Category Archives: Book Review
11.22.63: A Novel by Stephen King
I listened to this book on audio. I’ve got a lot of things to say about this book so get ready. There may be spoilers. You have been warned.
As a Reader: Stephen King hit the mark with this one. I was disappointed with the ending of his last couple of books so as this one neared the end of what I thought was the end of the story. I was quite wrong where the story was going to end. It kept going, and going, and going sort of like the Lord of the Rings. I loved that it didn’t just drop me and leave me wondering or have some weird/corny ending that left me miffed that I’d wasted my time.
King takes us from 2011 back to 1958 several times. Each time things are reset. When George Amberson (the character’s assumed name in the past) stays longer to prevent the assassination of JFK things get weird. There’s a long time for our main character to wait. I had a little struggle with how easily he accepted this task from a person eh didn’t know very well. This part seemed to be glossed over in favor of the person going back to a past he had never lived in. It bothered me, but only slightly.
There’s a lot of fun King had in the past. It almost felt like he was reminiscing about his boyhood. Perhaps longing for a simpler time. I’m not really sure. There are a lot of side trails along the way to stop the assassination and I really didn’t mind them. This is what King does best is to draw you into the characters life. It’s like the end of the Dark Tower. It’s not about the Dark Tower, it’s about the journey. He layers detail upon detail in a way that builds a tapestry you can believe in and learn to love. Then he yanks the rug out from under you, stand you back up, dusts you off, and does it again. Each time you curse what the characters are doing to each other and the lives they’re ruining even though this is only a book.
The end had me tear up a little I’m not ashamed to say. King has a way to get you to really care for the characters. He’s always done that, I’m sure he always will. But the ending of this book (as he mentioned in the afterward) was inspired by his son, Joe Hill, who recommended a different ending. It was a drawn out ending, but satisfying. A very enjoyable ending indeed.
As a writer: Mr. King, please stop feeling like you need to intermingle your works. Yes, you had nods to IT, Christine, and other works I’m sure I missed. Let a work stand on its own. This bothered me to no end as it only provided lines of thinking that lead no where and annoyed me to no end. As did the pie throwing scene. I read Mark Evanier’s blog and he went on and on about this. I wish Stephen King would have as it does relate to the era. One pie = funny, many pies does not equal funnier. Also, they’re not real pies. I refer you to http://www.newsfromme.com/2011/12/13/recipe-corner/ .
I really enjoy how Mr. King doesn’t just have someone go and buy a jacket or a hat, or a gun, but will take a small bit of time to explain what it is, why the character is buying it, introduce you to the person doing the selling, and spend a little time doing some things that might otherwise be considered mundane. He makes them interesting and fleshes out a story in a way that makes the world feel real. He doesn’t skimp. He doesn’t take shortcuts. He loves to drag you along before he slaps you with the reality he’s built in a real and brutal way.
Recommendations: Other than that, I’ve got nothing to complain about. Not that I was looking for things to complain about, mind you. This book was wonderful. If you read it, or listen to it as I did, you will enjoy it. Stephen King is a master at what he does. He doesn’t write horror or sci fi. Those are only trappings attached to his name. He writes stories about people. People you will like, some you will hate, some you will come to think of as real people. I’ve always liked that about his work and 11.22.63 did not disappoint. Well worthy of your time. Do pick up this book. I can’t wait to see what Mr. King has in store for us next.
Until Next Time!
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
I listened to the audio version as read by Alex Foster (http://alexfoster.me.uk/). This is a classic novel and the Invisible Man has appeared in other works such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The tale follows a man who has managed to turn himself invisible and made many of us wonder “What would I do if I were invisible.”
