Monday, December 15, 2014

Across the Nightingale Floor

       
              

                          Planned trilogies are sometimes difficult to judge without reading the whole thing. How can someone judge a book that's just the first part of a larger work? Can it be criticized for not standing on its own merits when it's just the first third (or fourth, or eighth, or tenth, or whatever) of a larger story? After all, reading just the exposition chapters of a novel and then putting it down and saying "This is a bad book" is really poor form and something to be discouraged. But, at the same time, if you're going to write novels, you should strive to write complete ones, even if you have grand designs for the world at large. Stephen R. Donaldson, for example, wrote absolutely execrable fantasy novels in groups of three, but I could pick up any one of those books and read its absolutely atrocious contents without necessarily needing to go in order. 

                            So I suppose my criteria for this book would be that it is able to stand on its own, but also judging it as the introduction to a greater series of works, works that I might possibly want to read.

And...as far as that goes, it isn't a bad book? 

                              It's not a good book, and there are some serious issues with structural senses and the way characters are treated, but I would be lying if I said there weren't some cool scenes in there. In fact, I would love for this to be filmed or animated and for it to play out onscreen. It reads like it was meant to be adapted into something or to be played out in a visual medium. And while that is wonderful for screenplays and movies and the like, when applied to a medium like books, it...doesn't go nearly as well. 

                            That isn't to say it isn't an interesting book. But, well...

More, as always, below.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Geek Initiative Needs Your Help - Signal Boost!

                





                            Hey, guys.

                            So, as I'm sure many of you constant readers know, occasionally I do work for other sites. I like it, and as cool as this is, it's nice to have things like editors and enforced deadlines and stuff like that. One of these sites is called The Geek Initiative. It's run by an awesome lady named Tara, and she is having an Indiegogo drive right now to raise some funds. I would really like their drive to succeed, as I dig writing stuff for them, and I dig a lot of their output, which is well-reasoned and fairly rationally put. Mr. Ellis works over there, too, and you can read his articles under the handle of Kung Fu Dave

Geek Initiative isn't asking for much, just eight hundred bucks to help out with some of the costs of being a badass geek journalism site. And every bit helps, guys. So I'm sending out a call to all you there in Constant Readerland to help these good people out. They deserve it, and it would be really cool if The Geek Initiative were able to reach further heights because of you awesome ladies and gentlemen. 

So: 

If you'd like to help us out, click on the link below and donate a little. Or donate a lot. It's up to you, but please, don't hesitate to support the awesome contributors on the site. You really can't go wrong. 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-geek-initiative-level-up 



Sunday, December 7, 2014

This Book Is Full Of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It

                    


          When I was but a confused and kind of frightened college freshman living in a dorm somewhere in the high desert of New Mexico without many friends or a frame of reference, I took solace in the internet. It was kind of a cautionary prelude to the near-complete agoraphobia I currently find myself dealing with on a semi-regular basis. Honestly...I probably shoulda seen this coming. But in my sort of self-imposed exile in my room, I kept seeing this weird banner with blue eye design. It would pop up on every webcomic, every horror review site, practically everywhere I went, I was followed by this thing like a stalker follows the popular kid at school. It was more annoying than intriguing, but finally it wore me down and I clicked on it. 

                                 The site, johndiesattheend.com, contained a blackly comic novel so good that I had to spam the link as many places as I possibly could, and did so. It was a brilliant work. Not the most tightly-written thing under the sun, but hilarious, and most importantly for my impoverished ass, it was free. Later on, as kind of a "thank you", I actually bought a hardcover copy of the book. I haven't even lent my copy to anyone. And when I found the sequel This Book Is Full Of Spiders came out, I tried to pick up that. Unfortunately, it took me a few years to actually track down one I could pay for, and it wasn't until I randomly found it while looking for something else (Jack Womack's Going Going Gone) that I decided to pick it up and take it home for review. Immediately it promised a story of bizarre experiments, military intervention, and the good sort of weirdness and style that made me try to emulate it multiple times in my own work. 

                             And sadly, it isn't as good. While still unique, and head and shoulders above most of what passes for mainstream works in the bizarro genre these days (lookin' at you, Zombies and Shit), it's a little too polished. A little too safe. The biases are worn a little more clearly on the book's sleeve. So while it's entirely readable, and rightfully so, I'm a little conflicted on this one. I'd say get it from the library or borrow it if you're curious, and then buy it if you really like it. It's certainly weird, and a good read, but the magic just wasn't there for me has much. Especially where it falls apart for me at the end. 

More, as always, below

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Month of Long Books Announcement

Hey, guys. 

So, as the holidays are coming up, and I have some longer books I'd like to read (Robert Jackson Bennett's American Elsewhere being one), and some books I'd like to read that don't fit the format (Everybody Loves Our Town by Mark Yarm, among others), I'm having another Month of Long Books, where I can get back into the swing of reading things without having to worry about if it fits or if I need to spend enough time on it. 

So: See you guys in December with an armload of new reviews! I did this last year, and it really helped, so I figured I'd do it again.

