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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Tru Book Reviews' LiveJournal:

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Saturday, March 1st, 2008
12:15 am
[beldar]
Maybe this is why Robin said "Holy..." all the time
I recently read the book "Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes" by Chris Knowles, illustrated by Joseph Michael Lisner. If you click through the link, you'll see that the book has a rather clever cover, a parody of "The Last Supper" with superheroes -- a Superman stand-in in the Christ position (not surprising for anyone who has seen productions of "Godspell"). So the reader is intrigued from the get-go. But do the contents inside live up to the cover art?

I advise anyone with an interest in comics and/or popular culture to check out this book at your local library. It's an easy read and shouldn't take too long. But if I were to sum up my feelings on the book in one word, it would be "disappointing."

The writing style seems to presume the vocabulary and attention span of a junior high student. No topic is dwelt upon for too long, and we get a fairly tightly-edited version of every subject. The book tries to be comprehensive -- going into the history of religions and mystical movements through the ages, culminating in the Victorian era and its connections to mass-produced literature, to the pulps, finally to comics. Then it examines various authors, comics characters and comics artists and writers right up to references to the TV show "Heroes." But it was as though Knowles was ordered to keep it to a certain number of pages, and edited accordingly. I frankly want to see the outtakes, and my suspicion, that what was apparently very well researched left many resources and notes on them untouched in the final edition, makes me feel cheated.

Overall, I think he got his facts right. Those who are more studied might find some slip-ups, but Knowles seems shielded from them in part by not going too much in-depth. However, you get the feeling at various points in the book that he is making presumptions and assumptions about what inspired who, and what various comics creators intended. A lack of corroborating quotes and other more scholarly work would have fixed that, but I have a feeling that some of his conclusions may have just been off base.

But what is more telling is what he slights or leaves out altogether. For instance, most of his examination of comic book characters centers on the Big Two comics publishers, Marvel and DC. (And true to fanboy form, he disses Aquaman. He goes into some detail on other major characters -- Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Captain America, even Namor the Sub-Mariner, but not a word about DC's Atlantean until he's listed as just another member of the Justice League and Superfriends).

While the Big Two should take up quite a bit of the discussion, the omission of independents becomes glaring when discussing comics in the 1980s. Are there mythological or secret society underpinnings in "Love and Rockets" or "American Splendor"? What about "Cerebus"? Even if the answer had been "no" that would have been worth mentioning. I think the TMNT movies and cartoons get mentioned, but not the original Eastman and Laird comics. No mention of "Heavy Metal," which revives in comics form much of the spirit of the old pulps that he speaks so well of in the first half of the book.

He makes mention at various points of Doctor Doom, Dr. Strange and Mike Mignola, yet never mentions the combination of the three in the graphic novel in which Strange aids Doom as he relies more on alchemy and magic than his technology to save someone he loves.

Knowles gives only passing mention of Swamp Thing, who, as reimagined by Alan Moore, becomes a sort of Pagan god and fits perfectly into the book's thesis. In fact, the first reference to Swampy is to set up the story of John Constantine. You would think that Swamp Thing was a supporting character in Constantine's book, rather than the other way around.

In fact, while some characters get introduced front-and-center, others such as Gaiman's Sandman get their elaboration only in the context of focusing on their creators.

Upon further reflection today, I realized the Watcher is not mentioned in this book at all. Neither is the Beyonder. Given the subject matter of the book, these omissions are glaring. And all these things I've listed are just what I personally know about. Who knows what data I'm unaware of that was either carelessly edited out or not looked into in the first place?

Simply put, this was a decent effort, and a good topic to delve into in our postmodern society, but it could have been done a LOT better.
Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
4:33 pm
[beldar]
Galt? That’s him over there – why do you ask?
In my audiobook listening I’m about a third through Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” but earlier this year I listened to an abridged version of “Atlas Shrugged” (read by Edward Hermann). Since it is one of those books which has changed people’s lives, it seems appropriate that I should give my impressions of it.

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008
9:12 pm
[mcpon]
Hi
I would like to tell you guys about a forum for discussing children's literature.  It's a place to meet new people of like-mind.  Thank you!
Children's Books forum - Home
Saturday, February 2nd, 2008
12:09 am
[beldar]
Where did the time go?
I truly meant to post more reviews here, but it seems procrastination had gotten the better of me. This doesn't mean I haven't been reading -- on the contrary. My car's radio doesn't work, but the tape player does (it had a CD player, too, but that's gone wonky) so I've been steadily "reading" audiobooks on my workday commute.

Here's my list of books read and listened to, after Kings "Lisey's Story," in 2007:
(*short story collections)
“The Cobra Event” Richard Preston
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” JK Rowling
“Lullaby” Chuck Palahnuik
His Dark Materials trilogy, William Pullman
“Monkeewrench” PJ Tracy
*“12 Red Herrings” Jeffrey Archer
*“To Cut a Long Story Short” (most of it) Jeffrey Archer
“Fight Club” Chuck Palahnuik
“Dreamcatcher” Stephen King
“The Fourth Estate” Jeffrey Archer
“Cell” Stephen King
*“Everything’s Eventual” (all but Dark Tower story) Stephen King
“Boat of Dreams” Richard Preston

Any of these y'all want to see a review of, or just have a question about?
Thursday, May 10th, 2007
1:07 pm
[beldar]
A good bool
A few weeks back I finished "Lisey's Story" by Stephen King. I won't say I read it, because I listened to the unabridged audiobook, read by Mare Winningham. (I listen to audiobooks during my commute to and from work.)

