Thursday, July 26, 2012

Night of the Assholes

Author: Kevin L. Donihe
Description: “The Assholes are coming to get you, Barbara . . . From Wonderland Award Winner Kevin L. Donihe, comes a hilarious tribute to Night of the Living Dead A plague of assholes is infecting the countryside. Normal everyday people are transforming into jerks, snobs, dicks, and douchebags. And they all have only one purpose: to make your life a living hell. Today is the worst day of Barbara's life. The assholes are everywhere. They're picking fights, causing accidents, and even killing people. But she must remain calm. If you raise your temper to an asshole you'll become one of them. After losing her brother to the asshole onslaught, Barbara flees for her life. She finds safety in a desolate farmhouse with six other survivors. Cut off from the world and surrounded by a sea of assholes, they must figure out a way to last through the night. But more and more of those annoying bastards are gathering outside, preparing for the coming of something much worse. . .”
Review: Well, then. The author gets a massive pass, and is spared the rod, for stating clearly that this is a parody of “Night of the Living Dead.” Because we all know that the a-holes are stand-ins for zombies, right? OK. And we’re sick of zombies, vampires, Harry Potter knock offs, erotic thrillers, and paranormal YA. Sick. Sick.
You can call them what you want, even if they have a semblance of intelligence and are not mindless killers. But, you *said* this was parody, so you are given a free ride. After all, who doesn’t like a little Weird Al now and again (or all, day, if my 5-year-old had his way). And it is a good parody, written within the boundaries given and yet still studded with unique bizarro thrills.
This is a great story, full of little quirks that set the genre apart. Lint-covered sandwiches, caves within clocks—it all has this strange and wonderful dream-like feel. It is well-written, though there are some clunky parts, and a few places where some stuff could have been cut out to make it move faster. Still, a very quick and entertaining read, well worth it for the bizarro/parody fan. I put the slash in there because this really does have a feel of parody, not only of the original movie, but of life in general. Everyone really *is* an a-hole from time to time, and our leaders for sure.
Matter of taste: Sick of the drugs. Don’t need ‘em. Really? Why does pot have to even enter into the story, what does it add? Not everyone looks at a bag of green herbs and grins at the opportunity to stunt their brain functions. It’s one part of the genre that I have a hard time with.
... and the s-e-x. Really. I know just about every book on the planet has scenes; it makes them sell. But folks, they are not required. Or maybe they are and I missed the memo. Perhaps that is why I don’t sell any of my own stuff. Who knows. Well, in this case, it is kind of important to the plot... and then the entire world is flipped on its slimy head and the book is masterfully wrapped up.
Three stars because of the parts that move slow. As one reviewer mentioned, the boarding-up parts were long. I know that it’s par for the course in the genre, but maybe just one scene where Todd has seventeen layers of plywood, lined with the pink frill pillowcases. A perfect, fast and fun read for fans of the genre.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Last Explorer

Apologies to those whose books are in my queue--I am reading them, really I am. But I'm a sucker for arctic and polar exploration books as well, so here is a quick review of a terrific book. Highly recommended!

“True Adventure Thrills” Indeed!
Ever a fan of arctic and polar exploration, the first chapters of this book, while captivating, had me wondering when we’d get to the “good stuff”. Of course, the descriptions of Wilkins’ work as a war photographer were harrowing stories of the unique ability the man in escaping danger and staying alive.
But then we get to “Ultima Thule”, and my eyes rarely strayed from the pages of this book, which translated into one long sleepless night! Nasht skillfully describes Wilkins and Eielson’s survival in the arctic, fashioning sleds from parts of their shattered plane. Where most explorers would have called it day, Wilkins returned back to the arctic in a plane, being the first to cross the wide ocean in a plane. What is amazing is that they went 2,200 miles and crossed ten time zones!
Wilkins had also crossed paths with many more well-known explorers: Byrd, Amundsen, Shackelton, Stefansson. In so doing, we get a glimpse as the age of explorers slowly faded away, as more and more of the map was filled in. But in his explorations, Wilkins also opened the door to deep-sea exploration, and the study of weather (especially how the poles affect global climate). His forays into ESP is pure bunk and a waste of ink in my opinion.
This book did drag from time to time, as mentioned above. But yet I wanted to read more, to discover what the man would do next, and to read with a smile how he was finally delivered posthumously to his ultimate goal, the north pole.
Terrific book, highly recommended for fans of arctic exploration and survival.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Odd Adventures of the Five Food Groups