Have a good Thanksgiving

-SR/CC

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Talisman

           
       

             I really was going to review The Orange Eats Creeps, I promise. It's actually a pretty cool book from what I've read of it. But I realized something: This past Friday was Halloween, marking my fourth year writing for Geek Rage/Strange Library. And this past month? Stephen King month. And these two things led me to remember something I've said again and again, something I should have scheduled into the month, and something on which I should finally deliver. I've been saying "I'll get around to it" for years. Four years, to be exact. I think anyone would want me to, well, finally get around to talking about it. So I decided, emergency executive decision, first to do a video review of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon because I have an awesome collector's-edition pop-up book of that, and then, after that, on the spur of the moment, to finally talk about the book that gave Stephen King and Peter Straub my undying respect. The book that made me a King fan to begin with. A book that has stayed with me for a little under an entire decade now. 

I think it's finally time, dear readers (all two of you) to talk about The Talisman.

                      I think it's brilliant. It's a book I've read more than Harry Potter, topping out somewhere around the mid-double digits. Even though I know the plot, even though every twist and turn in the novel is one I've already experienced, even though I know how the story's going to end. It's lurid at points, yeah. It's really dark at points. There's one section that still really disturbs me, and a section that grossed out my dad when he read it to make sure it was okay for me. The villains are despicable, the heroes are severely underpowered, and the plot-- while a little formulaic-- seems fresh and insane enough to be well worth the read.  It's a book that has affected my life in a great number of ways, and it's a book I couldn't see my life being the same without. While not particularly complex and while the individual elements aren't particularly impressive, this book has affected me in a way that few books have managed to. And I know, it sounds like I'm overselling it here, and maybe I am. But if I wanted to talk about books that have affected me (and I do), I would have to talk about The Talisman, and it would be high on the list. 

Why? 

Well, more, as always, below.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

From A Buick 8

               
      

                    Length is a hard thing to gauge when writing. I've written several short stories that spun wildly out of control and made me want to see how they'd be in book length, but unfortunately couldn't be due to space requirements. I've also written several book ideas that would be better as single stories, but didn't know how to compress the initial idea. I will say this: Constantly failing at fiction writing has done nothing but teach me how to be a better writer, and if I could ever find a way to make that knowledge useful, believe me, I would. It's also made me great at pointing out where others could be better writers, though I wouldn't be so presumptuous to believe that anyone would actually listen to the ramblings of some idiot with a blog. But length is a difficult thing to figure out.

                          Stephen King is someone who does not particularly believe that the writer is in control of their work, and while I agree with him on principle-- you can't make a work do what you want, even if (as internet media critics constantly complain) everything is stuff you make up-- it doesn't happen that way. Writing is not a completely conscious process. However, while this is true, sometimes it means he writes a short story that is somehow three hundred and fifty pages long because he wants everything to get out of his head just right, and it's rumored that his work has become a lot looser over the past several years (I don't completely see it, but that's me). Which brings us to From A Buick 8.

                      From A Buick 8 is an interesting book, and it has several scenes that are very vivid and frightening. But I feel like it could have been a short story or a novella rather than a full blown-out novel. Maybe something to go through the small press circuit or put into a story collection than something to actually become a whole novel. It feels a little elongated, a little too slow-burning, and while the point might not be the supernatural events that happen around these men, the idea could have been conveyed in a short story. King did just that several times over, and while the King of now might not be the King who wrote "It Grows On You" or "Jerusalem's Lot" or "Dedication", I know Big Steve can still write a good story. So get this one from the library if you want, but I'd suggest if you want a good, slow-burning story, you go to the short collections or find another book

More, as always, below. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Eyes of the Dragon

                        

   I've tried and failed to write this review multiple times over the course of several days, and I suppose that alone is a testament to exactly how this book impacted me. It's further proof that moments after finishing the book, I was affected by the ending, but looking back on it, I don't feel as strongly as I did about, say, The Talisman or It or the bleak and depressing throes of 'Salem's Lot. Sometimes, all a good book needs to be is just that: A good book. Things can just be good without being earth-shattering. And, while The Eyes of the Dragon isn't an earth-shattering book, or something that made me weep openly, or something like "Clockwork Girl" that I will never be able to read again that just rips me up inside, it doesn't need to be anything earth-shattering. 

                          The story is a fairly typical adventure story with some very cool narrative flourishes. While there are some definite pacing issues, most of these are explained by one simple fact, one I learned long ago: Stephen King wrote this book for his children and the children of Peter Straub. He may have very well edited and rewritten it for publication, or possibly added bits that addressed his own road to recovery (as that seems to be a theme around the eighties and nineties, even if he didn't necessarily put it in there himself) in places here and there. I've always admired Stephen King for his ability to simply tell a good story, and that is all he ever needed to do. And that's all the book does.

                         I would spend more time bashing the terribly silly paperback copy or the pacing issues, but these things don't really enter into it. You might like this book more, as I admit my imagination has been stunted these past four-ish years. You might like it less, expecting something tighter than an adventure story about captured princes and secret passageways and the importance of always having a napkin, Either way, it's definitely worth a read. 

More, as always, below.