Thursday, December 27, 2012
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
So this is a strange reading year for me. I read 130 books over the year, but I read almost no brand new releases. That is why there are only four new books on the list. I kept a pattern of reading two books at one time most of the year. I was reading one original fictional novel and one tie-in novel (mostly Star Wars/Trek but several other franchises as well).
I devoted a lot of my reading this year to F.Paul Wilson's Secret History of the World. This is a saga that starts in his classic horror novel The Keep and spans four different series (Repairman Jack /Adversary Cycle/ Secret Histories with Young Jack/ Cold City Jack novels), two dozen or so novels and ends in one novel Nightworld. I am finishing the secret history as I write this with 150 pages left in Nightworld.
Wilson was my plotting teacher at Borderlands(writer's boot camp). The Secret history is like a four train narrative track that ends with them all crashing together in Nightworld. It is an amazing feat of narrative story telling. I could have filled my list with F.Paul Wilson titles but choose my favorite Repairman Jack novel. I am intending to write at length about the series in the future.1. Harbingers (Repairman Jack #10) by F.Paul Wilson:
In a series that spans fifteen books with a major character whose name is in the title suspense can be hard to manufacture book after book. You know Jack is going to be around for fifteen books and he is the hero. F.Paul Wilson plays with the expectations and puts our heroand his journey through an unexpected wringer that would surprise the hell out of Joesph Campbell. This is a dark and brutal twist on the clasic mythology of the hero's journey that I read in just over 26 hours. When I put it down I was floored. Just blown away and could not believe what just happened. Best read of the series, and the year.2. A Matter of Blood (Forgotten Gods #1) by Sarah Pinborough
This trilogy was released in England under the title Dog Faced Gods, but will be published here in America in April under the title Forgotten Gods. I wouldn't wait for the American grammar version. This is a brutal mystery with a weird crime backbone. The world that Pinborough has created here is filled with very dark shades of grey with almost zero characters worth rooting for. Oh you’ll be interested in them; you’ll want to keep turning pages.
On top of all those elements this novel also has a powerful plot line about a serial killer, including one of the creepiest killers I have read about since Brite’s Exquisite Corpse, but at the same time were talking about a novel with a subtle social conscience. I'm dying to read the next two books when I can get my hands on them.3. All Monster Action by Cody Goodfellow
Jeremy Robert Johnson's Swallowdown Press has a focus on horrific dark bizarro, and Goodfellow's new short story collection might be the most gonzo of releases that the press has done. That doesn't make it any less of gem and fits perfectly into Goodfellow's expanding catalog of fucked up weird-ness. There is no author in genre fiction that is more deserving of the title Mad Scientist. That is what he is, a straight up batshit crazy mad scientist of prose.4. One Second After by William R. Forstche
I am I am not in the habit of reading books with a forward by Newt Gingrich. I still think Newt is a far right wing windbag, but we now have something to agree on – This is a must read book. One Second After is a warning novel, the author wasn’t shy about telling us up front that he wanted to make this book a entry in a pantheon that includes classics like On the Beach and Alas Babylon. I personally would add John Brunner’s classic “The Sheep Look Up” Or Norman Spinrad’s “Greenhouse Summer.” He is warning about the effect that an EMP would have on our world. Most important is the characters are rich, the setting detailed and the drama intense. It is a story so well told you don't feel preached at you just feel uncomfortable.5. Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry
The series and it’s story is a cross between Fringe and Repairman Jack, but don’t take that comparison the wrong way – it has an original feel to it. Maberry weaves several influences together so well it is hard not to do comparisons. It’s part Tech-thriller, part zombie, part military sci-fi/horror, part witty crime novel, and part character study. Great read for horror, action and weird crime fans. I’m ready for the second book, here is hoping Maberry keeps this series going strong for a long time.6. Everything is Broken by John Shirley
Shirley’s original title was “Welcome to Freedom,” While probably a more proper title it might have been a bit too much on the nose. It would be easy to say this novel is a 280 page argument against libertarianism, but it is much deeper than that. It is also about social controls that hold the socio-paths among us from running wild.
I’d put it up there with some of the great non-supernatural horror novels like David Morrell’s Testament or Jack Ketchum’s Girl Next Door. At the same time it’s an important novel that explores issues we as a society need to discuss.7. Ghost Brigades/ The Last Colony (Old Man's War #2 and 3) by John Scalzi:
The best and fastest Science Fiction read of the 21st century in my opinion is Old Man’s War In Ghost Brigades I can say that Scalzi has crafted a second flawless masterpiece of military sci-fi that expneat ideas just hinted at in the first book. Far future special forces that are badass and not written with a right kneejerk that makes some military sci-fi hard to swallow. The last Colony wraps up the story with a honest look at the effects of intersteller Colonization.8. Leather Maiden by Joe R. Lansdale:
This novel Leather Maiden is a murder mystery and the humor comes mostly in the third person narration of Iraq war vet and small town Reporter named Cason. The fantastic dialogue between characters is a highlight, Lansdale shares the skill for dialogue that is only matched by Tarantino, Elmore Leonard, and Gregory Macdonald. If you have a dark or grumpy sense of humor you can’t really go wrong with this, or any other Lansdale novel.9. Monsters of LA By Lisa Morton.
