Wednesday, July 11, 2012

For fuck's sake, drop it.

This shit's getting old. I'm tired of seeing posts from all sides on the gay rights issue. No, you're not the same as the civil rights movement. No, your religion doesn't need to interfere in these people's lives. No, you don't have the right to a gay marriage. This is because marriage by itself, has absolutely zero legal bearing. The part you should really be pressing for is civil union. Both sides are getting it today, this is stupid.

People on the right. Stop. I don't fucking care what your opinions of ass pirates, rump rangers, carpet lickers, beaver eaters and whatever other fucking term you can come up with are. They're going to keep doing it whether or not you rant and whine or not. Matter of fact, if  you do your fucking history, you'd fucking know it's been around a lot longer and the issue has had many different views on it throughout history. If you interpret it as a sin, then know that they're going to whatever view of hell you've got. Hope it's not Dante's though because his Divine Comedy was one big potshot at the Catholic Church. And yes, that's where a lot of our modern imagery is from. This country has enough problems without a hate filled diatribe about the evils of someone removing themselves from the genepool and keeping their property values up. I agree with you, they don't have a right to a gay marriage because the term marriage and most of what we associate with it is purely religious. The legal aspect is where I'll split with you. I don't fucking care.

People on the left. Stop making a big deal of this shit, you're making a touchy situation worse. Matter of fact, every time I see something from the Folsom Street Fair or other similar events, I can almost understand WHY the right has it's views on this subject. It's lewd. It doesn't matter that they're gay or not, exposing people, in particular children to some of the stuff I've seen? No, fuck you. Stop antagonizing, it's not helping and this is coming from a guy that intentionally antagonizes because I dislike stupidity. You want to make a fucking difference? Stop acting like that moron that doesn't want to be identified by gender and start doing things like what my friend's moms did. They were very down to earth, quiet and did the best they could, just like the rest of us. I never saw them doing crazy shit, I never saw them wearing anything even remotely kinky or 'gay'. And for that I'm thankful, I'm fairly confident at least one of them had more testosterone in her than any three of my friends combined. (It's a joke, don't take it seriously.).

Both sides. You're fucking stupid. Stop. I'm above and beyond tired of seeing both sides that I've already broken my whole, "Hey I'll avoid religion even though I happily embrace the name Heretic".

TL;DR - If you're convinced it's a sin, sleep safe knowing they'll go to hell. If your kid ends up gay, maybe you should try to find out why instead of doing what my mother does to my step-sister. If you're gay, stop antagonizing and stop pushing the issue at every fucking chance. Whoopdie fucking doo man, you kissed your boyfriend in public. I'm impressed, no really man.

It's shit like this that makes me realize why I work Graves, prefer a hermetic lifestyle and in general suffer from a low tolerance for stupidity.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Heretic's Book Burning.

So I cross post at my new Tumblr blog The Heretic's Book Burning. Same idea, just focused solely on book reviews which means I'll probably go back to throwing up opinions no one reads and dry sarcasm.

And if you're wondering, the Heretic thing is my gamer tag and something of a joke on being raised LDS by my mother's side of the family and being the black sheep religiously and all. You won't see any religious posts unless I'm actively defending one, though if you ever want to screw with an atheist point out that scientifically, the part of the brain that lights up when religious sorts talk about religion gets lit up when atheists talk about atheism.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The First Days - It's the end of the world and I hate them all.

