My Life As A White Trash Zombie

Rating 3/5

 

I’ve made references to the zombie zeitgeist in my review of The Girl With All The Gifts, sMy Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowlando I wont cover the old ground in this review but the zombie genre isn’t going anywhere just yet.

Diana Rowland’s 1st in the White Trash Zombie series, My Life As A White Trash Zombie. Takes the zombie trope and presents it from the zombie’s perspective. The best use of this I have seen is the film, Wasting Away, low budget B movie comedy horror at it’s best.

Rowland’s White Trash Zombie, Angel Crawford is down on her luck, recently woken up in hospital, with no memory how she got there, a hunger for brains and a mysterious note with instructions on how to embark on a new job at the Coroner’s office. Angel is turning her life around with a job, a deadbeat father  and dropout boyfriend in tow. But someone is on the decapitation, killing the residents of Angel’s small tow

Angel’s assent in to a normal life albeit as a zombie comes across as rather slapdash in someways it reads as an addict trying to recover only to be replaced with another addiction. It is a vehicle that assists in  driving the story but sometimes it becomes over stated short of stating: “Braaaaaaaaiiiiiiins” on every page, Rowland makes sure the reader knows Angel is a zombie, she reminds us every page.

The white trash element of the story seems tacked on and Angel never really comes across as white trash in the true definition of the label. A high school dropout who purports not to be smart as an impressive vocabulary of someone who isn’t that well read with an ability to reason and apply logic that would  make most chess grand masters blush. This element could have been fleshed out (pardon the pun) . Living in a shack with beer cans in the garden doesn’t really explore the white trash condition. And as this is a key selling point of the story, the reader is somewhat sold short on this narrative, maybe I like my stereotypes too much.

The story unfolds as you would imagine and the plot is the standard murder mystery that is often found in the urban fantasy market, “someone is killing our kind” but it is good enough to keep the story on track, there is a bit of background on Angel and her life at home that helps build Angel in to sympathetic character.  Angel could have been a lot more sassy along the lines of Anita Blake but Rowland was clever in the writing of Angel and allows the reader to line their sympathy with her.

My Life As A White Trash Zombie paves the way for the series it makes some mistakes along the way and Angel isn’t a fully developed character, but if you are a fan of urban fantasy there would be no shame in giving this a read.

Joyland by Stephen King a book review

Ratting 4/5

So if you have read my review of Titanic Thompson the man who bet on everything.you will know I have an affinity for the grifter and con-man being interested in such matters, I also have a passing interested in carnivals (fun fairs if you are from UK like me). If you have been following this blog you will also know that I am a fan of noir as Money Shot by Christa Faust and The Moving Target will attest to, you may also might have noticed a like a good horror story along the lines of A Head full of Ghost. You might have also have read that me and Stephen King have not the best relationship Stephen King’s IT: A book that that I couldn’t finish. So if you take a Noir story set it at a carnival, with a ghost written by Stephen King, I am not going to know what to to, could I suffer another 280ish pages of King again?

Joyland at it’s heart is a murder story against a backdrop of a carnival the titular Joyland. Add a dying child in a wheelchair who has a gift (I believe the King fans will call the is the shining), mix  in a young man’s story of love that was lost, drop in a story of friendship, whisk then add a ghost. You have one of the most unique pieces of noir fiction released by the Hard Case Crime Publishing house.

It’s hard to review Joyland with out spoilers and it is a story that I want you discover on your own. I would be doing you a disservice if I told you too much.

Devin Jones, has just had his heart broken by a woman, he decides to get a summer job at Joyland to take his mind of things. The old timers of the carnival speak of a murder in the fun house, Devin decides to delve deeper, whats more there is talk of a ghost as well.

Now in his 60’s Devin tells his story of working  at Joyland way back in 1973. Devin’s story covers loss, love and untimely closure, King weaves his story with enough carny slang draw you in to the world of the carnival, he brings the emotions to table and sets out a truly moving story. That’s all you need to know before you pick this up, fans of Kings non horror will enjoy this, fans of noir will enjoy this too, it might not be the hard boiled we know but it works.

Joyland  does 3 things.

