Thursday, March 26, 2015

Health Issues Post

Hi, guys.

So you may have realized that this month, my output was...okay, let's call a spade a spade. It was piss-poor. It was terrible.

For the past few weeks, due to some serious time slippage and insomnia, I've had trouble keeping focus and keeping my head together. This is the first day in a while I even know what day it is, and that's because last night I had a game and today I'm going to ZenKaiKon for the weekend.

I'm sorry.

I'm really sorry. You guys are my lifeblood, you have given me the ability to do amazing, awesome things, and you deserve better.

I'm gonna take the next few days off, hopefully relax, settle down a little. And then be back in April with the posts I've been working on.

See you then,

SR/CC

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dr. Adder

       

        Okay, finally, a book I don't have to discount on the basis of it being a great book with an absolute shambles of an ending. A book I can feel proud to recommend despite it being one of the sickest books I have had the pleasure (and it was a pleasure) of reading. And maybe that's the point, that it's influential for not only the science fiction genre and the underground element of "bizarre fiction", but that it's also influential for the extreme horror genre, since it features one of the best gruesome operatic revenge stories this side of Sweeney Todd, only with a casual eye towards the kind of brutal grotesquerie that only the works of less well-known weird fiction like Geek Love and Freaks 'Amour (among others) can provide. While the book's plot is something of a series of potshots in a dark room centered around the titular doctor and the young man who is his assistant, the images are strong ones overall and stuck with me well after finally closing the pages. Even if I didn't necessarily understand the climax. 

              For those willing to brave the bizarre and sometimes downright sick and depraved (all good things in my opinion) world of the Interface and its inhabitants, you will find a hell of a good read, and one of the most shining examples of American dystopian fiction. For those who want something with a little less military grade hallucinogens, dying alien gods, and prostitutes destroying their own brains with permanent and harmful drugs, then you should probably look elsewhere, or at least get this out of the library before making a decision to commit fully to this classic act of lovingly poetic depravity. 

More, as always, below.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Near Enemy


                           Why is this slowly becoming the month of books I really want to like but are laid low by really stupid ideas for endings? That's a terrible theme for a book blog, and in this case, where the ending ramps up to nowhere, it's especially egregious. Near Enemy enraged me when I read it, not because of its amazing depiction of a paranoid post-terror New York where anyone with money plugs themselves into a virtual world and forgets about the outside, but because the final sentences lead off into nowhere. Now, I have not yet finished Adam Sternbergh's first novel, the highly-acclaimed Shovel Ready (released a few months prior to Near Enemy), but I would hope it doesn't leave off unfinished at a random point before the assumed climax, or I would be forced to conclude that the man is one of those people who tells long stories at parties that go absolutely nowhere, trails off right when it sounds like it's going somewhere, and then never returns to it. 

                           But maybe a book with no ending won't bother you nearly as much as it did me. Maybe you will await the third installment on tenterhooks-- not your tenterhooks, of course, it's much more fun to use someone else's, but tenterhooks all the same. Maybe you'll see it as some kind of artistic choice. A terrible, terrible artistic choice. I'd suggest taking this one out of the library, or if you can find it for free somewhere by some miracle. But unless you're a disappointment fetishist, I'd strongly suggest that perhaps you don't buy this book. It's a lot of buildup for a few lackluster reveals and a plot that eventually ends just when it was getting good.

More, as always, below

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Supernatural Enhancements

              

            I should, by all accounts, like this book a lot. I love found document stories. I love gothic mysteries. I even love Edward Gorey and pastiches that borrow from Gorey (still trying to track down the volumes of Amphigorey that my dad doesn't own so I can add them to the collection). And I love mad science. There is literally no reason why I shouldn't like this book. The main character even has a love of The X-Files bordering on the obsessive. That's something I can get behind. 

                         But there is something that makes me pause. The book I spent nights breathlessly reading for page after page after page did something I disliked immensely. And then, against better judgement, kept doing it. And I'm going to try as hard as I can to keep this top portion spoiler-free the way I usually do and not give up too much, but I've gotta say this: Get the book for its awesome design and format. Read it because it's an incredibly quirky and intelligent read. Then throw it across the room because Edgar Cantero can't for the life of him end a book in the proper manner. After that, you're welcome to do whatever you wish. Personally, I'm looking forward to Edgar Cantero's next book. 

This one was really good, even despite its issues.

