CBR #110 – The McVegemite Crapwich

Private Sydney by James Patterson and Kathryn Fox

Everyone knows Patterson is a franchise farmer.  I have no idea which of his books he’s actually writing these days.  I suspect just the Alex Cross ones.  And the others, he’s farming out like a professor signing off on grad student research or a painter who trained a whole legion of copycats.  I mean, that’s his bread and butter.

But Private is even more bananafuck than that. I’ve bitched about this before.  Anyway, Private Sydney is his second Private book in Australia after Private Oz/Down Under.  Except with a new author.  So guess guy one wasn’t selling enough.  At least he didn’t do what he did with the only other Private book to get a sequel — Private Games, where he fucking murdered off the entire old Private office and completely refurbed it with a new staff.  This time, same folks give or take.

Ugh.  So the main mysteries, there are three.  One, someone broke into Private’s offices maybe and fucked with their phones and computers maybe.  Two, a couple shows up to get a background check on a surrogate, only to have the surrogate murdered and their identities prove false.  Three, a wealthy CEO completely disappears — and I mean completely in that there is no record at all of him on the internet or in major files.  So this is what our intrepid heroes must search out.

Just once.  JUST ONCE.  Could we not have the main male character fall hopelessly in love with the client?  Just once.  PLEASE, Jimmy P.  PLEASE.  I don’t know if it’s the formula that man must girl, but c’mon.  The mysteries are actually relatively decent, if not just straight boilerplate.  Patterson makes his burgerbooks the same way, and this one is just microwaved and flame broiled.  Really, the Private series makes me wonder if it’s even worth following.  It’s frustrating as fuck, with co-author swaps and no particular schedule.  Next up is yet ANOTHER Private office, Private Paris.  I don’t know if we’ll get any Asia offices or maybe after the Olympics some South American offices.  Private Rome was rumored, but probably not.  I don’t know.  I’ll read them.  Cause I’m a fat asshole.

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CBR #109 – Well, That Sucked. JOKE GRENADE.

Blood Infernal by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

Rollins was a perfect choice to write the novelization of Indiana Jones and The Movie That Shouldn’t Exist, because he’s been doing that with the Sigma Force.  Super scientists with military training who travel the globe stopping apocalypse and finding religiousy artifacts.  Sigma Force is popcorny fun.  So I thought too might be this series.

The Order of the Sanguines are members of an elite cadre of priests and nuns within the Vatican. They’re essentially daywalkers — hideously transformed strigoi (vampires) who survive and can walk in sunlight because instead of human blood they consume sacramental wine, the blood of Christ.  Great concept.  Clever as all hell.

But then he Rollins-ed it.

You see, they end up sucking in major biblical figures and whatnot.  I mean, we’re talking the founders of the Crusades and Knights Templar.  We’re talking Lazarus.  We’re talking Lucifer and Rasputin and Elizabeth Bathory.  It gets fucking bananas.

To the point that this last book in the trilogy (thought it’d be a series, but the sales probably shat the bed.) involves the chosen three going to find three mystical stones so they can “restore the shackles upon Lucifer.”  Uuuuugggghh.

But that’s not even the bad part.  I can deal with over the top hyperbole in my action-y adventures.  It’s the characters.  Erin, the Woman of Learning, and Jordan, the Warrior of Man, are HORRIBLE.  Just a bro-dude with angelic blood trying to figure out his feelings towards a reformed evangelist turned archaelogist.  There’s so much baggage, if they flew Spirit Airlines they’d be bankrupted.  And it just drags and bores.  It’s so crap.  Just utter crap.

But fortunately, the sun will come out tomorrow, and no more sanguines!  HUZZAH!  Lotta vampire novels getting the stake this year.  And I’m all for it.  Bring on the new supernatural cool.  GHOSTS.

CBR #108 – Graphic & Novel

Indomitable & The Dark Wraith of Shannara by Terry Brooks

I decided to carry on with these two epilogues to the original Shannara trilogy.  I’ve been following the so-called Brooks canon of how to read the Shannara series.  Because there are prequels and sequels and whatnot and things bounce around.  So next after the first three books were these two.  So I combined them.

Indomitable is a solid follow-up to the events of Wishsong.  Kimber Boh finds Jair at the Shady Vale inn, and has him return to Hearthstone and her crazy grandpa Cogline.  Mwellrets have found a single page of the Ildatch that Brin failed to destroy, and are trying to use it to summon up dark magics.  It’d be DLC to the video game, and it’s an enjoyable length. (PHRASING). So Jair goes on another adventure, deep into the dungeons he once escaped, to find this lost page.  What’s fascinating is that Jair discovers he can summon Garet Jax and essentially become a killing machine.  And he does this — to finish off the leftover page of the Ildatch.  And then thus ends the adventure.