The book up this time is, “The First Days” by Rhiannon Frater. The woman at a local bookstore had suggested I read and review this book. Back in February. It wasn’t as painfully bad as another book that will be coming soon, but it was bad. Since this is a new blog, I’ll say it now, spoilers are ahead and if you do want to read this book despite my distaste for the writing, you’ll want to stop before the warning. The book itself is a poorly edited mess with poor characters, jumbled scenes and unlikeable characters with a swath of mental issues more likely attributable to bad writing than any real issues. There are a few moments in the book where it was actually strong, but far too often I just… didn’t want to go on.
So we’ll start with the definitive best part of the book, it’s first couple of pages. I was legitimately excited when I first picked this book up and started reading. It hit just the right mixture of chaotic horror and shock that should be mandatory for writing in this genre. Unfortunately, it quickly nosedives from there. We’re talking within ten pages. She throws a rush of scenes at the reader that would work well in a movie to show the chaos, something like the Dawn of the Dead remake, but here it just feels off. They then start arguing about whether or not to call the zombies, well, zombies. It was such an abrupt change I actually rolled back a few pages to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I then had to make sure I was reading about Jenni and Katie and not about Shaun and Ed. Whiplash back again in time to find a survivor who is promptly killed, then a quick drive from the city to rural erh… Texas supposedly. It was a bit jarring being able to go twenty minutes without running a Twisted Metal game through Suburbia, but I haven’t seen enough of Texas to know just how accurate it is. It annoys me though.
They arrive at a gas station and exit with their guns. There’s only the kid and… maybe his girlfriend? She sort of pops up and disappears as the plot calls for. The kid thinks they’re robbing him even though they’re paying. He even tells them they’re robbing him wrong and that they’re crazy for talking about the zompocalypse. Of course, he doesn’t have a TV or Radio because the owner has standards or some other utterly bullshit reason. Would’ve at least made more sense to say “Hey man, our radio’s out the signal’s weird” or something. Then a family shows up, then disappears. They added nothing and did nothing, but they were mentioned. Matter of fact in writing this, I probably have doubled the section they were present for. No I don’t know why or who they were either. Then the owner shows up eating the girl, or shows up and eats the girl or the girl runs into him. They watch the owner then chase the kid around the store while glibly remarking,
“I warned him.”
before driving off. I’ll be honest I don’t remember or care which of the two said it, it was bad. These are supposed to be two strong, realistic female protagonists. They read like the sociopaths from a Glen Cook book. Admittedly watching Soulcatcher and Moonbiter blow up zombies would probably make a pretty good book. They drive on, find a small town with a gun store that used to be a prison that also doubles as a house stationed by an old hunter and his Israeli sniper wife. The store was called Toombs. Yes that thudding is in fact, my head hitting my desk. They stay there a few days, become master marksmen able to reliably make zombies heads’ explode like they’re in a Resident Evil game using the shotgun.She did have a few colorful euphemisms for exploding heads though.
They then leave Toombs and head for the summer camp Jenni’s kid (I hope..), leaving behind their spare gas after stepping on an 11 month old zombie child’s head. Oh and there’s references to tender baby flesh later. I hate this book.
They drive through a city on the way there. The only purpose of this scene was to show a school turned into a charnel house of dead adults and children. Oh and for a plot point later that puts Max Brooks misunderstanding of the human body and how things affect it to shame. (Ed - I like the Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z for what it’s worth)They arrive at the camp, run over a little girl zombie and arrive to a scene of two boys, a girl and two adults holed up in a room with zombies on the other side of a door. The father and daughter are bitten and one of our twoclichesheroes kills the father and the woman accidentally kill her daughter in a scream of rage. They run back to their truck since she’s drawing aggro on the mobs and she’s trying to train the zeds to them. They shoot the boy, escape with the other two boys and I think a girl, but only one of the boys is actually mentioned ever again so I’m not entirely sure. They start driving back, find out they’re bingo on fuel and reroute to a city where they find survivors holed up in a construction yard with jury-rigged fences and walls in a semblance of intelligence and improvisation. Then we meetlesbian Mary SueKatie’s love interest outside of Jenni. So the lesbian that converted a straight woman to semi-lesbian earlier on is suddenly bisexual and aiming for the guy that seemed perfect or some other drek.
They hang out for a bit, eat food claiming starvation while having ignored the BOX of MREs in the truck. They dick around for a bit, vaguely get to know the auxiliary carboard cutouts characters. They drive back to Toombs, Katie gets super sick for some drama/potential zombification. It was the flu. It made her suddenly super sick and pass out in the span of a few hours. Yes it was as stupid in the book as it sounds here. They round up guns and supplies, drive back, then dick around killing zombies some more. I did like the idea of using a crane with shipping crates to squish them though, they should’ve done that more.
A pair of meth addicts show up on a bike being chased by zombies from the clinic because they’d tried to raid it. One guy is executed in the defense because his fingers were bitten off. Because they grabbed his boot through the chain link. Yes it’s as dumb as I’m making it sound. That may have happened earlier though, I’m a bit… hazy on the ending as my eyes glazed over towards the end in a desperate bid to finish the book. The meth head is tossed over to be fed to the zombies while bound and gagged in the night, two characters most liable have alibis and the book promptly ends after we find out the Israeli sniper’s husband was shot by bandits who had raped a zombified woman or… pre-zombified or something.
The characters were paper thin and bordered heavily on unlikeable for a good portion of the book. The threats were credible enough in the running zombies, especially since they were also the swarming rotting variant. They apparently no longer had to worry about muscles tearing themselves apart from use anymore though as they could run after and catch up to moving trucks, back and forth. I think they’re the same magic zombies that made 28 Weeks Later even dumber than the “Hide from napalm in a tunnel and use your shirts to stop nerve gas” issue. Throughout the book they repeatedly reference Romero despite the differences in zombies all while ignoring Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later and the Dawn remake. They’re snarky and would’ve been enjoyable if they didn’t rotate between callous and sociopathic to geeks at a horror con. The dog kept smiling. The son, who the first book was dedicated to finding has one word lines for most of the rest of the book barring exceedingly short chapters where he’s a plot macguffin. He had only a few traits. “No, fuck YOU dad!”, “Don’t try to replace dad”, “I’m hungry” and long hair. Seriously. I really don’t remember much about the love interests other than them being construction worker and one of them being Mexican and calling Jenni loco.
Every once in a while throughout the book there were glimpses of well thought out scenes, but these were few and far between and interceded with pants on head stupid scenes otherwise. The pace meandered along well enough I guess, though it’s a little hard to judge since I couldn’t really stay focused on the plot well enough to really care. And that’s where the book really suffers. It’s characters are bad. They’re supposed to be strong female characters reminiscent of Thelma and Louise, but they’re such unlikeable Mary Sues that it suffers. All of the male characters be cardboard cutout in terms of writing certainly didn’t help matters either. It gets worse knowing that strong female characters CAN be done well. Murphy from the Dresden Files, The Lady, Soulcatcher, Darling, Sleepy all from The Black Company. Tinnie Tate, Maya and the Stormwarden from Garrett PI. Briar Blue from Boneshaker in the same ballpark genre. They all have strengths, weaknesses, flaws and you know, actual characterization.
The book also didn’t know when to leave things up to the reader’s imagination and when to give the full details. There was a dropped plot point involving semi-intelligent zeds that literally went nowhere and various other problems. Supposedly the book was self-published, but my copy is a Tor book and has apparently won awards from people with no taste or no exposure to other books in ANY genre.
I’ll rate it 3/10 only because there were a few points that were actually very good. If someone’s read the second book in the series and can confirm better writing I might give it a chance in the off chance that she’ll have learned from the mistakes of the first book.
With that said, the next book queued up WAS self published and features a self-insert Gary Stu fighting FEMA, the Military and zombies while acting as the touch of death to women he screws. Tune in next time for Down the Road by Bowie Ibarra.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Down the Road - Just keep walking, seriously.