So, it's like I've read the whole book, but not. Winningham does an excellent job in performing this story, and I can only imagine what strain it put on her mind considering the affect it had on me while listening. The thing about hearing a supernatural-horror novel rather than reading it is that you can't look away from the text, the voice keeps coming at you with the next paragraph, the next passage. You could stop it by hitting "pause" but you don't want to do that, you just want to slow the pace of your absorption of the story, but you can't. The audiobook producers set the pace, and you must deal with it, with the movie running in your head.

That's the thing about King when he's on his game. He so ably puts the images into your head that when the inevitable film comes out, it's like a remake, a rerun at best. And King is mostly on his game here.

Friday, March 9th, 2007
11:16 am
[beldar]
A non-fiction trio
I’m doing this review is a three-fer to show what I think is the evolution of the style of author Erik Larson.

I recently finished his 1999 book “Isaac’s Storm,” actually the audiobook, after reading his bestseller “Devil in the White City” (2003) and hearing the unabridged discs of his more recent book “Thunderstruck.” Larson writes non-fiction, with a narrative style that tells a story about notable historical figures trying to improve the world, alongside a story about a murderous historical villain.




Friday, March 2nd, 2007
3:12 pm
[beldar]
An old review (re)surfaces
While I was working on a review (actually a set of reviews, you'll see) for this community, I came across one I had written a couple of years ago, meaning to submit it to some website or other, but I don't think I ever did.

So I'll go ahead and post it here. I don't mind it being an introduction to my contributing; being unapologetically Generation X, I have a deep appreciation for Douglas Coupland. This review is for his 2003 novel "Hey Nostradamus!" -- I have since read "Eleanor Rigby" and "J-Pod" and will gladly post reviews of those if y'all like.

So here goes, lj-cut in case it gets too spoilery, and because it's kinda long:

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007
9:37 am
[meriadesrai]
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box
by Joe Hill


I was so impressed a third of the way into this novel that I was ready to proclaim it as one of the best supernatural horror stories I’d ever read. Predictably, now I’ve reached the end, I’ve tempered my enthusiasm somewhat. However, this is still a superb debut that’s well worth reading.

 

Published in the UK in about six weeks (but already available in the US I believe) the premise concerns Judas Coyne, an ageing singer from a popular goth-metal band who is also a collector of gruesome and macabre paraphernalia, such as a full set of paintings of Disney’s Seven Dwarfs by serial killer John Wayne Gacy and an authentic Mexican snuff movie. When Coyne learns that someone is selling a ghost over an Internet auction site he is intrigued enough to buy it for a paltry $1000 – and, in return, receives a dead man’s dusty black suit in a heart-shaped box.

 

Thankfully this is no ‘is it? / isn’t it?’ tale, with the narrative meandering ambiguously for a hundred pages or so before anything is actually confirmed. No, this ghost is decidedly real – and it’s a truly malevolent spirit, whose identity and connection to Judas are quickly established. The beauty of the early part of this story is the inherent creepiness and sense of eerie momentum that’s established, and if only the author had chosen to set the entire novel in the dark, claustrophobic interior of Judas’s home – with the central character and his girlfriend Georgia relentlessly terrified by their spectral adversary – then it could all have worked wonderfully. Unfortunately the second half of the book sees Judas and Georgia take to the road with the ghost in pursuit, with much of the tension spooling out in the bright light of day, and the ultimate denouement is a disappointing set piece revolving around both a mystical deux ex machina and a somewhat inexplicable shift from the supernatural to a Michael Myers slasher scene, the latter of which seems to be a pre-requisite for every horror novel or film these days.

 

This aside, I’d still recommend this book. The writing style is excellent, very fluid and pitched perfectly in terms of pace and descriptive prose, and I devoured chapters at high speed always interested in what was coming next. The characters are also well constructed, building from unpromising beginnings – neither Judas or Georgia are particularly likeable – to a point where I was genuinely concerned for them. And, whilst there are some pesky plot holes, there’s nothing so nagging or nonsensical that it spoils the overall enjoyment. Joe Hill is a real talent, and I’ll definitely be reading his next novel whenever that might be. It’s just a shame that – in a fashion that has sadly become accepted practise – subtle, supernatural eeriness is sacrificed for widescreen harum scarum, almost as if the author had half a mind on what it would take to sell the story on for the film rights.

 

(Note: There’s a certain something about this writer that will inevitably be considered important enough to dominate most reviews. I’ve chosen to ignore it here as I think the novel deserves to stand on its own, without hyperbole and fanfare. So, before anyone comments with the phrase “You do know Joe Hill is [blank}, right?”: Yes, I do know, thank you. I just don’t believe it’s significant.)

