CBR #156 – The Dog of the Marriage

Cujo by Stephen King

My mother hates horror films, and she said she’s only ever watched one: The Omen.  And said she’d never watch another one after that.  Amazed, I asked why.  She said, because the stuff that happens in The Omen is all plausible.  People could do that.  Jump off buildings.  Get struck by lightning and gate posts from storm winds.

Well, thank Christ my mother never read Cujo.

Recently watching Jurassic World with some family members, I laughed as they were squirming from the action sequences.  And I reminded them, Jaws and Jurassic Park are both horror films.  Sure they’re adventure action, but essentially a giant stalker chases after innocents and brutally murders them.  It’s Jason with scales and fins.

But as with all great horror films, there’s so much more than just senseless slaughter.  Jaws is about tourism and commercialism.  How the townsfolk will do anything to avoid losing their bottom line and trade.  Same with Jurassic Park along with the message about scientists playing God.  And Cujo is about dissolving marriages.

Yeah, like me, most folks just remember the tale of a St. Bernard going rabid and killing small town folks.  But holy God, it’s so much, much more than that.  We watch two very different Mainer marriages quickly falling apart or slowly falling apart, and then trying to come back together for good or for ill.  There are two young boys, one much younger, who are coping with their families and their love for their fathers.  There’s the housewife who has an affair, and the housewife dealing with an abusive spouse.  He never actually strikes her during the novel, and that’s somehow so much worse.

Cujo is way more fucked up than a killer car.  Because a dog could go rabid.  And King puts us in the mind of his maniac dog.  As it slowly loses its friendliness and its mind and begins blaming everyone for the spreading sickness and for making it feel like a BADDOG.  It’s heartbreaking.  And gut wrenching.  Because while there is a huge motif that the psychotic killer from The Dead Zone may be haunting young Tad Trenton, and possibly possessing Cujo, at heart, it’s really about a dog with rabies on a rampage at the worst of all possible times.  It’s about more than just the dog too, and that’s the best part of Stephen King.  So when people shy away from him because they don’t like horror, I chide them for what they are missing.  A lovable St. Bernard slowly descending into Jack Torrance madness is way fucking scarier than a killer car or clown.  Believe you me.

And so marks my triple cannonball.  Hoorah!

CBR #155 — Oh, Waily, Waily, Waily

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

So much gravitas. I mean, he kind of knew he was done, clearly when he wrote this.  It’s as heartbreaking as his final tweet: AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.  Writ all in caps as the voice of Death.  Death is prevalent in this new book, as is life, as is everything.

It’s a solid book, a final bow for the witches of Lancre.  It’s a good fight, a good story, and a nice way for the Discworld to end.  The heartbreaking part, besides the obvious which I dare not spoil and which makes this review all the harder to write, is the gentleman listing all of the future Discworld novels that we will never get to see.

Forty-One.  That’s a hell of a number.  That’s a hell of a series.  Spanning children’s books, young adult books, and very adult books, it’s a grand thing.  If you’re gonna read Discworld, now you don’t have to wait.  You get to drink it all in, one luxuriant sip at a time.  Very cheeky, very Monty Python witted, while still using the world to make very our world points.  I’m so glad I finally finished.  It was a beautiful run.

And now, our time has ended.  It’s nothing but turtles.  All the way down.  From here.

Walk well, Sir Terry.  You left the world a better place than it was when you got here.

CBR #154 – Red Sky At Night, Something Something This is All Bullshit

Crimson Shore by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

It’s funny.  Coming on the heels of my Connelly review, I look to another long running and varied series, that of quirky FBI agent, Aloysius Pendergast.  It started with Relic, and then moved forward through several books.  All of Preston and Child’s characters kind of coalesced into one novel, and then from then on, it focused mainly on Pendergast, a pale-featured New Orleans bred bon vivant, whose checkered past and unconventional mannerisms get him in trouble all while he’s trying to solve murders with an uncanny supernatural bent.

It’s been a weird goddamn ride with AXL Pendergast. There have been a series of trilogies of sorts.  In one, he fights his evil brother, Diogenes, which is easily the best of the batch. Though the early ones, where we meet Corrie Swanson, are excellent too.  He takes upon himself the stewardship of Constance Greene, a victorian throwback — LITERALLY — as well as a number of confreres and such. They were solid books, with a tinge of supernatural flavoring them.

And as of late, they’ve sort of lost their flare.

