Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Machine of Death

Machine of Death
Edited by: Ryan North, Matthew Bennarde, and David Malki!
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Independent/Bearstache Books
Language: English
October 2010, $17.99
Genre: Fiction/Anthology/Science Fiction/Fantasy

"The machine could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die...

It didn't give you the date and it didn't give you specifics. It just spat out a sliver of paper upon which were printed, in careful block letters, the words DROWNED or CANCER or OLD AGE, or CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN. And it was frustratingly vague in its predictions: dark, and seemingly delightful in the ambiguities of language. OLD AGE, it had already turned out, could mean either dying of natural causes, or shot by a bedridden man in a botched home invasion. The machine captured that old-world sense of irony in death — you can know how it's going to happen, but you'll still be surprised when it does...

We tested it before announcing it to the world, but testing took time — too much, since we had to wait for people to die. After four years had gone by and three people died as the machine predicted, we shipped it out the door. There were now machines in every doctor's office and in booths at the mall. You could pay someone or you could probably get it done for free, but the result was the same no matter what machine you went to. They were, at least, consistent."


+++++++++++++

What would you do if you knew how you were going to die? Would you fight against it, avoid water at all costs if your slip read DROWNING? Or would you live life as fully as you could knowing that death is part of life and if DROWNING is how you are going to go, then you really cant be afraid of other things such as SKYDIVING, TRYING NEW FOODS, etc.

Would you even decide to know? In getting that slip of paper, its the acknowledgement that yes you are not immortal and some day you will in fact die and all of this will end. But we all know that don’t we? We always worry that there wont be enough time, that elusive question of what happens after it ends and will it hurt? As a society we spend more time, money and energy preventing death and aging when we’re 65 and older than we do when we are 30. Its as if we hope that all of the medicines and machines and doctors will somehow change our inevitable fates...the finality of it all. No one wants to die. But it happens. Its gonna happen.

And yet if I got that piece of paper, unless it said OLD AGE IN SLEEP (which could also mean that a deranged geriatric smothers me in my sleep because he thinks I am the antichrist) would I be so pre-occupied by that little piece of paper that I would forget how to live?

These are the kind of questions that the stories in Machine of Death pose. I first heard about the book when Glenn Beck whined because his book Broke got beat by an independent self published book. He said that because of how popular it was, and that beat his book therefore making him cry like a little boy, American society was obviously obsessed with death and that the success was a result of America turning towards a “culture of death”. Obviously the man did not read the book because if he had he would realize that this book isn't really about death when you think about it. Obviously death is a theme but so is fate, living life, and more. Of course I had to buy it. How could a crazy libertarian such as myself not.

Things I loved: What did I not love about this? The stories range from funny to sad, charming to depressing. Some are long, some are short and each are illustrated. Some of my faves include:

FLAMING MARSHMALLOW - death by Millennium Space Entropy would be interesting, but wheres a teenage girl to sit during lunch. Its not like there’s a clique for that.

DESPAIR - the machine is a bit vague and one doctor discovers this. tests can mean a lot of things - an exam, medical tests, or lack thereof.

SUICIDE - you cannot change fate no matter what your plans are.

STARVATION - two soldiers find themselves in a situation where each thinks that they know how it is going to end because of their slips. 

HIV INFECTION FROM MACHINE OF DEATH NEEDLE - “Well”, I thought, “that sucks”.

MISCARRIAGE - You just have to read it.

The illustrations are wonderful and though like most anthologies there are excellent stories, meh stories and probably wont read that one ever again stories. But I love the idea behind it. I love that it started out as an online project that eventually made it to print. It is the kind of book that makes both a reader and a blogger, internet geek happier than I can say. And I also loved the bios at the end. Seriously my bio kind of sucks compare to some of theirs.

Mostly I love that the book made me think. How would I react? What would I do? What would I like my slip to say? Would it be marketed like the Foreman grill? Would soldiers use it to find traitors? Could I escape my fate at all? What book these days makes you think like that?

