Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig Review

Another terrific cover for Wendig's collection.
I have become fond of Chuck Wendig's work. I love his writing style. He has a knack for deliciously dark and twisted stories with colorful characters and dialogue which I wish I sounded like in real life. This story is no different. The story of Mookie Pearl is an exciting one which is just what you want and expect from Wendig and so much more.

I have to be honest. For some reason I did not have high expectations for this book. I'm not really sure why. I like urban fantasy. I just remember reading an early synopsis, and not gaining much interest. I bought the book though, because I like the author. I'm really glad I did.

The story revolves around protagonist Mookie Pearl; a soldier and drug pusher for "The Organization" which controls the literal underworld  under New York City. This particular drug is called the blue blazes. A drug that gives you a high like any other, but while your riding said high the scales fall from your eyes. What does that mean? Well, there are a lot of different kinds of people in New York. Not different ethnicities or nationalities, mind you, but folk your bound to find in a fantasy novel. The drug allows you to see different creatures who normally resemble humans for who they really are. Mookie pushes this drug. He finds the drug. He pushes it. He deals with what has to be dealt with. He's a soldier. It's what he does.

One of the major themes in this story is family. Mookie's relationship with his daughter plays a huge part. She goes by the name Persophone on the street as she attempts to take down The Organization. When the boss of The Organization is dying and a conspiracy is threatening The Organization itself, Mookie must choose between the love for his daughter who hates him and his loyalty for his employers.

Mookie is a great hero. Something I didn't expect when I began. He's likable and misunderstood. He's not your average hero, but that's why he works. His relationship with his daughter creates a lot of heart for the story. It's very real, and not always pretty, but that's what ultimately makes it satisfying in the end. He's a big guy with a big heart that is hard to see through layers of muscle, fat, and scar tissue.

The world that Wendig creates is one of the best things about the book. It's an interesting vision of New York. Enough fantasy for those who crave the supernatural, but gritty and realistic at the same time. It's a world you can believe in. It's similar to something like Hellboy, but it feels like a story all it's own. I love that he uses mythological creatures that aren't the usual orcs, elves, etc. There are snake men, golems, Lovecraftian gods, and half human half whatever you can think of. 

A criminal underworld on top of a literal one, 5 types of legendary drugs, and an awesome supernatural conspiracy trying to turn it all upside down. It's one hell of a story. I loved this book, and can't wait for the next Mookie Pearl adventure. I would also like to say that the cover is another great for Wendig's collection.

I wish the guy who did this and the Miriam Black covers(if they are the same guy) would do every book cover from now on. I guy can dream.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gone South by Robert McCammon

McCammon is quickly becoming my favorite author. His stories of incredible situations and characters continue to fascinate me and become some of my favorite stories. This book is no different.

Gone South is the story of Dan Lambert, a Vietnam vet struggling through a recession. He has cancer he believes is caused by agent orange. The last thing he has to his name is his truck and now the bank wants to repossess his last real possession. During an argument Dan kills the bank's loan manager in self defense and goes on the run to a journey through south Louisiana and the bayou shanty towns that where life is essentially the wild west. On the way Dan meets a young girl named Arden Halliday. Gorgeous except for a large, dark birth mark on the side of her face. She's looking for a faith healer named the Bright Girl who may have the ability to take her birth mark away. On their journey the are tracked by two unorthodox bounty hunters. I could describe the two, but it's much better if it hits you off guard. Believe me, it's worth it.

Gone South is a story about destiny. It's about being lost about how everything happens for a reason, and how if you hold on and keep going you will arrive at the right destination. Even if wasn't the one you were looking for. Each character in the story is lost in some way or another. The book is about finding yourself and your place in life. To quote the book itself "It's not where you are the matters; it's where your going that counts."

I'm not sure how accurate it is, but I really liked McCammon's vision of south Louisiana. The lawless Cajun community is fascinating. Considering how popular shows like Swamp People are currently, it wouldn't be a surprise if those same fans find an interest in this. 

The novel is really great at being unpredictable. Your never sure where the character's are going to end up, and where they do will blow you away.

Gone South is a great hopeful novel about destiny. The last thirty pages of the book are fantastic and will honestly make you feel better about the world. Well, for at least a couple hours. But isn't that what great stories are? An escape? If so this novel is a great one.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lamb by Christopher Moore Review

 This is a book about Jesus. This book is fucking funny. This book might offend you if you have weak beliefs/no sense of humor/ are an uppity jackass who feels like they need to spend their time attacking something because it makes them uncomfortable. Now that that is done.

