Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy

So here’s another one of those books that I’ve been meaning to get around to reading, but haven’t. When I started down “The Road” ($15, Vintage Books), I was almost certain that the sparse writing style and lack of proper punctuation were going to drive me crazy before I got past the first 50 pages. A couple of hours and more than half the book later, I was amazed at how the story kept pulling me along.

Cormac McCarthy’s novel tells the story of a father and his son traveling alone across a post-apocalyptic wasteland of America. It’s been years since the catastrophe struck. We’re never told exactly what ended the world, and we’re led to believe that the nameless father isn’t entirely sure, either. But ashes continue to rain down and cover the earth. The sun remains obscured by a cloud of the stuff. Almost every store and home has been looted and stripped of food and anything else that might be useful. The few humans remaining in the world have mostly turned savage, fighting for survival and often doing horrible things to achieve it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: "Dead Witch Walking" by Kim Harrison

When I occasionally go on and on about Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files,” which I’ve had a habit of doing for the past 10 years or so, almost invariably, someone will tell me that if I like Butcher I really should read Kim Harrison. So, after years of hearing that, I finally picked up the first book in her Hollows series, “Dead Witch Walking” ($7.99, Harper Voyager).

After a genetically-engineered virus carried by tomatoes wipes out a large portion of the human population, the Inderlanders – witches, vampires, werewolves, leprechauns, fairies, pixies, etc. – who are largely unaffected, reveal themselves to the world. They pretty much come to the rescue while humans were being decimated by the virus, and now the humans and the supernaturals are having to learn to co-exist – sort of.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Revisiting "The Phantom Menace"

I both looked forward to and kind of dreaded it when I heard about the 3D conversion of the Star Wars movies. I was excited for my son to get the chance to see them on the big screen, but there is the gimmickiness of 3D, and you always have to wonder what George Lucas will decide to change in a new edition.

I took my son to see “The Phantom Menace” last week, and I had a few observations. First, I’ll admit that I really liked the movie when it was originally released, and I’ve never quite understood the hatred for it. I think, perhaps, most of us had expectations that were far too high. We expected something that connected with us like the original movies, but these were made in a different time and, really, a different world. I don’t believe they had a chance to be nearly as good as the originals, which were a fairly new and fresh idea when they were released.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: "The Night Eternal" by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

As we reach the conclusion of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire trilogy in “The Night Eternal” ($26.99, William Morrow), the Master and his vampiric legions have been in control for two years. Most humans have lined up like cattle with the new order. Some are placed in camps for bleeding and breeding, others continue to work for vouchers for food and clothing. Very few resist.

The Master has thrown the world into a nuclear winter, perfect for he and his kind. Only a few hours of sunlight each day penetrate the toxic clouds that cover the earth. Ephraim Goodweather, the CDC doctor who first documented the vampiric virus, has let the resistance down. He’s tormented by the loss of his wife to the virus and the kidnapping of his son by the Master, and he’s turned to stealing from the dwindling supply of prescription drugs in abandoned stores and hospitals to deal with it. He’s become unreliable to his partners, fellow doctor Nora Martinez and one-time exterminator Vasiliy Fet, who are determined to decipher the Occido Lumen, a book left to them by vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian, who was killed by the Master. It might hold the key to destroying the creature once and for all and freeing the world from the rule of the vampires.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Review: "Damned" by Chuck Palahniuk

When I’m looking for new reads, a common recommendation that comes up is Chuck Palahniuk, so I picked up his most recent book “Damned” ($24.95, Doubleday) and dug in.

We’re introduced to Madison Spencer, a 13-year-old girl who finds herself in Hell. She assumes that she died from an overdose of marijuana and was damned for it because that’s the last thing that she remembers about her mortal life. She wakes up in a grimy cell and soon makes friends with the other teens in cells around her (apparently all the teenagers in Hell are housed in proximity to each other). When a blue-haired punk kid named Archer picks the locks of their cell with the safety pin from his cheek, their jaunt across the horrific, yet colorful, landscape of Hell begins.

Along the way, we’re treated to plenty of gross-out scenery, a few laugh out loud moments, and, of course, Maddy’s coming of age and discovery of herself just a bit too late.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Review: "Un Lun Dun" by China Mieville

I’ve been told by several of his fans that I just don’t appreciate China Mieville’s genius. I disagree. I’ve tried reading a couple of his books, and I acknowledge that he is an amazing world-builder. I’ve gone through the books marveling at his creations, but at the same time, I’ve always found his style a bit stuffy. It’s created a bit of a conundrum for me. On the one hand, I want to explore his worlds and see more of the things that inhabit them. On the other, I’m kind of bored by the stories.

I was intrigued enough by the description of his recent YA title, “Un Lun Dun” ($9.95, Del Rey), to give Mieville another shot. The description put me in mind of Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere,” one of my all-time favorites and a book that Mieville admits in the credits was a huge inspiration for this one. The Dave McKean-esque cover reinforced that.