The character starts out invisible and is soon on the run before we go back to the beginning and figure out how the character became invisible in the first place before he goes back
As a Reader: This book takes an interesting look from several different viewpoints at an invisible man. He’s wrapped from head to toe causing people to think he’s disfigured in some way. He wants to be left alone with his books and bottles. His fits of anger are not appreciated by the landlady. He’s suspected of thievery and things only escalate further. There are several slow points in the book and the action rises and falls as the invisible man takes time to explain things to a friend. There’s a sudden shift in his attitude from “I need help to figure this out” to “I don’t need help until I take over the world” that caught me off guard. I understood that he was distraught, I knew how the story ended, but his sudden shift explaining how he became invisible and that he wanted to become visible again then suddenly took a nap and decided that he needed to take over the people who were inferior to him made me struggle with the end of the book
As a Writer: There are a lot of explanations in this story and even more ‘head hopping’. Even when in one person’s head there’s a sudden shift to someone else’s point of view then back into the other’s head .This causes a little confusion but the explanations really slow down the pacing of the story. Listening to this on audio (kudos to Mr. Foster on his reading) helped me get through the difficult parts. The sudden shift toward the end of the book seemed like a desperate grasp to make the story more compelling and it was at this point where the best writing in the book happens. It almost felt like someone else had written this entire section because the action is great, the descriptions flow well and there’s a limited focus on one character at a time.
There’s a lot technically wrong with this story, but overall an interesting read. If it hadn’t shifted as it did, the invisible man’s death would have been more tragic. As it was, there was no way to feel sympathy for the man. If the man had only wanted help in reversing the condition and became more anguished or even violent I could have bought into the ending. Having him suddenly want to use the condition to his advantage after so desperately spending the entire book looking for a cure just didn’t follow with the rest of the book. Almost as if an editor said “This book needs a more dramatic ending.”
Recommendation: Read this book or listen to it. There’s a lot in here that’s great information and the way he describes his experiments is fascinating. Even though it’s explanation via a character, it’s still neat to go through the process and the accusation once he completes the process. This is a classic book and a short read. Definitely worth the time.
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke
I listened to this book on audio. The narration did great with the accents of the many characters. If it hadn’t been for the audio I most likely would have given up on the story even though this is a classic. Not because I’ve read the book before and know what’s coming. In fact I think that kept me going. I think more because this book is really far duller than I remember. The premise is a cylindrical object has shown up in our solar system and is obviously not a natural occurring object. Therefore mankind is inclined to inspect and explore this strange object.
As a reader: I so wanted to like going through this book again. I honestly did. This book is a classic published back in 1972. I read it first when I was 10 or 11. It is one of our first glimpses of what is possibly an alien generation ship. I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of the interior of the ship. The way the world had been built on the inside and the science behind the gravity, the acceleration. Clarke was a brilliant scientist and everything he put into the story made Rama a fully realized place I’d love to visit. I felt sad to see the ship disappear as it had more character than the people telling the story
As a writer: A majority of this book is the classic “Telling” of a story. If you want an example of how to tell instead of show, this book does it. There are huge data dumps where nothing happens, chapters where the story is explained to us, and there is an inconclusive ending.
Sadly each character had little to no motivation and were the thinnest of paper cutouts. Any issue that arose could be resolved with little thought or challenge and absolutely no character growth. They work though the politics of a multi-planet system and figure out this alien world with little difficulty. At no time did I feel any sense that the characters were in danger and I could not find a climax to the story.
Recommendation: Overall I thought this book was downright bad. If it wasn’t a classic I would say avoid this book at all costs. As it is, this is a classic by a master in Science Fiction. For nothing else, explore this book to discover the premise and the technical explanations. There are little spots in the story where things actually happen, but they’re far and few between. For the most part it’s a told story and if you go in knowing that, you won’t be bored to tears. Just don’t expect drama. It’s almost like reading a science book about something that doesn’t really exist.
I’ve been a fan of superhero comics since I was a little kid. I grew up with SpiderSpider and Batman and Superman in my house. Even though I preferred funny animal comics, I read the superhero books and enjoyed them and read all the way through the 70s 80s and 90s. I even read a couple superhero novels over the years.