This book is the funniest thing I have ever read. Several times I found myself chuckling like a maniac joke after joke with  everyone who may have been in the room staring about me as if they were confirming my suspicions. While the children of today would wonder why I'm laughing at that strange bunch of paper in my hand that seems to be glued together at one end. They would run to their parents who were attempting to sleep on the park benches during the fifteen minutes a day they didn't have to entertain their children or bosses, and fill their heads with ridiculous questions while the parents would suddenly wonder how they raised such stupid children. I would then question what I'm doing in a park full of children(isn't that how people get arrested these days?), and head home to finish my novel in peace.

Lamb, as the cover of the book suggests is the Gospel according to Biff: Christ's childhood pal. Indeed Levi who is called Biff is the protagonist and narrator. The story goes that Biff was Jesus' best friend and is now being brought back from the dead to write a new chapter in the Bible from his point of view.

Jesus in this text is referred to as Joshua(Which is actually the English version of his actual name Yeshua. Look it up). I like this because it is much easier to relate to a character named Josh than a character named Jesus. Josh is a terrific character. Witty and likeable, but retaining all the values of what made up Jesus Christ while still being relate-able and actually a little flawed. That's the biggie. Something I loved which a lot of people will hate is that Josh is not perfect. I've never understood why people make a big fuss about this. Isn't just as inspiring that a real human being with flaws who overcame those flaws achieved the things that Jesus of Nazareth did? I guess not. Most people want to believe their idols are all perfect. Jesus was perfect, George Washington chopped down that cherry tree, and Ben Franklin certainly discovered electricity. Yep it definitely wasn't the Greek scientists thousands of years before. Nope it was Ben "Granny fucking" Franklin. If your wondering why I gave one of the founding fathers, who I do believe was a brilliant man by the way, that nickname. Do some research on Franklin's theories about sex. Yes, children, the founding fathers did have premarital sex like normal human beings despite the theory that they were genitalia-less arch-angels sent from God via manifest destiny.

Back from my rant to the actual book I am reviewing. Josh and Biff are a great duo. Josh is everything you want in a Messiah. A kind, wise, and down to Earth philosopher who you could definitely see people wanting to rally behind. Biff is a great foil. He is loud, rude,sarcastic, and as the angel Raziel refers to him in the prologue, an asshole. Though a dick, Biff does have a heart and it shows through in his narration. He is more the street-wise equivalent to Josh. He does the bad but necessary things so Josh doesn't have to. Other characters from the Bible include Mary Magdalene, known as as Maggie, Mary, Joseph, The three wise men, John the Baptist, and of course all the disciples.

Christopher Moore's comedic timing is perfect. He master's comedy in writing like no one I've ever read. The jokes hit hard every time, but never fail to make the bring down the story and tone. The story is heartfelt and serious when it needs to be. It explores the missing years of Jesus' life for the first two acts and respectable depicts the years that are covered in the Bible. Never failing to make the reader laugh, and just as unimportant, never failing to make the reader feel.

I loved this book. It's a fantastic read for anyone looking to laugh at a great story. It's a terrific piece of fiction about Jesus and is respectful so anyone can enjoy it whether they or religious or not. If you are offended by this book or simply the plot of it let me leave you with a quote by the author, "This story is not and never as meant to challenge anyone's faith; however, if one's faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, one may have a bit more praying to do."-Christopher Moore

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A look at Bane (Warning Dark Knight Rises Spoilers)

*Warning: The following post contains heavy spoilers for the Dark Knight Rises. If you have not seen that film; get to the theater the fastest way possible and watch it. Then come back and read this if you like. I would appreciate if you did both.*

I loved The Dark Knight Rises. I wanted to do a review, but figured it was sort of pointless. Especially now that if you haven't seen the movie you probably won't. One of the things I loved most was Bane. Tom Hardy was terrific. His voice fit the character perfectly, and he was intimidating as hell. There were several scenes where I was speechless afterward. He was absolutely nothing like the comic Bane, but the Nolan Batman films were hardly close to the comics. He was Nolan's creation; comic Bane in name only.

I recently ran into a friend of mine in a bookstore(mostly because I hate hipsters, and I was going to go glare at them) and asked him what he thought of the movie. He didn't like it. As of now the only people I know who didn't love that film are him and that critic who got all the death threats on Rotten Tomatoes. One of the reasons he said he did not like the film was Bane. What? I asked. Bane was one of my favorite parts. The specific reason, he claimed, was that Bane really didn't do anything except beat people up. He said everything else was actually Talia. I thought about this, and agreed to a point. His statement actually got me to realize what Bane essentially was; a mask.

