Mar 24 - Apr 29, 2013
The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World
In the frighteningly near future, man's excess and lack of respect for the planet have resulted in a massive garbage heap off the coast of California. Concerned at the gyre's swift growth, the government sends a crack team to investigate. Unfortunately, they lost contact and disappeared without a trace. So a not-so-shit-hot team is assembled (because you can't lose TOO MANY great employees in THIS economy) to unfold not only the mystery of the trash, but to find the missing team members from the previous unsuccessful foray. But what they discover is even more horrifying than an island made of garbage three times the size of Texas, and they have no way of knowing just how bad Garbage Island can get...
Adventure. Gore. Kinky sex. These are the things that give me the warm and tinglies. In the good way, I mean. Not the flies-that-lay-eggs-in-your-head kind of tinglies.
Although, because I'm sick, this also gives me the tinglies.
God, I'm a mess.
Anyways, when I got this book in the mail, I was pumped. Not only because the subject matter tickled me just so (again, not unlike those sweet little bot flies) but because the book was freakin' MASSIVE and I was totally in the mood (heh heh) for a good, long, epic adventure (double heh heh). And the thing is, a book has to be GOOD if it wants to be an epic epic, and not just a snooze-a-thon like the dictionary - though the dirty words were always good for some giggles in my younger years. And lucky for me, The Gyre Mission did not disappoint (yes, I'm giving you the shifty side-eye, dictionary).
Edgar Swamp has a rare talent for combining the best of both literary worlds: on the one hand he's got a crazy cast of over-the-top characters, sex, violence, and gore, and a redonkulous situation. Well, I'm hoping it's redonkulous. You never know, though, with these government types and their secrets and conspiracies and the assassinations GLAVEN. But basically, he's got all the hallmarks of classic pulp horror in place. However, Swamp also takes the time to introduce his characters, giving us a chance to get to know them and even *gasp* care about what might happen to them. At the very least, a chance to recognise them by name. Actually, the majority of the characters were introduced with their own chapters in the beginning, which was a mighty handy cheat sheet for someone like me who has difficulty recalling where I leave my keys every morning. The other thing Swamp does for us is attempt to offer an explanation for his zany situation, instead of "It's beyond our comprehension" or " 'The secret is...' and then he was carried off by mermen TO BE CONTINUED, LOSER" or "Aliens":
Did I mention his vocabulary is pleasantly surprising?
I loved the characters (and loved hating the assholes) couldn't get enough of the monsters, and the pacing was delightful - a slow rumbling that built up and just got more and more awesome until shit went totally cray-cray (in a good way-way). I was actually just telling one of my buddies about a particularly rad moment involving a massive carpenter ant/centipede/nightmare and its delightful accompanying birth scene. My friend was suitably impressed. And grossed out. I can't say enough how much I enjoyed this book, and the looks on my friends' faces when I read them bits of it.
Basically, Edgar Swamp isn't treating us like some stupid bimbo he doesn't care about satisfying that he plans to punp-and-dump out of a Bang Bros. bus on the side of a highway. No no NO. Instead, he wants to wine us and dine us, slip a little LSD in our drink, take us on a magical fantasy ride and make us quiver with excitement until the very Gods themselves stand up and applaud. Or at least Jenna Jameson. Old Jenna, though. Not new Jenna. She frightens me.
To put it more simply (and PG) The Gyre Mission has the style of pulp and the substance of fiction. I was most definitely pleased.
All those points alone would have made The Gyre Mission a 10/10. The reason I've given it a 9/10 is because there was a major ass-load of editing atrocities. Pretty much all of them involved the abuse of the apostrophe and the dash with the issue being the distinction between "its" and "it's", and not putting a space on either side of the dash when interjecting a thought into an already existing sentence, and instead making really strange compound words. Seriously, editing errors piss me off to no end and are ridiculously distracting to someone as neurotic as I am. I read with a pencil on hand at all times so I could circle them all; losing the pencil regularly and then hunting for it became a companion sport to keep me nimble in the face of all the perusing. So I'm just putting this out there: Edgar Swamp, if you're going to write another book as rad as The Gyre Mission, I will be happy to offer you my proof-reading services, free of charge. Because if I get my hands on another one of your books and I have to find that many errors again, it won't be pretty.
All in all, my neurosis aside, I had a blast reading this. Go get The Gyre Mission, guys. And then prepare yourself for some sleepless nights and an even greater desire to recycle.