Monday, February 12th, 2007
10:20 pm
[skeleigh]
For One More Day by Mitch Albom
I'm really not good at book reviews, but I'll give this a shot since I just finished this book this evening. I guess I'll start by giving a peek at what the book is about.

For One More Day is the story of a mother and a son, and a relationship that lasts a lifetime and beyond. It explores the question: What would you do if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one?

Charley Benetto's parents split up when he was 11-years-old. He doesn't know why. But he pretty much always assumed it was his mom's fault, since his dad left and didn't come back. The book does a lot of flashing back in time. Charley reflects on all the times his mom stood up for him, and all the times he did NOT stand up for his mom.

Charley's dad's dream was for Charley to make it to the big leagues as a baseball player. Charley does make it to the big leagues, but for a very short time. After that, to be honest, his life goes to hell in a handbasket. He screws up. A lot. It all wears on him to the point that he thinks there is nothing left to live for and he decides to take his own life.

That's when his mom shows up. Forget the fact that she's been dead for eight years. She's there and he spends the day with her. And she opens his eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I have to start by saying that I love Mitch Albom's books. Tuesdays with Morrie was a great read. The Five People You Meet In Heaven is one of my favorite books - ever. But his books are not gripping. They're not necessarily going to have you on the edge of your seat. But they will have you looking at yourself, your life, and the people in your life in a different way.

What the New York Times said about For One More Day - "A book with the genuine power to stir and comfort its readers."

To stir and comfort . . . that is what this book did for me. It wasn't that I couldn't put it down. In fact, I did. There was another book out that I wanted to read. But I came back to this one, because if there is one thing I like about Albom's books, it is that I always feel . . . better for having read them. A better person? I don't know - maybe. More enlightened? Too hoodie-guru for me. Just better. I can't say it any other way than that.

I liked this book. Enough that I won't be hawking it at the Half Priced Bookstore anytime soon. It's one that I think I want my kids to read someday, so I'll save it for them. That, in itself, says a lot for the book in my mind.

Current Mood: satisfied
Monday, January 29th, 2007
2:14 pm
[tru2myart]
Don Quixote update
Alright, I'm embarrassed to admit this but...

I have GOT to take a break from this book! I'm only on page 165 out of 891 and I've been reading it for two and a half weeks! I'm a fast reader typically but I start reading the droning conversations between the Don and Sancho and I find the words starting to blur. For Heaven's sake even Hamlet wasn't as long winded as Sancho.

And let me just give you the gist of what I've read so far in these 165 pages...forgive my crassness but there's just no better way to put it:

Quixada reads too many fantasies and, being a bored gentleman farmer, loses his mind and decides he's the knight errant Don Quixote and his broken down horse is the noble steed Rocinante (which is basically the Spanish term for broken down horse)

Leaving his home he travels to an inn where he stands outside guarding his armour all night (which consists of a partially cardboardesque helmet and half broken lance) and beats up two innocent goat herders he believes were trying to steal it. (They were in fact trying to get a drink of water.)

He gets coerced out of the inn by the innkeeper who "knights" him (to get this crazy lunatic the hell out of his inn) and, in the manner of returning the innkeeper's generosity, refuses to pay for his stay, because knights shouldn't have to pay.

He runs into a thief being beaten by the man he stole from and stops the beating swaring to avenge the man if he is beaten again, only to leave just in time for the thief to be beaten again.

He gets beat up on the way home by some innocent people he attacked (thinking they were villians).

He runs into Sancho who, being quite stupid, believes Quixote to be a knight, and leaves his wife and family after being promised an island for his trouble. Sancho becomes the literal Pancho to Quixote's Cisco Kid.

Now to Readers Digest the rest:

They fight a set of windmills (mistaken for giants)...the windmills win.
They get their asses kicked
They get their asses kicked
Quixote battles someone almost as delusional as he is, they both kick each others ass.
They get their asses kicked
They get their asses kicked
They drink some liquid that makes them both throw up (in Sancho's case he not only throws up but suffers from severe diahearra which he happily relieves himself from by pulling down his pants while he's still on his donkey. I have to admit that exchange between Don and Sancho was pretty funny. Very Abbott and Costello-ish.)
They get their asses kicked.

Now this is only as far as page 165 and the next chapter of the book starts by saying "The continuing misfortunes of Sancho and Don Quixote when they...."

I'm depressed for them while at the same time being amused.

I've got to take a break but I'm not giving up on the book. I'm going to read The Scarlet Pimpernel (which will forever be The Scarlet Pumpernickel to me) because I've never read it nor seen the movies and it's short. It shouldn't take me long, it will be a nice breather and then I can get back to the Don and Sancho's shenanigans.

Sheesh.

Current Mood: Almost well read
Friday, January 26th, 2007
4:55 pm
[tru2myart]
Tong Lashing-The continuing adventures of Sir Apropos of Nothing

I mentioned in my previous review of the Sir Apropos books that I was going to give this sequel a separate review.