Things I didn't love so much: There wasn’t enough? Luckily the editors have been accepting submissions for Volume Two up until July 15th, which hopefully means the book might be out sometime next year? Though amazingly not only can you hear a hand full of the stories for free on iTunes (their podcast is Bearstache), but you can also still read it online if you don’t want to shell out the bucks, but please do and support independent press. Plus its just awesome really.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Buy. Buy. Though be warned, you might actually be thinking a lot about death and life. And having amazing conversations about it. But if you cannot afford the couple of bucks as I said you can listen to some of the stories on iTunes or you can find and read it for free on the interwebs.

Part of: Anthology, Volume 2 will hopefully be about sometime next year.

Also Recommended: Hard one. I like anthologies because short stories are wonderful. The last awesome anthology I read was Side Jobs by Jim Butcher but that was because it featured Harry Dresden and co. This one is hard. Just go read Machine of Death though Amazon.com does recommend John Dies At the End by David Wong which is currently in my to be read pile.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Monday, June 20, 2011

Leviathan

Leviathan
Written by: Scott Westerfeld
Illustrated by: Keith Thompson

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Language: English
October 2009, $19.99
Genre: Fiction/Steampunk/Alternate History/Young Adult

“Choose your weapon: Beastie or Clanker.
Alek is a prince without a throne. On the run from his own people, he has only a fighting machine and a small band of men.

Deryn is a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She must fight for her cause – and protect her secret – at all costs.

Alek and Deryn are thrown together aboard the mighty ship Leviathan. Though fighting side by side, their worlds are far apart; British fabricated beasts versus German steam-powered war machines. They are enemies with everything to lose, yet somehow they are destined to be together.”


+++++++++++++

Steampunk is an interesting genre. Its creative. Its fun. So when Finn announced that Leviathan was the next book in our YA book club, I was happy to read it. I have heard good things about Westerfeld with his Uglies series, but this was the first time that I have read anything of his.

Aleksander, son of the Austrian archduke and his wife Sophie, has lived a quiet life until one evening changes everything. It’s 1914 and Alek’s parents have been assassinated. The Great War has begun and nothing will be the same for Alek. They haven’t been the same for Deryn either who has wanted to be in the air since she could remember. Of course she has to disguise herself as a boy in order for that to happen. Now their lives will intersect. Welcome to the world of Leviathan.

Things I loved: I love the world that has been created. On one side of the war you have the Germans aka as the Clankers whose society has been built around their tech and machines. Think Battletech or Mechwars without going full on robot. On the other side you have the British and their allies aka as the Darwinists who have relied on their biotech and genetic creations. For example Leviathan, the third character in this book as far as I am concerned, is an enormous sentient flying whale that is not only crewed but kept aloft by hydrogen bacteria (essentially a living zeppelin). Alek and Deryn have lived on either side of this clanker vs beasties world and it is interesting to see their worlds collide especially considering that each view the other with quite a few questions. I love that difference in not only culture but the way that they fight wars. I tend to be more on the Darwinist side as I love Leviathan, a giant whale that is sentient but still acts like a zeppelin of sorts. Not only that but I loved the bats. I mean yes, because they are bats, but the hailstorm of iron is both gross and completely awesome. So yes I am definitely more of a fan of the beasties than the clankers. Both of these worlds, by the way, are amazingly illustrated by Mr. Thompson.

I think it is these things that make Leviathan great. For example Alek’s camp has basically a small human powered AT-ST from Return of the Jedi. Deryn’s world has tiger hybrids and elephant hybrids that are beats of burden, talking lizards who are basically mynah birds and jellyfish like hot air balloons. How can you not love a book that lovingly describes Leviathan thus, “The Leviathan’s body was made from the life threads of a whale, but a hundred other species were tangled into its design, countless creatures fitting to­gether like the gears of a stopwatch. . . . The motivator engines changed pitch, nudging the creature’s nose up. The airbeast obeyed, cilia along its flanks undulating like a sea of grass in the wind — a host of tiny oars rowing backward, slowing the Leviathan almost to a halt. The huge shape drifted slowly overhead, blotting out the sky.”