PS: Did I mention his book is dedicated to a dog named Lily Swamp? So now not only is Edgar Swamp a dude with an extremely dirty mind filled with some disgusting ideas (my favorite - swoon!) but he likes animals, too. Double swoon.
Jan 11 - Jan 16, 2013
The Hunger Games
In the not-too-distant future, the known world is a new and terrifying place. The wealthy and poor have been divided into twelve districts, and the Capitol rules them all with a silk glove thinly veiling an iron fist. Every year, two children are chosen from each district to fight one another to the death, so the winner can be crowned champion of The Hunger Games; they win security and safety for themselves and their loved ones, food for their district, and maybe a chance at a better life. But the real winner is President Snow, who uses these games to show the world that HE controls their very fates, down to the last child...
I tried to resist. I did. I'm not about hopping on the Popular Book Bandwagon (I'm giving you the shifty side-eye, Heather) just because it's got a big purple sticker on the front:
Or because Oprah sang its praises:
But you know what? I actually LIKED the last Oprah book I read. And with that in mind, I finally decided to read The Hunger Games.
JESUS CHRIST this was a good book! Action, action everywhere! Shit happening all the goddamn time, and explosions, and PEW PEW PEW and spear hurling and death and starving and possibly WEREWOLVES! Shit, son. It just got real.
I hardly even had time to throw shade at our protagonist Katniss for her stupidity regarding the manlier sex (not that men are necessarily manlier in all instances) because there was so damn much going on. Hell, I could almost understand her confusion, because who the hell has time to think about boys when you're trying to shoot an arrow through another person's throat? And while Peeta, her pretend-but-maybe-for-real love interest, was kind of a wiener, it was pretty refreshing to have the chick save the day, so I'll let it pass.
I'd like to mention that the author also didn't talk down to her audience. I notice that shit. She did a fine job writing for a youth demographic without treating the lot of them like a bunch simpering, mouth-breathing, slack-jawed morons. In fact, I can honestly say that I'll make this series required reading for my kids. You know, that way they can acquire an interest in survival for when I leave them in the woods because they won't stop eating my gingerbread house. Or something to that effect.
So I read it. I enjoyed it. I groaned in anticipation when I finished the very last line. And now I'm going to read the next one.
Peace out, bitches!
Nov 8 - Nov 21, 2012
Benjamin Kane Ethridge
Published Oct 30, 2012
A nameless woman awakes to find herself in an unfamiliar room with a body she doesn't recognize. She's starved and isolated, but for the molestation she suffers from her sadistic nurse, Maggie. Our protagonist must somehow escape her torturous existence and discover who she truly is... but does she really want to...?
Sometimes, you pick up a book and have no idea what you're about to get dummied with. You flip a page and start reading, and the next thing you know it's 1AM you're going on another night of no sleep because you HAVE to find out what's going to happen next. Dungeon Brain is one of those books.
It has such a weird premise, and the weirdness runs the entire story. It doesn't just peter out into an orgy of senseless sex and gore (not that I don't appreciate that, sometimes) or spiral into the abyss know as "Unrealistic Character Action Development". It starts off with a woman trapped in an institution with a head full of deviates and sickos. Her caregiver is a psychopath obsessed with haircuts and touching people in places their bathing suit covers.
Oh, and did I forget to mention a little something called ALIENS?!
Yeah. shit just got REAL.
And that's just the beginning. Literally, all that happens only about a third of the way through the book. After that, all kinds of crazy shit goes down, and at no time could I expect what might come out of the blue next. Not that the situations were so outlandish that nothing made sense (duh, aliens obviously have to exist) but it was more so that I'd never read anything similar, so I couldn't know where things were headed.
Another standout point of the book was our protagonist (whose identity I'll leave you to discover, rabid readers). She goes through a remarkable change of countenance; from drug-addled victimized wreck to... well, if I tried to describe what she becomes, it would seem crazy unless you actually read the book yourself. And that's where her beauty lies: her transformation is so organic and realistic that she comes across as a rare genuine heroine. She's not perfect; in fact she's decidedly flawed. She allows thing to happen that no other protagonist would (well, no other writer would, anyways) and yet maintains the reader's affection. Hell, is easier to love her, because she does things we would do, as opposed to your average hero. But with all that, she not written in such a way that she appears weak, and I really appreciate the author didn't turn her into some blubbering wiener or glorified sex toy (not that I don't like that either) because there are so few strong female characters that I like one every so often to make me feel more badass.