First, although Peter leaves the ending open for another, it's looking like this will be the last book in the series. Not by any desire of his own, but because of ridiculous corporate dooky. (Yes I said dooky. I'm a mother whaddya want.) However, I was told by a good friend that Apropos will be making an appearance in a short story anthology being edited by Jim C. Hines and Martin H. Greenberg. The anthology should be out in September this year and is called Heroes in Training. I wasn't able to find a link for it yet but as soon as I do you'll have that information.

Second and lastly, this book did something to me that no other book has ever managed to do. It shocked me. There have been stories that have surprised me and moved me but never before has any writer been able to literally astound me and touch me on such a deep level. You come to have certain expectations in a story of how the characters are going to move and respond to certain situations, even if there's a "surprise" of some sort you can pretty much guess how they're going to react, you "know" them. Up until this book Apropos is a self centered asshat who puts the protection of his own skin far above anyone else's. No matter what the circustances or who gets hurt, Apropos takes care of Apropos. There is no doubt in either of the first two books of what he's going to do, to hell with anyone else. You almost appreciate it. You get used to the guy being so utterly and completely devoid of human compassion and the beginning of the third book is no different. It's when you get three quarters of the way through it that an event happens that not only changes Apropos, it gives him a soul. He becomes a completely different person and you suddenly find yourself with a feeling of disorientation as you now struggle to try to get to "know" this new Apropos. I really don't have any basis for comparison, I've never experienced that feeling before. I literally sobbed for his plight, which too was completely unexpected. I remember laying in bed afterwards thinking about that chapter and my eyes welling up again. Even my SO, who isn't the "eyes welling up" type, found himself teary eyed and dumbfounded.

Is the book as funny as the last two? Oh absolutely! The whole slew of Chin puns especially made me laugh out loud. But in the end it was the sudden turn of events leading to Apropos finding his heart and the final chapters ending in his despair that truly make this a story worth note. You HAVE to read this book!! You just have to. I know a lot of fantasy lovers are not into the spoof novels but believe me when I say that you won't regret reading this series. Especially this last.

Author: Peter David
Genre: Fantasy/Humor
Pages: 464


Current Mood: Well read
Thursday, January 25th, 2007
5:55 pm
[tru2myart]
Reviews by yendi (With his permission of course)

Books read: 2007

4. Are You Really Going to Eat That?, by Robb Walsh. This collection of articles by Walsh (mostly from Houston and Austin papers, but also from some national magazines) doesn't quite live up to its promise, as other than a chapter focusing on Durian (the stinky fruit whose name sounds like it should be a brand of prophylactics), we mostly focus on peppers, coffee, Salvadoran food, some great chefs, and food philosophy. None of which is to say I disliked this collection at all. Walsh is a witty writer who appreciates good food and is willing to go out of his way for it. Just go in expecting more of a set of memories from a guy who simply enjoys good cuisine, not a look into truly bizarre food items.

5. Fragile Things, by Neil Gaiman. I was surprised at how few of these pieces I'd already read -- only three, and one (Keepsakes and Treasures) was read so long ago, I had almost completely forgotten it. There are few disappointments in any collection of Neil's work, and, as I've mentioned in the past, I think that the shorter works -- stories and novellas -- are where he shines. Here, we get some nice twists on gothic pieces ("Coffee Grounds" was probably my favorite of the assorted ghost stories), traditional ghost stories ("Closing Time"), humor ("Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire" wins on title alone), and other subgenres. Neil also throws in an American Gods novella, "Monarch of the Glen," which I enjoyed more than I'd expected, and which adds some interesting depth to Shadow. The point is, you should read this. It's Neil, and it's good.

6. The Nasty Bits, Anthony Bourdain. I adore Bourdain's writing, and this collection of essays epitomizes everything I like about him. We get him at his most opinionated (he's even will to publish some older pieces that he acknowledges show him being an ass, and admit that he's changed his mind). We get his wonderful rants against Woody Harrelson and the raw food movement, his love of indigenous foods, his hatred of American fast food, his appreciation of the work of his fellow chefs, and even a short story. We also get a food porn piece on Masa that had me positively drooling. If you like food at all (and by "food," I do not mean "Big Mac"), buy this book.

7. Nothing but the Night, by Bill Pronzini. This is, technically, a predictable little work. We get chapters alternating POVs between a man seeking justice for a hit-and-run accident that hospitalized his wife, and the businessman with a troubled past who matches the police sketch of the hit-and-run driver. The development of the story follows the usual stalker plotline, combined with the "trauma helps heal family wounds" trope, but Pronzini's a good enough writer to keep the book engaging. The story is tautly-written and fast-moving, and if it's not a great book, it's an enjoyable and quick (I read it on the bus rides to and from the MFA last night) read.
Wednesday, January 24th, 2007
4:06 pm
[meriadesrai]
Seven Ancient Wonders by Matthew Reilly

Before I go any further, a caveat: unless your library consists of throwaway novellas that come free with the kind of magazines that boast titles punctuated by an exclamation mark, Matthew Reilly isn’t the most sophisticated author you’ll ever read. I don’t say this to sound snobbish, but I’m not going to gloss over it either. By all accounts he’s a lovely chap, an enthusiastic Australian who lives for writing adventure fiction, and he’s one of a select few authors whose novels I always look forward to when they roll around in chunky paperback, so take from that what you will. He also sells by the barrowload, so I’m not the only one who thinks that. Just don’t settle down with one of these doorsteps expecting high literature.

