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.

CBR #149 — Elementary, My Dear Gunslinger

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

While not McAuthoring to the extent of Patterson and Woods, Brandon Sanderson and Chuck Wendig are two of the most prolific authors out there.  Honestly, Wendig’s got about five series rocking at current — all enjoyable.  But Sanderson.  Motherfucker’s called BrandonBot for a reason.  He’s got five or six series rocking too.  Huge, massive sprawling tomes.  And most of them are part of some larger Elantris type world where they might all be branches on the world tree or levels of– I don’t EVEN KNOW.

But this Mistborn series is on a whole other level.  It’s purported to be a trilogy of trilogies, but even that is now completely crunked.  The first three Mistborn series took place in a kind of medieval fantasy world, where the characters can bend metal kind of like in Avatar or Jim Butcher’s excellent Codex Alera series.  Great stuff.  THEN.  Sanderson is supposedly going to write two more trilogies, one which takes place in our modern world, and one which takes place in the future. Okay.  SO.  Sanderson then gets tasked with finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.  As if the motherfucker doesn’t have enough on his plate.  But while writing that, he was getting jammed up, so he decides to write, as a diversion, The Alloy of Law.

The Alloy of Law is set in a pseudo late-1800’s western type world.  It’s a direct offshoot of the Mistborn trilogy, only here, those characters have become the gods of this world.  And the metal bending is slightly different.  Because now they all have guns and old-timey motor cars and such. It’s excellent.  But it was just supposed to be for funsies.  Instead, Sanderson decides, shit, I’m just going to whip out a whole new trilogy.

Shadows of Self is that first trilogy book.  Now, I don’t know if this is supposed to be the middle trilogy, or if this is just kind of its own thing.  And supposedly this all ties into his master world theory of which– holy fuck, I’m losing my breath I’m so pent up.

This one was just okay.  It’s a fun story, with the excellent Wax and Wayne as a sort of crime fighting duo, as they try to stop their town from revolution.  It got a bit convolution, and a little overwrought at times.  It’s hard to complain, because overall the artistry is so awe-inspiring.  It’s not bad, not by any stretch of the imagination, and could easily be a 4-star.  But it’s just…okay.

Still, I highly recommend this series.  Get on it now.

CBR #148 – The Game’s A Leg, Er, Afoot

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

One of the worst kept nom de plumes of recent years was JK Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith.  Almost like Stephen King and Richard Bachman.  But no one really cares much either way, and Rowling gets to pen some gruesome procedurals.

Once again, we enter into the world of Cormoran Strike, a late thirties former military officer who is now a private detective, along with his plucky assistant, Robin.  As with Sherlock Holmes, at least the recent Cumberbatch/Freeman version, while the mysteries tend to be pretty great, it’s the interaction between the leads that makes for the best part of the story.

The general gist is this, Strike, fresh off solving the two previous mysteries, receives a package addressed to Robin at the office.  In it is a woman’s leg. Carved exactly to where Strike’s own prosthesis is located.  And thus, begins the hunt for the killer.  Each of the chapters begins with either a Blue Oyster Cult lyric or is titled with a lyric, as Strike’s former groupie mother had a BOC lyric tattoo just above her vagina. So now Strike starts trying to figure out who is trying to ruin his business and possibly kill Robin.  So he investigates two old criminals that he sent to prison, as well as his old scumbag junkie stepfather.

But that’s just the case.  You see, most of the story revolves around the relationship between Robin and Strike.  Robin is set to be married, only to hit stormy seas with her kind of douchebag account fiancee.  And this puts a rift between Strike and Robin and totally embraces and envelopes the story.  The investigation and the interactions wonderfully complement one another as the story progresses.  I figured out the killer, but I didn’t figure out the killer.  And Galbraith does a fine job of playing off the red herrings.  You know you’re being lead down the garden path, but then you start to wonder, or am I just supposed to THINK I’m being lead down the garden path.  That’s the best efforts of a mystery writer.

And on the particular note as this story ends, I feverishly await the next Strike novel.  Crank those fuckers forever, Jo.