The Dark Wraith of Shannara is slightly different, in that it’s a graphic novel.  I didn’t know this when I added it to the kitty.  I didn’t realize, until I read other Cannonballers reviews, that graphic novels counted as readable material for the Cannonball.  I read at least 80 comics a year.  Which probably puts me over 200 books read a year. Only I never count the graphic novels in the mix.  No idea why.  But I’m counting this one.

Anyway, Dark Wraith illustrates in flashback the events of Indomitable.  So it’s like Hellraiser and Hellraiser 2. You only need to see the second movie.  It explains everything that happened in the first, and quicker and sharper.  So Dark Wraith does that.  And then, we find out through a vision, that Jair must now go find Kimber and Cogline, who have been kidnapped by Mwellrets and a witch to force the former Druid to bring back Paramore or whatever the fuck band that Druid compound was named after.  So Jair tracks down Slanter the Gnome, and they have another adventure together.  Jair uses his super seiyan powers to summon Garet Jax, only he shouldn’t do that, because it might kill him.  He saves the day again, gets Kimber to kiss him, and then we’re set up for whatever the fuck Brooks is doing next.  I think the Heritage of Shannara trilogy is the next in the reading cycle.  But I’m going to toss it back into the roulette wheel and see what series comes up next.  Besides, I’ve got six more books in my immediacy queue, plus three more coming on Tuesday.  So I’ve got reading to catch up on.  Life can’t all be old school fantasy.

CBR #107 – Everybody’s a Fucking Serial Killer These Days

Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

I don’t know if it’s satisfying or not when you predict exactly what the twist will be in a series.  Especially since this twist was what elevated the books above mediocre.  But yeah, I fucking called it.

By the end of the series, everyone’s a goddamn crazed killer.  Everyone’s breaking laws and subverting protocol like we just pitched everything out the fucking window.  It opens with everyone in the hospital – Jazz, Connie, and Howie.  Which is pretty goddamn clever.  Capitalizing on the woe and shitty-in-the-woeful-sense ending of the last book.  Jazz becomes a wanted felon.  And so he decides only he can track down Billy and kill him.  This hubris is pretty much what fucking almost killed him and his girlfriend through the last two books.  But hey, he’s a kid.  HEY.  HE’S A FUCKING KID, LYGA.

Anyway, the books sweep towards a showdown where Jazz learns the truth about his identity and about who’s been pulling the strings.  It leads up to an epic showdown.  Which of course it does.  We’ve been expecting this since book one.  You don’t cage Hannibal Lecter, you set him free.  And thus, Jazz was always going to face Billy.

Lyga does a decent job toying with Jazz fighting and flexing his inner monster.  The ultimate ending is relatively satisfying, if not for the Harry Potter-esque epilogue that kind of bespoils any future playtime with the story.  If Lyga chooses to do more with Jazz and the Bobsey Twins, he totally can.  That door’s available.  But I feel like he’s not really sure what to do beyond treading water with these characters either.  Still, it was a fun disposable series that capitalizes on its characters.

CBR #106 – Wish In One Hand, Shit in the Other, and See Which Becomes A Fantasy Story First

The Wishsong of Shannara by Terry Brooks

This trilogy played out intriguingly, as it was more or less the same story being retold different ways.  In each, the Druid Allanon appears to a child of the line of Shannara, an Ohmsford, and forces them on a quest to save the world from dark forces that only they can stop.  This one was the darkest and more simplistic of the tales, and probably my favorite.

After Wil Ohmsford used the Elfstones to save the world, he absorbed part of their power, and passed it along to his children.  His two kids, Jair and Brin, now have the ability of the wishsong, which they use to change leaves on trees or create illusions. It’s frighteningly powerful, and Wil makes them promise never to use it.  And then leaves.  Which gives time for Allanon to arrive like a drunken Doc Brown insisting they follow him to save the world.  And to use the wishsong to do it.

Brin, Allanon, and the latest in the strain of highland princes to strap on the Leah sword and shout, “LEAH! LEAH!” — the worst battlecry since Leeeeeeroy Jenkins! — travel the fantasy map like all the other adventures.  They must traverse the Helswamp past the Cromulent River, through the Fartbastard Mountains, where they will find the Grundletaint and swab the universe of the Munchbutts.  Some shit like that.  I don’t pay attention anymore.

Meanwhile, Jair, who was told to stay home, totally doesn’t.  Because he gets attacked by Gnomes.  Who kidnap him.  And then he finds Garet Jax, the Weapons Master, who’s essentially a killblender of swordplay.  Jair ends up given a quest by the King of the Silver River, who tells him he must take magic powder to Heaven’s Well and clean the river of it’s taint.  Tee hee.  Taint.