 

Reilly writes the kind of stories that the more imaginative of ten-year-old boys tend to play out in their heads (often accompanied by Star Wars figures). In his first novel, Ice Station, special forces units from various countries all converge on Antarctica where an alien spacecraft is reportedly buried. In Contest, a bunch of characters – including aliens – are locked up in New York’s State Library and instructed to hunt one another down. In Temple, various groups compete to discover an ancient and powerful treasure hidden in a ruined temple in the Andes. In all instances there are guns, planes, hovercrafts, more guns, soldiers, yet more guns, and explosions. Lots of explosions. Think films like Die Hard, Predator and Indiana Jones and the rest of that ilk and you’re on the right track (most likely dangling upside-down from a truck loaded with gunpowder careering along a narrow mountain path headed for certain bloody death).

 

The thing is, very few writers actually produce pulp adventure like this these days, especially in mainstream format. In truth, not many writers would dare. That’s why I love Reilly. He writes at 100mph, with some major widescreen set-piece or scene of bombastic carnage quite literally on every other page, and it’s impossible not to get swept up in the sheer excitement of it all. I’ve read other authors of the global action/adventure genre – Clive Cussler, Wilbur Smith, Tom Clancy, and many more – and all of them are guilty of trying too hard to somehow be ’acceptable’. They’re missing the point. Matthew Reilly allows you to be ten years old, playing with action figures and pulling your jaw into strange contortions whilst bellowing load explosive noises, without ever feeling guilty or embarrassed. All power to him for that.

 

Seven Ancient Wonders is a novel that postulates the theory that the golden Capstone from the apex of the Great Pyramid was split into seven segments back in pre-BC Egypt, and that each segment was hidden in one of the Seven ancient Wonders of the World. The Capstone is an object of great power that could prevent an imminent catastrophe (the sun is about to release a solar flare of such magnitude that the Earth will broil - damn you, Bush Jr, and your carbon emissions!) or could be used to grant any nation 100 years of absolute majesty. Needless to say, both the US and the archetypal bad guys of Europe (UK, Germany, France, Italy) want the Capstone. However, because the Seven Wonders no longer exist in their original state certain ancient scrolls must be transcribed to discover where each individual segment is now hidden. A band of soldiers from the ‘lesser’ nations (Australia, Ireland, Israel, etc) decide to collect the segments themselves so they can stop the big bully nations from ruling the planet. Unfortunately, each hiding place is protected by swathes of perilous death traps, and the solar flare is getting closer…

 

If you love Raiders Of The Lost Ark – or any derivates, such as The Mummy films or the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider films or games – you’d probably enjoy this a great deal. It’s frenetic, it’s fun, and it’s utterly ludicrous. The only thing more ingenious than the traps the characters face is the way they escape from them, with the highlight of the narrative being a race against time through a wonderfully realised Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

 

This won’t be the best book you read this year. Hell, it probably won’t be the best book you read this week. But if you fancy trying something different, switching off your brain and diving into some page-turning popcorn adventure fiction, then you could do much worse than give this a try.
8:01 am
[scarlett78]
Reading Challenge
Hi all! In September of last year, a few of us decided to embark on a reading challenge. This challenge was not a specific "read 50 books" or "so many pages by" type of challenge, rather a challenge to write down our thoughts about the books we have read and to introduce our flist to new books. And so far it is working, as I got two fabulous recommendations from trista, one of which is the following:

ID, Title, Author, Date Completed, Pages, Genre, Impressions,


13 Something from the Nightside Simon R Green 1/16/2007 240 Sci-fi
So I think I might have read a Nightside short story before because the idea and the writing sound familiar.

Anyway - John Taylor is a private detective who has a gift for finding things. However, this gift only works in the secret dark world of The Nightside, where it is always 3 in the morning and where people go to do things they would never do in the light of day. Taylor had stayed away from the Nightside for 5 years, but a pretty client comes in and gives him an offer he can't refuse (if you'll pardon the cliche'!). He takes her into the Nightside and together they search for her missing daughter as they uncover the horrors of the Nightside.

