Wednesday, August 29, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Fragment by Warren Fahy

I had fun with this book. It ain't litricha, but is a great potboiler with thinky science attachments.

A reality show on a boat, visiting out of the way spots, goes to previously unexplored island completely isolated from the rest of the world. In doing so, they find life that has evolved in isolation from the most primitive creatures that lived. Think Australia, except with gimungus arthropods. Said life is, of course, mostly dangerous. Do we destroy this brave new world that hath such creatures in it? Or are we doomed to be destroyed by it?

The action sequences are over the top fun, sandwiched by over the top essays about evolution (written as lectures by a character introduced to the action further in) that support the narrative and circumvent the many as-you-know-Bob moments required by a text like this. As much as I like the premise (scary-hidden-species with stupid evolution tricks), I might have passed it up if it didn't also have uber cool pictures of multiple crab monsters. Characters are a little - wooden, emo? I'm not sure. Flat. Likable but unflawed. Does anybody use the word "turkey" in a confrontation anymore? Comparisons to Crichton are not out of order, especially his less polemical science thrillers. If you found Jurassic Park to be fun, you will probably like this too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

11 PM Book Review: The Devil You Know by Mike Carey

I started out kind of lukewarm on The Devil You Know, but I think the secondary characters are the bomb, so I warmed up quick. A noire urban fantasy for those what don't mind violence. My only caveat to that is that human trafficking is a strong theme in the plot.

In the near future, the dead have risen. Hauntings are common occurrences, even to the point that ghosts haunt their own corpse (as homeless zombies) or the bodies of animals, that they twist to resemble their former human forms (loup garous). Felix Castor is an exorcist for hire. Although he has been "retired" for a year and a half after botching an exorcism that left his best friend possessed by hell-kin, he needs cash and finally takes a job exorcising a ghost from a London archive. He has a hard time with the case at first, and the longer he's on it, the more he suspects he needs to solve the murder that created the ghost before he exorcises her...

This was huge fun. The secondary characters, especially the bad guys, are just fun to watch move around the page. The opening scene didn't hook me in, but it was well worth waiting for the plot to get going. Not a lot of romance, for them what likes romance in their urban fantasy. But for them what doesn't like glamour vamps, the milieu is very subdued (so far, first book), with strong human protagonists. There are no signs of fey courts or werewolf packs yet, just ghosts in various funky forms.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Shotgun Gravy by Chuck Wendig

Shotgun Gravy begins when Atlanta Burns disables three bullies with bear mace.

And it goes downhill from there, but fun downhill, like a bumpy go-cart ride. Wear a helmet. Atlanta is a high school junior in rural Pennsylvania. Shotgun Gravy is a noir crime story about bullying set in the ugliest periphery of high school culture. But: Trigger warning. Is that fair to say in pulp fiction? Atlanta is a rape survivor. It seems awful to say that a novella about a rape survivor is fun. She's a strong, nuanced character with a big real life problems: She worries that she's racist. Her mom's on welfare. She has an Adderoll addiction that helps her fend off nightmares, a "reputation" after shooting the testicles off her attacker, and a sense of justice that won't let her back down when she really probably should. It's not like she doesn't scare herself with the shit she pulls. Sure, it's escapist, but it's really glorious, too. Larger than life.

Then Atlanta takes on a commission from one of La Cozy Nostra, the high school's self proclaimed gay mafia: Scare a group of white supremacist gay-bashers into leaving him alone.

The language is crisp and beautiful, especially when the action starts, which is harsh and brutal. The characters are bent ("My Mom didn't dust, but my gun and drug dealer did"). But they could exist... in a world ruled by Quentin Tarantino and RuPaul's love child. The supporting characters: Atlanta's soon to be gay best friend, and their Venezuelan, Dungeons and Dragons playing co-conspirator, are charming in a way that you don't see in noir fiction. They are sweet-natured and unwilling to accept their victimization. The dialog is buffy-quirky. Chuck Wendig is a charming, horrific, and crackerjack writer. I read this novella in two sittings and picked up the sequel, Baitdog, the day I finished Shotgun Gravy (Which you should do, too, because the Kindle edition of Baitdog includes the Shotgun Gravy. Save yourself a buck).

