CBR #32 – Elf Yourself

The Good, The Bad, and the Uncanny by Simon R. Green

So more of the Nightside.  For what actually happens by the end of this story, this one was a huge disappointment.  Kind of colossal.  All this build up and the final blow was like a sad trombone fart.  The main story deals with elves in the Nightside.  An elf appears and asks John Taylor to run him to a dimensional gate at the far end of the Nightside to assist in the elven Peace Accords.  And Walker doesn’t want this to happen.  So a great deal of the story is Taylor, Ms. Fate — a male decked out as a female superhero, and the elf fighting their way across the boss level.  Taylor works his power to the brink, a lot of people explode and turn to blood sausage, and everyone almost dies, until they don’t.

What’s interesting is that this is when some of the Shadows Fall stuff gets mentioned.  Taylor is told to keep an eye out for Excalibur.  The elves of course deal with Titania and Oberon.  Who I thought were dead in Shadows Fall, but maybe not?  It’s so hard keeping track of what happens in this shit.  But anyway, the elf secretly turns out to be someone else.

Anyway, the next major part of the book deals with the three Oblivion brothers: Larry Oblivion, the dead detective who hates Taylor demands his help in tracking down Tommy Oblivion, who disappeared during the Lilith War.  Because their brother Hadleigh Oblivion is back.  Hadleigh has some kind of arcane superpowers because OF COURSE HE DOES and he used to be in Walker’s position before he snapped and became a dark sorcerer but not quite but maybe.  Anyway, that bullshit takes up the rest of the book.

And by the end, Walker keeps insisting that Taylor take over his job because he’s the only man for the job, but Taylor won’t do it.  So they battle to the death, and Walker is killed. And Taylor goes home and finds that someone mailed him Excalibur.  And that’s literally how the book ends.  The Walker fight should take twenty pages.  But it doesn’t.  It’s a whimper, not a kablammo, and it just feels lame.  Like something that got checkmarked.  So that’s where we are at the end of book ten.


CBR #31 – The Literary Equivalent of Rachel’s Trifle

Shadows Fall by Simon R. Green

It’s probably a bad sign when the blurb on the front of a book is the author saying, “I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.”  That’s like your mother patting your hair and saying, “Well, I think you’re handsome.”  It doesn’t help.  It never helps.

Shadows Fall was only available at the Burbank Public Library.  Los Angeles Public Library has some like 70 branches across this wide and wild district, including a massive main branch downtown that you seriously should visit for no reason other than to kind of gasp at realizing how many fucking books are there.  But the LAPL had no copies.  Burbank, all three branches, had exactly one.  I should have taken that as a sign.

Shadows Fall is a stand-alone, and clearly an early book by Green.  Shadows Fall is where old forgotten stories go to die.  Or to live until they decide to go through the Forever Door.  Ghosts exist there, and fairy tales, and forgotten pets.  In the greater universe of Greendom, Shadows Fall gets name dropped a ton. Father Time exists there and kind of watches over everyone, along with his little assistant Mad. Bruin Bear and The Sea Goat crop up a bunch of times in the various worlds — they showed up in the Drood books almost as much as Walker, and they’ve popped up a few times in the Nightside tales.

On Friends, Rachel once accidentally combined a meat dish with her trifle recipe when the pages got stuck together.  And Joey ate it to their disgust.  He said, “Meat good. Pudding good.  Good.”  That’s kind of what’s wrong with Shadows Fall.  It’s a mishmash of what seemed like a short story collection that kind of got smushed together into a long novel.  There’s so much and too much going on, and a lot of that metaphorical stuff that Terry Pratchett does really well and Simon Green doesn’t.  One of the major elements is that the Warriors of the Cross, a fanatical military group, swoops into Shadows Fall to destroy the “demons and deviltry.”  If they were actually devout Christians, this would have been way more interesting.  Instead, they’re just mercs who rape and torment and bully until the collective Shadows Fall denizens rise up and whoop their asses.

But then there’s a whole extra part that must be resolved where The Wild Childe comes through and… you know what?  I don’t want to get into it.  It’s just a big weird unsatisfying turducken of a plot that involves the Fae Folk, and Father Time, and Excalibur — only Excalibur never actually comes into play more than a sword that Mad wields for a brief time.  Like I said, it sort of feels Martian Chronicles in that these feel like Tales of the Shadows Fall that got woven into a full novel.

As a completionist, I’m glad I read it. But it’s not necessary. You don’t get any sort of in depth explanation of more characters.  It just names a few things that will appear in the last few Nightside books.  Checked off the list.  Next book.  NEXT.