Author: Casey Audelo
Description: "Foodville, a land so odd it rivals any in our human world. Normally everything goes about the same but one day a wet titian is awaken. Shroom, a mushroom to those who don't know it well, is the last hope for the town of Foodville. If he can overcome sex, delicious alcohol, and his own awesome selfish nature then maybe this land where foods live and play can be saved."
Review: Rainpeople and Weird Food
Another interesting entry in the bizarre humor realm. For much of this book, I felt like I was reading a cross between bizarro and a children's book... OK, it read much like a kid's book most of the way. Because of the subject matter, this little feature did not bother me too much, nor did it take away from the story. And what a strange, bizarre little story it is. Well, not little, it's kind of long, actually.
This needs a good edit. I know there is an editor listed, but that just confuses me, given the mistakes in here... There is a good deal of trimming that could be done in phrases/paragraphs, that would not take away from the overall story. However, there are quite a few flubs and mistakes, a lot of dialogue that doesn't really flow or connect, and some of the scenes are quite clunky in how they are described I know we are talking about a bizarre world here, but that doesn't let you off the hook for readability and flow.
It is a very interesting concept in a cute and funny world. Personally I didn't really like the story, but I don't knock stars off for personal taste. The ranking is based on the quality of the work, its structure, plot, flow, etc. And this just needs a good going-over to make it shine.
2.7 stars

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pills in a Little Cup

Author: Reverend Steven Rage
This is probably the strangest thing I have ever read. I have never taken any drugs apart from aspirin and its knock-offs, or caffeine, and certainly not recreationally. But I can imagine that if I did, I would write something like this, or at least as insanely bizarre and utterly corrupted as this little collection of stories.
I'm so sick of vampires that I could vomit, and though the author does well in creating an entirely new class, and new visage... I'm not interested. That won't knock stars off, because it is really about personal choice, but really. No more. Please.
"Klonopin" was for me the story that screamed "bizarro," a story written in the throes of a massive binging on pills or something else. For a long moment I could not figure out "egg layer", until I realized the author meant "chicken." Holy... wow. And you think it cannot get any stranger when it descends into a world for which there is very little explanation. A dark, scary, depraved, and terrible place... but you can't leave, you can't look away, you have to know what happens. As hard as you try, you can't scratch the memory, erase the words, remove those wonderful, horrible images from your brain.
This collection would get four stars except for some editing and proofing issues. The style is bizarro, but yet I can't imagine the elderly talking/thinking they way they do in the first story. Unless I missed something. The style can be crude, which is normally not a problem, but sometimes it comes across as too colloquial and not feathered into the general style of strangeness.
3.4 stars. If you enjoy your sanity, this is not for you. If you do not want to go to dark places from which there may not be escape, don’t bother. But if you wish to discover a challenging and strange work... by all means pick this up.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Spanish Cape Mystery

Another great Ellery Queen novel. I enjoy the challenge to the reader, because unlike other mystery writers, the EQ team provides everything for you to solve the case. Although I can't ever seem to do it (probably because I just enjoy the ending and "listening" to Ellery explain everything in his reasoned, clinical manner). At least in this one, I had it down to two folks, one of whom was the murderer... oh well.

I wonder how audiences received this in 1935; EQ put some things on the table that I wasn't sure were so openly discussed back then. But then again I could be wrong.