Alternate title - Zombies cribbing notes from Family Guy.

Today's book is Bowie Ibarra's Down the Road. The zombies of the book are your typical crawlers. The slow sort that Savini poked fun at in his remake of Night of the Living Dead. You know, where the main character walks up and taunts one before just walking past them? Yeah..

That's fine though. The real threats of the books are actually FEMA and the military and it's done with all the subtlety of James Cameron writing the script to a Feed movie. I want this guy's .38 revolver though, it will decapitate people with ease. Yes really. And our main character George Zaragosa is in the same vein as The First Days. He's unlikeable and at this point he's cruel, though the people he's taking it out on aren't any better. X-Com's renamed soldiers have more personality and likeability than anyone we've met so far and I tended to shoot anything not wearing an X-Com uniform on the zombie missions. Yes, I feel worse losing a blob of pixels from a game made in 95 to anything I've met in the book. This one was hard guys. The blurb on the cover says, "Shocking and disturbing... This is pulp zombie fiction at it's best" which... tells me either the guy's got not taste or doesn't read much. Sandman Slim's Kill the Dead was much more enjoyable and it's much closer to 'pulp' than this book and World War Z for all of it's logic gaps, was also much, much more enjoyable.

I've mentioned this one was painful right? I forced my way through feed. This one is making me contemplate digging out a zippo. Jesus the book is only 200 pages and I'm struggling. And now it's the Illuminati and this ex-military guy just so happens to have the full story. All the cliches are out in full force.