Seriously though, she's one of my favorite characters in forrrreeeeeever.
And can I mention that the writing was superb? Not one thing out of place, no editing issues (at least none glaring enough that I consciously thought about them) and some pretty beautiful sentences peppered here and there. It was terrifically readable, and just picked up more and more steam with every page I turned. Now THAT'S writing. I also appreciate the fact that the sci-fi stuff was very slowly introduced and I could enjoy it all without either being overwhelmed by techno gibberish or feeling completely incredulous of the situation. Ease me in, go gentle, and let me get used to it, said Kat only once in her life during one book review ever.
I wish I could get more into it and tell you all my favorite parts; however, I'd be giving too much away and would spoil some of the fun of the read. Lord know I want to punch a motherfucker in the teeth when they give away key plot point too early on. It just gives me something to be antsy about getting to. So I won't do that here. Instead, you can go out, get the book, read the shit out of it, and then we can chat about it. So, yeah... don'r you have a novel you should be purchasing?
Apr 16 - May 4, 2012
Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations
Edited by Eric J. Guignard
Published March 2012
A collection of adventure stories, not for the faint of heart.
Angel of Destruction - Cynthia D. Witherspoon
When a great city falls victim to tragedy, a lone woman is given the chance to wreak some havoc by an unlikely source...
This was a very intriguing premise, but it was so short! Nowhere near enough information or back story for my taste.
The Door Beyond the Water - David Tallerman
A man following in the footsteps of an explorer gone insane discovers for himself just what could drive someone to the depths of madness... and destruction...
Dark creeping horror with an old-timey feel. Could have used more blood.
To Run a Stick Through a Fish - Mark Lee Pearson
A little bit of lore about a very unusual people...
Strange. VERY strange. I find the juxtaposition of such a traditional style of story with such macabre and visceral subject matter kind of delicious. You know, even though I'm pretty sure I didn't get it.
Quivira - Jackson Kuhl
Tobias Lyddy accidentally stumbles across a secret city, mysterious treasure, and something much more bizarre and deadly than he could have ever imagined...
I found this to be wonderfully witty and clever, in both writing style and subject. It grabbed my attention from the first sentence and kept me barreling along until the very end. The first story I actually "got". Thank Christ. I was beginning to think I was a little stupid there...
Directions - Michael G. Cornelius
It's finally time to hear from ALL the witches of Oz...
While this was a good read, and a particularly unique take on a literary dynasty, I probably would have enjoyed this more if I was more familiar with The Wizard of Oz.
Quetzalcoatl's Conquistador - Jamie Lackey
Bring a Spanish explorer isn't all murder and sacrifice; at least, not the murder and sacrifice of those you had previously intended...
Why does it have to be so difficult to enjoy a story when you don't particularly like any of the characters? Plus, I'm unfamiliar with the original story, so I have to say my ignorance kind of shit the bed on this one.
Konigreich der Sorge (Kingdom of Sorrow) - C. Deskin Rink
Many years ago, the Nazis finally found themselves up against their most frightening foe: a force more evil than themselves...
This was the first story that really struck me deeply, and it packed a real whallop; it's definitely a top contender for my favorite of the bunch. Heroics (the Nazi kind, but still) caves, monsters, madness... It was everything I love in an adventure story, and it was delightfully well-written, to boot. I was going to make a pun about finding myself rooting for the Nazis, but this meme sums it up perfectly...
Gestures of Faith - Fadzlishah Johanabas
When an ancient Island nation begins falling into decline, all hope rests on the shoulders of a most unassuming boy...
Surprisingly, this wasn't the least bit horrific. Instead, it was a pretty little origin story, one which I found to be... pretty nice, actually. Yes, terrifying I know; I enjoyed something was wasn't gore-soaked or frightening. I'm kind of shaken myself.
Bare Bones - Curtis James McConnell
When making a scientific discovery, does one accept a completely new theory, or sweep it under the rug?
This was a story I could really identify with; not because I'm a scientist or proficient in handling skulls, but because it was one of the few set in modern times, or had a modern feel. Hey! I'm familiar with vacations and reports! But besides liking it for its setting, I also found it quite sharp and witty, interesting as hell, smart enough to make me smile but not so smart that I felt like a dumbass, and it had just the right amount of nastiness. Two thumbs up!
British Guiana, 1853 - Folly Blaine
Jungles, paleontologists, and ancient monsters: the perfect recipe for something disastrous...