This one in particular is a bit of a mess.  It starts off with shades of Salem witchcraft and Edgar Allan Poe, as Pendergast is called upon to a mysterious New England fishing community to solve a wine robbery.  Instead, he discovers a massive conspiracy dating back to the 1880’s involving a missing steamer and its cargo.  And even THAT would have been enough.  But then it turns into Relic, with a weird monster slaughtering people.  And the book ends on such a cheesy fucking cliffhanger that I won’t be surprised if Pendergast bungeed to the bottom on string mozzarella.

It’s like Preston and Child aren’t quite sure what to do with their hero now, and so they’re just throwing awkward shit at him.  They’ve clearly got plans for a new…I don’t know, maybe another trilogy?  I guess this past wave is clear, the Trois Colours trilogy of White Fire, Blue Labyrinth and now Crimson Shore.  I hope it picks up in this next phase.  Because these last three were kind of a disappointment.

CBR #153 – A Buffet of Badass Bitches

Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

I read this book because once again I was deceived by George R.R. Martin.  I kid.  But seriously, that’s why.  As a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire — which was fostered by the very first Cannonball Read! — I also started reading the Dunk and Egg novellas.  Martin sporadically drops a Dunk and Egg tale — a prequel of sorts set before the events in the novels — every so often.  Well, he had promised that the fourth Dunk and Egg story, which he was winkingly calling The She-Wolves of Winterfell, would be coming soon.  And then he said it would be the final story in Dangerous Women.  In fact, the release of the collection was delayed because of him not finishing his story — BIG FUCKING SURPRISE.  So then he released it.  And it was The Princess and The Queen.  LYING FUCKING LIAR!  And then he released Rogues.  WHICH ALSO DOES NOT CONTAIN DUNK AND EGG.  And then he released his promised Hedge Knight collection.  WHICH ALSO DOES NOT HAVE DUNK AND EGG.  AAAAAAAHHHH!  When will you stop with your disembling, you be-bearded hobgoblin!  GIVE ME MORE ASOIAF, YOU FUCK!

Okay, past that.

Anyway, this collection swoops through various genres and features some rather big name talent offering up tales from their collections.  It’s truly like a buffet.  In that you get a nice sampler of some authors you might never had tasted before.  And others, well, you figured you didn’t like potato salad, and after eating it, you were RIGHT.  IT’S SHIT.  HOW ARE YOU ON ANY BESTSELLER LISTS, YOU SHITTY SHIT.  FUCK YOU POTATO SALAD.

Okay, past that.

The dangers of reading authors you haven’t read before is why my Kindle is swollen beyond 700 titles.  Because goddammit.  Megan Abbott’s noir is brilliant, and now I had to grab as many of her books as I could.  And Joe R. Lansdale and I have danced and danced, and finally, I accepted because COME THE FUCK ON.  If you read this short story, Wrestling Jesus, you’ll be hooked like hell.  But not just finding new gems, but also finding old familiar loves.  Like the Jim Butcher story detailing the events between Ghost Story and the later books.  Or finding out Megan Lindholm is the real name of Robin Hobb, and how even when she isn’t writing amazing fantasy, she’s so goddamn good.  Sanderson and Abercrombie, Lawrence Block.  I never read any Diana Gabaldon before this, and now, I’m like, holy shit, those entire books are going to be in accent?  AAAAAAAAHHH.  I kid.  It was super fast reads.

Anway, I re-fell in love with Wild Cards, and cemented my understanding that I really should have stayed away from some authors, because not only are they not my cup o’ tea, they taste like fucking dishwasher from a pissed off line cook.

If you want to test the waters of some authors, I can’t imagine a better sampler platter.  Of the authors I know and love, these are ample reasons why I love them.  And even the lying Martin’s lie filled story is still awesome and wonderful.


CBR #152 – You’re Nothing But A Lot of Talk and a Badge

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

Dude. If Connelly decided to just end right now, to call it quits on Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller, this was a motherfucking hell of a mic drop.  It’s another combo Haller/Bosch novel, the sixth for the Lincoln Lawyer and the eighteenth for Bosch, and it would seriously perfectly end the series.  For a moment, Bosch looks down the barrel of a gun and I thought, he’s going to do it. He’s going to fucking murder Bosch right here. Or he’s going to put him in a fucking coma.  Or a wheelchair.  Or his daughter is going to take over.  Or ANYTHING.  Because that’s how brilliant Connelly has been with his detective.  Bosch is constantly evolving and shifting.  And that, coupled with Connelly’s amazing noirish LA, makes for some fucking fantastic reads.

