Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book 34: Hyperion

One of the great science fiction novels I've ever read.  Dan Simmons is such a talented and underrated writer and this is one of his most incredible works.  I thought it interesting reading after Cloud Atlas as Simmons uses the same device of weaving six semi related stories into a single powerful narrative.  Though I found Cloud Atlas more ambitious, audacious, and just fun, Hyperion was an overall more cohesive and logical story without some of the accoutrements.  Ultimately, Hyperion is just a kick ass sci-fi delving into familiar themes with new (to me at least) worlds, characters, and methods.  It's a fairly bleak tale that doesn't have enough humor to lighten it and a couple of the stories are so full of emotion that it's hard to remember that this is a seminal work of science fiction (though it also play a lot like fantasy).  I totally loved it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book 33: Cloud Atlas

I actually finished this one a couple of months ago, but couldn't really find a way to express my thoughts in a review.  WOW.  That's all I have.

Book 32: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

So, I needed something quick as I am falling behind in my quest for 100 books.  I grabbed this one, made quick work of it as it's about 60 pages.  It's pretty interesting and thankfully short as the ending is more Scooby Doo than actual horror, but it's still a good tale.  What's more interesting is the life and times of Washington Irving, the author, who was a very influential native New Yorker.  I'm gonna look for a biography of him.

Book 31: The Croning

Laird Barron's first full length book feels exactly like it sounds, a first full length book.  I'm not familiar with his short story writing, but from some other reviews I've read, he's evidently some sort of savant when it comes to the scary shorties.  I liked elements of this book quite a bit.  The first bits are fantastic and some of the middle is pretty stellar, but it lacks some cohesion in some of the plot lines (in fact, there seemed to be a whole chapter that was very well done but really felt like it belonged in another story altogether).  Mostly though, there are parts where the book feels really forced, like it was extended from a medium story (about 150 pages) into the 240 page full book.  I hate to say it, but there were 30 page stretches that were really tough to slog through.  I can't really recommend the book though there are enough very creepy and mysterious moments to have gotten me to the end. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Book 30: The Willows

Algernon Blackwood, contemporary of HP Lovecraft, wrote one of the all time creepy short stories.  The Willows really digs under the surface of what panic and fear feels like and it resonates, especially with anyone who had encountered odd sounds or sights in nature.  It's a bit tough starting, but short enough that once it grabs, it doesn't let go.  I strongly recommend making the time to read this in one sitting as the sense of dread builds slowly.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book 29: The Song of Achilles

Okay, so the Political Correctness monitor in me is totally going apeshit, but it has to be said.  The first 60 pages of this book might be the gayest literature even published in English.  Sure, Folly of the World had some really graphic scenes, but whatever.  The Song of Achilles has young boys lusting after beautiful young boys.  Ughhh.  Fortunately, this eventually shifts and even sets a good stage for what happens later.  I'm going to do this book, which I actually thought was hauntingly beautiful and amazing in many ways, a really uncalled for synopsis that I'm ashamed to put to print.  So, here goes:

Gay son is hated by his dad for showing gayness early in life then accidentally kills another boy trying to sbe macho.  Gets sent to the greatest (if you're a straight guy trying to think what would be awesome if you were gay) and worst place (if you are actually gay and don't want to have people harass you) possible for a gay boy, a Greek all boys school of sorts.  Gay boy finds true love with gay demi-god (literally and I mean literally).  Gay demi-god gets all goo goo over only other gay boy.   Mom tries in vain to separate the two gasy after catching them on the beach.  Yes, the beach.  Sends demi-god Brad Pitt lookalike to live with manly centaur only to be joined by other gay boy.  Centaurs seemingly don't care one whit and he teaches the boys, well, nothing really for several years.  Mom hides gay demi-god from warring kings by stashing him in the worst (if you are a straight guy and thing all gay guys are total horn dogs) or most totally awesome (if you're one of those swishy RuPaul types) places, a glorified girls finishing school.  Gay demi-god gets to dress in drag, creating extreme jealousy in gay mortal who goes to rescue, proclaiming gay demi-god as his wife.  A couple of serious bears (Odysseus and friends) show up to spoil the party.  "This isn't fucking California.  You can't be married.  Get thee to Troy and kick some ass."  Gay demi-god, aka the best damn dancer this side of Anatolia, gets his butt in gear, taking little mortal guy dude with him.  Death and destruction ensue.  They pick up a cadre of fag hags along the way.  And just like a little queen, gay demi-god gets panties in a bunch over some perceived slights and takes his hardware (and incredible skill with his spear) elsewhere until everyone acknowldges that he's the fucking demi-god around here.  Gay lover gets fed up with demi-god's bitchiness and goes headlong into battle (replete with shimmering armor and hair), realizing that spearing people is much better than getting speared, but too late, as he reminds everyone "This is a fucking TRAGEDY assholes" and dies.  Demi-god realizes that he was being a punk, puts on more fabulous armor and fucks everyone up in a fit of rage.  Real gods get sick of his shit (really, they are threatened by his fabulousness) and kill him (well, it actually was the most fem guy of his age, the guy who snatched the original hawtie).  Even in death, they yearn to play with each other's spears and finally, Mommy finds it in her to do so.

Okay, that was wrong.  Sorry.  The book is really fucking awesome though.  Just gotta get through the really fruity parts.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Books 24 through 27: The Riftwar Saga

The Magician has been sitting on my table for getting near a year, but I've been daunted by it's sheer size.  I finally crack it open, and wonder of wonders, I love it!  Feist's world(s)building is almost unparalleled and his story telling is spectacular.  His prose can be clunky at times and the "mysteries" are obvious and the endings are predictable, but he takes us on such a special journey getting to these places that it doesn't matter.  The difficulties I had centered on the almost dopey characters that were fairly central as well as just too many easy outs.  But overall, the ride was just awesome.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book 23: The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde

I needed an easy kill to start boosting my numbers and this well known Gothic tale registered a less than 24 hour doable 92 pages as freebie on Kindle.  It's very different that what I've come to expect based on the movies, though part of that is because it is so short and really only touches on some of the more unseemly characteristics.  I can see this as a great parable in its day and it still is quite enjoyable.  I actually enjoyed it's somewhat dated Gothic style and was relieved to be relieved of the sordid details.  Still, I would have liked a bit more of a payoff on some elements.  So, overall, excellent (and gratefully short) though don't expect a Stephen King tale as it's much more at the edges.