Hooray! Jungles and monsters! I LOVE stories like this! Not only was it a great read, but I adored the protagonist. I could really identify with him and his decisions... which means I should probably NEVER go monster hunting.
The Nightmare Orchestra - Chelsea Armstrong
In the land we inhabit in our nightmares, there are those we rarely give thought to, except for a terrified shudder of fear every so often. But those denizens of the nightmare world have a life of their own...
This should be a full-length novel. Seriously, the author should get on that, STAT. I want origins, I was explanations, and I want scores of nightmares. Hey I can even help contribute some nightmares! One of my recurring ones starts with me, pant less, on a public bus. I have to pee, and there's only one toilet. Did I mention it's in the middle of the isle and there's no walls around it? Yeah. It only gets worse from there...
The Funeral Procession - Jay R. Thurston
There are reasons why some things are buried, and there are very good reasons why some things should STAY buried...
I can say this was interesting and informative for sure, but I really couldn't eke out a connection with any of the characters. Boo-urns.
Requiem - Jason Andrew
We have often viewed alien life forms as either non-existent or hostile. How would we react if they were just like us?
Sad and sweet. The writing came through for me emotionally, but I don't think I got it intellectually. Doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, though.
Gilgamesh and the Mountain - Bruce L. Priddy
The saga of Gilgamesh didn't quite end as we were led to believe...
Normally I hate poems. I'm pretty sure I mentioned once in an earlier review that poems were stupid and didn't make any sense and any jackass could upchuck a jambalaya of words onto a page and call it "art". Poetry ranks right up there with paintings that consist of a red circle and a black line that sells for a million dollars to some asshole because their stock broker dude says it's a wise investment. Ugh.
This? This is a story in poem form. I'm totally cool with this. It has a beginning, middle, and end, and contains such words as "the" and "and". It's even cognizant. On top of those features that set it far and above loads of poetry I've suffered through, it was kind of horrific and had a killer ending. A definite gooder.
Buried Treasure - Rob Rosen
Whether you're a 9-year-old playing in your yard in the 80's (I found a necklace once! But mostly I found worms.) or a gown adult in the future, there's always mystery and valuables to be dug up...
I'm a big fan of post-apocalyptic radness, and though I guessed the end (only because I'm a seasoned world traveler *cough* never left North America *cough*) I still enjoyed it a heck of a lot.
The Small, Black God - Caw Miller
Not all archeologists have noble intentions, and not every artifact should be discovered...
Another old feeling one, but the characters were done so well that I totally fell into it. Absolutely well done, and a great read. Nothing too obtuse or vague, just plain old good storytelling.
In Eden - Cherstin Holtzman
When it's time to go to the great mystery in the sky, there are some that just aren't willing to lie down easy...
Hooray! There was a zombie story in here! So no matter what, I couldn't help but enjoy this. There was blood and horror, and though mildly vague, I still got my jollies just fine.
We Are Not the Favored Children - Matthew Borgard
Transitions are seldom easy, and transitioning from one God to another could prove not only difficult, but also deadly...
I really enjoyed the setting of this one, but there were some parts I was still fuzzy on. Possibly because I have little experience existing in an ancient tribe with multiple deities that would be willing to destroy me.
Rebirth in Dreams - A. J. French
When a gentleman decides to take his consciousness into his own hands, he is ill-prepared for the journey that awaits him...
It's no secret that I work in a head shop. I've made that pretty clear, I think. And one of the most valuable lessons I've learned from my boss is that we don't sell things like salvia because "it's a journey plant. And I don't feel comfortable sending people on journeys without providing a guide." And the protagonist in this story found out all about that. This story was very dark (just the way I like them!) and totally neat-o. The author's description of the trips seemed pretty... ahem... spot on, and that was another plus for this one as well. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer and more detailed. A head shop chick who enjoyed a story about getting high; what are the odds of that?
Whale of a Time - Gitte Christensen
In the future, mankind has experienced a heck of a move, and the underwater creatures they share their space with have more to them than anyone imagined...
All I have to say is that this was weird as fuck and boatloads of fun. See what I did there? With the boat reference? Because the story is set in the ocean? Awww, you guys get it. And oh, those crazy steampunks.
Sins of our Fathers - Wendra Chambers
Every person is interested in their origin, but not every person will be delighted with it...
I loved the fact that this was a longer one. It takes time for me to warm up to characters and ideas, so longer is definitely better (that's what she said!)