  1. questions what  exactly is noir
  2. Sets up enough emotion to move and hook the reader
  3. Achieves the status of being a Stephen King book I like

Not being a King fan in a world where most Horror readers are, I may be a minority but Joyland is one of Kings works to the Contrary.  Enough elements to keep everyone’s interest going. And not a demonic clown in sight.

Money Shot by Christa Faust a book review

Product DetailsRating: 4.5/5

Smut, when I was a lad in the early to mid 90’s porn was a taboo subject, Pammy and her sex tape was doing the rounds on VHS and for a young lad like me if you wanted boobs on the box, venture on to channel 5 late at night you would be treated to such films as Private Obsession, Lady in waiting or a whole host of Mills and Boone rejected titles. Other than that there was usually torn-up copy of readers wives in a bush somewhere.

Then the internet exploded: porn, blue movies smut, holiday snaps, party films; well they become main stream. The girls of porn went to Hollywood. Porn was no longer a taboo. With that in mind Christa Fuast’s Money Shot explores what happens when porn goes main stream, what happens to the stars when they are washed-up, all wrapped up in a neo-noir mid 2000’s tale. Of murder, sex trafficking and the somewhat sleazy side of L.A.

Faust introduces us to her reluctant fem-fettle Angel Dare by having our heroine locked in the trunk of a car. Angel’s story unfolds, now a retired porn star and owning her own talent agency. Angel is asked to do one more job, you know for old times sake, for a friend he will pay big and put her on the cover of the DVD too. How can she refuse?

And that is the set-up to one of the best noir stories i have read for a while, conjuring up Thompson, MacDonald and chandler all at once Faust creates a world that is a contrast of darkness and light. A contrast that runs alongside Dare throughout the book. It is a bit paint by numbers at times but that is why we read noir, it is familiar. Dare is both Sassy and vulnerable. Able to deliver lines such as :

“My brain had decided enough was enough. It had simply put on a hat picked up two suitcases, and fucked off to parts unknown.”

It is easy to take something as porn and turn it in to a postcard pastiche a carry-on film if you will. But Faust stays away from this, porn can be seedy and porn can take it’s toll on the body. Faust explains this but it never comes across as a hatchet job. The book at the time of writing is 9 years old, time moves fast in the digital world. Faust manages to catch the mid 2000’s porn scene and display it for all in the book. Now dear reader for a book about porn stars you may think this would be one of your full on, pre fifty shades novels, sex on every page, people reading it behind a copy of Cosmo. But no, you will need to get your thrills of that nature some where else.

The subject matter may turn some off (no pun intended) but this is a tightly plotted, action packed piece of noir that fans of the genre should embrace.

Fight Club A book review

Rating 4.5/5

Product Details

Back in 1996 I was 14, back then the internet was mainly a pink and green slap in the face to good design. In fact if you wanted to use the internet you had to make a phone call. Mobile phones were the size of house bricks. Porn came in magazine form and late night TV on obscure Sky TV channels, grunge had come and was now dying. And if you was in the know you could find VHS tapes of obscure wrestling promotions not the WWE or WCW but crazy Japanese stuff where they used fire, water melons and a whole host of other objects that happened to be laying around. There was rumors of something called Cage fighting making it’s way around the playground.

“In UFC you can use a chain saw. My cousin has a video of it”

“In UFC it is so brutal that the ref has a gun and if you win your match you have to fight a polar bear” way back then who know what was going on in the promised land of the USA? And anyway my heart was still broken over Pamela Anderson marrying Tommy Lee the year before. But more importantly no one had heard the first rule of fight club.

Fight Club is not my first brush with Chuck Palahniuk, a couple of years ago I had read haunted and I can recall very little of it, someone cutting their hair off and an escapade with a doll. I had also made it halfway through the movie, fell asleep and didn’t bother finishing. I finished the book in two days.

The story of fight club is an echo of millions around the world an average Joe who hates their job who is looking to escape from both the 9-5 and insomnia. He meets Tyler Durdan who encourages our unarmed average Joe to emancipate him self from drudgery of work, find the little sparks in life, form fight club where other average Joe can meet and punch it out. Fight club grows. Stuff happens.