This book rocked my world. I read it in about 2 hours and I can't wait to read some of the other ones. So good!
Books read since 9/19/06: 13
Pages read: 5038


ETA: I was right! He did write a short story for this compilation: Powers of Detection: Stories of Mystery and Fantasy, which I bought for the Anne Bishop "Black Jewels" story (I wish there were more Black Jewels stories by the way. Man I love that series!)

http://www.amazon.com/Powers-Detection-Stories-Mystery-Fantasy/dp/0441011977/ref=cm_lm_fullview_prod_8/002-0286305-2841657

If you would like to see the first 12 book reviews I did, just look for the "reading challenge" tag on my lj. Feel free to join the challenge too!

x-posted to scarlett78
1:23 am
[psiqueue]
Y-The Last Man

The past two weekends, I have spent my Saturday evenings reading the Y:The Last Man graphic novels, by Brian K. Vaughan.  I am not sure what possessed me to decided to read them; chances are, it might have been one of the Unshelved strips that mentioned the series and I thought it sounded interesting enough to give it a try.  (I am a sucker for natural disaster/ Man against Nature/ mass destruction or death stories, be it movies, books, or TV shows).
 
Now, since I read the books back to back to back (5 the first weekend, the last 3 the next time around), then all seemed to blend together into one story, so I will review the series.

In the saga, on July 17, 2002, a world wide event occurs- ALL THE MEN ON THE PLANET DIE.  This gendercide is not just limited to humans- dogs, cats, horses, monkeys, everything with a Y chromosome is suddenly extinct.  No one is sure why this has occurred- some thing it is the Rapture (that they weren't kidding when it was said God made Man in his image); some thing it was a genetically designed plague that attacks the Y chromosome; other think it is the result of a curse placed on a special antique necklace that is NEVER to leave its country of origins.  All the ladies know is that there are no longer any men....

Except for Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey, Ampersand. For some unknown reason, Yorrick is the last surviving man on the planet.  Fearing for his continued existence, Yorrick dons a gas mask and a cloak, and makes his way from NYC to Washington, D.C., hoping to find his mother, who just happens to be a member of the House of Representatives.  However, this trek is not as easy as it sounds- for you see, with the loss of 49.5% of the population, the very fabric of society is thrown into chaos.  And this is the result of one thing- society's demand that MEN, and not Women, hold positions of power, of education, of knowledge and wisdom.  It is men who help control and run the power plants; it is men who drive the trucks which take products across the country; it is men who are soldiers fighting in combat zones.  And it is MEN who have a hand in making babies. 

Now, from this chaos rises up various groups and cultures- ladies who become Amazons (right down to the voluntary removal of their left breasts) to those who suddenly feel that there is no competition from Men for the pick of the ladies(and in some cases, willing to go the extra.....9 inches to have the pick of the ladies) , to the ladies who are having to realize that there are now having to rely on each other for support, in all sense of the word.  

Once Yorrick reaches NYC, he manages to find his mother, and has what was suppose to be a happy reunion...except suddenly, the newly appointed Madame President assigned Agent 355 (pronounced "three-fiffyfive") to escort Yorrick to Boston, where the nation's leading authority on genetic cloning- Dr. Mann- is suppose to be located.  Hopefully, with the aid of Dr. Mann, the reason for Yorrick's continued existence can be discovered and that a cure can be made so that cloning of Yorrick can help repopulate the human race.  (Come on- one man is NOT up for the challenge of restarting the human race, no matter what "they" say or how much they brag).  But all Yorrick cares about is trying to get to Australia..for the moment the plague hit, he proposed to his girlfriend Beth, and was disconnected before he ever got an answer.  So, while the heart wants to go one way, the mind says to follow the Secret Agent with the gun and the wicked attitude.

Well, at the same time this trek back north is occurring, there is trouble with Yorrick's sister- Hero.  (Yes, that is her name...)  She has managed to join up with the Amazons, and is trying to track down the rumored "last male" and kill him, so that the female gender can once and for all be free of male domination.   Now, as if that wasn't bad enough, there is a group of Israel female spec ops team also trying to track down this surviving male, in the hopes of capturing him and bring him back to Israel.  (Yes, instead of the Arms race, there is a race for another body part...).  So, the question is- will Yorrick and Agent 355 make it to Boston?  Will Dr. Mann find a way to cure the plague and help Yorrick repopulate the male species?  Or Will the Israels get Yorrick first and made him do horror, terrible, awful things that he hasn't doe ne since he was a teenager?  And what about the Amazons- are THEY going to be the first to get to Yorrick and will Hero have the (pardon the pun) balls to kill her own brother and free womankind from men?

Well..I 'm NOT GOING TO TELL YOU!!!
;ppppp

What I am going to say is that this series is probably one of my favorites in the past 5 years.  The art work is decent- the artists don't try anything fancy or high tech or anything, nor are you having to wonder- what the HELL is that?  You look at the the images and know that nothing artistic is needed to show a gun shot..or a fight scene...or even the occasional tasteful girl on girl action.

The dialogue is....well, it goes to show that once the men are all gone, the ladies have the ability to swear with the best of them.  (One scene in particular addresses the issue of the word "Fuck " in a comic book, and how it is not suppose to be said in a comic book....).  But while it is salty, the discussion between the main characters is rather interesting.  Yorrick is a typical male geek- be quotes Shakespeare, Mel Brooks, Douglas Adams, and various other pop culture icons; think "What if Kevin Smith was to write the dialogue for a comics about the last man" and you have an idea of what Yorrick is like.  He isn't afraid to try to made a funny at the most inappropriate times.   