What is one of the common themes Of Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy? That Bruce Wayne is actually Batman's mask. That when Bruce Wayne created Batman; he himself ceased to exist. There was now only Batman. Batman then created the mask of the fictionalized Bruce Wayne,(the playboy womanizer type that Gotham believed him to always be.) and used that as a mask to hide who he now was; The Batman. The same is true for Bane and Talia. Though the situation with them is a bit more diabolical.

Okay, we know the story from the film. Talia was the daughter of  Ras al Ghul(Liam Neeson from Batman Begins.)and the daughter of a warlord. Her mother was banished to a secret prison while she was pregnant with her. After she gave birth her mother died, and Talia was taken under the protection of Bane who helped her escape. Bane was attacked during her escape and permanently wounded, but was rescued from the prison by Talia and Ras later. Talia and Bane later try to recreate her father's vision during the events of The Dark Knight Rises.

One of the major complaints I heard was that we never learn much about Bane. Well, yeah. That's the point. We learn just enough to know how he met Talia. That's all we should know. Revealing more would ruin the character. Bane even says in the movie that he was nobody before he wore the mask. Nobody cared who he was. It's what separates Batman from any other vigilante. Bane himself is a mask of Talia's. One of two obviously; the other being Miranda Tate. Talia could not have been the poster child for Bane's group. An incredibly muscular masked man is a better leader for an anarchist group than a beautiful woman. Obviously Talia was the mastermind giving Bane all the order's. This relationship is almost abusive in a way, because of the vibe we get from Bane towards Talia. He seems ready to do anything she says even if it risks his own life. He follows her implicitly.You see this in the last and only moment between Bane and Talia where the compassion in Bane's eyes is almost heartbreaking. Like a loyal dog who somehow knows this is the last time it will see it's master. Bane is not afraid; he is only afraid of failing Talia. Bane lacks this fear of death. He is able to ignore it and be unafraid. This allows his followers to be inspired by him, and possibly die in say a plane crash if it serves his cause.

This is why, like Bruce Wayne is Batman's mask, Bane is Talia's mask. He may be physically causing the conflict, but she is pulling the strings and making the decision. I guess a puppet/puppeteer analogy would be more accurate, but I like the mask metaphor. Also, it parallels Batman. Especially how most Batman antagonists mirror him. Most dealing with insanity, and he himself being a guy who dresses a bat and fights crime. They all reflect him in some way. Especially in the Nolan movies.

This analogy is also how I see Bane's conclusion in the film. Most people thought it was a little abrupt. Bane just getting blasted by Bat-cycle(or whatever it's called.). Well think about it. Let's just say I'm right,(hold on, I think hell just dropped a few degrees.) and Bane is supposed to be Talia's mask. Well, just a few minutes before she took off her mask; revealing herself as the child of Ras al Ghul. What good is a mask when your cover is blown? Also, we learned that Bane was a real person. We got to see such raw humanity in those amazing eyes of Hardy's. Bane loved something. He wasn't the monster we assumed him to be. Not completely. So the mask no longer had the same effect.

Or, at least that's how I like to look at it. It probably was that they had to speed things up for the climax. Nevertheless Bane and Talia were great characters in a great movie, which was a conclusion to a great trilogy. I really wanted to write about this. I would love to know what you think.

Swan Song by Robert McCammon Review

The post-apocalypse. What a splendidly morbid setting. So many things can be done in the future wasteland, yet most post-apocalyptic fiction generally feels the same. Not Swan Song.

A nuclear war. Good VS Evil. A young girl named Swan, whose only protection is a worn out wrestler named Josh; who may be the world's only hope. Sister and the glowing ring. The man with the scarlet eye.
Colonel Macklin and the Shadow Soldier, Roland Croninger: the "king's knight". So many great characters. All of which will affect Swan's journey of becoming the last best hope for the human race.

Let me attempt to recite the plot without giving any spoilers: After a nuclear attack; the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, has become a wasteland. Humanity's only hope is a young girl named Swan who may be able to breath life into the dead Earth. Along people will try to protect her from those who wish to harm her.

That is about all I can say without giving too much away, but there is so much more to story than what  I just wrote. This is a book about hope in a world where there is none. About how humanity might be worth saving after it nearly destroyed itself.

There is a small detail that a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction forget about. Hope. Pelting the reader with death and despair. Only to show us a sliver of hope, and hinting that possibly; the world might be saveable. Or even better; worth Saving. This is something that Swan Song exceeds in. You feel how important Swan is, and realize why people would give their lives to protect her. The giant battered wrestler, Josh; and the tough stubborn Sister.