The book splits the narrative between Alek and Deryn and their own separate stories until eventually they meet with one another. I like this. Not only are we getting viewpoints of Clanker vs Beastie, but of nobility vs working class, male vs female and Allied vs Central Powers. That in itself is wonderful. It makes you wonder who really would have won World War I had it ultimately been beastie vs machine. Its a nice alternate history to ponder and one that I expect Westerfeld explores in the next two books.

I also really loved the illustrations by Thompson. Not only was it wonderful to see all of the beasties and machines presented visually, but it reminded me of the books I used to read at my grandmothers where every couple of chapters I got a pretty picture.
I really wanted to like Deryn and Alek a bit more than I did, especially when they are finally brought together. But I found myself enjoying things like Leviathan itself, Deryn’s mysterious boffin passenger and Alek’s fencing master more than our heroic couple. Granted Deryn and Alek do have their moments. I found it amusing when Deryn purposefully leaves her door open and puts shaving cream on half of her face as if she had just shaved just to keep up her ruse. How she is going to explain being cranky and worse for wear one week a month, not sure. Which of course brings me to....

Things I didn't love so much: The book read much younger than I expected. It was almost more Harry Potter steampunk than the young adult novel I thought I was going to be reading especially when my hero and heroine are 15-16 years old. Though Alek and Deryn are supposed to be teenagers they both act and speak much younger which is a bit disappointing. The characters are a bit uneven as well. Alek was a bart, spoiled and annoying whereas Deryn was interesting. However, about half way through the book Deryn stagnates as a character while Alek actually grows as a character. Eventually you know that these two are supposed to fall in love, but its hard to believe when I want to see them both as 13 year olds rather than teenagers.

Despite loving the cover art inside, I really didn’t like the cover art largely due to an odd bit of coloring that makes Alek look like he has a mutant brow. Suddenly he is a demon teen rather than the hero of the story. I know you’re looking at it right now. It looks weird. But I do love all the cogs and wheels and other steampunkery on the cover though.

And finally, I am really not in love with the slang. If I have to hear ‘barking’, ‘clart’ one more time, I think I am going to hurl a bat at Westerfeld and then scare it so there is a rain of iron. I heard it was actually authentic slang to the time period, but it was extremely distracting. It didn't feel natural. It was not cute. I was mostly just annoyed which is sad. I am sure that 200 years from now the slang we use currently will seem just as off-putting as perhaps ‘groovy’. Nah, ‘barking’ was just annoying.

Buy or Borrow: For the second book in a row, the world building is great as are the illustrations, but it reads much younger than you would expect. However, I am curious to see what is in Nora’s eggs and see how Westerfeld will finish this trilogy. In the end I am actually going to say buy. I think most people would quite enjoy it. Though there are some better steampunk stuff out there for older adults.

Part of: Series/Trilogy

Book One: Leviathan

Book Two: Behemoth

Book Three: Goliath (September 2011)

Also Recommended: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and lets face it Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne because well...Nemo.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Right Hand Magic

Right Hand Magic

Written by: Nancy A Collins

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Roc
Language: English
December 2010, $6.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Fiction

MEET THE NEW GIRL ON THE PARANORMAL BLOCK . . . Like most Manhattanites, aspiring artist Tate can't resist a good rental deal-even if it's in the city's strangest neighborhood, Golgotham.  For centuries werewolves, Valkyries, centaurs, and countless other creatures have crowded these streets, where no cab will venture.  Golgotham's most prominent citizens, though, are the Kymerans, a race of witches who provide humans with the charms they desire and curses they fear. Tate's new landlord is a Kymeran sorcerer-for-hire named Hexe.  Despite being the son of Golgotham's Witch-Queen, Hexe is determined to build his own reputation without using dark Left Hand magic or his mother's connections.  As Tate is irresistibly drawn into Hexe's fascinating world, they both find that the right hand does not always know what the left hand is doing . . .