The storylines are interesting and makes one thing beyond the basic story.  "What would the world be like if there were no men?" (I HEARD THAT!!!  Stop cheering.... stop it......::points to you: You too...).  And how far would one person be willing to go for love?  Or does the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one?  And what the HELL was going through the parents mind when they named the children   YORRICK and HERO?!?!  (Oh wait..that is me...nevermind).

And there is plenty of other exciting stuff too... like ninjas, lesbians, astronauts, twins, monkeys, pirates, secret agents, guns and  explosions...and lesbians (HEY- in a book like this, of COURSE you are going to mention lesbians twice).  If you are looking for a good story, then I would DEFINITELY say read this series.  And try to hold down the yelling of "GIRL POWER"; some of us still have some fragile male egos.



Current Mood: tired
Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007
9:43 pm
[tru2myart]
Sir Apropos of Nothing

The Woad to Wuin-Sir Apropos of Nothing Book 2

I'm going to review these two in the series together and do a separate review for the third as I think it deserves it's own entry.

For those of you who enjoy Mel Brooks, Monty Python and The Princess Bride then you are going to LOVE these books! Apropos is a medivial antihero and the books are the Scary Movie versions of some of the greatest adventure books/movies ever told. You've got your Lord of the Rings, Robin Hood and King Arthur all rolled into one hilarious, puny set of stories here. The books are fast paced and you'll find yourself despising Apropos as much as you root him on.

The interesting thing about the book is that somehow Peter managed to write a black comedy without the reader even realizing it. It's not until you're done laughing and you really think about the end result of both books that you realize how dark the characters and plot really were.

And the writing is fantastic. As I read the books I found myself imagining it in movie form, the plot was that clear and easy to picture in screen play format. I've already got Jon Heder playing the lead.

And I must give credit to the sequel, it is just as good as the first book. It picks up where our antihero left off and moves along just as rapidly and with just as many laughs as the first.

This series is a great addition to any fantasy collection, especially those with a selection of humor.

Author: Peter David
Genre: Fantasy/Humor
Pages: 672


Current Mood: Well read
5:26 pm
[cricketshay]
The Elegant Gathering of White Snows-Kris Radish
Ahhhh what can I say about this book? It was like coming home and being wrapped in a warm fuzzy quilt. It was also like having a bucket of water poured over my head, waking me up for the first time in several years. It has awakened urges and needs in me I didn't even know existed. It has also shown me women can do what ever they set their minds to do.

If you have a uterus this is a must read. I know that sounds crude, but it is how I feel. Kris Radish takes a group of eight women of differing ages, social standing, and education background and blends them to form a mosaic female all women can identify with. These women do what we have all dreamed of at one point or another, they walk away from it all. They embark on their walk one night after one of their "sisters" confesses to being pregnant. Each one is walking for their own reason. Each one has her own demon to lay to rest.

You will laugh, you will cry. You will want to gather your own "sisters" for wine and walking.
Monday, January 22nd, 2007
9:42 am
[tru2myart]
(In order to try to keep this community flowing I'm going to try to do at least one review per day. That way if noone else comments there will be at least one entry. These books are previously read so won't count towards my 50 this year goal.)

The Martian Chronicles

This is a collection of short stories that come together to form something of a chronological novel. The gist of the overall story is about an alternate Earth future where humans are trying to colonize Mars to escape the troubles brewing on their own planet. Each individual tale could stand on its own, and if I'm not mistaken they were each published separately originally, as the humans discover space travel, Martians and try to adapt to their new lives.

I first read the book in my 8th grade science class. I remember my teacher telling the class that she wanted us to clearly understand how easily life could change and life could be destroyed and she couldn't think of a better book than this to teach us. As a 12 year old it moved me deeply, the plight of the humans as well as the Martians. Not to mention the fact that I recognized several of the homages Bradbury paid to Edgar Allen Poe. As an adult I've reread the book several times and each time I found one more piece of the story that touches me or makes me think. As my perspective changed so too did this book and it never disappointed.

Personally I find this to be one of Bradbury's best books. Not as preachy as Farenheit 451, not as "poetic" as Dandelion Wine (and certainly not as boring), I even liked it better than Something Wicked This Way Comes.

After a nuclear war ravages Earth you would think the final story would be bleak. But instead Bradbury offers some hope for mankinds future. The only thing that troubled me was that he didn't offer any hope for the Martian's future. I remember the first time I read it at 12 thinking, the humans are taken care of but what about the race we destroyed? Even now I find myself having the same reaction. Maybe there's a message in that...

I do highly recommend this book, for children as well as adults. The writing is exceptional, the stories are easy to follow and the ending is uplifting.

Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: (If you get the classic version there are 192, I'm not sure how many are in the extended version)


Current Mood: Well read
Sunday, January 21st, 2007
9:20 pm
[the_original1]
Eric Flint's 1632 — or — 1.632 out of 10
Flint, Eric. 1632. New York: Baen, 2000.