More, as always, below. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Motorman


         In my time running this blog, I've begun to wonder if I've become cynical. Hardened. Inured to the charms of some books. I wondered this when I read Down Town and failed to be captivated. I wondered this when I got slightly annoyed at the main character of one of my all-time favorite books, The Neverending Story. And I wondered it here. When I was sixteen, I read a lot of books like Motorman. Hell, when I was seventeen, too. I thought I was profound because I sought out strange books like Electric Jesus Corpse and In The Watermelon Sugar. Because I was the only person my age I knew who'd read Time's Arrow. And, well, Motorman was the kind of book I'd have read back then, read and recommended to a whole bunch of my friends, who probably would have punched me for it. Hell, even three years ago in the pre-breakdown time of 2012*, I was still reading Trout Fishing in America and feeling like I'd rediscovered something in myself.                 

           I enjoyed reading Motorman. I just want to get that out of the way, because the rest of this review is going to be very introspective and very weird and probably as much of an insight into the reviewer as an insight into the book. The issue with reviewing Motorman in a conventional way and adhering religiously to the format I've slowly tinkered with over the past four years is that Motorman itself resists conventional analysis a bit. It's a book that slips around chronologically as it examines the inner and outer contents of its main character's head, a book that trades more on feeling and atmosphere and weird, gooey tactile sensations than on any conventional plot or structure. There are points where the book seems to have an agenda and a point it wants to make about the interplay between the real and the artificial, and possibly the nature of things in general, but the narrative doesn't concern itself with making anything obvious. It just kind of lets the story about a four-hearted man trying to meet his mad scientist friend sink in and just kind of is.

                          It's certainly a book unlike many I have read. It's a unique experience, and while I enjoyed it, I'm not sure I could completely recommend it to people. I'm not sure I'd even recommend it to myself as much. But I did thoroughly enjoy it. 

More, as always, below.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Random Acts of Senseless Violence


                  

       My wish for this year is that just once, just one time, just for a second, there would be a Jack Womack book that I could actually recommend to people. Because he's a good author. And as I slowly maneuver my way through the DryCo books, I do like them quite a bit. The futurespeak isn't completely impenetrable, the plots are intriguing and kind of freaky, and there's something very organic about the world of the books. 

But the ones I've read, I can't recommend. 

                      Random Acts of Senseless Violence doesn't have the problems of Going Going Gone, though. It's technically the first book in the series chronologically, it's written for the most part in conventional language instead of barely-coherent hipster slang, it doesn't slam the doors on any of the worlds it creates, and for the most part, it's a tense, engaging read that posits a near-future United States where society is quickly crumbling and then sticks to it. It manages some moments of intense black humor, memorable characters, and one of the most engaging and human-feeling female leads I've read in years. This is a book that should be reprinted in classic editions and substituted in high schools instead of The Catcher in the Rye, and read and analyzed alongside A Clockwork Orange and Riddley Walker.* This is, by all metrics I have available, an objectively good book.

                       But if I tell you to read this book, I do so with the knowledge it will hold you down and punch your lights out. It will attack you on pure lizard-brain instinct and punch you in the gut so hard and so often it'll become a second career. This is to dystopian literature what Straw Dogs was to romantic movies. 

And I loved every second of it.

More, as always, below.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Going Going Gone

                    



            I really shouldn't have read this book. Not because it's bad, or because it's disturbing-- it's a little disturbing, but not in a bad way. No, I really shouldn't have read Going Going Gone because it is in fact the last book in a six book sequence known as the "Dryco novels". Going Going Gone is actually the book that more or less slams the door on the entire universe, and kind of reveals plot details for some of the goings-on in the rest of the series. In fact, the book ends with a "where are they now" look at every character in the universe Jack Womack created and how their lives have changed after the events of the book, sort of like a trans-universal version of The Wire's closing moments. 

                 That said, a lot of the questions I had as I was reading and issues I had with the book could probably be chalked up to not quite understanding the world I was dropped into, and while I enjoyed the book enough on its own, I have a feeling a lot of the points where I thought it wasn't going anywhere or that it was spiraling off on odd tangents is probably a way to tie up the few loose ends Womack left in the previous five books' worth of dystopian black comedy. It's hard to tell what was there to shut the door on Dryco and what was actually a thing in the book that perhaps should have been better thought out.

                 In the end, though, Going Going Gone is a hilarious and unusual novel. It's like very few things I've read (a few books with invented languages and shorter Pynchon books come to mind), it's kinda twisted, and it features a fast-approaching and most likely prophetic version of the town and indeed the neighborhood where I grew up. I wouldn't make this my first Jack Womack novel, but it's immensely readable and, if you're in the mood for a shaggy-dog story involving psychedelic drugs and government conspiracies, you could do a hell of a lot worse.

More, as always, below.