Friday, March 15, 2013

Book 19: Folly of the World

This book deserves six stars.

I can add "Folly of the World" to the list of books that forever change how I view them. I've been a tremendous fan of Jesse Bullington since his profane (in every sense), crazy, and wholly original debut, The Sad Tales of the Brothers Grossbart. I was also blown away by Enterprise of Death, a European romp centered on lesbian necromancer who just wants to be loved. But it's Folly of the World where Bullington brings together several motifs from his previous works and creates a tremendously original, shockingly brilliant, and ultimately deeply poetic novel. The profanity and vulgarity are gratefully back as are central characters with serious psychiatric problems. There's a psychopath, a schizophrenic, and a misanthropic urchin girl who needs a new psychiatric condition to describe her levels of distrust. It's the relationship between the schizo and the urchin (and it's not what you think) that brings this beyond the dark historical fantasy that is Bullington's strength. It is almost magical how Bullington refuses to soften the characters but still lets them grow, though, to be honest, it's more Bonsai growth than redwood. I think it's a real tribute to Bullington that he can take two fairly despicable characters and let them become rootable (likeable might be too far, but being honest, I ended up liking them both tremendously). I can't describe how he weaves the profane with violent while still producing a thematically dense work about relationships, socioeconomic status, place, time, and so much more, but I know he did it and I feel better to have read it.

I would be remiss if I didn't give some huge props for the historical treatment as well. There are little details here (like dye-making) that are often overlooked, but these details give an immersive quality where it felt like I was actually in Holland and Zealand in the 1400's.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book 18: Walk in the Woods

I hate hiking and camping, so this read more like a horror story to me.  On that score, it was excellent.  I am more afraid of camping and hiking than I've ever been, especially if I ever meet doofuses like Bryson and Katz on the trail.  I'm also terrified of polemic diatribes about the state of US nature, so this was a double whammy of horror.

Seriously, a few funny passages centered solely on Katz's misanthopism and for too many interesting tidbits just isn't my cup of tea.  Ultimately, this was just really boring with long stretches of nothing, which I guess is the point of a book about an extended camping trip, but wow. 

The most frustrating piece of reading this is that I would never have read it if someone else hadn't literally stuffed in into my backpack screaming its praises and how much I was going to enjoy this.  Anyone following these reviews (and I hope all those page hits aren't just me trying to remember what number book I'm on) should know by now that I gravitate to horror/fantasy/sci-fi with most of my reading fairly esoteric.  A book about fucking hiking and camping (did I mention that I detest both activities) is really not in my wheelhouse.  Still, said friend insisted that I would find it hysterical and has badgered me to read it for the last six months.  Now, how do I tell him I find a new torture for myself (and its name is Bill Bryson) and that not only wasn't it funny, it was boring, pedantic and not something he should consider me for in the future?  This isn't that I think Bryson is a terrible author without redeeming value, just that I don't place any value on his work.  Oh well, at least the guy is on vacation so I won't have to say anything for a few more days.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Book 17: Grave Peril

I'll admit it.  I have a soft spot for the softball exploits of Harry Dresden.  Well, I did before Grave Peril.  The first two volumes of his adventures are fun, fairly mindless, and easy to consume.  But Grave Peril takes a decidedly dark and very violent turn.  It takes awhile to get really rolling and at nearly 400 pages is a bit long for this type of book for me, but Harry really gets into it here.  I'm still not sure how much I enjoyed it, but it's easy to see that Jim Butcher wanted a different direction.  I'll continue with the series, but I'm hopeful that he brings back some of the more fun elements in future novels. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Book 16: Pariliament of Crows

Amazing!  Honestly, this is a great book that deserves so much more press that it's been getting.  I love the way that Clark drew me in so close to three very unlikeable people and made them very real to me.  Plus, he's able to keep three narrative timelines alive at once without it feeling gimmicky or otherwise.  This is a very hard book to recommend as the subject matter is quite difficult at times, but if your reading stomach is strong, you will get amazing payoffs.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Book 15: The Kobold Wizard's Dildo of Enlightenment +2 (an Adventure for 3-6 Players, Levels 2-5)

This crazy, profane, vulgar, and nasty book centers around several D and D characters that become self actualized, thanks to the title magical item, and aware that they are the playthings of some really repressed early teen nerds.
One of those so fucking obvious ideas, why didn't I have it myself! Sure, there are some glaring weaknesses, but if you shield your eyes, this book is fantastic. There is a part of me that wishes Mr Mellick would have taken a bit more time to really explore the concept, but fuck it. I laughed so much that my wife wants to read it now. Crap, I've tried so hard to hide the juvenile pervert that lurks not so deeply under the professional mask I wear every day and Mellick has gone and exposed me. Damn it, I hate this book now.