Unfortunately, though it was long and enjoyable (do I even need to say it again?) it was one of those ones that I didn't get. It was good and all, but it didn't come together at the end with a simple explanation. Fuck.
The Talisman of Hatra - Andrew S. Williams
When you have to make a decision between the well-being of your family and the well-being of your people, there can never be a kind outcome...
You know, this was quite beautiful, actually. And finally, a female protagonist I can really get behind (Christ, these "That's what she said" jokes are just writing themselves, here)! And though it was tragic, I thought the ending was just right.
Sumeria to the Stars - Jonathan Vos Post
Algebra, quantum physics, and ancient tablets from the past; someone is going to get throw for a loop...
I've watched countless episodes of Ancient Aliens:
And I've seen Thrive
at least twice (seriously though, everyone should watch it, so go do that when you're done reading this). And you know what? I'm still way WAY WAAAAYYYYY too dumb for this. I've got nothin'.
The Tall Grass - Joe R. Lansdale If ever you find yourself the only one awake at an unplanned train stop, for the love of Mike DO NOT GET OFF THE TRAIN. This is my other contender for my number one favorite story. It was ridiculously well-written (which may be why Lansdale has such a crazy following) and while it had a nice reserved ghost story vibe, it has utterly hideous and awesome 21st century monsters. The characters were bang on, and I was mesmerized from start to finish. I can't believe in all the reading I've done that this was my first Lansdale.
The Island Trover - JC Hemphill Mysterious Islands from which no one has ever returned are a big draw for the adventurous, as well as the greedy... Jungles? Awesome. Assholes? Fascinating. Gore? Wholly entertaining. S
imple, straightforward, and enjoyable, this was a great choice to wrap it all up. Overall, definitely worth a read.
It was extremely varied in styles and genres, which means that pretty much anyone will be able to find something they'll enjoy in this anthology. There were stories I loved, stories I wanted expansions on, and stories that I found were unclear/I needed to be way smarter for. Which really, is the sign of a good anthology: intelligent, with something for everyone.
Mar 30 - Apr 6, 2012
A Catch in Time
Without preamble, the entire population of Earth falls unconscious for three minutes. In that time, there are countless deaths due to accidents (driving a car + blackout = mangled corpses clogging your favorite route to work) and when the survivors come to, they've all forgotten the common thread that binds them. That is, all but a select few...
I really REALLY liked this story arc. Structurally and creatively, it was some of the best post-apocalyptic fiction I've ever read.
The premise was exciting - an esoteric disaster - as opposed to a virus, greed, or zombie threat. Though way outside of what I normally peruse, it was vastly entertaining (in part because it was so outside my usual zone... which is nothing like this:
And definitely closer to this:
But most akin to this:
It's like my room, but with less books).
Not only that, but the story started out right off the bat with "The Big Bang" (funny, I didn't imagine the beginning of the apocalypse to look like a Korean boy band
... hey... wait a minute...) which got the action up and running right away (Literal foreplay? Who needs it!) and therefore the change and resulting consequences and reactions followed almost immediately. And we don't stop at the immediate consequences; the story follows AT LEAST a 6 year story arc! Not only is that awfully thoughtful on the author's part (A consideration of actions as well as their equal and opposite reactions? How novel!) it was very intriguing for me because no one really does that. I'm curious about how society would react if certain given privileges were obliterated - Good Bye fast food, power, and stability of government, and Hello Mad Max!
And I like how the author really got into the long-term ramifications, as opposed to focusing on the immediate chaos. That's easy. Figuring out how society will pick up the pieces? Now THAT'S creativity.
I also enjoyed the variety of characters and settings; I tend to get bored easily, so jumping around a bit keeps me interested. As did the occasional gout of
uber violence. That always helps.
You know what sucked though? A few pretty important and not so important things both, actually. Occasionally the author would meander though the daisies, tiptoe through the tulips, stop and smell the roses and all that jazz, instead of just getting the fuck on with it. I can live with that. I can even live with fact that the very end was mind-bogglingly anti-climactic. But the part that really frosts my socks is that the whole reason the blackout happened (and therefore the reason the whole book happened) was left totally vague and one-dimensional. I understand leaving it unclear so you don't anger the crazies, but give us SOME kind of definitive reasoning, please.
Generally, it was a good read. But don't go looking to A Catch in Time for any easy answers; go to it to be entertained.