Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

I found Clarke's journalistic writing style engaging. This, coupled with short, tight, chapters, made for a novel that moved along at a fast clip. Although, I found the premise intriguing, overall it seemed like a bit of a tease. Especially the last line of the novel. It seemed to indicate that there would be a trilogy of Rama stories. But it doesn't seem like this was ever really Clarke's intent. I know there were other Rama books penned a couple of decades later, but Clarke wasn't the author of those books. And from what I gather, they are inferior to the original.

And, yes, this book is a bit dated. I'm thinking particularly of the peculiar meditation on the zero g impact on female breasts here. Apparently, these floating, jiggling orbs would be so distracting to male astronauts that they could potentially compromise space missions. Aside from this fairly minor bit of silliness, the work holds up pretty well 40 years after its initial publication.

China Miéville's Railsea Wins Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel

China Miéville's Railsea has won the 2013 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel. I'm not surprised. Here are my quite brief thoughts on the novel, put down in some haste directly after reading it around this time last year:

Chewy prose. A really good adventure story. Great set pieces. The story's theme and structure mirror each other quite nicely. Damn good.

And here's the product description from

On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt: the giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one’s death & the other’s glory. Spectacular as it is, Sham can’t shake the sense that there is more to life than the endless rails of the railsea—even if his captain thinks only of hunting the ivory-colored mole that took her arm years ago. But when they come across a wrecked train, Sham finds something—a series of pictures hinting at something, somewhere, that should be impossible—that leads to considerably more than he’d bargained for. Soon he’s hunted on all sides, by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters & salvage-scrabblers. & it might not be just Sham’s life that’s about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Complete Lesser Works of Shenanigan Cheesefield

In 1982, Richard McGowan, through some incredibly lucky quirk of fate, came into possession of surrealistic haiku poet Batsuo Mashō’s long-forgotten papers and personal affects. While searching though these treasures, tucked inside a Japanese novel, he discovered the only known poetic works of an obscure English painter called Shenanigan Cheesefield. Captured in the unassuming folds of a crumbling and yellowed sheaf of papers was a small collection of poems nearly as stunning as those of the great surrealist haiku poet himself. These weren't haiku, but something else entirely. These were tangled verses that defied categorization, scribbled lines of divine madness, playful humor, and wistful longings for transcendent experiences both sexual and, most especially, gastronomical. I love reading this type of poetical oddity. I love that it was rescued from obscurity and that Mr. McGowan saw fit to share Cheesefield’s works with the world. I only wish that he’d done so sooner.

Oh, and I must say, my favorite from this short collection is “Pancakes.” I do like pancakes.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

It really showed that the author had a hell of a good time writing this book. And the fun was contagious. I had a great time reading it. I thought the villains were hilarious (and somehow that isn't a negative for this horror novel). The set pieces were highly inventive and cinematic. The names for the characters and places were perfect, catchy, the kinds of names that will stick in the memory for years to come. The whole thing was filled with a kind of macabre and gleeful mischievousness that I really enjoyed. Many have cited the length of the book as an issue. I didn't feel that way. The main weakness of the book (which is also tied into one of it's strengths) is the obvious cinematic influence on the storytelling. Many of the action sequences were way over-the-top and pretty unbelievable, and characters survive injuries that no human could possibly withstand. But, really, I could say the same about almost any piece of popular entertainment nowadays.

If you like a little humor, a little nudge-nudge, wink-wink, mixed in with your horror, then you'll like this book. If you loved the nostalgic, creepy playfulness of films like Creepshow or Trick r' Treat, then you'll like this book.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Turing & Burroughs

Don’t worry, this book isn't about what the author imagined a true-to-life meeting of Alan Turing and William S. Burroughs might have actually have been like (although that could have been interesting, I suppose). Instead, it’s pure craziness. It’s not to say that the author didn't do his homework and research the two main subjects of this novel. He did. And he does a good job imitating the style and spirit of Burroughs in letters to Ginsberg and Kerouac that comprise a number of chapters in the book. He also did a great job of creating a world much like the worlds Burroughs built inside his head using Alan Turing’s mad science as the ‘magic’ that makes it all possible. No, this isn't about Turing & Burroughs teaming up to solve a cozy mystery in Tangiers. It’s all about the misadventures of a band of drug addled, sexually deviant, telepathic, shape-shifting slugs.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Iain M. Banks (1954-2013)

I'm saddened to have to write that Iain Banks died today. He was the author of one of my all-time favorite novels, The Wasp Factory. If you've not read this book, you should.

For more information about Iain Banks, go here: 

Tall Tales with Short Cocks, Vol. 2

Tall Tales with Short Cocks, Vol. 2 (Rooster Republic Press)

This is an anthology. I always have trouble with anthologies. I rarely read every story. But I did this time around, which, I guess, is a good sign. I liked some stories more than others, of course. Some were rather good; one was really hard to get through; most were fairly entertaining reads. Some readers might have a problem with the content: scatological, experimental, absurdist, hyper-violent, sexually perverse, and intentionally offensive and juvenile. I’m not one to be bothered by such things. Just thought I’d mention it for those who are.

The main issue I had with this collection is all the pop-culture references. I don’t find them to be inherently funny. Just like me holding up the DVD case for Mac and Me and pointing at the cover isn't funny. But I imagine that the seemingly unstoppable machines that are the Scary Movie franchise and Seth McFarlane are largely to blame for perpetuating this common misconception that referencing something from pop-culture somehow equals satire. (Now, if you do find pop-culture references hilarious, then you’ll laugh so hard reading this book that your sexual organs will explode into glittery confetti gnomes.)

OK. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, here’s a list of the stories in this collection I liked the most:

1. "Life Cycle" by James Steele
2. "I Think I’m in Love (Or, The Stranger in the Stall)" by Douglas Hackle
3. "A Hand Walks Into a Bar" by John McNee

Now, don’t get me wrong, there were many others that I enjoyed. It’s just that the three listed above were the stand-outs.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Tyrant's Law by Daniel Abraham

The Tyrant's Law (The Dagger and The Coin)

This was a fairly disappointing entry in "The Dagger and The Coin Quintet." There weren't many major developments (or at least no really earthshaking ones) that justified an entire volume. The writing overall was good. But there  were a few spots where I couldn't believe how awful the execution was. The scene that immediately springs to mind is the one where Marcus and Yardem meet up again. Their lack of a confrontation wasn't convincing and the dialogue in this scene was silly and not in keeping with the overall tone of the books. It was like Abraham was suddenly trying to channel Joss Whedon, which is something no one should do. We don't need more than one Whedon (and it's debatable as to whether or not one is too many).

Will I buy the next book in the series? Yes. Daniel Abraham has already earned that next purchase with every other book I've read by him (The Long Price Quartet is fantastic). This one was just a bit plodding, is all. Plus, I have to find out how he wraps it all up.