Sunday, June 30, 2013

Go, Mutants!

           Okay, so, the rundown is as follows: This is a book that is at times funny, and at times very clever. It's a good look at being a teenager and at the same time being a monster, and while the metaphor for puberty and understanding one's body is a little heavy-handed, I can't say it's exactly un-clever, either. The book's a teen comedy that turns very weird, and I can't say I don't get behind that, especially with the kind of stuff I read, and my love of retro-future and B-movies. It's clear that Larry Doyle has a clear interest in a lot of the culture, and he loves both his audience and the world he's created. Add to this some very good narrative voice and some incredible imagery, and you have a book well worth the read. 

              The problem is, this is a book for a very specific audience, and when it misses, it misses pretty badly. The tone gets really in-jokey at times, bringing famous monsters and concepts in with nary a thought, and while most of them actually work, occasionally they wind up being more "Really? You put that in there?" Apart from the self-conscious referencing, I felt there were a few gags that needed to have a payoff but...didn't (The one involving The Brain Who Wouldn't Die as a reference in particular). Overall, though, this is a great book, one I'd suggest reading as soon as you can get it out of the library.

More, as always, below.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

In The Miso Soup

             Okay, the rundown is as follows. This is a good, atmospheric book that explores a large number of themes in a very strange way. It's at once a meditation on violence, a discussion of buddhism and redemption, a possible metaphor for cultural invasion of Japan from the West, and even a minor commentary on the culture surrounding the sex industry. That it juggles so many concepts in under two hundred pages is a feat in and of itself, but the fact that it does it with enough style and atmosphere to keep me interested makes it a great novel in my terms, and one that makes me wish it got into more people's hands. The descriptions are excellent, and the mounting dread leading into the single cathartic moment in the book is handled very, very well.

           However, the downside is that this is a novel more concerned with its underpinnings than the actual plot. Divided into three acts, one for each day during the New Year's celebration in Tokyo, the first act leads up to a catharsis in the second that starts to meander by the third. While the book's unnerving atmosphere continues, and in fact takes the book stranger places in the second and third sections, the lack of a definite ending and the partial abandonment of the plot halfway through could be jarring for some. It's best to think of the book not as a thriller, but as a kind of bizarre meditative piece involving violence, discussion of food, some Buddhism, and sex. That said, if you're looking for a thriller, this isn't the book for you. It's more American Psycho than Psycho, delving into the philosophical and psychological rather than aiming for flat-out horror.  

More, as always, below.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Extra

                 Okay, the rundown is as follows: This is a book that moves. It's not a slow book, or a book that gives much time to settle down and take a breather, it just shouts "go" and runs off without you, hoping you catch up. It's a book written like an action movie, and it delivers on that premise. If anything's too illogical or silly, all one has to do is go "It's just a show, I should really just relax." and enjoy the ride as is. The characters are colorful, the dialogue is good, but where the book really shines are the cinematic action sequences that run throughout, from running down a skyscraper in the opening sentences to the tense fight through the corridors of an office building at the end. 

                  The problems set in when the whole world feels way too safe. Safety is a good thing sometimes (see last' week's review), but the issue I have with the book is that I never thought the characters were in any danger. It's the kind of action that you never feel hits the point where the heroes are ever out of options, in fact, they handle themselves amazingly well. The book's biggest sin is that it feels cozy and predictable, and by feeling cozy and predictable, it does itself a disservice. You should never completely feel the heroes are out of danger, just that whatever it is, they will eventually overcome it. Also, I am worried as this is supposedly the first book of a trilogy, yet it came out three years ago and is pretty much wrapped up in a single volume. There are also some character arcs I question, but more, as always (with spoilers) below.