The last book ended with Bosch forced into retirement.  He’s suing the department, and his half brother Mickey is working as his attorney.  Mickey brings Harry in to act as his investigator after Haller’s usual bikerriffic investigator gets taken down in “an accident.”  Harry is reluctant to cross the line, going from solving crimes to put criminals away to solving crimes to set criminals free.  It’s going to earn him enemies in a department that already doesn’t like him.  That’s the titular crossing.  Once again, Connelly changing the game on Bosch.  Sometimes I just sit back and think about the fucking journey Bosch has taken, the lovers, the family, the partners, being a cop, being a cold case cop, being a private investigator.  It’s so massive in scope. I cannot recommend this series enough, especially if you have ever been to or you live in LA.  I picked it up when I first moved to LA, and it was awesome.  Bosch grows as the city does.  And Connelly keeps tying in real events in LA’s past.

As I said, if Connelly wanted to peace out at this point, and with the equally excellent series on Amazon gaining steam, perhaps he will, this would be a hell of a bow.  But I hope he keeps it up.  And I look forward to next year’s book.

CBR #151 – I Hear That Train A-Coming

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Wowser.  This one was less complicated than previous tales, but really brought everyone in for a ride. It’s about progress.  A funny little fellow essentially events the steam engine and so the railroad is a coming for Ankh-Moorpork.  And then a radical offshoot of dwarves is trying to take over and keep dwarves dwarvish.  So they start a terrorist campaign.  Couple this with the goblins ascendant and the wizards basically bowing out, and it’s a really great finale to the Moist Von Lipwig trilogy.

It’s also brutally sad that this is the penultimate novel.  I’ve already started into the last book, which has already thoroughly gutted me, and so I know that this is pretty much it.  That’s all we get of Ankh-Moorpork.  Tiffany Aching will lead us away to the curtain, and I can already tell Sir Terry was planning on sewing a bunch of loose threads and bowing out beautifully.

The most hopeful note, is that Rhi Pratchett has been working on creating The Watch, a procedural based on the City Watch books, which means based on everything.  We could get old tales, new tales, who knows?  But if we have to lose the written works, at least we get some cinematic hope.  I truly hope The Watch is wonderful, and that it becomes its own legacy.  Until then, I have but these last few pages to bid adieu to Discworld.  It’s turtles, all the way down.  What may Discworld have become?  We’ll never know.  But at least we got to enjoy it while it was here.

CBR #150 – Beef. It’s What’s Your Face Is Made Of.

The Hellsblood Bride by Chuck Wendig

I honestly have no idea what’s going on with Wendig, as it’s hard to keep track of his myriad of projects.  He must have gone through some kind of tussle with his previous publishing companies — and honestly, he’s just leveled up in regards to authoring having just knocked out the most controversial and bestselling book of his career, Aftermath — and so keeping track of his series is bonkers at best.

He’s got a new Atlanta Burns coming out.  He’s got a three more in his dynamic Miriam Black series, but that just got bumped back a whole year in order for all three to be released at once.  He’s got two more for Star Wars.  He’s got a sequel coming for Zer0es, his hacker series.  And now he’s got his second Mookie Pearl, though this got delayed for a year and now released.

The Mookie Pearl books are fucked up.  Basically, it’s Wendig’s hell and demons novels.  There’s a whole subculture of monsters living just below the surface of the Earth and their interactions with us are limited.  Mookie, who looks like a shaved silverback, was an enforcer for a mob boss. Ish.  It’s complicated.  But now things are getting a whole lot crustier.  They deal in pigments — these color-coded drugs that have various effects.  At the end of the last Mookie Pearl book, Mookie saved his estranged daughter’s life by feeding her the Death’s Head Mushroom.  It saved her, but also cursed her to live in the hell beneath New York.  While on the surface everyone’s scrambling to fill the vacuum left by the criminal underworld getting beat to fuck.

It’s a weird kind of punk rock Inferno meets Wizard of Oz, as Nora Pearl tries to get herself out of hell, and Mookie tries to keep himself alive as his heart starts basically giving out.  It ends on a straight up crazy ass cliffhanger, but the journey there again feels really stretched and kind of focusless.  You’re supposed to enjoy the ride, but half the time, the timeline is so herky jerky, it’s jarring and other times, characters are constantly blacking out or falling asleep.  It’s a hell of a ride, pun fully intended, but it’s also not my favorite Wendig.  Not that it’s bad, but that the others are really good.  Particularly, Atlanta Burns and Miriam Black.

Honestly, I stumbled on Wendig doing a library search for Chuck Palahniuk.  I gave it a whirl and now he’s one of my favorite authors.  And THEN I found out he’s from two towns over from where I grew up. So fuck yeah.