So. The book opens with our teacher talking about the rapidly declining situation. He talks about his shitty apartment, then rambles about the shitty state of things, then his apartment, then things, then he decides to leave. He becomes surprised by the sudden burst of speed from a shambler, then drives off. On the highway, cops have set up a roadblock and are ticketing people and pulling them off the road if they can't pay. Realistically this scene would work better if it were the officers were trying to maintain order instead of just gouging for money, but we'll let this first one slide. Our 'hero' plows into them, killing one and severely hurting the other before driving off. He turns around after a while, having forgotten his dead fiancee's crucifix at the school. For something this important that he drives back into a zed hotzone, you think it would've at least been at his house.. He runs into a fellow teacher, they screw after a brief scuffle with zombies and then he's gone again with her in the passenger seat. They get to a gas station, meet more disposable goons who talk about pricks from a different fraternity, then FEMA attacks (Yes really) and the other teacher is gone. He escapes, is mugged by the other fraternity and kills two of them, then knee-caps the other two and laughs as they're eaten. (Yes really) He's picked up by FEMA and the Military and they're the typical zombie setting badguys. They mark him as "A red square" and he's tossed into the camp. The camp is set up in four groups, group 1 of the tough guys, 2 of the black guys, 3 of the rednecks or.. something and 4 for the 'spics' as the book so eloquently put it.

Here he finds out that they toss redsquares out over the wall as bait to save money and that things in the camp are horrible. He pisses off a redneck wearing a rebel flag shirt (Yes really) and then pisses off the Mexicans and starts a gangwar that lets him escape. With two disposable meats and a girl, he escapes by shooting soldiers and doing things like intentionally wounding to let zombies kill them instead. The boy and the redneck are eaten of course, leaving him and the girl. They meet up with a group, shoot up a military checkpoint, then go home. At home they meet the one-eyed guy from an earlier flashback that he couldn't possibly have had since he wasn't there, then he screws the new girl too. Then he screws the new girl. Then he dreams about screwing the new girl. Then they get talking and find out the eye-patch man is eeeeviiiil and kidnaps Misty to... do something to George who he barely knows as more than the fiancee of a woman he killed. She's tossed over a wall, breaking her elbow and ankle before she's eaten. Then a deus ex machina kills his guys, a muddled fight breaks out and the badguy is knee capped and eaten as well. They escape, then the guy that was bitten earlier coughs on a convenient scratch on George's hand, he drives home as he becomes slowly infected, eats a bunny that wandered up to him, makes it home and has his head blown off by his dad.

If this review sounded hurried, keep in mind this book was actually less than 200 pages. It jumped around, featured wholly unlikeable characters and as it went on just further aggravated me. Much like feed, I enjoyed his downfall, turning into a zombie, it was actually the closest to creepy that the book got. Unfortunately, to get there it was so contrived, so contrite and had happened to such an unlikeable man that I was just glad it was over. As a whole, authority figures were all evil, military was evil, cops, evil, drug dealers... well obviously evil, but presented better than the military in a very bizarre manner. The ending, the non-zombie part was unsatisfying and sort of read like a cliche checklist almost. All in all, I'd put this book on par with Feed in terms of writing, but with a less well designed world.

With that said, I think this book would've benefited greatly from just having more pages. Establishing the characters and settings better while also offering fewer jarring changes between scenes. Adding at least /some/ variation to the "EEEEVIIIIL" badguys would've been nice. I about threw the book across the room when the book (only slightly paraphrased) combined military insertions, explosions and gunfire with FEMA broadcasting, "You are not under attack, we are here to help. Resistance will result in neutralization". I think some stronger characterization in general would've helped, especially for George. The characters rotated out too much, there was too much emphasis on him humping the random dead girl and as I mentioned a few times, it really did read like a cliche checklist a few times. Hopefully if/when the author goes at it again, he writes a longer book and focuses more on the characters, or at least balances things better.


Also, I realized towards the end of this that this is the second zombie book with a main character named George. This needs to stop. Now. I nominate Shaun.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Affirmative Action Zombies

So the next two books to review SHOULD be ones I really should've had done a while ago. Possibly a third in the mix as they were all bought at the same time. The First Days, which I briefly touched on earlier with the oh so likeable female leads. Down the Road with.. the same problems actually in that the main character is almost entirely unlikeable so far and finally Monster Island, which bounces around too much so far.

I just realized all three are Affirmative Action zombie books. The First Days features wholly unlikeable characters that just so happen to be women, one's even the Hollywood cute lesbian, one features a Hispanic theater teacher, that was Down the Road and the last features African child soldiers. In New York that's been overrun by zombies and maybe a sentient Zombie. Bub he ain't.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Trying too hard?

Why are so many comedy types aiming so hard to keep bashing anyone except Obama? I still hear more Bush jokes than Obama jokes and the only thing Obama's really done that he's promised or even arguably 'right' was when he stepped aside and let people plug Osama with some speed holes. It really comes across strained by now. Sort of like either they're trying too hard or not trying hard enough, I can't quite tell. So I'll be honest with you. It doesn't matter who the President is, I'll happily make fun of anything stupid they do and our current one is definitely a walking punchline if the old one was. Good luck with that volt man.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Butcher Bird - It's sort of like Perry, but without the downfall.

