Saturday, July 26, 2014

This Book Is Full of Spiders by David Wong

Compared to John Does at the End, the structural problems here are minor. This actually reads like a novel rather than the world's worst 'fix-up.' But, sadly, this wasn't as zany as the first and it didn't have nearly the number of crazy gags, mysterious world building elements, and good humor per page as the first book in this series. It had a promising start but resigned itself to be one extended zombie joke for much of its page count. Thankfully, the last 25% was a return to form and was satisfying enough for me to consider picking up the next in the series at some point after its release--but not on day one.

If you've read the first book and haven't picked this one up yet, think of this one as Dave and John getting dumped in the Resident Evil film universe. If that sounds great, pick it up. Or, if you like zombies and dick jokes, give it a go. You won't be disappointed.

Full Disclosure: I'm not big on zombies.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dead Sea by Tim Curran

If you love monsters, don't even bother reading the rest of this review, just pick up this book. If you love survival at sea stories, don't read further, just pick up this book.

Yes, I, too, like monsters and stories of survival at sea, but I don't like these tropes quite enough to overlook some of this book's shortcomings. I felt this had some pacing problems; the middle was particularly saggy, and the ending felt quite rushed. Key plot elements weren't introduced early enough not seem tacked on at the last minute. The overall effect was like watching one of Zack Snyder's trademark action sequences in the movie 300 when we see the Spartan soldier leap in glorious slow motion toward the enemy and then suddenly snap back into real time to deliver the fatal blow. Except here we'd be watching the Spartan hovering in the air over his enemy for a few minutes of screen time rather than a few drawn out seconds.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't dislike this book. There was a lot I really liked about it. It had a lot of great monsters, harrowing scenes, cool set pieces, and solid characters. (Saks was my favorite.) I just felt it was a bit bogged down with repetitious descriptions of fog and mist. I think some scenes and some characters could have been cut to give the work more focus.

If this book were 70 pages shorter, I'd say that instead of liking it quite a bit, I'd be loving it quite a lot.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Kumquat by Jeff Strand

I don't know that I've ever read a romantic comedy before.

Yet, that's what this is.

If someone had told me that I might one day like such a thing, I'd have said that it was possible but doubtful. I don't read romance. I don't much care for romcoms on film. I'm pretty picky about comedies, especially on the printed page.

So, why did I read this?

Because I saw that Jeff Strand was giving away ARCs on his website for a forthcoming book, and I've liked what I've read by him so far.

When I found out it wasn't horror, that it was a quirky road trip story, I still decided to give it a go because Strand had proven to me that we had compatible comic sensibilities in Dweller.

Was the romance in the book handled well? Was it successful in that way? I mean the guy writes horror for heaven's sake???

I guess so.

I don't know.


Sort of.

It didn't feel like a mushy love story. To me, that makes it good. But don't ask me. I don't really know anything about it.

Was it funny?

Yes. I thought it was funny.

You might not.

Funny is so subjective, especially on the page. And funny is so much harder to do in any medium. It really takes an innate talent, along with skill, to pull it off. And even then, you're only going to be successful with those humans with a compatible sense of humor. I think a comic writer or actor can be trained to pull off a successful drama. But I really don't believe it's possible the other way around. You can't teach the kind of broken required for someone to be funny. And, in my mind, Jeff Strand is broken in just such a way that he's able to produce books that I find funny.

The humor in Kumquat more often than not rises naturally from the situation. The characters aren't comedians in disguise throwing off one-liners at every turn. He doesn't use pop-culture references as a cheap humor substitute. Best of all, his writing doesn't come off as 'jokey.'

I hate 'jokey.'

There is an undercurrent of darkness, too, that I like. The horror of sudden, unexpected oblivion underscores the humor in this book and keeps it from seeming frivolous.

Is this a romantic comedy or is it a satire of the romantic tales of doomed lovers that have made Jonathan Sparks a wealthy man? I don't know. Maybe it's both.

What I do know is that I found the novel funny.

Oh, and it remains funny throughout, whereas many comedic tales tend to lose the funny when the plot kicks in.

Recommended to people who find the things I find funny funny.