Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Written Word Wednesday - Playing Catch-Up Again

Man, I am sooooooooo far behind on book reviews it's not even funny. Thanks heavens I've been using the Visual Bookshelf application on Facebook to keep track of what I'm reading since my last review post about three months ago.

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff: Paranoia-fueled SF novel about Jane Charlotte, a woman in a mental institution relating to her psychiatrist the story of how she was recruited to a super-secret organization devoted to fighting the forces of evil as part of their more militant division, nicknamed "Bad Monkeys." And as the novel progresses and the psychiatrist tries to dig through the maze of contradictions and consistencies in the story, the question that is raised again and again is just how reliable a narrator is Charlotte? All in all, an entertaining read, although I was a bit let down by the ending.

Blood Follows: a Tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach by Steven Erikson: A companion novella to Erikson's Malazan books, this is the first in a series of brief tales focusing on the eccentric and deadly necromancers from Memories of Ice. This one tales the story of how their manservant Emancipor Reese first came into their employ. Each of the Bauchelain and Broach are short, easy reads, and a bit more humorous in tone than the bulk of the Malazan series proper, albeit gallows humor more often than not.

The Healthy Dead: a Tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach by Steven Erikson: The second Bauchelain and Broach novella centers around a city where all vice has been stamped out, a condition that doesn't really sit well with our titular characters. This one ramps up the dark humor quite a bit.

Blackburn by Bradley Denton: The story of Jimmy Blackburn, a serial killer who operates by his won warped code of ethics. The novel jumps back and forth in time, with the main chapters detailing his life and how he came to be a killer, with the interludes between chapters giving snapshots of his various victims. Very dark sense of humor, which I liked.

From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain by Minister Faust: Novel written in the form of a self-help book for super-heores: Unmasked! When Being A Superhero Can't Save You From Yourself: Self-Help Guide for Today's Hyper Hominids. When I first heard about the book, I assumed it would be a collection of self-contained vignettes -- one chapter focusing on a Superman-analogue, one chapter on the Batman-analogue, etc. Instead, the various stand-ins for the various super-hero archetypes are part of a therapy group and therefore interact continuously, even more so as one of the greatest heroes of their age is found dead and some among them suspect foul play. Loved this book, not only for its super-hero aspects, but for the send-up it gives of self-help books and pop psychology, as the "author" Dr. Brain creates incredibly detailed (and entertainingly absurd) metaphor after metaphor with no hint of irony - well no hint from Dr. Brain, that is, but buckets of it from Faust. I was a bit disappointed in the ending, but over-all, well worth my time.

The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust: After finishing From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain I immediately tracked down this, Faust's first novel, which is the story of the self-named Coyote Kings, the writer Hamza and the engineer Yehat, two highly intelligent best friends who find their world turned upside down by the appearance of a mysterious woman whose interest in Hamza masks a deeper, mystically driven purpose. The book won me over almost instantly with its use of clever RPG-style Character Sheets inserted throughout the novel whenever a chapter suddenly introduces a different character's POV for the first time; to see an example, click here and then click on "Excerpt." Faust juggles quite a few different character POVs, and does a great job giving each one a distinctive and equally engaging voice. This one is still very much aimed at SF/Fantasy fans.

Flicker by Theodore Roszak: Requested this novel from ILL when I read that it was going to be adapted by Darren Aronofsky; sadly, I'm not sure that's going to happen now, which is a shame, because I think of anyone could do justice to the book, it's Aronofsky. The plot revolves around a young film student who becomes fascinated with the work of Max Castle, a deceased B-movie director whose uncut films seem to contain a strange power over their audience. Not what I was expecting, but a very well-written book; one of those that sucked me in and contribute to sleepless nights as I found it increasingly difficult to put down. Definitely recommended for those of you who are film buffs.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest: The novel which served as the basis of the Hugh Jackman/Christian Bale film about feuding stage magicians in the late 1800s. As should be expected, there are quite a few changes from the novel to the film, such as the reason for Angier's hatred of Borden and the way Angier's version of the Transported Man trick lead to the deadly resolution of their feud; subsequently, even though a few of the surprises in the book might be spoiled by seeing the film, there are still enough differences to keep fans of the film guessing while reading the novel.

Curfew by Phil Rickman: British horror novel about Crybbe, a small village on the border of Wales and England whose dark history is about to be revived by a millionaire record mogul whose obsession with turning Crybbe into the new center for New Age mysticism, little realizing that he is tampering with deadly forces beyond his control. Another of those books that I found hard to put down once I started it; once I was done I put in ILL requests for the rest of Rickman's supernatural novels, and am expecting the first two to arrive in the next day or so.

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman: Super-hero novel that alternates between two different POVs: Dr. Impossible, the mad scientists arch nemesis of the world's greatest super-hero, Corefire, as he escapes from jail and begins his latest plot for world domination; and Fatale, a rookie super-hero who has just been drafted into the premiere super-team The Champions who have just reformed with one major purpose -- to find CoreFire, who has gone missing. I enjoyed the Dr. Impossible sections more than the Fatale sections, if for no other reason than it's always fun to read the ramblings of a madman. Plus, the novel's tendency to deconstruct the super-hero genre alway felt more natural coming from the hyper-intelligent and experienced Impossible, while Fatale's observations came across more like exposition. Regardless, a highly entertaining book for any fan of super-heroics.