Songs of the post Sponge - Plowed and Klepacki - Fantasy

No alternative titles today. This one's a reference to the Piers Anthony series about the various incarnations. Evil's office was held by a guy named Perry and his book focused a lot on his motives and reasoning. It also reminds me of the webcomics Skin Deep and Supernormal Step, but that's something else.

Today on the chopping block is Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey. Another book Amazon suggested to me on my tablet because of my habit of reading Glen Cook, Jim Butcher and George R.R. Martin. I'm a little confused why my Sherlock Holmes hasn't skewed a few things, but oh well. The story this time around is that a tattoo artist suddenly finds himself seeing creatures. Demons, monsters, mythological beasts, tolerable hippies and so on. Okay, maybe not so much on the last one. Covered in tattoos, Spyder Lee is sitting at a bar having an asinine conversation with a friend. Yes I hated his name with a passion, though at least even the strange critters tended to notice it as a strange name too, commonly asking if he belonged to the spider clan, hinting at a larger story. He's broken up with his girlfriend who studied religion and the sort and as such he does have some knowledge of a few of the beasties and demons at least so he's useful to the plot for being largely useless for a lot of the plot.

I'll be damned if I can remember his friend's name, but she's a druggie and more than a little messed up in the head. She stays fairly consistently messed up in the head, even trying to commit suicide and failing in a fairly macabre way. Our third mainstay is the titular character, Shrike or the Butcher bird. I really hope that's her name because as usual, I can't remember our Princess of the plot's name. Finally we have the Duke? I think. I remember him more for his spoileriffic revelation later on. Why no, Perry has nothing to do with it. No really. Right then...

So the plot. He's drunk, drinking with the friend and decides he's got to take a leak. Wandering into the alleyway like a good drunk, he's attacked by an insect-headed demon and saved by the blind chick he had been semi-hitting on or chatting with or something... Here's our main trio! I might be remembering wrong, but I believe they called the demon Nebiros, which bugs me since he's supposed to be a Crane, honorable and willing to teach, but again that's not really the point. Shrike guts the demon and they escape. Spyder wakes up confused, walks outside and thinks he's got some sort of head trauma going on. The telephone pole has various heads and fetishes attached to it, there are burning people, demons and monster and so on and they seem perfectly normal. He does take a moment to specifically notice what he thinks are lawyer sorts with black suits and ill-fitted skin suits. They smell funny too by descriptions later.

He hops in a cab to get to work, not wanting to ride his bike while obviously out of his mind and ends up scaring the cabbie so much he gets a free ride about halfway there. It's here that he notices his lifelong lesbian whackjob of a friend isn't completely human either. She looks like a corpse, dessicated and missing eyes, replaced instead with paper over the sockets and a skull's grin. She explains the men in black he saw earlier made a deal with her to help her clear her mind in exchange for her eyes. And when that wore off, another organ. And another and so on, until finally they take the victim to be a sacrifice in the name of 'balance'. Spyder, upset that she's probably going to be dead quite soon, offers himself up to help save her, setting some things in motion. He runs into Shrike again, begging her to undo whatever she did to him to let him see the freaks and geeks of the second and third worlds, though she explains it's not possible. Spyder goes home, has some problems thanks to another demon and through some events, ends up acting as a stand-in for Shrike's former partner while she reports for a job. They're ambushed on the way, hinting at more going on than they're aware of.

The woman for the job has been cursed, wasting away quite literally. With an oppressive stench, a penchant for surrounding herself with carnivorous plants and an obviously malevolent attitude, she drafts them to work. To ensure speedy work, she forces the key into Shrike where it will burrow towards her heart unless she nears the door it's enchanted to open. They're given a horn from a demon that slices and dices better than the average mail order knife and they're on the way. It's here that Spyder proves he has some useable knowledge and ends up sticking with her in the long run, especially since the demon's spread rumors that he's some kind of molester or somesuch. They begin the flight towards the gates to hell where they're attacked by a third party and watched by Angels. They're saved by the Duke or.. guy person. He teaches Spyder and Living-Dead Girl how to protect themselves, giving Spyder a Painkiller... erh a weedwhacker. (The Painkiller is the titular weapon from Painkiller. It's a blender on a stick with a laser attachment in a nutshell.). I don't remember what it's really called, but you get it spinning and smack things with it. A bit of padding later and they find the City of Lost things. Memories, objects, whatever. Spyder runs into his younger, dumber self and ends up beating the hell out of him before fleeing. They leave, get ambushed again and determine that one of them is offering a view of their surroundings. They assume it's Living-Dead Girl. They get to the mountain where the pit of hell resides, get ambushed again and realize it was Spyder. The munchkin demon thing that didn't talk much dies and then the Duke dies before they go to hell. Inside, Spyder's wearing a blindfold because otherwise he'd not be able to leave hell. Shrike's already blind so that's moot too. Living-Dead Girl's told her weird way of seeing doesn't count so she's their eyes. They encounter oddities, then a small demon with a giant wang. He convinces them eventually they need his help and he leads them right where they need to go.