The Place Where The Sidewalk Ends

The smug bloggers have begun reporting that “anyone who is good at math obviously saw this coming.”  A Song of Ice and Fire will officially be spoiled by the television series Game of Thrones.  I’m furious.

As Neil Gaiman famously opined, George R.R. Martin is not our bitch.  And I’m fine with that.  Stephen King taught me that you should sell no wine before it’s time with the rapid fire conclusion of The Dark Tower series.  A series which probably should have taken 35 years to complete.  Starting in 1982, King released a new Dark Tower book about every five years.  And then he got hit by a van.  And then he released all the last three in a quick dump in 2003-4.  And they were disappointing.  I had secretly imagined King kept the drafts in a bank box, ala Bag of Bones, and would take them out and polish them every few years.  But instead, he just sort of dumped them ahead of time in the wake of his impending Brett Favrean retirement.

I’m patiently and excitedly awaiting Patrick Rothfuss, and Jim Butcher, and Scott Lynch, and George R.R. Martin.  I’m cool with that.  Take the time you need to release the book you want.  It’s totally cool.  I’ve blown past deadlines myself.  It happens.

But what sucks is that the television series is going to wrap up in the next two or three years.  So the series will be spoiled.  The ending of the books will be revealed before the penultimate book is even released.  I had faith.  There’s plenty of storyline left in the already published material to make a damn fine Season 5.  But nope.  They’re onwards and up yours.

This is the first time I can think of where a television series has eventually eclipsed the books progression.  And it’s fucking bullshit.  Maybe The Walking Dead will catch up to the narrative eventually.  But they’ve also made enough progressive changes to the narrative to surprise everyone.  Holding Shane’s death. Adding Daryl.  Good decisions while keeping to the spirit of the story.

True Blood finished up the same time as the Sookie Stackhouse series, but by then, the series had gone off on its own tangential adventures.  Jeff Lindsay is about to write the final book in his Dexter Morgan series, a little over a year from when the series Dexter had disappointed us.  But the Dexter television series is very different from the book series. And I have a feeling Lindsay’s going to give us the ending we all craved.  His books are already way fucking darker.  Even the Dark Tower television series that’s been rumored repeatedly will be after the series has ended.

But not Game of Thrones.  Game of Thrones claimed they were going to make narrative changes, killing characters that don’t exist in the books and so forth.  And I’m cool with that.  I don’t mind if adaptations make adaptations.  But this is bullshit.  Because the books are far richer and more rewarding.  I’ll already get spoiled on plot points from this season alone.  I’m not putting up some pithy protest.  I’m just not going to watch.  I’m going to try to avoid spoilers.  But in this day in age, it’s fucking impossible.  Most idiots are incapable of consuming a television show without barking out salient plot points like a drunk seal.  It’s not even just saying, “Wow!  That was amazing!”  Or “Holy shit!  Best ending ev-ar!”  It’s that they will literally yell, “ARYA! NOOOOO!”  Or, “I can’t believe Tyrion is Jon Snow’s FATHER!”  (I’m making up spoilers.  None of these have happened in the book.  I’m not a complete son of a bitch.)

I already was pissed off when some dizzy bitch on Facebook purchased A Dance With Dragons, went to the last chapter, and shouted out the death of a major character. Since there’s speculation that this death might not even be a death, who knows.  But still, that’s fucking annoying.  But that’s people.  No one can enjoy something without shouting out major plot spoilers.  And then they become part of the lexicon.  Red Wedding is already a reference.  So anyone who wanted to be as shocked and horrified by the events of Book 3, good luck.

If they were going to do something different, if they were going to make changes, if they were going to alter the ending, I’d be fine with it.  But now, I don’t get that same visceral enjoyment from the books as I would have.  And it’s not like I can enjoy Season 5 next year after Martin (maybe) published Winds of Winter.  Because who knows how far in the narrative the series will jump?  They’ve already spoiled future events with one brief scene in Season 3. And Martin may take until 2020 to write A Dream of Spring.  And that might not even be the last book.  A Song of Ice and Fire was originally to be three books.  Then he split Book 4.

It’s just disappointing that pop culture has to kill literature.  If a book even becomes remotely popular, someone is clamoring to make it into viewable content.  Most times, they take a paradigm shift from the source material so that they can have fun with their own narratives.

George R.R. Martin is famous for killing things you love.  I never thought one of the murders would be the love his readers have of the series.

