Saturday, July 27, 2013

Leviathan Wakes


         Okay, so the rundown is as follows: Leviathan Wakes is a space opera somewhere between Consider Phlebas and a Cronenberg flick, the story of a group of desperate and damned people who have to figure out what's going on and why before the human race brings itself to extinction by playing with toys it doesn't really understand.  It has some incredibly gruesome imagery, some of the tightest writing in a space opera since the late Iain M. Banks left the field. The plot weaves its way between sci-fi noir and gritty starfaring, finally letting the two collide and showing just how out of place each genre is in the other's story. Jim Holden and Detective Miller are two very strong protagonists, and watching them bounce off one another is wonderful.
            The bad is that there is no unified story here, but two stories that manage to fit together. There's also a very lopsided way of going about the whole antagonist thing, at one point having them be a faceless group of high-powered ship breakers and in the last act having them be incredibly un-threatening, to the point that the reveal in the third section of the book is decidedly underwhelming, even with the stakes being raised in each successive chapter. 
              But in total, this is a book well worth reading and buying. James S.A. Corey is a pair of authors to watch, and you should give them your undivided attention.

Saturday, July 20, 2013



     Okay, so the rundown is as follows: Whatever mojo Chuck Palahniuk had, it's gone now. Long gone. Damned is an ugly book, but not an entertainingly ugly book in the same way Choke or my personal favorite, Invisible Monsters was. The social pariahs encountered within these pages aren't half as interesting as the ones in Rant, and the cynicism is more choreographed than natural. In short, this reads like a book written by someone poorly imitating Chuck Palahniuk, and the last person in the world you should ever want to be a poor imitation of is Chuck Palahniuk. The descriptions are gross but seem kind of superfluous, the characters are one-dimensional except for Madison, who serves to alternately call every woman who isn't her "Slutty McVanderslut" and needlessly regurgitate the author's views. The plot is entirely beside the point, and the ranting interludes where Palahniuk rages against modern culture just seem like a list of things the author doesn't like.

            On the off-chance that I missed the point of the book, it does do a pretty good job of moderning up The Divine Comedy, and there are some genuinely funny moments (like being chauffeured to Hell in a town car, or a demon asking "Are you familiar with the William Morris Agency?") here and there. But sifting through these is an exercise in torture itself, and even an ending where it turns out that most of the book is the angry rant of a dead teenager who was simply put in a bad circumstance can't really save this from being a complete miss. If you feel like reading Palahniuk, find his earlier novels when he still had something to say. It's pretty much all downhill from here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Popular Hits of the Showa Era

      Okay, the rundown is as follows: This is a wonderful satire of two groups of disaffected people who somehow find their way in the world through karaoke and murdering each other. While this is well-written, it's more about the relationships between the two groups, whose dwindling members are experiencing life and bringing each other closer by slowly picking off the other side. The murders are a very small part of it. The characters are overly-cartoonish and sociopathic, but if you can get beyond that, then there's a rich, very twisted comedy hiding between these covers, and one I suggest people read.

           On the other hand, the characters are all cartoonish sociopaths with no real moral compass, the novel doesn't give us anyone to root for on either side, and the whole thing seems a little too over-the-top for its own good. It's like a roadrunner cartoon disguised as social satire. When the devastating consequences of the actions taken in the book finally come to a head in the final chapters, it comes as something of a shock-- no one's really been chastised for their behavior before now, they've merely existed in a cartoon, and to suddenly have psychological and physical consequences reached at that point kind of seems needlessly cruel. Even for characters as unsympathetic as this.

            But in the end, I enjoyed it. As nasty and twisted as it was, it's an interesting way of looking at the social issues in an urban environment, and a good satire of those "life-affirming" books where the heroes are brought closer together by some kind of event. Also, I didn't quite see the ending coming, and that's always a plus as far as I'm concerned. More as always, this time with spoilers, below.