Sort of. They fight some demons again, finding out hell's been divided. And they're building something. The big badguy of hell is the badguy that screwed Shrike over so she wants revenge and blah blah blah. The guy messes with her again, undoing the curse that blinds her so she's stuck in hell while Spyder's blindfold is yanked off. The little demon then leads Spyder to the city under the guise of helping before he's stopped by the big man himself, Lucifer. Lucifer turns out to be the Duke. Person guy. Which is honestly why I don't remember his original name. He's not presented as evil, but more opposed. It's an interesting view similar to Perry from "For Love of Evil" with... less finesse. He's still enjoyable enough though. They talk, get ambushed again, Spyder does something phenomenally stupid that works and they open a pit to earth from Hell. The evil mostly-dead old woman in the Burqa is defeated. Most importantly, sort of is that Spyder's name is cleared, he harasses the demon and then they talk after ordering drinks.

I cut a lot out, some of it because it's basically filler, some of it because I don't think you guys want to know about all the groping and sex. It was awkward to read in book and it would be awkward to paraphrase creatively each time. The dialogue was a bit awkward at times and Living-Dead Girl got on my nerves as well. The setting is reminiscent of some of Gaiman's worlds, the webcomics Supernatural Step and Skin Deep, Anthony's Incarnations books and a few I'm probably missing. This isn't necessarily bad and with some work I could see the book being a lot better. While trying vainly to find the names for characters I discovered this book was actually written before the Sandman Slim books which I've also picked up to read later. Guessing by the impressions I got from this book, I'll probably quite enjoy the Sandman Slim stuff. Overall, not a bad book. Not a good book, not a shallow book, but definitely not a deep book. The characters ranged from likeable, underutilized, aggravating and underdeveloped, but there's a lot of hints at a creative mind that could do better with work. Hopefully that's all true and Amazon won't piss me off by trying to suggest things similar to Cook and Butcher.

Depending on the mood, I'd give this 2.5-3.5 out of 5 depending.

Editor's note: I'm reading Sandman Slim right now and it's definitely leaps and bounds ahead of Butcher Bird.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pennies for the Ferryman. IE The USS Cole, really?

Songs of the post Cry of the Banshee and  Children of the Grave

Alternate titles of the post: You got Edgar Allen Poe in my Fanfiction and You're better off swimming the rivers Styx and Acheron.

First and foremost. The last post on this book started out positive, it was an interesting idea of a book. The title of this one should hint at one of the problems I had. To get it out of the way now so I don't have to rant about it later is that one of the ghosts guarding our intrepid hero is one of the victims of the Cole. Up until then, he'd relied on mostly Civil and Revolutionary war ghosts with hints of others. That's fine, there's enough there that you can't just hit a search engine up and see one of the very limited number of victims and start feeling uncomfortable. There were other problems with the book and I'll actually make a few comparisons to Ghost Story, the latest book in the Dresden Files series.

The book starts out with an Iraq war veteran sent home after an IED attack. He's deaf in one ear, limps and requires therapy for both his injuries and suggested mental issues. It wasn't handled too poorly either, early on. As the book went though, it started feeling more and more off. Keep his supposed physical flaws in mind.
Mike, at least I think his name was Mike. (If it's not obvious, barring a select number of books I'm horrid with names. I'll do better eventually). Anyway, Mike has returned to school using his GI Bill, having had problems competing for jobs High Schoolers were after since he enlisted right after graduation. Considering posts I've read, this doesn't sound too far from the truth. He makes jokes about being a pirate, limps around and in general feels like he's actually got some flaws to him. On top of his injuries, he's got a quick mouth and a short fuse and tends to talk without thinking. If these had stayed consistent I'd probably be a lot happier with the book.