+++++++++++++

Many moons ago I fell in love with Sonja Blue. She was my kind of girl and the world Nancy had created was just plain wonderful. I was hooked. So, when my local Borders closed down I picked up far too many books (like you can ever have too many) and this was one of them. I don’t know why it took me so long other than both the cover and back summary kind of sounds exactly like half of the urban fantasy out there right now. And I am kinda bored with all that at the moment, which is why I have been drawn to young adult stuff lately.

It begins with Tate, an artist whose metalwork sculptures (aka loud noise and late nights) have got her kicked out of her apartment. Rent isn’t cheap in most of Manhattan, but there is a place in Gologotham, the supernatural side of New York. Not only is Tate pleased to mind that this ‘humble’ little apartment is bigger than her last one, but her landlord Hexe is adorable and one of the few Kymerans that practices only right hand magic.

Insert a teenage were-cougar, a motley of witches, centaurs, Valkyries, snarky familiars, and a plot involving illegal underground fight pits and one nasty villain and there you go.

Things I loved: I will say that Collins is great at world building. Golgotham is interesting and fun. I like the different neighborhoods. I like the fact that there is a place just for tourists. Kind of like a Chinatown but supernatural. You have Irish pubs full of leprechauns and who needs cabbies when you have centaurs. I like the idea, of the aforementioned Chinatown or Little Italy, that a group of similar individuals chose to create their own community, their own little haven within a bigger city. This is not to say that every Kymeran lives there as obviously you’d need some political and financial pull, etc and I expect that a few Kymerans have decided that the Upper East Side is more to their taste.

I also liked that Tate is normal. No wicked weapons at her disposal or magical powers. Granted she is a trust fund baby, but one that has chosen to go on her own way and on her own terms. She’s curious and creative and I would love to see some of those sculptures in real life. She’s also not without her faults. While she may talk the snarky talk, she’s much more of pacifist than I would like.

Things I didn't love so much: Unfortunately there is quite a bit of the bad. Great world building does not equal an awesome book if you dont develop your characters or your plot, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

One thing that really bugged me was that Kidron, one of the centaurs is out on the town at the local bar celebrating Hexe’s birthday aka off duty (Normally he is a cab as in hansom cab driver) His stablemate is with him and they are both wearing elaborate caparisons. This I get. Getting dressed up for the party is a bit hard since t-shirt and jeans are a bit underdressed and problematic when you are half human and half horse. But then she describes that they still wear manure catchers slung under their tails. Really? Sentient beings not only cannot be polite enough to hold their bodily functions in while just hanging out, but apparently it is quite necessary. I know that all of those debutants in sequins and lace are probably just wearing a Depends underneath it all. It bugged me. A lot. Obviously. And yes you can counter with bathroom stalls, etc but when centaurs compose quite a bit of Gologotham than you would think there would be arrangements kind of like Handicapped stalls. I am not sure why she included it.

Of course diaper wearing centaurs are the least of my nitpicking. So lets continue. While I like Tate and Hexe, their romance is superficial and forced. Especially when this is obviously the first of a series. Let me get to know them. Let them get to know each other. Wedding a human debutante and a Kymeran prince just because they’ve decided to forge their own paths despite their families and because they are both good looking isn’t enough. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t get the warm fuzzies. I wouldn’t even date Hexe, which is sad. I get that he’s the good guy, but when he is so stereotypically and superficially the good guy, a decent character gets wasted because he is neither balanced, interesting or developed. Though the same could be said for Tate when I think about it.