Chuck writes with pinpoint accuracy summing up his view on the 9-5, why we should leave it become the captain of our own ship. If you read past the story the book almost becomes one of the greatest self help books ever wrote, move aside How to win friends and influence people. Palahniuk has left an indelible stain on culture.

Every white collar chap, wanting to make Debbie from marketing laughs will use the famous line from the book but he wont use it verbatim no he will had his own twist “First rule of first quarter fiscal reporting club is, you don’t talk about…”

In Palahniuk’s 2005 afterword to the novel he has the line misquoted to him; to which he replies “I wrote that” to the stunned tour guide who uttered the line.

I am sure most who quote the work quote the film version, but they miss so much by not reading the book, it’s a great shame that people will quote the lines, change their names to Tyler but not engage with the source material.

Fight club hits the nail on the head, it has comedy , romance and horror that is never over stated it just works. The ultimate self help book for the down trodden.

The Name Of The Wind

It’s Fantasy Jim, But Not as we know it

 

Rating 3.5/5

 

I confess I haven’t read a lot of fantasy in fact you can cant my Fantasy read list on both your hands and still have a finger left over (minds out the gutter); The Hobbit, Lord of the rings , A Song Of Ice And fire up to a feast of Crows for you out there that only watches TV that’s Game Of Thrones.

Now I did enjoy The Hobbit , the bag-master doing his thing with a ring (minds out the gutter). Lord Of The Rings had an enjoyable first book and the third book was ok, the second book….

On the other hand A Game Of Thrones ,I George R.R Martins rich and diverse world, with flawed characters on both sides. Kept me going

So my third foray in to the lands of dragons, magic and knights was Patrick Rothuss’ The Name Of The Wind. The first book in the King killer chronicles. If you have been on book tube there is high praise for Rothuss’s tome Apparently this took over a decade to write and it does come in as a weighty tome. Racking up over 672 pages the second book in the series is even weightier at 1008 pages, a lot of story for or maybe there is a lot of filler?

The Name Of The Wind follows our hero Kvothe sitting down in his pub, telling his story to the chronicler. Essentialy autobiography set in a land far away, Kvothe tells a story of loss, love and over coming adversity a true hero of our times.

Rothuss is clever with his prose, he creates a complex world. Explaing aspects of the monetary systems, how the passage of time is marked, a creation myth, a magic system, a political system. He even explains how the loan sharks work.

The problem is not the systems and world building it is that Kvothe is perfect in every way and he lets you know. Plays the lute like a cross between Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen , he can perform magic (know in the world as symphony) like a cross between Houdini and Derren Brown, he is a master Actor and scholar, chemist, seamstress, jockey you name it can do it. Except get the girl.

“I was playing my lute and a string broke so I changed from minor to major and every one applauded”

But Kvothe has a problem with the opposite sex ,even when the ladies are practically asking to have their bodices ripped open and ravaged. Kvothe does nothing. The he pines for the love he has just lost. A bit like the middle of The Vampire Lestat where Lestat keeps harping on about Louis.

And that’s the plot, Guy who is brilliant at everything except picking up women, talks about how he was down on his luck but that was ok because he was clever, how he went to university and broke all the rules but people liked him and he was clever so out smarted everyone. Some people didn’t like him but he got his own back. Rinse and repeat.

672 pages of “Look how great I am!” As a plot device, it never puts Kvothe in any danger. So the reader will know that any peril that Kvothe is put in he will so be ok.

Considering how boring this sounds and grating, Rothuss manges to write the world and keep it enjoyable. Like an old friend who tells you how great they are but deep down you know they are good person and would help you out if you was on hard times.

The protagonist is annoying, the world is vast. Yet the read was a fun journey. Maybe it was the hope that Kvothe would gets his comeuppance.

If you enjoy the genre then this has all the tropes and clichés that you will find comfort in.
After all my complaining regarding Kvothe, I am invested in his story, I want to know what happens next. Most of all I want to Know if he stops being so smug.

Ready Player One (It’s the 80s!)