CBR #147 — For The Trees

The Familiar, Vol. 2: Into the Forest by Mark Z. Danielewski

Again, I enter the surreal vortex of The Familiar.  You don’t so much read it as experience it.  If I could compare it to something it’d be either Cloud Atlas or the Netflix series Sense8. Just massive sprawling world-bent narratives that are slowly, glacially coalescing into something.  I can’t even say coherent.  This project is why drugs are. I’m not saying, no man, it’s so much better if you’ve expanded your mind, man.  I’m just saying it’s an art installation that I haven’t quite sunk my teeth into yet.  But I’m digging the flavor.

Again, there are nine different stories being told, all across the globe.  Most of the story takes place in Los Angeles, with three of the threads occurring in Mexico, Ohio, and Singapore. Three of the threads revolve around the same family members: Xanther, her father Anwar, and her mother Astair.  We’ve got an Armenian cab driver named Shnork, a on-his-way-out detective named Ozgur (I’m leaving out a bunch of umlauts), a drug dealer named Luther — all of whom are in LA, and the outliers are a, you know I’m not sure exactly what he is, helper monkey? named Jingjing who speaks in a sort of pidgin mandarin patois, a cartel handler named Isandoro working in Mexico, and then The Wizard, Cas, who possesses an Orb and is currently on the run, having just left Texas.

Parsing this 800+ page novel is next to impossible.  It’s like reading a television series, it truly is.  What’s impressive is that the narrative, while crazy and sometimes in foreign languages that are impossible to navigate without actually being a native speaker, moves along.  The first book was about Xanther and her kitten mostly.  Now the second book is about the repercussions of everything that happened in the first book.  While the first book took place during one day, this one goes for almost two months.  The threads are starting to slowly connect.  Luther, Isandoro and it seems Jingjing may be connected through drugs.  The Wizard can see Xanther and her family while scrying with the orb, and they are currently working with Mefisto, who is the friend/enemy of Anwar. I think Ozgur and Shornk are possibly tying together, but Shnork’s storyline is almost as frustrating as Jingjing’s to deal with.

Again, Danielewski is supposedly doing twenty six volumes in this massive undertaking.  And I eagerly await the next one.  I thought he’d do it in thirteen years, two a year, but Volume 3, as yet untitled, is due out in Summer of 2016.  So maybe this’ll be eighteen or twenty years?  I mean, can you imagine signing on for that huge of a literary commitment?  And these aren’t little piddly short stories or something.  These are massive, structured, 800+ page behemoths with the nine main stories, plus some kind of Italian comic, a YouTube like scripted project, and various other brief interludes incorporated within.  It’s impressive, yet sometimes I just move forward because I accept I don’t get it yet and maybe I will.

CBR #146 – I’m Starting With The Man in the Mirror

Boogeymany: The First Boogeymen Collection by Brian J. Prisco

Reviewing my own book?  Now that’s some delicious hubris.

I wonder if I’m the first Cannonballer to complete a Cannonball AND write a novel in the same year?  Though Boogeymany is hardly a novel.  It’s the collection containing the first three of my proposed thirteen splatterpunk novelettes.  I’m trying to do one every October.  The third one in the collection narrowly made it.  And so I combined the first three in one book so I could print it.  I’m going to do that every three.  Also because not everyone has e-readers and cares to purchase digital books.  BUT THEY ARE SO EASY TO PUBLISH!

Anyway, the first Boogeymen appeared in a condensed version on Pajiba, back when I wrote for them.  It was a four part story based on my outrage over Boogeyman: The Killer Collection.  I wanted a no-holds barred, fight to the death between thirteen of the greatest slashers of all time.  And so I wrote that.  And it was fun.  Even when people trashed it, I still felt good about it.

So when I was working on Twenty-Sided Die (which you can also buy!) I wanted to create a pilotfish to test out how the e-book pubbing worked.  And it was surprisingly easy.  So I puffed up Boogeymen and published it.  And now it’s a crazy, copyright violating mash-up of tons of horror movies.  I went off the fucking rails.  It’s way more satirical and silly, a Movie Movie with an actual point.  Even if that point is buried under lots and lots of cheesy humor and pop culture references.  I’m proud of how it turned out.

