Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

I got an advanced copy of The Emerald Atlas in the mail the other day. It's a young adult fantasy novel about three orphans who find a magic book.

My feelings on this novel are somewhat mixed. On the one hand, I enjoyed reading the book. The plot was reasonably exciting and fairly fast paced once it got moving. The premise was bit shaky in spots; in ancient times wizards made three super powerful magical books, any one of which could grant near god-like powers, but somehow their city was destroyed by Alexander the Great, and the books were lost. I know if I had those three books, it would take a lot more than Alexander the Great to stop me.

The main problem with the book is the language. I've read plenty of books written for teens and even children. For many of them, I wouldn't know they were written for younger people if it didn't say so in the book.  This is not one of those books. This is one of those books where the language is dumbed down, sometimes to an almost condescending level.

This isn't a bad book, but it's not all that great either. I might be tempted to pick up the rest of the series, but the author really needs to learn not to talk down to his readers.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist

I got a copy of Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Linqvust from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. I didn't really care much for this book for several reasons. It's not really a bad book. In fact I think it's pretty good, but it's really not for me.

First off, this is being marketed as a horror novel, but isn't really a horror novel at all. Yes there are reanimated corpses, but I tend to be of the opinion that, much like vampires, that doesn't make a horror novel. What horror needs is to be horrifying. This book is not horrifying in any way. The titular undead aren't standard flesh eaters. They don't kill people. They're figures of pity, not terror.

Secondly, I don't much care for the translation. This is an American edition of the book, but the publishers seem to have gone with a British translation. I know what the British words mean, but for an American audience, you'd be better off using a translation geared for Americans.

Thirdly, this book is kind of slow moving. The dead come back. The government hauls them off. Their families fret a bit. Some try to hide the "reliving." Really, there's far to little action.

This is the sort of book that's supposed to make you think, and it does that, but fiction should also be entertaining, and this really wasn't very entertaining at all. I give it three yo-yos.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Reapers Are the Angels

I was lucky enough to get a copy of The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. I must say that I am very glad I did. Ever since I was a little kid and I first saw Night of the Living Dead, I've had fascination with zombies. The scarier the better.

This book, however, isn't scary. Despite having zombies in it, I wouldn't really classify it as horror.  That's okay though, because it's still a great book and who says zombies have to be horrifying? It's written entirely in the present tense, except for a few flashbacks, which normally annoys the hell out of me. That's okay too, because it's done in a way that I don't actually care about that. There are quite a few nit-picky concerns, like why is there still edible food in abandoned stores 20 years after a zombie apocalypse, and why is the power still on in so many places, and how is it so easy to find a working car, and why are the roads still passable instead of clogged with weeds and crumbling? That's okay, too, because the narrative is great enough that while I noticed these things, I was able to ignore them.

The only thing that I didn't like so much was the ending, which kind of came out of the blue, and in theme at least, kind of reminded me of the original ending to Brian Keene's The Rising, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I really like this book. a lot.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Zombies vs. Unicorns Day 5: The Last Zombie

I haven't read it yet since it isn't out yet, but I might as well use the final day of my Zombies v. Unicorns Week to plug Brian Keene's upcoming comic, The Last Zombie. The first issue is scheduled to be released next week.  It's the story of what happens after the zombie apocalypse ends. The last zombie in the title is one of the main characters, a scientist on a journey across the country who has become the last person to be infected with the zombie plague and just wants to see his wife one last time before he turns. That;s pretty much all I know about it, since it isn't out yet, but I can say that I'll be reading it, and you should too.

Edit  6/26/10: Coolness. Brian was nice enough to give me a copy of The Last Zombie #1 at the Commix Connection Creator Cookout today. It is a freaking awesome comic. The story promises to be exciting, and the artwork is terrific. If you like zombies, you don't want to miss this!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Zombies vs. Unicorns Day 4: Some Zombie Videos

My stomach's been feeling a bit queasy all day, so I'm not quite up to doing my usual little book "review," but rather than abandon Zombies Vs. Unicorns Week,I thought Id share a few of my favorite zombie videos from YouTube.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Zombies vs. Unicorns Day 3: Musical Interlude

Rather than doing a review today, I thought I do a musical interlude using 8 Tracks. Let's start off with my Zombie Mix which I put together last year.  Most of the tracks come from the FuMP. I really love this mix:

Next is the Unicorn mix, which I just threw together. I actually had a hard time with this, since most unicorn songs I could find seem to be either cover's of Shel Silverstein's "Unicorn Song," covers of America's "Last Unicorn," or instrumentals. The Brobdingnagian Brads, Tom Smith, America, and John Anealio tracks are from my library. The rest are randomly chosen songs other people uploaded to 8Tracks that have unicorn in the title. I have no idea how appropriate they are since I can only listen to 30 seconds of them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Zombies vs. Unicorns Day 2: Moon Walker

For day 2 of Zombies vs. Unicorns Week, let's move on to zombies.  I might as well start by talking about a book I just read last week, Rick Hautala's Moon Walker, which (despite the title) has nothing to do with Michael Jackson. Since the author has two previous books with Moon in the title, I assume it was some lame publishing attempt to create some sort of name recognition or something.

While this is a zombie novel, it is not a zombie apocalypse novel. The zombies in this book are a strange cross between traditional Voodoo zombies and Romero-esque horror zombies. They are created through a magical Voodoo potion to do hard labor, like Voodoo zombies, but they also eat human flesh like the horror zombies.