Ready Player One cover.jpgThere is a certain nostalgia for the 80’s. That for some strange reason a generation wants to cling on to. For me the most purest for of music was invented in the 80’s hair metal, The Crue, Ratt, warrant and Guns and roses they may argue that they wasn’t hair mental but they grew up on the Sun set strip. So shout “I want my MTV” turn Kick start my heart up to 11. And get ready to say “Oh boy” like doctor Sam Beckett stepping in to the body of Elvis while he is flying Airwolf because Earnest Cline takes back to a time when cubes were Rubicked.

Well actually he takes us to the future 2044 where nostalgia is the in thing. Cline’s Ready Player one is a love letter to VHS, movies of the 80s and the games we use to play down at the arcade with a side dose of pop culture . The future is not bright in Cline’s world and we meet our hero Wade living in the stacks, motor homes stacked up on each other hence the name. With not a lot to do Wade spends most of his time in a VR world called oasis. Then James Halliday dies the Steve Jobs of 2044. But he has left an easter egg in the Oasis by completing levels if you will and if you can find it then you will run the Oasis and become rich beyond your wildest dreams.

Cline hooks Wade up with a bunch of hapless heroes and the game is set. The book drew me in I wanted Wade to carry out his tribulations and quest. I wanted Wade to score the perfect score on Pac-man I booed the evil villains who lived on some sort of space station in the game. But then it all fell apart for me.

Cline has chops in creating his world but it just a long drawn out “Do you remember the 80s?”Cline does give the world some weight, the stacks , the endless MMPOG. I was in. I had my coin on top of the arcade machine to buy in. I was even getting philosophical this is how people will form friendships and fall in love. Forget tinder I know of one world of war craft wedding. Then it happens Wade meets a girl, well an avatar and that when it all fell apart for me.

I know that shakespeare once said their was only 7 stories. But it becomes a paint by numbers fantasy , hero on a quest, hero meets girl, girl is not just a princess to be plucked like a toad stool (keeping with the video game theme) girl runs away, hero becomes annoying, pines for girl and the bad guys are evil.

Instead of Frodo finding the ring he plays arcade games instead.

Here is the interesting thing I blistered through the book afterwards I was in awe. Then I sat down and digested what I had read it was 5 stars but then the star faded and become 3 stars. It is enjoyable but I am not sure if Cline pulls off the cyber-punk fantasy cross over. If you like reading about some one playing down the arcade and can move past the somewhat bolted on love affair. Cline has some great ideas; the stacks, the Oasis, the parody of the Steve Jobs. But like all love letters to bygone people and bygone eras in hindsight they don’t always come across as they should.

Station Eleven A Book Review

                                                                         Station Eleven Cover.jpg

Emily St John Mandel’s post apocalyptic Sci-fi novel Station 11 starts off in a theater in Toronto staging King Lear. Arthur Leander is dying on stage, not in scathing review in the press sense of dying but, the phone me an ambulance way.

And so begins Mandel’s tale. A story of loss, belonging and survival. Because after Arthur dies who happens to be a big a deal in Hollywood even after 3 marriages and scandal, the Georgia flu arrives wiping-out most the population.

Told using a contemporary time-line and an after the collapse time-line Mandel uses both to tell the story from the point of view from Arthur’s perspective and the perspective of Kirsten w a member of a travailing acting troop. Bringing Shakespeare to the small encampments and towns that have sprung up after the Flu pandemic.

Mandel excels in crafting a spider-web of characters that all have been affected by Arthur in one way of another. Each character arcs from before the flu until after each suffering trials and tribulations. Everything is included for a reason and nothing feels superfluous in Mandel’s world.

Each sentence and word seems to be on the page for a reason, and not a case of a writer struggling to add filler. Mandel seems to create a vast yet tight book at the same time. But she does leave one stone unturned , one question that the reader will ponder on long after the book has finished

The characters muster all the emotions the reader should feel , the reader will root for the protagonist , hate the villain and in the end enjoy the end, even if it has that one question. Mandel while not over burdening the reader with description gives you just enough to imagine a world of broken roads, empty fuel stations and power stations that no longer turn.

On the strength of station 11 I went out and brought Mandel’s other books.