of LA is a concept collection. Lisa Morton is a creature of LA and her work is as firmly placed in LA as Early Stephen King was placed in Maine. This is an excellent and diverse collection of horror, dark humor and weird fiction. It is also an informative love letter to the city Morton calls home. Each story comes with a short explanation that has insight into the ways that the city inspired each story. What we need now is a collection of Morton's already vast amount of published short stories.10. Star Wars: Darth Maul Shadow Hunter by Michael Reeves:
I read a ton of Tie-in novels this year, and this one took me by surprise. This might for real be the best Star Wars novel I have ever read. None of the major characters, no problem. This novel is perfectly paced action adventure with strong characters that set up characters for novels Reeves wrote down the line.
Star Noirs really... Reaves did such a great job they brought him back to do a trilogy of Coruscant nights noir novels set against the dark times after the fall of the empire.
Honorable Mentions: The Fury and The Terror by John Farris, Keepers by Gary Braunbeck, Raylan by Elmore Leonard, Redshirts by John Scalzi, 3001 by Arthur Clarke, Hellhole by KJ Anderson and Brian Herbert and Full Dark,No Stars by Stephen King.
Monday, December 17, 2012
The Stephen King Library Desk Calendar 2013
This stylish, hard-cover, 8 ½ x 11 – inch spiral bound desk calendar/planner is a great gift idea for the holidays if you have a Stephen King fan in your life. Since King is the world's best selling author, I assume that everyone knows a fan. The cover art on this is a very cool collage, and – it's a hologram!
I love King as an ambassador of the horror genre. I mean that he is the archetypal horror writer, and people think of King when the horror genre is discussed. His early novels still present some of the best material that the genre has seen. While the more recent novels have been hit or miss with me, I remain a huge fan of the author who has produced some of the greatest works of horror fiction, and has balanced fame with remaining a good person.
This calendar celebrates Stephen King's career. While functional, it provides fun moments throughout the year for fans. Each two-page spread contains around five or seven calendared memorable events, with plenty of room for writing down important dates, appointments or birthdays. This calendar includes well-known genre authors' birthdays - Harlan Ellison and HP Lovecraft, for example. Probably more interesting for serious Stephen King nerds, also listed are the birthdays of SK characters and events from his classic novels. Imagine your opening to Monday, May 27th, and noting that it is not only Memorial Day, but also Harlan Ellison's birthday, AND the anniversary of prom night in Chamberlain, Maine, from the pages of Carrie. Might want to pencil in a screening of Carrie that night with friends. As you work through the calendar over the year you'll find out the date that It ended, when Captain Trips was released, and the day that The Mist was released over Maine.
Along the bottom of the pages are excerpts from King books, articles about books, and pages of trivia devoted to a few different titles. The trivia is fun, and I liked the articles; however, most were by Jay Franco. I don't know who he is. Not that that matters; he knows his King, but it seems that including more voices from the King community like Bev Vincent, Robin Firth, or similar authors would improve the value of these. It would also be nice to have author bios, which are unfortunately not included. This would allow the readers to know what expertise on or relationship to King's work each has.
Overall I think that this is a cool, unique product. Maybe I'll provide an update in 2014, after having used it for a year, but so far I think it is a great gift idea. Pick it up.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
RedShirts by John Scalzi
This satire had to happen, in fact in many ways it happened before. It would be easy to compare this novel to Galaxy Quest as it is a send-up of Star Trek, but in many ways it is a send up more of the standard science fiction television narrative that Trek developed and buried deep in the collect subconscious of its fans. Look the bottom line before I go any further this book is super funny. If you are fans of Trek, stargate, or Battlestar Galactica there is lots of subtle but perfect told jokes that are perfectly woven into the story. It is more meta than Galaxy Quest with Phil K. Dick mind bending aspect to the story.
John Scalzi is the perfect writer to tell this tale. His debut novel Old Man's War is my favorite military space opera of the 21st century and the entire trilogy it spawned is ridiculously good. The author has an amazing knack for bringing both humor and the the inventive awe and wonder that is needed in the best speculative fiction. Hell of a story teller who creates vivid and likable characters and that in this novel is the point.
Redshirts you see was inspired by the unfortunate members of the Enterprise crew who went on away missions in redshirts. You didn't know there names, they were extras whose only role was die. In a narrative sense the Trek writers set them up like bowling pins. If this something you knew about Trek and were amused by then you understand the jumping off point of this book.
Taking place on a Trek like ship called the Intrepid the main characters are members of the crew in the lower ranks who start to sense a pattern. The command crew never seem to be in danger but all their friends in the lower ranks can't seem to survive giant worms, diseases, space battles or killer robots.
Look if you trust me that this book is smart, funny and inventive then you already know more than you need to know. Go into this book as blind on the plot as possible. Great concept almost perfectly executed with a laugh-out-loud moment on almost every page. The novel ends with Three “codas” one in first person, one in second person and the last chapter is in Third person. I enjoyed this interesting experiment which adds some insight into the story. However I didn't enjoy it as much as the main narrative of the novel. Considering how much I enjoyed the novel it is a little thing.