However, it was a little long. I think the authors were trying to fit their standard length and it just went overboard. True, it was a clever way to bury a few clues within details, but it could have been a novella, or a longer story included in a collection.

All in all, a nice one. I enjoyed it, as I do all of the EQ novels in the 1930s. As I mentioned in my review of On the Eighth Day, I do not like that many of the later novels were farmed out to others... I prefered the originals, in their yellowed, musty tomes.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Malice in Blunderland

Author: Jonny Gibbings
Description: "The comedy-hero of Malice in Blunderland’s life is shite. He is inept, depressed, and in a job where the highlight of his day is a swift wank in the customers’ toilets. He has a drug problem so big that the cow-shaped cookie jar in his rank kitchen is usually full of speed and Ketamine. It’s all his ex-girlfriend’s fault."
This is the definition of vulgarity, with a side of Keystone Cops-esque blundering and fumbling. Seriously, at some points I just hope the guy snuffs it and takes himself out of the gene pool; but then I get all teary-eyed and want to send him flowers. Er, no. Not that. Ever.
The grammar miscues, spelling errors, and the utter lack of a past/present tense coherence are intentional. If they weren't, this would drop to two stars just because that crap ticks me off, even in a genre (is this a genre? What is genre? Where is my cleaver?) like this. But the author told me, and us, that it wall part of the story. So I had to toss the red pen in the bin and read it for itself. Because, as I think about it, it's hard to write like that, when you're a good writer, like Gibbings.
And then I went crazy and a few psychiatrists came for me—they said they were from Pluto, but they wore paper hats and spoke Ukrainian. Don't piss off the Ukrainian mafia, OK? Perhaps that should be something learned in grammar school, or earlier. Look both ways, eat your vegetables, and avoid men named Stadnyk and funny-smelling apple juice. Let this book be a lesson, kids. Oh, but don't let your kids read this.
Did I say this was vulgar and at some times utterly base? If you don't like that kind of stuff, you won't like this, so just don't bother. Don't knock a dude for writing for fun, for a specific audience. If, like me, you had a wonderful relationship with your father, and you miss the hell out of him now that he's dead, you will probably not like the constant "F-U, Father." But if your dad was a deadbeat who beat the crap out of you every day, then it's fine. Perhaps that was the only part of this that got me, but I didn't read the author bio until after the book... That was a tangent, a derail, and utterly meaningless. Do you have a problem with that?
At one point I was wondering when this would all end, but Gibbings then nicely ties up all the little loose ends and wraps the whole bundle of fecal matter in cellophane, and we can get on with our otherwise pathetic and pointless lives. And maybe this reviewer will get off his damned soap box and do something productive, like holler obscenities at an attractive co-worker... or not. You'll have to drag me off this box with a Uni—oh, I see, OK, I'll come down now.
I was given a copy of this for review.
3.8 stars
Additional Info: Seriously, folks, this book is a matter of taste, plain and simple. It was pretty raw at points and I did cringe. But I can't blast a book because it tweaks my delicate predispositions, or saws off a toenail. The writing is stellar, especially with the intentional mistakes—it's close to a perfect first-person rendering.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sunwar the Dead

**** I don't do a lot of music reviews, but since this was partly inspiration for a short story, I'm including it. ****
Artist: Elend – Sunwar the Dead
Description: Music CD
Review: I am a big fan of Elend, owning all of their albums, but I think this is my favorite. Heck, "Ares in their Eyes", coupled with reading this:, inspired me to write a short little story. One may not think of this type of music as inspiring, given its crushing intensity and huge wall of sound. But I guess it can be.
I have this classified as metal, and the band has a slot in the Encylopaedia Metallum, to be sure. But yet its classical-oriented nature is in full focus: Fifty artists participated on this album, including the Ensemble Orphique. Perhaps considered "neo-classical", and probably garbage by a few stuffy old men in ivory towers, to me it is the essence of classical music:
Perhaps the best album of them all, though Leçons de Ténèbres ranks high as well.
Emotion, power, drama, layers, and layers, and layers. The lead vocalist has a dark, pleading, almost decaying edge to his voice, that further adds to the impression of impending doom. You can feel the surf heaving as you approach it, can smell the stench of decay and a nameless dread; fears unfounded yet dangerously real, as they edge closer, and closer to you. Your only recourse is to enter the sea... and drown.
If you have never heard Elend, I would start with Sunwar. Lock the house, turn off the phone, put the cat in another room, and crank up your speakers for an hour of bliss; enjoy listening to a masterpiece that defies the categorization of music into so-called "genres." Dive into the swirling depths of this music, become a ship on the Hemlock sea, and let Ares burn in your eyes as you float along.
Absolutely amazing. I'm just sad it took me so long to review this.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mad Mannequins From Hell