The plot, while it had potential, again was uneven. Maybe Collins meant it to be a one off and then by the time it went to print ROC decided that it should be a series and marketed it as such. *Shrug* I don’t know. But, like the characters, the plot was a bit forced. Not due to the actual fight club part of it, but because the villain was so cookie cutter right down to his evil henchmen. Maybe I just expect more out of Collins or apparently I need to revisit Sonja Blue again. There's just something missing from the entire book. I think its tension. There was never a moment where I didnt think that they would save the day, that they wouldn't get together, that somehow everything wouldn't fit perfectly and conveniently into place at the end. It was too easy which makes for blandless. I never got the feeling that Hexe using right hand magic was hard for him. I never got the feeling that he wasnt frakking perfect and that is incredibly monotonous.

Buy or Borrow: Sadly the world building is great which makes up for what I really didn’t love, but not enough to make me shell out money to buy the next. Borrow maybe. From the library. For free.

Part of: Tales of Golgotham

Book One: Right Hand Magic

Book Two: Left Hand Magic (due late 2011)

Also Recommended: For an interesting take on magic and an urban setting I would recommend Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series.

2.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Friday, June 10, 2011

On the Edge

On The Edge

Written by: Ilona Andrews

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Ace
Language: English
July 2006, $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Fiction

The Broken is a place where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is nothing more than a fairy tale.

The Weird is a realm where blueblood aristocrats rule and the strength of your magic can change your destiny.

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the place between both worlds. A perilous existence indeed, made even more so by a flood of magic-hungry creatures bent on absolute destruction.


+++++++++++++

As much as I love Ilona Andrews, I was a bit hesitant about their new series as I heard from a little birdie that it was a bit heavier on the romance side. The back blurb for On The Edge didn't help either as it confirmed that a bit. But I love the Kate Daniels series so eventually I gave in. I am glad that I gave it a second try.

Rose lives on the Edge, an in between place where magic lives, but you still need to get food at the local Albertsons where it does not. rose and the other residents of the Edge don’t really fit in either place. She lives with her brothers and does what she needs to do in order to survive. She thought that her magic would make their lives better. She thought wrong.

Things are tough for Rose and they only get tougher when creatures hungry for magic show up in the Edge. But they are not the only things that have arrived to make rose’s life interesting. Declan Camarine, a blueblood nobel form the Weird has his own sights set on Rose whether she likes it or not.

Things I loved: I liked this and it proved to be far more entertaining than I thought it would be. One thing I loved where the characters especially Rose’s brothers. Georgie can give life to things even if it uses his own life and Jack, well he’s a shapeshifter of sorts. They are both adorable. More than that their stories were interesting. I felt invested in both of them. I wanted to be their big sister.

The Edge is an interesting setting and there is so much left to explore and do in that world as well as the world of the Weird. And yes despite the romance bits I did like Declan. Maybe its the name. Its certainly fun to say. Say it with me. Declan. Just rolls off the tongue. Though admittedly is it wrong that I am so over the haughty and hottie hero guy? You never really read about the guy next door who woos and wins over our heroines heart. At least not in urban fantasy. They are always...more. I am not saying that they have to be all Lloyd Dobler and serenading our heroine with a boom box outside of her window (Though can I have that?), it would just be nice to have some evenly matched ‘matches’.

Anyway, so yes Declan. Not too shabby.

Finally, I dug the magic as well. It was a very visually interesting depiction with the arcs. I also really liked some of the dialogue. Maybe it was the snark. Plus they went to a comic book store in the book. Automatic gold star if you ask me.

Things I didn't love so much: Really did not like the cover. I loved Rose’s depiction (though not exactly how I pictured, but it will do) with the arcs surrounding a good old fashioned gun. However, Declan looks like a Fabio wannabe. He’s even pouting. Who does that? Meh! So not what I pictured and really pushes the romance part. This isn't a romance despite it being heavier on the lovey dovey bits.