Boogeymen 2: Creature Feature came out of my desire to do more with Boogeymen.  I didn’t want to do a direct sequel, otherwise it’d just be constant royal rumble.  So that’s when I fell upon my idea of homaging horror movies and mashing them up that way.  Truth be told, it’s probably the weakest of the three, but it’s also my darling, because much like the movie it borrows the main plot from — Cabin In The Woods — it can be SO MUCH.  I honestly could have made the choose-your-own-dismember wandering videotape a running gag and done hundreds of films that way.  I also learned a valuable lesson.  Don’t name your characters after people.  Especially if they turn out to be despicable rapists.  Still, everyone died pretty awesome.

Boogeymen 3: Mischief Night was when I decided this motherfucker was going to go on forever.  I started cranking out other plots for future installments.  That’s been a lot of fun.  I have thirteen actually synopses for the future books.  I tried to follow the law of sequels with my stories.  Even if one of those synopses is literally “GHOST STUFF:  I dunno. Dumb shit about children and haunted houses maybe.  This is twelfth one.”  Actually, it was originally going to be a daycare for scary children.  But then Buzzfeed.  Thanks a pantload, you fuckers.

Anyway, the third story, the newest one, parodies Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.  It’s sort of a mashup of The Lottery and that episode of Buffy where they become their costumes.  I’m actually most proud of how this turned out because other than the loose homage, this story is all me.  The Boogeymen novelettes are slowly becoming my own original work, and they are fun and bloody little distractions.  And if you ever wondered what splatterpunk means, THIS.  THIS BOOK.  It’s pretty fucking disgusting, if I say so myself.  The horror pretty much focuses entirely on slasher and gore stuff.  So it’s more actiony than horrifying.

Anyway, the digital copy is out now, and the paperback will be available soonish.  It’s a fun little crazy ass distraction, with lots of blood and guts.  And if you’re a horror movie fan, you’ll definitely enjoy the hell out of them.  They’re delightfully mad, if not perfect.  The character development leaves a little something to be desired.  And my writing style has become decidedly a cross between frantic blogger and frustrated screenwriter.  So it’s Kevin Smith meets that fucking guy in Starbucks on his laptop who keeps looking around to make sure people know he’s writing.

CBR #145 — O Craptain, My Craptain

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

Just let that title soak in for a bit.  How do you not pick up a book with that title?  The correct answer is, you do not.

Now from the title of my review, you might garner that I thought this was a crappy book.  And that is certainly not the case.  Though I am limited in my star-givery, this is probably a 3.5, if not closer to a 4.  But I had my issues.

Great plot and sparkling dialogue and wit.  To be perfectly arrogant, it really did remind me of my own writing. That kind of smartass dialectic coupled with zingers and a joie de vivre.  Toot toot went my own horn.  And it’s a quick read, a YA book, but with plenty o’ sass and makeoutery.  It was funny to me to see so many people laud this book in reviews for not being another romance.  WHAT FUCKING BOOK WAS YOU READING, WILLIS?  This book is seriously romance.  The lead character dolefully pines for every girl who pays him the least bit of attention.  Which is what made it so heartbreakingly sweet.  Yes, true, it wasn’t ONLY about romance, nor was it about fumbling courtship, two dullards staring dead-eyed into each other’s chemistry-lack while the dude whips off his shirt because CW makeout.

The plot was smart but then it fell apart.  Basically, it’s about an arts academy where a group of mild outsiders decides to thwart the reality TV show that plagues their school by throwing a monkey wrench into the cogs of its lack of artistry.  And then they get hornswaggled.  Then again.  Then it just kind of loses its steam.

It’s a very artistic minded book, and grammar nerds will pop a tonal boner over the usage of Ezra Pound and various literal terms. And while it rings the gong of the unreliable narrator, the problem with having a meta unreliable narrator is that they are unreliably unreliable.  The drama runs out of steam halfway through, and then runs out again.  It’s troublesome and it takes you out of what should be a magnificent story.  Hattemer understands teen drama, and teen angst, and handles it admirably.  But the story doesn’t have enough to coast on its own without a dedicated plot.  While charming, the characters aren’t THAT charming.

But I’d still recommend this to fans of grammar and Gilmore Girls.  Which is probably most of you.  So give it a gander.  It’s not too shabby for a first novel.