Author: August V. Fahren
Description: "Days from Christmas in Portland, Oregon: It's white, it's wet, and it's weird. From its Rampaging Santa rumbles to its voodoo and vintage clothing, it is a liberal center for beards, fixed-gear bikes, and microbrews. Now, a dark ritual gone wrong threatens to turn this tranquil wonderland into a living hell when the mad mannequins roam free. And caught in the nightmare are four holy figures bound by longing, loss, and blood...
Burton Vilmos, an unemployed special effects makeup artist, is called upon to right a great wrong before he loses his best friend, his new wife, and his seven-year-old son, Max. Aided only by the Trinity Sisters, three machete wielding battle nuns, Burton may just have a prayer. That is if he can manage to survive an encounter with a midget in a Mexican wrestler's mask, the haute couture hell hound, kung fu (baby) Christ, and unholy demon spawn of the evil retail underworld--the mannequins."
"Oh God, Brides!"
These are the last words you will ever speak as the horde of demonic mannequins lets loose its fury upon the world. It's too bad Burton read from that one little book. Don't read from that book. Drink the cool-aid instead.
As in, *this* cool-aid, this book, this wonderful, crazy, wonky, fast-paced roller-coaster of a novel, with four-hundred sizzling chapters. Well, not four-hundred. Actually not even a hundred... or forty.
When I received this book, I started reading, and was unable to stop. Though I may be 3% through Swann's Way, even that riveting tale could not keep me from leaving this story. But this isn't Proust. But, heck, I thought I'd throw that snobby little comment in there—the mannequins aren't a threat anymore, are they?
Where the honk was I?
OK, so first of all, the style for this is definitely it's top quality. This is bizarro, and as such there is a very small audience. Which, as one reviewer said, is a shame. If people unplugged their pathetic preconceived notions about popular fiction, formulaic fantasy, sparkly vampires, and paint-by-numbers romance, they would realize what a colorful world we live in. Or at least a colorful world that lives only inside the heads of bizarro authors. And Fahren's world is a beauty. Come on in.
I'm used to this genre, but still the whole nun thing caught me a little off guard. Once we were in it, however, it was perfect—Fahren did a good job of setting the reader up, or lulling them into a sense of security. Then again, shame on me for not expecting the unexpected. I almost wonder if there should be another story with just the nuns as the main characters...?
It's not always perfect, but then again it probably isn't supposed to be. Some scenes and dialogue are a little forced, or sound a little like bad action movies. Part of it is intentional, I understand. At times, though, it is a little clunky and could use some tweaking. There aren't many of these parts.
This felt like a mix of Big Trouble in Little China (whose main character is also Burton), Evil Dead, and Dead Alive. Just replace the zombies with mannequins and you pretty much have it. I applaud Fahren for creating a unique monster—but at the same time, I had this knowing that the mannequins were stand-ins for zombies or vampires, especially with the religious/spiritual component. For someone sick to death of zombies this was both a  welcome change and a little of the "same old, same old." Matter of taste, I guess.
3.7 stars (rounded up to 4 on Amazon).
Additional Info: Found a couple of typos and very minor editing things—sent to author to fix up. Nothing that takes away from the main story.