One thing that surprised me about the book is that there are certain parts which genuinely scared me. I'll just write the name of the character(Or at least the name that the characters gave him; his actually name is never revealed; though I'm fairly certain it rhymes with the level.) The man with the Scarlet eye, the man who likes movies, and the most disturbing in context; Friend. He is the head antagonist, and does whatever he can do strip all the hope out of the hopeless wasteland of that nuclear war left the human race.

The two other antagonists are also great. Their story is just as interesting as the other characters without interacting with the protagonists until two thirds into the book. This may sound strange, but it gives the characters time to grow and change. The story keeps you hooked. It constantly keeps the tension up while you are wondering when they are going to meet. I can tell you; when they do, you will not be let down. 

This story is so much different than I thought: in so many great ways. Robert Mccammon is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. He knows how to shape a truly original story that is difficult to predict. I loved this book, It is one of my favorite books of all time,  and recommend it to anyone who loves post-apocalyptic fiction. Or books that are just plain great.

I have heard this book compared to Stephen King's The Stand. I have never read the stand, but from what I've heard; they sound similar plot wise. One thing I would love to see is Swan Song made into a miniseries. The book is around 900 pages, so I don't think a movie could fit in all the important details. Sadly, Robert Mccammon has been ignored when it comes to Hollywood. I don't know why, but there a lot of things about Hollywood that I will never understand. Anyway, Swan Song is terrific. Go buy it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Movie Review

What is with the skull in the moon?
Ugh...Ugh, ugh, ugh, fucking ugh. I want to say this, Seth Grahame Smith is a terrific author. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter(the book) is one of my favorite. It is a dramatic retelling of a great man with a supernatural twist. Unholy Night is an epic re-imagining of the three wise men and How To Survive a Horror Movie is one of the funniest books I have ever read. I have not read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so I can't attest to it. But it seems that he is not a very good screen writer, because he wrote the screenplay to the film adaptation of Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I have not seen Tim Burton's last film, Dark Shadows which he wrote also. What I have heard isn't good though. This movie is badly written. It really hurts me to say that. Grahame Smith is probably one of my favorite authors, but this movie isn't good. Almost every great line and scene in the book has been taken out. Even if you try to judge it alone without the source material; it's still bad. The more I think about it, the more I dislike it.

Timur Bekmambetov must have a clause in his contract that says every adaptation he makes must be drastically different then the source material. Fans of the Wanted comic books will know what I mean. That said, I really enjoyed Wanted. Okay, I want to stop comparing the movie to the book. To help me with this I am going to list all the things that were added to the film, and were not in the book. I am only going to list the things that bothered me, because there is too much for the rest. Okay here we go. (Breathes in real deep). Abe's super strength, the vampire's super strength, Abe's karate skills, Abe hurling the axe like a katana, he turns the axe into a fucking gun!, the vampires weakness to silver, the vampires ability to turn fucking invisible, ridiculous over-the-top action scenes, the vampire's biblical roots, and a complete disregard for historical accuracy. Meaning the book is very accurate(if you take out the vampire stuff, you still have a pretty decent tale of Lincoln's life). Okay, for the rest of his review I will not mention the book.

You know the gist. Abe Lincoln's mom was killed by a vampire, so he dedicates his life to killing them.  Along the way he meets a man named Henry who helps him, becomes president of the United States, and wins the Civil War. The acting in the movie is very good. Benjamin Walker plays Honest Abe pretty well. The extremely underrated Dominic Cooper is great as Abe's vampire hunting teacher, Henry Sturges. The equally underrated Rufus Sewell and Anthony Mackie play the main antagonist and Abe's best friend. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also great as Mary Todd Lincoln.There is also a cameo by my buddy Alan Tudyk. Yes, he is my buddy! We fly around space having adventures, play games in my basement, and sing a special song he likes to call "Please let me go, I want to see my family!". I just smile, laugh, and say "Oh Wash, you're such a kidder. He then cries tears of joy, and we go back to watching Firefly. Wait, where was I?

The pacing in the film is terrible. Some scenes are paced well, but some feel extremely boring. Abe's childhood scenes are glanced over. They are basically ignored. The movie does not even try to be historically accurate. You don't even get to see Lincoln's assassination! One of the most important parts of a damn Lincoln biography, and the movie doesn't even show it.

