exists somewhere between Heaven and hell, a land where punks have erected their own afterlife rather than try to get along in He...moreImagine a place which exists somewhere between Heaven and hell, a land where punks have erected their own afterlife rather than try to get along in Heaven. Goblin is a guard who works at the main gate of Punk Land, and yet, no one has visited the security station or entered Punk Land in some time. So Goblin is surprised to find two people who arrive not through the gate, but from within Punk Land itself. And they have many more shocking revelations which Goblin decides must be put before the Punk Council.
During the trip through Punk Land, Goblin begins to understand that something has gone horribly wrong, and instead of anarchy, Punk Land is being ruled by corporate goons.
Then with the entry of Shark Girl into the story, the real horror show begins. Between Shark Girl and the actions of the Punk Council, this book makes the afterlife seem very unpleasant. Because once you accept that you can feel pain in the afterlife, the concept of being eternally shredded on a giant metal grater is pretty gruesome. And this is just one of the nasty surprises waiting for you in this book. If you're looking for a good Bizarro book with a lot of gore and laughs in equal portions, I'd recommend this book.(less)
American Gods starts out with a good premise, but saddles the story with an unmemorable main character. The idea of America being filled with living i...moreAmerican Gods starts out with a good premise, but saddles the story with an unmemorable main character. The idea of America being filled with living incarnations of our myths and beliefs is intensely fascinating to read when the story is following a sexual goddess taking sacrifices to stay alive, or when detailing the "birth" of a new jinn.
However, once the story returns from these side tangents back to Shadow, the main character, the book is just dull. Much of this has to do with Shadow having no ambitions or goals. He simply exists as a plot device to everything else happening in the book.
All of the writing is well done, and the plot centering around a fight between Mr. Wednesday and his shadowy adversaries keeps things mostly interesting in spite of Shadow's presence.
But ultimately, the ending is highly unsatisfying. Shadow starts out a nobody, and despite all of his experiences in the book, he chooses to remain a nobody. During the final pages, he reveals that he's learned nothing by assuming the incarnation of a god in another country is the same person he met in America.
Readers interested in a completely different perspective on faith and the power of personal belief will find this book worth checking out. However, the lack of any compelling qualities in the main character brings down the book from being a great story into something closer to lackluster.(less)