The events following are sort of messy. Most of the reviewers on Amazon say the book is better after the first half, I think it's worse. All of his flaws disappear, they're not even handwaved unless it's convenient for the plot. His personality is... a little more cemented which is tolerable enough. That said, it's here we find out that he's a descendent of Edgar Allen Poe and that Poe's brother is the beast in the graveyard everyone's afraid of. We also find out that Arlington terrifies ghosts and no one goes there because of bad things. If you're looking at a map, just imagine "Thar be dragons" and call it good. He no longer has to touch ghosts to hear them since another ghost poked him in the ear (Basically). The Civil War general is on his side now and it turns out his Sergeant buddy was actually a bad guy being manipulated by his skin walker girlfriend. Oh and get used to that term, they're ghosts that possess people and either eat their soul or suppress it. He destroys his buddy, calls the girlfriend to tell her she's a twat, then gets ambushed by her and left to die to the beast. He escapes by setting off a spirit bomb or something, they revive him saying he was hit by lightning and the book ends.

Now here's what I liked. I liked the concept at it's core. I like the idea of a character with legitimate flaws, both physical and mental dealing with other people of varying degrees of good and bad. The fact that he not only researches and experiments to find out what works and what doesn't is great too. I liked the fact that for the most part his various problems weren't just an excuse to be a dick and I liked his mercenary attitude in helping the ghosts.

What I didn't like is that the characterization for most of the characters is threadbare at the best. His mother is basically a set piece and plot macguffin depending. His absentee dad wasn't really a dick that emptied the bank accounts and skipped out, he was possessed! Which.. I actually think hurt his characterization. Yes it's cliched, but having the guy be a legitimate prick would've been a break from the norm and offered a good contrast to the nice old woman he met on one case, his mother the prop and a few of the friendlier spooks. I'd have liked more varied ghost powers and fewer physical prowess moments. He's supposed to be fairly beat up both from the IED and injuries sustained throughout the book. They only seem to slow him down when the plot demands and not when it would be truly inconvenient.

I mentioned that I would compare this book to Jim Butcher' Ghost Story. I know a lot of Dresden Files fans didn't like the book, but I thought it a good return to the norm. I'm also in the minority in that I thought Changes was twelve shades of stupid, but that's neither here nor there. In Ghost Story, Dresden wakes up dead. He meets Murphy senior, gets told something's up and goes to investigate how he died and what's happening. He can't directly interact with others other than Mortimer, he's in an environment where he's not able to use his magic and he's not able to just brute force his way through things. He meets varied ghosts, soldiers, psychos, lost souls and so on. They establish that ghosts too badly damaged become hollow, sticking to one core duty and being all but mindless. They're introduced by a number of soldiers that can't quite be made out properly. That their last duty is to protect others still is a lot more tragic than the messes that happen in Pennies, especially when you see it happen right in person. It's made worse when you find out that they were keeping the psychotic evil ghosts in check. There's a bit of mindfuckery in the fae realms and a few other interesting bits too.

Now, there is a problem with the ending I'll admit, but overall I enjoyed it, I thought the characters that depended on Dresden slipping towards something darker fascinating and in alignment with the overall theme of things and in general made it quite interesting, albeit slow.

The difference between the two books is we're shown both worlds. We're shown multiple characters, all who have their flaws and in the six months since Dresden died, developed new ones. We see fallout from his previous actions and we learn a bit more about Dresden's past. Dresden makes mistakes, doesn't always win and doesn't know what's going on. He has to ask for help, test and learn, much like Pennies. Both feature similar themes of an incapacitated person handling both the living and the dead sides of 'life'. Both have to learn, deal with short comings and work things out. The differences are that Dresden's fairly consistent in things. If he's given a limitation, without a given reason it sticks. This doesn't happen in Pennies. Ghost Stories also incorporates imagery better and definitely incorporates other stories better. It has more atmosphere and more tension and doesn't rely on things such as "Even a sailor from the USS Cole" to suddenly grab your attention. 

Overall, I didn't outright hate Pennies and I actually enjoyed it at first, with a bit of hesitation about some of the ideas. As it went on though, my mind kept being yanked out of the story, either through laughter or frustration. So, of the books I've reviewed so far, it's the best, but that doesn't mean particularly good either. Your mileage may vary on this one though and I could easily see someone else enjoying the book. It was tolerable enough that if I'm ever bored enough I might even give the second book a passing shot. Maybe.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New book reviews inbound

Well, not that there's that many of you out there, but I figure I'd offer an update anyway. I haven't stopped hating myself enough to stop reading bad books for everyone else's entertainment. The two books on the chopping block for now are Butcher Bird and a proper review of Pennies for the Ferryman. I've had quite a bit of schoolwork and what little free time I've had has been absorbed in Sherlock Holmes and A Cruel Wind by Glen Cook. If any of you are bound to comment, feel free to request a review of the latter.