So when I discovered Mike Stack pole had written a different sort of superhero novel, I had to pick up a copy. It sat in my to read pile waiting to be read. I had been rereading some classic comics and finally decided it was time to read this one.
When I say a different novel I mean different. Sure Batman has the dark and gritty covered, but villains making g plans and posting those plans so heros can bid on what they were going to defend. Heros scoring point to help them grow in popularity. A city that allows crime to happen so heros can save them. Color me curious.
Our hero has no name to start with. He’s had so many identities over that names are interchangeable. He is a hero out of time. 20 years he disappeared only to discover a new reality where thing are allowed to happen.
But he’s not ready to p,any this game. He’s retired. The life he left and the one he came back to are not the same. And someone is trying to break this new system.
Mike does a great job intertwining the tropes of traditional comics and dropping in parody, insight, and a twist all his own. The characters are fun, unpredictable, and wind their way along as best they can. Just when you think the story is going in one direction, BAM! You forced sideways and have to wonder if that was on purpose.
I really enjoyed this book. There were a couple lines that rubbed me wrong, but that could be said of any book. Overall this is a fun and fast read. Highly recommended.
I had read the deluxe edition. What did I get for my extra buck? Oh, just an essay explaining not only the behind the scenes of writing the book but the history, thought process, and little insights that made the story tick.
Do yourself a favor. If you’re a fan of superhero comics and have been looking for a different take, pick up this book and give it a go.
Edited by @lossrockheart
Find the title on Amazon where you can also read a full description of the book and about the editor.
I read the kindle version of this book even though I had picked up a copy at WFC2011. I had the pleasure of meeting Ross Lockheart there and he tolerated my presence at his booth multiple times. I was given a copy of this e-book and I was not paid for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.
I don’t usually read horror, but I’ve read a lot of H.P. Craft and Stephen King over there years and I also enjoy Scott Sigler and Paul E. Cooley. I have always preferred horror that creeps me out instead of being over the top blood baths. If you want to entertain me, scare me. Don’t just try to make me jump.
I’m a sucker when it comes to reading a Lovecraft inspired stories because normally they’ll make you think hard about the horror. There is a lot of fiction out there allegedly inspired by Lovecraft and much of it is not good, sad to say. It takes a lot of reading to find those true gems.
With The Book of Cthulu, Ross has done that work for me. He’s taken the best of the past and added a couple new tales, combining them into a tome that when dropped could waken the old gods. This thing is huge and filled cover to cover with scary, creepy goodness that will have you itching your skin, clawing at the walls, and begging to be released from the mortal coil. Once you delve into the book, you’re thrown into a maelstrom of stories that runs the gamut of classic tales that you might have seen before or, if you’re like me, missed when they came around the first time.
Once inside you’re taken away from the normal day-to-day and swept across the globe with horror tales that will have the hair on the back of your neck standing on end, force you to look out the window from several feet away, and not wanting to open that closet door. Ross has done a wonderful job getting the best of the best together in one collection.
But wait, there’s more. I only recently noticed that there will be a second collection! Oh Ross, how I hate you as I have already pre-ordered my copy and will be along on a second journey back into the mind of Lovecraft. The Book of Cthulu II comes out in October!
Conan the Barbarian by Michael Stackpole
Find the title on Amazon where you can also read a full description of the book and about the author.
I was not given my copy of the book. I was not asked to or paid to write this review.
I consider myself a Conan fan. I’ve read many of Robert E Howard’s books. I read the Marvel comics. I even read a couple of Robert Jordan’s Conan novels. And of course I’ve seen all the movies.
I’m a fan, not a fanatic. I know much about Conan lore, but I couldn’t recite the Hyborian Knowledge as many could. I just enjoy a good read and Conan can provide that.
I’m also a fan of Mike Stackpole. I enjoy his works and his writing style. I have read several of his books and have more on my to read pile.
I saw that the Conan movie was about to come out and I knew that Stackpole was going to write the novelization. I grabbed it for my kindle as soon as it was available. I love technology. I didn’t, however, start reading until after I had seen the movie. Too many times I’ve been disappointed by a movie after reading the book.