CBR #30 – Vacation, All I Ever Wanted, Vacation, Time To Get Away

Faith of the Fallen by Terry Goodkind

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  AHAHAHAHAHAH!  What a piece of shit you are, Terry Goodkind.  What a magnificent piece of shit.

So this book starts out with Richard bummed out after the slaves of Amaranth or Amaretto or whatever the fuck that city was basically voted to tell him to go fuck himself.  So he has a great big sad.  And then he takes this sad to the woods. He abandons everyone.  Decides I don’t want to be the leader anymore.  And then he runs off with Kahlan to live in the woods and be happy and free and enjoy nature.

But instead, Psycho Nicci, one of the Sisters of the Dark that was Richard’s teacher and became Jagang’s bangmaid, goes berserker.  She frees herself of Jagang’s powers.  And she goes to find Richard and Kahlan.  She attaches a spell to Kahlan that basically means that whatever pains happen to Nicci will be visited up Kahlan.  And if Nicci on a whim wants to, she can instantly kill Kahlan. What she wants is for Richard to come with her, and pretend to be her husband.  He’s not allowed to use magic or violence against anyone.  She wants him to see what the Order truly means.  And maybe he can teach her a valuable lesson.

And while Kahlan goes on a fit and basically takes control of the MIdlands Army to hold off Jagang’s billion soldiers, Richard goes into Atlas Shrugged.  It’s not even a thinly veiled metaphor.  It’s seriously straight up fucking Objectivism.  Delivered in a manner that couldn’t be more ham-fisted than if Goodkind punched both his fists up a pig’s ass.  Which I kind of wish he did instead of writing this.

Honestly.  I don’t want to waste my life explaining the parallels.  It’s just embarrassing.  It’s not even remotely adjusted for realism.  It’s seriously like, THIS IS WHAT UNIONS DO!  Hard working people deserve everything they get.  Communism means lazy people will get all of your money.  And Richard of course is hard working.  He’s the hardest working hardest worker since Hank fucking Rearden. He even makes people like him because of how he shows them to take pride in themselves.  Ugh.

Look. I get it. What’s yours is yours.  To each their own.  Why should you pay taxes to a government that will just give all your money to welfare queens who spend it on giant TVs?  Yes, it sucks that you work hard and people don’t and mooch off the system that screws you over.  And those greed union people demanding a fair day’s wage!  FUCK YOU, MOTHERFUCKERS!  But seriously.  Don’t dip your dickhead ideas in your fantasy story.  It was bad enough that you don’t understand how humans have relationships.  Now, you’re cracking with the fucking Ayn Rand.  You cockknob.  I’m going to hatefinish this series.  It’s officially worse than Left Behind.  You can’t break me.

CBR #29 – You Tell Him I’m Coming And Hell’s Coming With Me, You Hear?

Just Another Judgement Day by Simon R. Green

Man. I totally wish this was Judgement Night instead.  And that it had the rap/rock soundtrack.  But it didn’t.  Instead, we get another cold open that probably could stand alone as it’s own jobber — involving Baron Frankenstein (who has made appearances in Drood as well) and some Dorian Gray action.  Of course, the horrors are solved by John Taylor remembering he has a gift and Suzie Shooter gunning a thousand motherfuckers.

Then we get into the meat of the story — The Walking Man has come to the Nightside to kill the guilty and to destroy the new Authorities, and so the New Authorities hire John Taylor to stop him. Now, my first introduction to the Walking Man was in the Drood books.  The first Drood book if I remember correctly.  And he was a nonce.  And Eddie Drood beat his ass with one punch.

Here, he’s transformed into the Wrath of God, an untouchable gunslinger completely with two Peacemakers, who can’t be stopped and who destroys evil in the name of the Lord. As a sucker for Roland Deschain, this was keen.  And so Taylor pairs off with Chandra Singh, an Indian Holy Warrior, who mostly is there to be an Indian Holy Warrior.  As per usual, the book follows the traditional formula of bad guy, bad guy kills everyone, Taylor watches him do it, Taylor gets a sidekick, and then Taylor saves the day.

This gets the bump to 3 stars for a few reasons.  One, I like how Taylor ultimately stops The Walking Man.  It’s a nice change of pace from “Taylor used his gift and bazinga.”  Two, the New Authorities add an interesting wrinkle to the new arc.  I didn’t expect it to go that direction, but it makes total sense in a way.  And three, the very end of the story is kind of nice, setting up two things that are inevitable from the title of the last book and from having read Drood.  This book seemed to have even more Drood influence as well as a few Deathstalker throw-ins.  I’ll take it.