And its not that I don’t love romance. Anyone who knows me outside of the interwebs and probably on it that I am a die hard romantic. I want the wooing, the romance and of course the comics, video games, and happy pop culture fan service like any other girly geek. Bit I am done with the bodice ripper genre. I like to watch people fall in love ala Mercy and Adam or even Kate and Mr. Kitty himself. It didn't happen overnight and certainly not over the span of a week. While I would like to believe that love at first sight does exist, I am also a bit of a realist. Hormones happen, but the instant soul mate connection, I think that is forged. I cant relate to it. While it would be super spiffy to find my knight in tarnished armor tomorrow and instantly realize that not only do I kind love him, but that I also wanted to jump his bones. Lets face it, its probably not going to happen that way.

I realize of course that showing the progression, the falling in love bits is hard when you only have 320 pages and you may be a one shot. Unless there’s a montage, but thats a bit odd in book form. So I am fairly lenient as long as the plot and character development do not get pushed aside. Those need to be just as strong if not stronger in order to keep this girly girl happy. This did okay in that respect. Even if Declan and Rose are together, its not over. Or at least I have faith that it isn't over. Rose cannot make it that easy for him. Please don’t make it that easy for him.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. If you like the Kate Daniels series this was a nice new series. And if you do like a bit more romance in your urban fantasy, you’ll probably like this as well.

Part of: The Edge Series
Book One: On The Edge
Book Two: Bayou Moon

Also Recommended: The Kate Daniels series starting with Magic Bites

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hellblazer: All His Engines

Hellblazer: All His Engines

Written by: Mike Carey

Illustrated by: Leonardo Manco
Trade: 128 pages
Publisher: Vertigo
Language: English
July 2006, $14.99
Genre: Comic/Horror

When a mysterious worldwide plague starts putting millions of people into deadly comas, Earth’s foremost expert on the bizarre, John Constantine, steps in with the “cure.” After traveling from the dreary alleys of London to the glittering boulevards of L.A., Constantine realizes that a cadre of wicked demons and hellish monsters is behind the outbreak, and he’ll have to sacrifice more than himself to put an end to the nightmare.

+++++++++++++

I adore Mike Carey. he’s up there with Whedon and Gaiman when it comes to my Geek Gods. While he hasn't been the creator of John Constantine (that would be Alan Moore) or Lucifer of the Endless (that was Gaiman), he has done such great things with those characters. But enough of my adoration of Carey (have you read his Felix Castor novels yet?) and lets talk about Mr Constantine.

He’s charming, snarly, irreverent, flawed, powerful and a dead sexy anti hero (What? I have a Sting crush too you know. And also snarky heros in general). But he is also a bastard who can be cruel, manipulative, and stubborn as all hell. If you are a friend or family member, I am sorry because death and doom, as well as heaps of misery will follow you like one of those cute little rain clouds of misery. Despite that I fancy him. A lot. I love the damaged hero, the oh shit its him mentality of those who know him and how easily he can tell the Big Bads to go frak themselves. John has had a few facelifts over the years as well as various storylines, but at the core he remains one of my favorite comic characters of all time.

Mike Carey has done a great job with his turn at my favorite smart ass magic user. And I think Carey had a lot of fun as well. In many ways Carey’s own Felix Castor is a lot like Constantine and yet different and original enough not to be an obvious clone. There must be something so wonderfully fun in writing such characters though to be honest I would rather have Felix watch my back than John.

In this outing Constantine and his best mate, Chas head from England to LA when Chas’s granddaughter Tricia falls into a mysterious coma along with children all over the world. It seems that Beroul, a particularly nasty demon and his little friends have decided to create their own little hells away from Hell and Beroul wants Constantine to eliminate the competition. What better way to do so then to have little Tricia as ransom. Of course its never fun when you may have to make a deal with even worse kind of baddie to help save the damsel in distress.