Sadly the new Conan movie was lacking. It was a shallow representation of Conan lore. It seemed like a minor transition from big fight scene to big fight scene. There was little development of the character. At least with the Arnold movies we had a running dialog to fill in many holes.
I worried that the book would also be lacking, but knowing Michael, I dove into the book. At first I was confused. It didn’t start where the movie started. I didn’t mind though. I didn’t need a long explanation of Conan being born on the battlefield. In great Stackpolean fashion, he brought Conan’s birth into the novel through conversation. Something the movie lacked a lot of was conversation and Michael brought that into the novel.
He also brought us the Conan history that Howard always had in his stories. That background needed to fill in so many gaps left in the movie. Where the movie failed, the novel succeeded. I finished the book quickly, finding it difficult to put down. It was such an enjoyable read. I can only hope that Michale Stackpole is allowed to revisit this universe and continue on the Conan tradition. After reading this book, he’s earned the right.
ShatnerQuake by Jeff Burk
Find the title on Amazon where you can also read a full description of the book and about the author.
I met Jeff Burk at WFC2011. Silly me, I bought the book from him and completely forgot to have him sign it. Ah well. This will push me to attend another con where I may be able to meet him again and have him sign my copy.
I was not given my copy of the book. I was not asked to or paid to write this review.
What prompted me to pick up this book was William Shatner? William Shatner. William Shatner! And a Captain Kirk holding a light saber. Well, that and speaking with Jeff was a lot of fun. I’m glad I picked up this book.
From start to finish this book was a fun romp. Yes, it was a quick read, but it was a fun, quick read. I’m sure Jeff had to do some research into all the variations of Shatner, but I’m getting ahead of my self.
The book finds William (Bill) attending ShatnerCon. A convention in his honor. Outside are Campbellians protesting. Those would be fans of Bruce Campbell. In the first couple of chapters, a fiction bomb is set off and every variation of William Shatner comes to life. Yes, in the middle of a convention. And the real William Shatner must deal with confused fans, Campbellians, and Shatners. More shatners than you can shake a bat’leth at.
I really enjoyed this book. Like I said, it was a lot of fun. I expected a funny, twisted tale and Jeff Burk delivered. If you’re a fan of the Shat, and you’re looking for more William Shatner than you may really want, check out ShatnerQuake. It’s just plain weird fun.
Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring ’20s
Find the title on Amazon where you can also read a full description of the book and about the editors.
I read the kindle version of this book even though I had picked up a copy (and had it signed by at World Fantasy Con). I had the pleasure of meeting Jaym and Erika there as well. I was not given a copy of this book and I was not paid for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.
The idea of Spec-Fic from the 1920s intrigued me. At first, due to my own ignorance of the era, had assumed that each story would be filled with bathtub gin, rum runners, and speakeasys. Perhaps something about the depression.
I was wrong. Sure some of those elements were present, but the stories ran the gamut from magical to fantastic to out of this world. The authors (and editors) did their homework. I’m a stickler for details and when something feels out of place, I have a tendency to look something up. I only ran into a couple of snags that once I stopped, looked up the detail, I was pleasantly surprised to find the story accurate.
Aside from the details, the collection of stories were consistently different in tone, atmosphere, theme, and even locale. From the mean streets of Chicago, to a backwoods distillery, each story kept up a great pace to make the book a fun and fast read. Usually with a collection you’ll run across one story that runs across the grain, but with this collection I was surprised that each flowed well from one to the next.
I’d be hard pressed to choose just one story out of the batch that I’d call my favorite. As I look over the list I keep thinking, oh, I really liked this part of this story, and I liked this one a lot. This story was fun, and that story started out gritty, but gave me hope at the end. To be honest, I love this collection as a whole. I highly recommend this collection. For only $2.99 for the kindle edition, it’s a steal! Grab it. Read it. Enjoy it.