While scary enough, this book tends to be a little slow moving.  It doesn't take the reader long to figure  out that the local mortician with the creepy eye is the evil mastermind who's reanimating the dead to work the potato fields, but it takes the characters forever to work it out.  The zombies don't become any sort of a real presence until the last third of the book, and even then they're fairly easy for the heroes to take care of.

While this sin't the best zombie novel I've ever read, it's not really bad--just mediocre. I give it 3 yo-yos.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Zombies vs. Unicorns Day 1: The Last Unicorn

I saw a contest for a book called Zombies vs. Unicorns on this blog here. Since I can get bonus points for hosting my own Zombies. vs. Unicorns week, I figured why not? I have plenty of zombie books lying around the house that I haven't reviewed, and even a couple of unicorn books. So to start off the week, I thought I'd write a quick review of one of my favorite fantasy novels of all time, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, which was also turned into one of my favorite animated films of all time, which I won't actually link to since the people who have the rights to it decided to be dicks and rip off Beagle.

It's the story of a unicorn who discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world. Despite the fact that unicorns are by nature solitary creatures, she decides to set out to discover the fate of her people. Along the way she meets a rather inept wizard and quite a few other people that I don't want to get into since I generally try to avoid spoilers.

This is a truely great story, full of magic, adventure, ill-fated romance, and heroism.  If you can find a copy, I'd recommend getting the deluxe edition, which includes the follow-up short story, "Two Hearts." "Two Hearts" is one of the best, saddest short stories I've ever read. This is the sort of book that I can't hesitate to give 5 yo-yos to.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

Stories: All-New Tales is very nearly the perfect short story collection. It's a very eclectic collection; there are fantasy stories, horror stories, science fiction stories, and general fiction. As Gaiman says in his introduction, the editors wanted to put together stories that are designed to make the reader ask. "...and then what happened?" Almost all of the stories do this and do it well.

Notice that I said almost. There are two exception to this. Chuck Palahniuk's "story," "Loser," quite frankly sucks. I would barely even qualify it as a story. It's about a frat boy on acid who goes on a game show that seems to be The Price Is Right as written by someone who's never actually seen the show.  There is pretty much no action at all, and nothing of any interest whatsoever happens. Also, it's written in the second person present tense, which is really annoying.

The other exception is Michael Moorcock's "Stories," which is at least a story, just a boring one. This is rather surprising coming from the man behind the Eternal Champion series, since I know he can write a good story (I've never actually read anything by Palahniuk). This is a long rambling story about the life of an editor and his slightly nutso writer friend written as a sort of reminiscence. It's not really very interesting.

The rest of the stories range from great to pretty darn good. Gaiman's "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains" is excellent, as you would expect from a writer of Gaiman's caliber. Walter Mosley's "Juvenal Nyx" has great potential as a series character. Joe Hill's "The Devil on the Staircase" is written in a format similar to concrete poetry, but is a very good tale. Al Sarrantonio's "Cult of the Nose" is a great weird story.  Really all of the other stories are good. Most of them could very well have been the stand out story in any other anthology. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see this being nominated for--and probably winning--several awards.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Iron Man 2 (the novelization, not the movie)

I got an advance  copy of the Iron Man 2novelization by Alexander Irvine.  I really didn't expect too much from this book; it's the novelization of a superhero movie, and novelizations generally suck. This one doesn't quite suck, but it isn't exactly a great book either.

I'm going to guess that most of this isn't Irvine's fault. I mean he is pretty much stuck with the plot and dialogue from the movie, so he can't really take much in the way of creative liberties with that stuff. He is essentially stuck with whatever crap the studio churned out, and believe me, much of this is crap.

The plot itself is OK. It moves pretty fast, and didn't have many gapingly obvious holes. There's plenty of fight scenes and explosions, and all the sort of things that makes the movie seem guaranteed to be a blockbuster. It also tends to make the book fairly exciting.

The dialogue is another matter entirely. Even Irvine seemed to realize this, as he refers to the very lame attempts at humor as frat boy style jokes. Here's a prime example, "So you're telling me you're proud of the fact that Hammer filled your vacuum?" Ha ha, isn't that funny? Assuming you're either really drunk or high, it is. Otherwise, it's lame, as is most of the dialogue.

The characters all come across as lame and two dimensional, except Tony Stark. He comes across as lame, two-dimensional, and an unlikeable jerk. I kept hoping the bad guy would kick his ass, but was sadly disappointed.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


I was lucky enough to get a freee review copy if Joe Hill's Horns. I've read Hill's other novel and the short story collection, and enjoyed them, so I was very happy to get a free copy of this. After I read it, I was even happier. This is a great book. It's part horror, part mystery, part tale of revenge, and part part philosophy on morality. It's about a guy named Ig Perrish, who grows a set of horns.

These horns give him some unusual powers. People feel compelled to share their darkest secrets with him. He can make them act out their secret desires. By touching people, he can know their whole story.

Ig soon realizes how useful this would be, because he's a man with a problem. One year ago, his love, Merrin Williams, was brutally raped and murdered. Despite his innocence, Ig was the only suspect. Unfortunately, the physical evidence was destroyed in a lab fire, and Ig was never cleared. Now Ig would have the chance to find out who the killer was.

On the way, Ig learns quite a lot about the nature of good and evil. He develops a philosophy about the place  of the devil in creation. He comes up with a new take on morality. OK, and he kicks some ass, eventually.

Seriously, this is an awesome book. Read it. Read it NOW!