Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Mariner by Ade Grant

This book is excessive; excessively bleak, excessively gross, excessively violent, excessively sexual, and excessively sexually violent. It is a story about excess and addiction and faith and betrayal and loss and so many other terrible and surreal and glorious things that I don't want to write about because I wouldn't want to spoil anything for, what I’d imagine to be, the small niche audience this book was written for. It’s an excessively ambitious and uncompromising book, too. I only wish that I’d read a slightly more compressed version of it. Yes, there was some excess that could have been trimmed. I didn't expect it to be a fast-paced thriller of a read going in. But there is really only so much time anyone would want to spend in 'Crazy Town.' I think there are readers out there who will like this sort of thing. I did. Just make sure you know going in that your stay in 'Crazy Town' will be an extended one.

Note: This is one of those novels filled with reprehensible characters (especially the titular character). So, if you’re not a reader who can stomach the “horrible people stuck in a horrible world” genre, then it’s best you steer clear.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rocket Ship to Hell by Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford has written himself into a number of his short stories. It's a nice technique for establishing a sort of instant verisimilitude, while at the same time keeping the reader guessing. This is another of these stories. It's a bizarre pub story that takes place near a science fiction and fantasy convention he attended twelve years ago.

A Terror by Jeffrey Ford

This is a fine novelette by Jeffrey Ford. It's about Emily Dickinson and a peculiar supernatural journey.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura

When I read this from the product description, I figured I pretty much had to read the book:

When Fumihiro Kuki is eleven years old, his elderly, enigmatic father calls him into his study for a meeting. "I created you to be a cancer on the world," his father tells him. It is a tradition in their wealthy family: a patriarch, when reaching the end of his life, will beget one last child to dedicate to causing misery in a world that cannot be controlled or saved. From this point on, Fumihiro will be specially educated to learn to create as much destruction and unhappiness in the world around him as a single person can.

Does Nakamura write a novel equal to this premise? Well, he comes pretty darn close. The first chapter of this book is dynamite, a textbook example of how to hook a reader. This book is relentlessly grim throughout, but it doesn't finish on the note I’d been anticipating. Some of the dialog is a bit overdone, especially when the characters are waxing philosophical. But that shouldn't deter the reader who doesn't mind reading noir where almost every character is a sociopath.

Note on the Kindle Edition: I read this in Kindle format, and I must offer here some praise to the publisher, Soho Crime. The eBook formatting on this novel was top-notch. It nearly recreates the admiration one feels for a finely crafted interior design for a physical book.

Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl by Daniel Pinkwater

I like Daniel Pinkwater and I like this book. Yes, it’s cute. There are puns. Bad puns. It’s whimsical and silly and a little old-fashioned. But it is absurd, insane, and genuinely funny. Pinkwater has good comic timing. That’s hard to pull off on the page. Not everything he throws at you sticks, of course. But when he’s sticky, he’s really sticky.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Midnight Picnic by Nick Antosca

Quite possibly the best ghost story I've ever read. The writing was excellent and engaging from the first page onward. It’s a lengthy novella and I read it pretty much in one sitting. It’s dark, imaginative, very sad, and darkly funny at times. Here’s the basic premise, quoted from the book synopsis:

In the morning, Bram finds the bones of a murdered child. At noon, the murdered child begs for his help. And by nightfall, they have killed a man together…

Great premise, great execution.

Rontel by Sam Pink

This is a stream of consciousness, slice-of-life novella about a depressed guy with suicidal tendencies walking around Chicago for a day. Oh, and it has nothing resembling a plot. Nearly all the “action” of the piece takes place in the main character’s head. And, yet, despite all of this, it’s a highly entertaining and funny read. Recommended to those who aren't put off by anything written in the first few sentences of this review.

Friday, July 12, 2013

That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley

That Which Should Not Be is a literary pastiche that pays loving tribute to the writings and mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. In the author’s attempts to mimic Lovecraft’s style, he sometimes veers unintentionally into the realm of parody (I’m thinking specifically of the writing in the overblown opening chapters). This, of course, is a danger anyone would run into when choosing this particular subject to pay homage to, as Lovecraft himself often seemed like a parody of himself in his worst moments. One thing the reader should keep in mind before picking up this book (and I think you should pick it up) is that it doesn't feel like a novel. It’s really more like a short story collection with a wraparound story that ties it all together. If you know this going in (and I did), you won’t miss the lack of a narrative through line or the absence of any true character development for the protagonist (who spends the bulk of the book sitting in a pub listening to stories). I liked some stories better than others, of course, and felt the wraparound story was successful. My favorite pub tales in the book were the sanitarium and convent stories. If you like Lovecraft and wish there were more mythos stories written in his antiquated style, then you’re the person for whom this book was written.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Shadows, Kith and Kin by Joe R. Lansdale

I've never regretted reading a short story by Joe R. Lansdale. Every collection I've read by him so far has been thoroughly satisfying. For folks who like his Rev. Jebediah Raines (or Mercer) stories, there are two of them in this collection, one written specifically for this book. And for those who don't know who the Reverend is, he's kind of like a wild west Solomon Kane. Although I always greatly enjoy reading about the Reverend's adventures, the stories I liked the most here are:

"White Mule, Spotted Pig"
"The Events Concerning a Nude Fold-Out Found in a Harlequin Romance"

If you like horror, or weird west fiction, and you've not already read some Lansdale, I don't know what you've been doing. You really need to reevaluate how it is you've been spending your time.