The most annoying thing about the movie is the action scenes. There is really only one good action scene which takes place in a mansion. Even that is plagued by the most annoying gimmick in the movie. SLOW FUCKING MOTION! There is more slow motion is this movie than there is regular motion. It even does that Zach Snyder shit where it slows down and then speeds up. This makes all the movements look very unnatural, and it makes it hard to get immersed in the movie. Also CGI. The movie is very stylish. To a fault actually. There are many huge set pieces that are entirely computer generated. Wide shots of DC and Gettysburg that just look fake. This also affects the climax where CGI fog make it so you cannot see anything. The whole movie is also shot through a grainy filter that makes it look like a History Channel reenactment. Huh, maybe that was the point.

Anyway, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is disappointing. Especially since it was written by the same guy as the terrific book and had a very good director. This should have been better. If you really want to see it, I recommend renting it later. Do not waste your money at the theater. Instead use that money to go to your local book store and buy the book. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Crooked Tree (short story)

(The story below is my submission to Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenge at his website Direct link here . The story was an idea I had at two o'clock in the morning. Kept me up, but  I enjoyed writing it. I will warn you, it's a bit morbid. I would probably label this under horror. The image of the tree is from Wendig's website, and taken by him personally.)

Photo from
“I would never kill myself.”  Those words haunted him more than thought of actually committing the deed. Deed. What a sick way of describing such a horrible act. His mind always did this, narrating his life whenever he was alone. Either by himself, or in a group. Yes, anyone can feel alone in a group. Even more so than when they are by themselves. 

Ugh, he’s doing it again. He got this way whenever he went to visit the tree. A scary act of nature it was. A warped tree in the middle of nowhere near his family’s old house. The crooked tree, he called it as a child. He stared at a bit of mold-ridden rope tied around it. Probably used for a tire swing…probably. Everything had a tint of grey out in these woods. Looked like an old photograph a family would take while colonizing the frontier. Sitting in rocking chairs showing off their rifles and shotguns. Looking directly at the camera, but not smiling. No, of course not smiling. Since he was a kid, when everything else was too much or whenever his head hurt from the stress. He liked to come down, go out to the woods, and just stare at the crooked tree. 

 He had an awful headache lately. His grades were plummeting to an all-time low, or so he thought. His professors despised him, or so he thought.  His girlfriend was sleeping with another guy, or so he thought. He was also certain that his roommate was secretly contemplating his murder, or so he fucking thought! He let a good yell and began punching the tree in frustration. Wincing at the pain, but enjoying it nonetheless. He wanted to do it right here. Blow his brains out right on to the damned plant. His blood and grey matter fertilizing the soil around the tree. Becoming part of it….

No, he thought. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Imagining the apathetic, unsurprised look on his classmates faces as they heard the news. His girlfriend having to fake grief in front of his parents as she rolled her eyes when they weren’t looking. Wishing that she was with the asshole that she was cheating on him with. If she was unhappy why didn’t she just say so? No, fuck that. He would not end as a tragedy. 

Thoughts of this nature always came about when he was here. He wondered why that was. Why themes of morbidity always resonated with him near the tree. He stared at the blood his knuckles had left on the bark. He wanted to continue beating his fists into the wood, but held back. A strange sensation came over him when he saw his own blood on the bark. It was a feeling of satisfaction, of accomplishment. It didn’t feel like him though. If he didn’t know any better, it felt like it was coming from the tree. Like a heartbeat trying to sync up with his. Like it was trying to speak to him. Like it was calling him. He had this feeling before. Many times before, in this very spot. It was scaring him senseless, and it always had.  In fact, he couldn’t think of a single good time he had with the hunk of wood. He was a happy kid. Wasn’t he? Yes, yes he was. Except when he came here. To his family’s old house. To the Crooked Tree. He was drawn to it. He stared up at the mold-ridden rope. He recognized it. Not as the beginning of a tire swing, but as the beginning of his first and only suicide attempt. The realization struck him like a bolt of lightning. He tried to kill himself here during his senior year of high school. Why didn’t he remember that? Why would he come back here? His senior year was one of the best of his life. He was happy then. He…he was happy now. None of the things he was distraught over were true. They felt true. No: his professors seemed to like him, his girlfriend seemed to love him, and he didn’t have a roommate! Did he even remember driving here? What day of the week it was? What month? Why did the lies feel so real?  Then it hit him. He stared up at the crooked tree. At where his blood lay on the bark. He only had suicidal thoughts when he was standing where he was now. He was happy the rest of the time. Yet he kept being drawn to this place. He turned away from the tree and started walking. The feeling of satisfaction pulling at him, yet draining with every step. He popped some painkillers for his headaches, got in his car, and drove away. He wanted to leave this place and never return to the crooked tree. He managed the first one.