CBR #28 – Yelling Fuck The Police Loses Some Of Its Swagger If You’re Wearing a Monocle and Top Hat

NYPD Red 3 by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Marshall Karp is my least favorite collaborator with James Patterson.  Karp came on the scene with Kill Me If You Can which started out promising and quickly spiralled down a what the fuckerous hole.  Just tacking on random facts and announcing things midstory don’t quite fly.  An art student finds a bunch of jewels and now he’s on the run for his life.  Oh, but did I forget to mention I’m a motherfucking ninja.  A ninja alien cyborg who has superpowers?  I did.  Well, I do.  Sexy, right?  PHHHBBBBTTTLLTTT.

The NYPD Red series follows an elite task force arranged by the NYPD to solely work on cases for the most superwealthy citizens of New York.  That cracking sounds was my molars shattering from grinding my teeth with rage.  But it’s even better, because it essentially is told from the point of view of Zach Jordan, who is basically Duckie from Pretty in Pink as a cop.  He pines for his ex-girlfriend, who is a super cop, but also married to a rich guy with a drug problem.  Zach decided to get into a relationship with his police psychiatrist, once she got a divorce from her needy hubby.  But Zach, you know, he still pines for his partner.  So they have a lot of cutesy banter, and then Zach does shitty self-absorbed relationship stuff, and then crimes happen to rich people.

Only this time, the super rich guy doesn’t want help from the cops.  He hires a shady private eye to help him.  His son has been kidnapped, and they sent him the ransom demands with his limo driver’s head.  Only it indicates that the kidnapper’s know about the dad’s disgustingly sketchy secret investment program and so he can’t let the cops know.  It happens in New York, so I’ll give you…oh let’s say somewhere between 9 and 11 guesses as to what it involves.  Because why not use a horrific event as a plot device.

I figured out the secret twist pretty much right off the bat, because it was Marshall Karp, and he doesn’t deal in red herrings so much as telling you that you are eating fish and it’s secretly been veal the whole time. And when you go, well, this is veal, he says, ‘No!  It’s fish!  FISH I TELL YOU!”  And then, HA!  FOOLED YOU!  IT was VEAL!” And when you ask why he would so something so stupid and weird, he just twirls his moustache and runs away farting. Honestly, he’s the kind of motherfucker who would sprinkle bread crumbs in someone’s Coke because he thinks they’re lying about being gluten sensitive.  What a tool.

Well, the series fortunately doesn’t end on a cliffhanger like the rest of the Patterson-Familias.  It also doesn’t even try to work B stories, unless you count the one which involves Zach’s love triangle, which is just the worst.  So, yeah.  Not a huge fan.  But will I end up reading NYPD Red 4?  Of course.  Because I am an asshole.

CBR #27 – All The News That’s Print to Give You Fits

The Unnatural Inquirer by Simon R. Green

Well, the new case is on for John Taylor.  He’s working for the oldest shadiest tabloid in The Nightside, The Unnatural Inquirer.  And they paired him with a half-succubus who is designed solely to pout at John Taylor for being a hideous monster, in between throwing herself at him sexually.  A challenge to his relationship-ish with Shotgun Suzie.  Because of her molestation at a young age, she can’t bear to be touched.  So Taylor is put to the test by being given what is literally every man’s desire.  Well, provided he wants to bang a demon.  But Taylor nobly foists her off.  And since book twelve or so is called The Bride Wore Black Leather, I’m kinda hoping them two crazy kids make everything work.  The monsters need to stick together.

The bigger kick in the pants is the case.  He’s supposed to track down a man who may or may not have recorded a DVD of the Afterlife.  And so everyone wants it.  And the newspaper wants it whether it’s true or not.  And so Taylor goes on another madcap search where he shakes down a different wacky character each chapter until eventually going to Strangefellows, and then eventually discovering that Old Man Jenkins was the menacing villain the whole time!  You durn kids.

Actually, the real reveal turns out to be way dorkier and less satisfying.  The Nightside books are at least blessedly short, so slogging through them isn’t so tragic when they aren’t as good.  Green really relies on a shorthand where he loves certain turns of phrase and descriptions of his characters.  Taylor’s white trenchcoat, Suzie being described as having an impressive bust on which she keeps her bandolier of shells.  Alex of Strangefellows and his beret on the baldspot.  He fucking loves the phrase “red of tooth and claw.”  And this habit spreads through ALL of his books. So really, churning through them, they all start to blend together.  But I’m a fucking completionist and I will get through all of them!  EXCELSIOR!