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Do these things: Moral Absolutism for Fun and Reader's Advisory.

I am thinking that I should become a moral absolutist. An absolute moralist. Beginning today, I will issue proclamations about morality. Everybody else has fun with this, on the marcro and micro level. Hard right people of faith believe that everyone should ascribe to their faith. Hard left people of faith also believe this, except for the parts that are Hard Right. In subcultures ranging from polyamorists to civil war re-enacrors to BDSM people to belly dancers to swingers there are rules that unfortunately change from person to person but are inviolate within their personal cosmos.

I am usually pretty easy going, but moral absolutism seems to inflame the panties of the masses. Because I live to please, and inflaming panties is the surest way to please, I will become the voice of  authority.

I understand that I cannot do this in a half assed sort of way. You cannnot be "A" voice of authority. One must be "The" voice of authority. Otherwise there will be message confusion, as competing voices seek to assert authority, and turn life into a version of  "A Comedy of Errors."

The key to asserting authority is to follow up with reasonable consequences for violating rules. So, from here on out, IF YOU LAY EYES on this document. If you even read the letter "I," your punishment for not following my dictates will be to spend the afterlife with a frog ghost living in each of your spectral orifices. Which is very uncomfortable. VERY UNCOMFORTABLE! Squirmy. Think hard on that.

So follows are the rules that you need to follow in order to be a Good Human Being (TM):

Rule One: To start with, Every Living Human Being should listen to the classic Christmas Carol "Fuck You If You Don't Like Christmas." Every time the singer says "Fuck You..." you must hear "you should." Except the line about brushing your teeth, which would parse as "You should like if you don't brush your teeth. It's Nasty." Which is bizarro world language. Instead, take that line as cannon, just as it is. Fuck you if you don't brush your teeth. It is nasty.

This is sort of a "do as I say not as I do" sort of thing. I don't like Christmas much myself, mostly because over Christmas weekend I end up watching alot of CSI at my parents. But I fully agree that any excuse to celebrate is VEN-or-ATE-able. An opportunity to just fucking let go of the horrendous bullshit that we put up with every day of our white collar, corn fed American lives just to buy video games and feed our kids. Any excuse to celebrate is a mandate. If you don't have work.

Rule Two: Every Living Human Being should read Kim Stanley Robinson. His entire cannon, but if you want an easy in, then you should start with 2312. Kim Stanley Robinson is the essence of liberal humanitarianism, the most pragmatic moral philosophy that exists. It recognizes that life is hard, even in first world countries, because  you are experiencing it as hard. There is no bottom, empiracle level of hard. Your hardship is honored. But you still have to deal with shit. And it's easier to deal with heartbreak than endemic poverty. Just sayin', to quote The Bard. KSL illustrates this in every one of his magical novels.

Rule Three: Every Living Human Being should listen to the My Chemical Romance Album The Black Parade. This album is the best sequence of music that illustrates preservation in the face of despair, and the fair acknowledgment that your best efforts might result in nothing. BUT: And here's the point here: They are your best efforts. All of your best efforts are energy that propels the great ship of humanity into a future that will transcend the heat death of the universe. Your ignominy is a seed for the glory of your kin and legacy.

Rule Four: Every Living Human Being should read The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman, issue one to alkdfhjaldkhfadlkfhadlkh, which is the graphic novel version of the message in "The Black Parade." Studies have shown that people have to be exposed to an idea three times before they adopt it, so we've got two right here. A third will show up shortly.

Rule Five:  Read the Principia Discordia, which is available for free everywhere. Because I abhore sycophancy, I will not tell you why. Your challenge is to figure it out how it ties in.

Rule Six... fuck, I don't know. This will be an evolving document. It's kind of co-dependant. But as a series of recomendations, it actually works out pretty well.