So we’ve got the parallel quests.  Only, since this is the last of the trilogy, everybody fucking dies.  It’s kind of great.  Allanon dies.  Pretty much all of Jair’s party dies.  And the ending literally involves magic, not going to the dark side, and the power of love.  It’s very Luke and Leia.  Only they don’t accidentally fuck and then pretend nothing happened.

I’m curious to see what’s going on with the rest of the series.  So I decided to read the next two stop gaps.

CBR #105 – Ain’t Playing Around No More

Game by Barry Lyga

So the second book in this trilogy where we’ve got a baby Dexter clone fighting against serial killers goes kind of asshole levels of whatthefuckerous before settling into a nice depressing Empire Strikes Back groove.  Spoilers abound if you plan on reading the rest of the series.

After Billy has escaped prison and is on the loose, Jazz and his friends have settled in to their happy lives in Lobo’s Nod.  Except nope.  Jazz is immediately whisked off to New York City (NEW YORK CITY!) by an eager NYPD detective named Hughes who is convinced Jazz can use his insights to help solve their current serial killer problem.  A maniac is killing people at random, seeming to escalate, as he carves hats and dogs into his victims.  Or is it TWO maniacs?  Or is it THREE maniacs?  OR FOUR?!

No, it’s two.  There are definitely a bevy of maniacs afoot, but what we’re looking at is just two.  See, they’re playing a game.  Everyone’s playing a game, which quickly and illogically involves teenagers Connie and Jazz and even poor awful Howie, who spends his time sexually assaulting Jazz’s aunt Sam, who is back to help out temporarily.

The story has an excellent structure — in the series of what the game represents and how it’s played out by the killers and Billy who is proctoring them — but the payout is fucking horrid.  It really and truly is.  It doesn’t make a lick of sense, and it feels like Lyga decided, “Ah, fuck it that these are seventeen year olds, let’s just let this happen because it’s so great.”

And it is clever.  I half figured it out, but I didn’t think that made sense.  And then it did, and I nodded appreciatively.  But the ending of the book, and where things stand are what elevate it.  Aware that this is the middle point, Lyga banks on it with an epic assortment of corpses and downpoints that leave his main trio all in the hospital and at savage lows.  It’s handless Luke finding out his worst enemy is his father, it’s Han getting frozen in carbonite, it’s Leia getting taken to Jabba.  It’s a motherfucker sad ending.  And it’s supposedly getting worse from here.

CBR #104 – You Play a Pretty Good Fiddle, Girl, But Give The Devil His Due

The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross

Man, I just turned someone else on to the Laundry Files, explaining how Stross does such a good job slowly escalating and tightening his story.  And this one was particularly shiny.  Because while the journals are usually about Bob Howard and his travails, in the wake of the disastrous last one (not that it was bad, but that SHIT. GOT. REAL.) this one is actually told from the perspective of Dr. Dominique O’Brien, Bob’s wife and keeper of the bone violin with a trapped demon in it.  And man, what a great goddamn choice. Spoilers ahead.

This one overlaps with the end of the last story and into a new plot.  Namely, CODE NIGHTMARE GREEN has escalated to the point that normal citizens are starting to show signs of superpowers.  Not all of them are good guys.  And so Mo inadvertently gets tasked with creating a superhero force to show that the government is handling this.  Enter in that she’s now separated from Bob and that they are both in danger of their respective powers eating one another’s souls; enter that Mo is forced into the limelight; enter in that Lecter, her violin is possibly trying to possess her by using sex dreams, and man I’m just iceberging this motherfucker.

It’s great to be in Mo’s mind from this point.  Bob’s kind of wandering around cleaning up messes and avoiding her, so we get to see how that plays with Mo.  Who, if we recall, was basically sucked against her will into this whole Laundry bullshit years ago.  Sure she met Bob, and they’re lovey dovey, but she’s also pissed.

Stross kills it with the usual bureaucratic malevolence — he’s like Dilbert but Cthonic and actually amusing — while still nudging us towards oblivion and an eventual showdown.  He makes great hay with bringing back some old characters and kind of nicely tying things together, while also at the same time, giving us a fresh perspective.  I admit, I got a little pissed at time, which is probably misogynist and old fashioned of me, when Mo shows affection towards her spy beaus.  Especially since Bob works so hard not to get banged by the strange.  But that’s just me.

And that also is my SECOND CANNONBALL COMPLETE.  KABOOM-O. I might not make the four I was hoping for, but I’m still on task for a three-fer.