The first review to go up will likely be the one for Pennies for the Ferryman. While Butcher Bird wasn't great and had some cringe inducing moments, for the most part it was tolerable fluff. Bad enough I could poke fun at it easily, but interesting enough in some ways to have fun. I might also have some more game reviews to throw up. Might even make a youtube link showing off some of the more interesting ones or the particularly bad ones. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Jim Bernheimer's Dead Eye

As well as the other books I'll be looking into once I've caught up in work is Jim Bernheimer's Dead Eye series. The first book has it's flaws, it's draws and has me asking, "Too soon?". The main character is an Iraq war veteran that survived an IED attack. This apparently lets him see dead people with his damaged eye. The ideas are interesting enough to look into, but some of the writing, definitely the editing and a few other issues will all be looked at as I read. For now though, my biggest issue is that it sort of has that 'too soon?' quality to it. Not that bad and so far at least, he's presented respectably enough. Flaws and all, I'll probably try out the second book to see if he improves or not.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book review in progress - The First Days

So the woman at the last locally owned non-big box bookstore handed me this book and told me to read it and let her know how it was. I'll be doing that, but it'll take a while because this book is already pulling me out of the story. So, let's go ahead and start shall we?

The book is called "The First Days" by Rhiannon Frater. Part of the "As the World Dies" series. I'm guessing. It starts out surprisingly strong. The first few pages immediately grab you and it had me excited. And unfortunately she flushes it before the first chapter is out. A hurried slew of images, which works fine in movies is in place here. And to a degree it works, it's only when they start arguing as to whether they're zombies or not does it fall on it's face. The sort of lines offered work in parodies and spoofs. Shaun of the Dead pulled it off well with it's "Zed word" set of lines. It fit there because it was supposed to be funny. Here it bleeds any tension out whatsoever. We do find out our heroines' names. Katie and um.. hold on. And Jenni, with an I because I like spelling it that way. (Stolen from the book, my humor's much more childish thanks).

We're already nearing the end of a post since I'm only 50 pages in, but hey why not. They arrive at a gas station in east bumblefuck to fill up. No zombies, no zeds, no nothing. The boy manning the counter is so one-dimensional you could've replaced him with a cardboard prop and a taped message and been fine. He argues with the two women about zombies and he just so happens to not have a television or radio because his boss is a man of principles. Oh and he thinks he's being robbed because they have a shotgun, but he keeps arguing with them about things, like "You're doing the robbery wrong if you're paying". So of course he's meat. His boss shows up and eats the girl... um, where the hell they came from I'm not sure because it either didn't get explained well or my mind immediately blocked it out. He tries to run and is last seen running behind the building. The women then look at eachother and say, "I warned him" and is replied to with, "You did. Coffee?" before driving off.

This is supposed to be a serious book with strong female characters. So far this is a zomcom with male characters with tits. One of the women is even a lesbian. The cute sort that only exist in entertainment it seems. I won't even make the joke I was originally going to make about the real lesbians I know.

We'll see if the characters develop more as we go. So far though, I'll give this book credit in being stronger than "Feed", but not being as strong as Boneshaker. I had issues with Boneshaker, but it's female lead FELT like a strong female character with an actual personality, not just a guy with boobs. It has nothing to do with their gender either. I'm not saying women can't be callous assholes cracking jokes about dead things nomnoming some idiot kid's face. I'd have a hard time with the protagonists of any book that isn't about the badguys acting like this. In books like Garrett PI, The Black Company and the Dresden Files, the main characters of each have all seen some pretty horrific things. A retired marine turned PI, a company of mercenaries and a PI in Chicago who has burned a house of vampires to the ground all cringe when someone living dies near them or that died in a horrific manner.The guys of the Black Company are pragmatic and know that bad things happen. They still cover up casualties from Killer Shadows and some of the more horrific magic of the series, but they don't joke as it happens. Garrett might joke about something, but his actions hint how upset he might be in some of those situations. The same goes for Dresden who felt sick after torching a house full of Vampires, let alone when he thinks he might've killed a person.

We'll see where it goes from here and hopefully by next week I'll have the next few chapters reviewed.