Things I loved: What did I not love. The art was beautiful, the storyline amazing. Its no wonder that every denizen in Hell would love to make John their next meal. I think that in this we see some of the best and the worst in our anti hero. "You forget yourself. I am no upstarting demon, scrabbling in the dirt of the human soul. I am Mictlantecuhtli. I am a God." John’s response, "Great stuff. I'm John -- and I'm a bastard." Its John’s acerbic wit and even Chas’s humor that Carey really excels at. Well that and a moody, frightening world where demons not only want to rule the crime syndicates but devour human souls.

Things I didn't love so much: It was over far too soon

Buy or Borrow: Buy. A worthy addition to any comics collection, especially if you are a Hellblazer fan.

Part of: Hellblazer

Also Recommended: For more Mike Carey try his Felix Castor novels or his Lucifer comic series which is amazing.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fall of Cthulhu: The Fugue

Fall of Cthulhu: The Fugue

Written by: Michael Nelson

Illustrated by: Jean Dzialowski
Trade: 128 pages
Publisher: Boom Studios
Language: English
March 2008, $14.99
Genre: Comic/Horror

Collecting the opening arc of the new smash-hit series that is taking fandom by storm! Cy is an ordinary guy with a beautiful fiancee -- until his uncle's suicide changes his life forever. Consumed with discovering the motive behind his relative's sudden and painful death, he finds notes and scribblings about a nonsense word he doesn't recognize... Cthulhu. Obsessed, he seeks out answers to questions he should have never asked. A horrifying glimpse into a modern day Lovecraftian world filled with nightmares and excursions into Lovecraft's Dreamlands!

+++++++++++++

Surprisingly, despite my geekiness, I was a late bloomer when it came to all things Lovecraft and our lovely tentacled fellow. And when I mean late, I mean about a decade ago or so. It wasn't that I didn't know who either was, but less than I do now. Even still Cthulhu is still a bit new to me. I saw this in the library and figured why not.

I will say that I think bigger fans of Cthulhu may have liked it a bit better than I did. As a relative noob, it piqued my interest, but didn't quite hold me the way that I thought it would. Would it have helped if I knew a bit more, maybe, but it might have been nice to understand the Dreamlands a bit more.

The comic begins with Abdul Alhazred who will eventually write the Necromonicon. Alhazred’s prequel of sorts is short lived as we are thrust into the present where we meet a young Masters student at Miskatonic University named Cy. As he and his girlfriend Jordan sit at a cafe, Cy’s uncle Walt arrives, rants briefly, throws a bag on the table then proceeds to blow his brains out. As Cy looks into his uncle’s death, The Calling and more he finds himself in the Dreamlands, and his entire world begins to fall apart.

Things I loved: The differences in art was kind of nice. When we are in the real world, the art is your typical comic realism. bit in the Dreamlands, the art is far different. The coloring is brighter, more garish and the art in general feels like a throwback comic. Its a nice touch and it makes the Dreamlands all that more surreal.

I like how Cy is that ordinary Joe Blow kind of guy and he stumbles into something he shouldn't have. He’s just a guy, no superpowers, no preternatural insight into all that is happening. He’s normal. Actually, he’s kind of boring. And then everything hits the fan. I think that is one of the draws to Lovecraft in general. Its the horror, the madness that can happen to anyone. It could happen to you or me or your next door neighbor. Sometimes curiosity did kill the cat and satisfaction is not bringing him back.

Admittedly, the story overall is just a shade predictable and I was surprised how human even the supernatural players were. But I loved the knife/Jordan story-line even when I knew how it was going to turn out.

Things I didn't love so much: I am not sure that I would pick up another volume of the trades. I don’t have any one issue why I didn't immediately fall in love with the series, but I wasn't enraptured. The dialogue, especially at the beginning of the book is a bit painful. As in it reminded me of the bad dialogue and acting from the movie version of Dagon.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. I think if you are a bigger fan of the Cthulhu mythos than you would like it much better than I did.

Part of: Cthulhu: the Fall.