Considering I spent six years looking forward to reading this book, my opinion may be slightly skewed by how badly my anticipation was undermined by my disappointment*.

When I first heard about 1632, I thought it would be exactly the sort of thing I enjoy; average people from our own time are mysteriously transported to the distant past, where they must learn how to survive in the world around them. Not the most subtle or original of alternate history premises, but there really are no new stories left, only new ways of telling them.

Unfortunately, Flint starts with this small handicap and goes rapidly downhill. His characters are poster children for two-dimensionality, and his societies reflect his characters. All of the West Virginia coal miners he dumps back into the Thirty Years War are brave, noble, and tolerant. All of the "bad guys" are brutal, crude, and despicable. "Bad guys" who become "good guys" are easily distinguished by being brave, noble, and tolerant.

Conflicts are, even at their most tense, uninspiring. The balance of power tips too far toward the protagonists from the beginning. Despite difficulties the transplanted Americans claim they must overcome, suspense is almost always stillborn, headed off by a brilliant suggestion immediately after the problem is mentioned.

My immediate reaction to 1632 is that it would be a noble attempt for a talented high school student. That probably seems harsh. But take Farnham's Freehold or Lest Darkness Fall, give the protagonists armies of resourceful companions and practically unlimited supplies, and they would also be much weaker stories.

I believe the books weaknesses can be traced, in large part, to something Flint says in his "Author's Afterword":
Part of the reason I chose to write this novel is because I am more than a little sick and tired of two characteristics of most modern fiction, including science fiction.

The first is that the common folk who built this country and keep it running—blue-collar workers, schoolteachers, farmers, and the like—hardly ever appear. If they figure at all, it is usually as spear carriers—or, more often than not, as a bastion of ignorance and bigotry. That is especially true of people from such rural areas as West Virginia. Hicks and hillbillies: a general, undifferentiated mass of darkness.

The second is the pervasive cynicism which seems to be the accepted "sophisticated" wisdom of so many of today's writers.

[ . . . ]

As for the coal miners who are central to the story, people may think the portrait unrealistic. That is their problem, not mine. I never had the honor of being a member of the United Mine Workers of America. But in my days as a trade-union activist, I had many occasions to work with the UMWA and its members. I know the union and its traditions, and those traditions are alive and well. That is as true of the Navajo miners in the southwest and the strip miners in Wyoming as it is of the Appalachian core of the union. (595-96)

In his attemps to dispel the stereotype, he goes too far and creates another, effectively denying that any of his characters could do anything except break the old stereotype and fall neatly into his new mold.

After having torn into it like that, I should mention that the writing itself is reasonably good, the story is easy to follow and never gets bogged down, and it is potentially enjoyable if you can, as I could not, get past the shallowness of the characters.



*As always, a review — good or bad — should not be taken as a substitute for reading the book yourself and forming your own opinion.
1:26 pm
[kradical]
Star Trek: The Final Reflection
(This is an edited version of a post I made to the Psi Phi Star Trek Books BBS on 28 February 2002.)

In preparation for writing one of my Klingon novels, I reread Star Trek: The Final Reflection by John M. Ford, originally published by Pocket Books in 1984, reprinted in 1999, and collected in the "Signature Edition" omnibus entitled The Hand of Kahless in 2004. The book still holds up.

It doesn't really jibe with later interpretations of the Klingon culture, but given how little there was at the time John M. Ford wrote the thing (five significant TV appearances -- "Errand of Mercy," "Day of the Dove," "Friday's Child," "The Trouble with Tribbles," and "A Private Little War," only the first two of which gave any hint of the culture -- and one movie cameo in Star Trek: The Motion Picture), it was a very reasonable extrapolation.

Interestingly enough, what he came up with is a lot closer to what the Cardassians would become later on: a military dictatorship, with a shadowy covert organization dogging their every step to maintain order. These Klingons were soldiers, not the warriors of the Star Trek: The Next Generation era. Probably the best Earth analogue to the Ford Klingons are the Spartans mixed with the Athenians, as opposed to the "Ronald D. Moore" Klingons, which are the Vikings mixed with samurai.

Of course, the whole thing is supposed to be a work of fiction even within the Trek universe, so any discrepancies with canon are easy enough to work around. And it's still a very good political thriller about the clash between cultures, using the classic SF trope of the humans from an alien perspective (cf. most of C.J. Cherryh's SF work).

Forgotten in most of the Klingon hullaballoo is the superlative character work Ford did in the prologue and epilogue with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. In a very limited number of pages he nails all three of them perfectly (so much so that I'm willing to forgive him misplacing "City on the Edge of Forever" in Chicago rather than New York).

Of course, Kirk's statement at the end that he'd try not to think of Klingons in such generalized terms falls by the wayside in the third feature film (which postdates the writing of this novel), and pretty much jumps off the wayside without a bungee cord in the sixth, but that ground was covered fairly well in other books (in particular, Dayton Ward's In the Name of Honor).

In any case, an excellent book, one of the absolute gems of the Star Trek literary world. Definitely worth tracking down.

Current Mood: geeky
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