Also Recommended: For Lovecrafty goodness I might suggest China Meiville’s Kraken, for horror comics Joe Hill’s Locke and Key series and of course anything by Mr. Lovecraft.

2.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Psych: Call of the Mild


Psych: Call of the Mild

Written by: William Rabkin
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Signet
Language: English
January 2010, $7.99
Genre: Fiction/TV Series

Based on the hit USA Network series

A new novel fans will be totally "psyched" about...

Shawn Spencer has convinced everyone he's psychic.

Now, he's either going to clean up-or be found out...

Shawn Spencer has always hated the wilderness-by which he means anything outside the delivery radius of his favorite pizza place. But Psych has been hired to solve a baffling case of industrial espionage, and the only way to catch the spy is to join their client's bonding retreat-a grueling seven day backpacking mountain trek.

But when one of the campers turns up with a bullet in the head, Shawn and Gus soon realize that sheer cliffs, rampaging bears, and freeze- dried pineapple aren't the greatest threats they face.


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Anyone who knows me knows that I love Psych. Its a great show that has enough 80’s and pop culture geekiness in to make a girly geek such as myself quite sated. I love Gus and Shawn. My sister and U enjoy the show so much that one year for her birthday I got her a cake that had ‘banana: a yellow fruit, also a tasty pudding, a delicious pudding’ on it from the Spelling Bee episode. Those who just laughed because they remember that episode, I heart you, plus psychic high five. In short, if its Psych related I’ll probably read it.

Now William Rabkin has dine the last few Psych novels and while none of them were so horrid that the books made their way into my Used Book Bin, none of them have been so amazing that I did Numfar’s Dance of Joy. There is something missing in each of the novels that keep them from being truly awesome. This is not to say that they are not enjoyable reads. I like them, but they are no Spelling Bee episode.

Shawn and Gus are hired to find a missing necklace, but as per usual things are a bit more complicated then that. Not only does Henry, Shawn’s dad, get involved but a missing necklace turns into a murder with gun wielding mimes, and a wilderness corporate retreat where everyone keeps dying.

Things I loved: Gus makes me smile. And it makes me giggle like a school girl picturing Dule Hill having Gus get lost and dehydrated not in the jungle, but at a local nature park that has a kiddy train running through it. Cause lets face it, he’d rock. Gus is a great character and I think Rabkin had his characterization pretty spot on in this outing. Everyone else was good as well, but sometimes just a bit off and Shawn seemed a bit more annoying than usual.

I still get the usual banter, off the wall plot, tidy episodic ending. I could actually picture a lot of this as a great episode, but as I have said before in previous Psych novel reviews that it seems like the novels are cast off episode ideas that have never really managed to make it to air due to one problem or another.

And yet I laughed out loud a couple of times while reading this so that has to say something.

Things I didn't love so much: It was a bit mish mash. The missing necklace bit and the murder felt like a different novel when compared to the wilderness retreat story. Its just a bit jumbled. They needed a bigger boat, err...book.

I think this may be the weakest of the tie-ins when viewed as a whole. I keep expecting them to get better, for one of them to really capture me and ask why is this not an episode.

As I said before the chracters other than Gus were a bit off. Shawn is kind of whiny, annoying and bratty. While I enjoyed Henry’s fray into Rock Band camp, there were other bits that had me scratching my head, such as his age.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. If you have bought the other ones I know you will be like me and I buy it, but if this is your first foray into Psych novel land I might just skip it as it is off the mark.

Part of: The Psych Series.
Book One: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read

Book Two: Mind Over Magic

Book Three: The Call of the Mild

Book Four: A Fatal Frame of Mind

Book Five: Mind-Altering Murder


Also Recommended: If you haven't watched the tv series please do, its wonderful. For fun crime series I might suggest JD Robb’s Eve Dallas series. If you like USA tv series there are also books on Monk and Burn Notice.

2.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks